• Day 1 — Monday, Jan. 14: Although we have been out of session since March 29 of last year, it seems that I spent more time in Atlanta than at home during the interim. There only have been two two-week periods when I didn’t have to come to the Capitol at least once during the week.
As I began my ninth year, I was assigned an office in the Capitol. I am excited about the opportunity, but I hate to lose my assistant for the past two years. Fortunately, my new assistant is a seasoned veteran, and I look forward to working with her.
Jan. 14 was a special day as we were sworn in by Superior Court Judge Bill Hamrick from Carrolton, who served with us in the Senate for many years until his appointment last fall to his current position.
Regardless of how many times I am given the oath of office, the honor and privilege of serving in the Georgia Legislature is one of the greatest in my life.
We elected Sen. David Shafer as president pro tem, Bob Ewing as secretary of the Senate and John Long as sergeant at arms. Once all of the ceremonial duties were completed, we got right down to business.
It is necessary for us to adopt the Senate rules, and this year’s rules contained a few significant changes that caused quite a bit of discussion. One of the changes involves the role of the lieutenant governor, whose powers to appoint committees and preside over the Senate’s day-to-day business were restored. The new rules were adopted, 42-12.
The rules include a $100 limit on gifts, meals and drinks that lobbyists will be allowed to spend to entertain senators.
Later that afternoon, we received committee assignments. I have been appointed chairman of the Public Safety Committee. I am happy to continue serving on the Higher-Education Committee. I also will serve on the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees, as well as serve as chief deputy whip.
• Day 2 — Tuesday, Jan. 15: I was up early for the first meeting of the Legislative Prayer Caucus. We were honored to have Gov. Nathan Deal and former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley as our guest speakers.
I introduced 12 bills, including a nonpartisan election bill that would allow counties to vote to hold nonpartisan elections for such offices as sheriff, clerk of superior court, tax commissioner, county commission, district attorney and county coroner.
• Day 3 — Wednesday, Jan. 16: After attending the annual Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast, we had a better idea of what leadership is planning for the session.
As we went into session, Senate Bill 24 was the hot topic. Passed three years ago, the fee is slated to expire June 30 and, unless renewed, would leave an approximately $700 million hole in the Medicaid budget. The bill moved at unprecedented speed and was to be voted on Jan. 17.
• Day 4 — Thursday, Jan. 17: We took up SB 24. Eight amendments were offered, including one I co-sponsored that would have prohibited DCH from increasing the hospital-provider fee from its current rate of 1.45 percent. Although the amendment loses by one vote, another amendment requiring the DCH to submit the rate in their budget proposals is approved.
With this assurance of legislative oversight now in place, I voted for the bill and it passed, 46-9.
What a first week!
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. Connect with him at facebook.com/buddycarterga or twitter.com/Buddy_Carter.