Day 39 (Tuesday, April 27): Today, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the last two days of the session are here. The bad news is that there is still a tremendous amount of work left to be done as is evidenced by the 53 bills we have on the calendar today. And while the sheer number of bills is intimidating, of even more concern is the importance of the bills involved. While the more glamorous bills such as ethics, transportation and property tax reform have been discussed and debated in the media and different caucuses, many of the other bills have been discussed in committees that different legislators may not be a member of and therefore are hearing about in detail for the first time.
An example of this is HB 936, which will allow school boards to use state funds to refurbish existing buses. Currently, funds are restricted to be used only for the purchase of new buses, which are replaced every 10 years.
Nicknamed the “Bluebird bill” for the company in Fort Valley that manufactures and sells the new buses to the state, the Senator representing this area speaks out against the bill claiming that refurbishing old school buses would endanger children by stretching the safety on old buses and the bus fleets would become imbalanced without proper rotation.
Although no one doubts the intentions of the esteemed Senator the bill passes over his passionate objections.
We also pass HB 23 today, which prohibits any driver under 18 from operating a motor vehicle while texting.
The bill calls for a $150 fine and a one point penalty to be assessed on their driving record. This is the second texting bill that has passed the legislature this year, giving the governor the choice of signing a bill that prohibits texting while driving by drivers of all ages or only those who are under 18.
Day 40 (Thursday, April 29): Although we are all excited that today is the final day of the session, we are also somewhat nervous, recognizing that today is the most dangerous day of the session and requires our full attention.
Having finished all of the bills that we will consider this session, today we take up only agrees/disagrees. As we have discussed before, these are bills that have passed the Senate but have been changed before they pass the House.
If a bill is changed in any way after it leaves the Senate then it has to come back to the Senate where the author of the bill can either agree with the changes or disagree with the changes.
If the author agrees with the changes, the bill is then sent to the governor to be signed but, if the author disagrees with the changes, a conference committee of three senators and three representatives is assigned to work out the differences. With conference committee reports coming in by the droves, we are also leery of amendments being added to bills at the last minute.
For instance SB 435, a good bill that creates the Georgia Diabetes Control Office to promote a statewide effort to combat the proliferation of diabetes, is amended to include a bill that will require the registration of tanning beds by tanning salons in the state.
Although the bill was debated in committee and ultimately defeated it is added to SB 435 and passes and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
Although every bill is important, today proves to be a historic day for the state with the passage of such momentous bills as the transportation funding act, trauma care, gun law reform and of course final approval of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget, set at $17.9 billion. And as the clock strikes midnight on April 29, 2010, the longest legislative session in modern history is finally over as we sine die.
Carter represents Bryan County along with portions of Chatham and Liberty counties. He can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.