Day 1 (Jan. 9): As the second year of our two-year term began, we welcomed two new senators to the Senate. Sen. Mike Crane from Newnan and Sen. John Wilkinson from Toccoa were elected in special elections.
After our regular caucus meeting, we took up two bills left over from last session. Both bills were passed out of the Senate last year. The bills passed the House last year but had changes made to them that the Senate must either agree or disagree with.
The first bill was S.B. 38, which would put the state school superintendent in line with other department heads with regards to staff control by giving him or her the ability to enter into contracts up to $250,000 without the state board of education’s approval. It also would clarify that the superintendent has the sole authority over all employees in the department of education and has the ability to hire and fire employees.
We voted to agree with the House changes; the bill went to Gov. Nathan Deal for consideration.
We also took up S.B. 184, the first in-last out bill that has generated a lot of controversy. The bill would amend the current law that a school board primarily considers a teacher’s effectiveness in advancing student achievements when considering whom to lay off.
The bill said the amount of time a teacher has been employed cannot be the primary determining factor. In my eight years in the Legislature, this bill has generated the most intense debate of any bill considered on the first day before finally passing.
Day 2 (Jan. 10): After attending the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting Monday night at the World Congress Center, we were back to work at 7 a.m. Tuesday for the chamber’s annual state Eggs & Issues Breakfast.
We heard from Gov. Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston on what they expected to see in this year’s session. Although no bills were debated in session Tuesday, we heard from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who updated us on goings-on in Washington, D.C. As the new chairman of Higher Education in the senate, I had the honor of addressing the state Board of Regents at its monthly meeting.
Later that afternoon, I chaired my first meeting of the Higher Education Committee. We introduced new staff members and reviewed bills left over from last year. We finished the day by joining the House in a joint session to hear the governor’s State of the State address. Gov. Deal did an outstanding job of presenting his message and briefly outlining his budget priorities, which includes money for state higher education as well as bond money for the deepening of the Savannah Harbor.
Day 3 (Jan. 11): After a full day Tuesday, Wednesday was much more manageable. The only bill on the calendar was H.B. 110, which deals with foreclosure registries. The bill was sent back to committee by unanimous consent for more work.
Most of my afternoon was spent meeting with Higher Education staff from the Senate research, budget and press offices to discuss plans for the remainder of the session. I worked in a meeting with parents of homeschool students to discuss their concerns with the HOPE Scholarship.
Day 4 (Thursday): State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, dean of the Chatham County delegation, presided over our first meeting. We heard from state Planning Director Todd Long, who updated us on the upcoming TSPLOST and the specific projects that have been selected in our region. We also discussed proposed school board and county commission maps as well as other business affecting Chatham County.
After a short session, I spent most of the afternoon working in my office and preparing for my first live interview on the Georgia Public Broadcasting show “Lawmakers.” Later that night, I appeared with my counterpart in the House, Rep. Carl Rogers, as we discussed higher education issues including college consolidation and the HOPE Scholarship.
Day 5 (Friday): The newly formed Coastal Delegation, which consists of House and Senate members who reside in the 1st Congressional District, which includes Bryan County, met this morning to discuss issues affecting the Coastal region. The session started early in the morning and after a very short session, where only points of personal privilege were heard, we adjourned until Jan. 23 as we are out this week for budget hearings.
Contact Carter at Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Room 301-A, Atlanta, Ga., 30334 or call 404-656-5109.
Carter, R- Pooler, will report each week during the Legislative session. The session began Jan. 9 and is expected to last until the late March.