Day 26 (Monday, Feb. 27): The week begins with the second meeting of the Governor’s Higher Education Funding Commission, a committee that I co-chair with Rep. Carl Rogers, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. The commission is charged with examining how the funding formulas for the university system and technical college system should be changed in order to improve higher education outcomes in the state. We have four bills on the calendar as we go into session today, including House Bill 800, which expands eligibility so that a candidate with five years’ service in any federally recognized component of the Army or Air Force may be eligible for appointment as an assistant adjutant general. Although this bill comes from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office and ultimately passes, I vote against it because of the unfortunate experiences of my childhood friend, Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney. A copy of a column I wrote on this subject can be found on my website, www.FriendsofBuddyCarter.com, under “National Guard Column.”
Senate Bill 441 also is passed today. That bill makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally point a laser device at or near a law enforcement officer as well as at an aircraft.
The afternoon is extremely busy for me, as I have four bills to present in committees. Of the two bills that I present in Health and Human Services, SB 416, which will require insurance companies to adhere to uniform procedures when processing prior approval requests for medications by electronic means, passes. However, SB 368, which will require nurses to complete continuing competency requirements for the renewal of their license, is tabled so that the nursing board and interested parties can work out their differences. Afterward, I present SB 453 to the Regulated Industries Committee. This bill, called the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act, will give the composite medical board additional powers over pain management clinics in our state.
Finally, realizing that I don’t have the votes necessary for passage, I decide to withdraw my amendment to SB 459 so that the underlying bill dealing with smart meters can continue to move forward. The amendment, which was essentially SB 401dealing with solar power purchase agreements, has garnered much attention over the weekend, particularly among opponents of the bill who have convinced at least four more committee members to oppose this piece of legislation. This is a very disappointing setback, to say the least.
Day 27 (Tuesday, Feb. 28): After a number of early morning meetings, I catch up with a group of Young Republican students from Richmond Hill High School who are visiting the Capitol today. Led by political science teacher and Richmond Hill City Council member Russ Carpenter, these fine young people are a credit to their school and community. After a picture with the governor, I catch up with them after lunch for an impromptu question-and-answer session.
Although we have nine bills on the calendar today during session, only two are controversial and both are requested to be moved to the bottom of the calendar by their authors. When this procedural move is made, it usually means that the author feels he doesn’t have the votes needed for passage. If the bills are moved to the bottom of the calendar and a Senator makes a motion to adjourn before they are heard, the bills are sent back to the rules committee where they may or may not be put on the calendar for another day. Among the non-controversial bills that pass today is SB 293 that will allow the “In God We Trust” decals on vehicles to be free and be placed over county decals. Also passed is SR 590, which urges the Department of Education to implement CPR training classes and install automated external defibrillators in Georgia public schools.
Later in the day, I chair a meeting of the Higher Education Committee and pass SB 478 by Sen. Barry Loudermilk. This bill provides private postsecondary schools that meet certain criteria of accreditation to be exempted from authorization to operate by the Nonpublic Postsecondary Educational Commission. Afterward, I present another bill I am sponsoring, SB 452, to the education committee, where it passes both the subcommittee and full committee. This bill extends the time the state board of education has to make a recommendation to the governor concerning school board members whose district is under suspension by an accrediting agency.
Day 28 (Wednesday, Feb. 29): In what turns out to be the longest day of the session thus far, I begin by passing a bill out of subcommittee before passing three more bills out of the full Health and Human Services Committee. Afterward, I attend an ethics committee meeting where we vote to defeat two of the three bills on the agenda. As we have reached day 28 on the calendar and bills must be voted on by day 30 to remain active this session, many senators are pushing their bills forward, knowing that they may be defeated.
During our caucus meeting today at lunch, we hear from the governor regarding HR 1162, the charter school constitutional amendment, as well as Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Once we are in session at 1 p.m., we take up 15 bills and two resolutions. While most of these are not controversial and we speed through them, HR 1162, the charter school amendment, and SB 321, the metal thefts bill, take up enough time to carry us to 8:30 p.m. before we adjourn. While we end up spending almost two hours before passing SB 321, we spend almost 2 ½ hours on HR 1162 before tabling the bill because of a lack of yea votes. Constitutional amendments like these take a super-majority vote of the Senate, meaning that we must have 38 yea votes for it to pass. The governor’s office is aware that we are one vote shy and decides to table the bill and work on securing the last vote.
After being at it since 7:30 a.m. this morning, I leave the Capitol at 9 p.m. on my way home to beautiful South Georgia.
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. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.
Carter, R-Pooler, will report each week during the legislative session, which began began Jan. 9 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.