Day 31 (Monday, March 11, 2013): Every morning before session the Republican members of the Senate meet as a caucus to discuss bills on the agenda that day as well as bills that are working their way through the process. Today we discuss HB 512, a bill addressing the rights of gun owners that has passed the House and will be considered by the Senate in the near future. Many members, including myself, are staunch advocates of our 2nd amendment rights to own and carry handguns and look forward to working on this legislation. Right after our caucus meeting and before going into session at 10AM, I check in on a meeting with staff from Liberty County and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) officials on transportation projects in Liberty County. Facilitated by retired House member and current GDOT board member Ann Purcell from Rincon, the meeting gives all of us a chance to be brought up to date on these important projects. We have a light agenda on today’s calendar as we are no longer hearing senate bills and only considering bills that passed the house before last week’s crossover day. Of the 3 bills that we consider, HB 101 making it easier for non-profit organizations to provide food during certain events, and HB 202 which exempts interstate exchanges from the congressional balancing of DOT funds, both pass with little discussion. On the other hand, HB 198 allowing licensing of navigators who will provide insurance advice and guidance to uninsured individuals and groups seeking health insurance coverage under a health insurance exchange, generates lots of discussion mainly along party lines. Democrats, who are upset with Gov. Nathan Deal for choosing not to set up a state insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, seize the opportunity to voice their displeasure with the Governor’s decision. After almost 2 hours of debate, HB 198 passes by a vote of 37-15, with most votes along party lines. The afternoon is filled with meetings, including a hearing I chair of the Public Safety committee to learn more about ignition interlock devices.
Day 32 (Tuesday, March 12, 2013): My day starts early as I present one of my bills, SB 11 re-establishing the Georgia Geospatial council, to a sub-committee of the House Natural Resources committee. After our daily caucus meeting, we go into session at 10AM and have three bills on the agenda that pass with little or no discussion. HB 154, changing provisions relating to awards and benefits of worker’s compensation and HB 254, allowing drivers to produce proof of required minimum motor vehicle liability insurance coverage with an app on their cell phones, both pass unanimously. HB 414, a bill authorizing the city of Columbus to exercise all redevelopment powers such as creating tax allocation districts and issuing tax allocation bonds, passes with only one dissenting vote. Interestingly, the one dissenting vote is cast by one of the Senators from Columbus. Later, we get further proof that there’s nothing like local politics when we pass HR 218. This bill declares Tift County to be renamed in honor of the late Henry Harding Tift. Recently local historians discovered that when the county was originally created in 1905, local officials wanted to name it for Henry but he was still alive and a county couldn’t be named for a living person. Instead they named it in honor of Nelson Tift, Henry’s uncle. Evidently they forgot to go back and name it for Henry after he died. HR 218 corrects that error- RIP Henry!
Day 33 (Wednesday, March 13, 2013): It’s always good to have a flavor of back home at the Capitol and today we get a triple dose as we welcome Dr. Bill Daughtry from Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) to honor him in the House on his retirement. Also we welcome Dr. Johnny Sy, an emergency room physician and member of the clinical faculty of South and Mercer Universities in Savannah as our Doctor of the Day. Today is Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Day at the Capitol and I am happy to welcome James and Ian Evans from Pooler who are members of this group that was formed during WWII by pilots who wanted to serve the Air Force but could not. CAP is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and supports our community with disaster relief, search and rescue and cadet programs. We continue our chess match with the House today, as we only have 2 bills on the calendar. At this time in the session, the House and Senate leadership are often accused of playing a game of chess as each chamber strategically hears the same number of bills as the other in order make certain they are treated fairly. Today we pass HB 234 which requires service providers to provide timely, clear notifications about automatic service contract renewals and HB 255, which transfers the administrative responsibilities of the Unified Carrier Registration Act from the Department of Revenue to Public Safety.