Day 19 (Wednesday, Feb. 15): Without question, in my eight years that I have served in the Legislature, this has been the busiest time that I have ever experienced. While I am happy that leadership is trying to get us out by the end of March, the pace by which we have been operating has been very trying and exhausting.
Having last Friday through Monday off was a welcome relief so that we could get back home to our families and businesses. Although we were not in session yesterday, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I was at the Capitol as we are currently reviewing the FY12 amended budget. Being the Chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, it is my responsibility to oversee the budget for the Department of Corrections as well as the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. We start our day off today with an early-morning meeting of the 1st Congressional District Coastal Delegation, chaired by Rep. Ron Stephens. The two-hour meeting includes presentations by Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens regarding the difficulty coastal property owners east of I-95 are having obtaining homeowner’s insurance. We also hear from Todd Long, director of the state’s planning for transportation, regarding the upcoming TSPLOST referendum as well as presentations from the Board of Regents, DNR and Georgia Ports Authority. As we go into session today, we have three bills on the calendar, including SB 246, which increases the employee contribution for new members (as of July 1, 2012) of the Employees Retirement System from $4 per month to $10 per month. We also pass SB 286, which prohibits future tax commissioners and their employees from becoming members of the Employees Retirement System if they become a tax commissioner on or after July 1, 2012. SB 269, which deals with voluntary corrective actions for water violations, turns out to be somewhat controversial and is pulled off of the calendar by the author. Among the many committee meetings that I have this afternoon is a Health and Human Services Committee meeting where I pass out SB 378, a bill I am sponsoring that updates the Controlled Substances Act. Also this afternoon, I met with Liberty County officials, including County Commission Chairman John McIver, Hinesville Mayor James Thomas and Gov. Nathan Deal regarding education issues.
Day 20 (Thursday, Feb. 16): I submit two more bills today as we go into session, bringing my total number of bills that I am sponsoring at this point to 14 for the year. Counting the bills left from last year, I have 25 bills I am working on.
SB 331, a bill that defines which tasks and duties title insurers are authorized to execute, is one of three bills to pass today. We also pass SB 358, which requires local governments in Georgia to reciprocate the preferences granted by out-of-state local governments for vendors in their own states to Georgia’s vendors. The final bill to pass is SB 366, which prohibits certain acts in regards to juvenile detention centers and youth development centers, specifically that persons would not be authorized to bring drugs or weapons across the guard line. Also, the sale and trade of contraband is banned.
During our daily time of “personal privilege” today, a number of senators from the minority party speak out critically of the HOPE scholarship, prompting me and other members of the majority party to go to the well to speak in support of this great scholarship program. I am honored to meet this afternoon with representatives from North Georgia College, as they are here visiting the Capitol.
Day 21 (Friday, Feb. 17): We start out early today at 8 a.m. with a caucus meeting and session at 9 a.m. I present and pass my first bill of the session today as SB 369, extending the repeal date of the Georgia Geospastial Advisory Council (GGAC) from June 30, 2012, to June 30, 2015. The GGAC was created by a bill I passed in 2010 (HB 169) while I was still in the House for the purpose of auditing Georgia’s geospatial capabilities at the county, regional and state levels. GGAC is charged with making recommendations for utilizing those capabilities to meet FEMA floodplain notification requirements. We also pass SB 107, increasing the maximum fine for contempt of court in Superior Court from $500 to $1000, and SB 395, which authorizes the collection of SPLOST revenues to be fractionally collected up to a full 1 percent. SB 362, the deadhead logging bill, also passes today. This bill has been around for many years, but has never finished the complete process and is therefore being brought up again. I am joined at the Capitol today by Matt Cadella, a good friend and community activist from Hinesville. After enjoying a visit with Matt and catching up on paperwork, I head to God’s country — beautiful Southeast Georgia — for the weekend.
Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.
To our readers: State Sen. Buddy Carter, R- Pooler, is reporting each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 9, and is expected to last until the latter days of March. This is installment five.