Day 29 (March 14): The Capitol was a sea of green today as we welcome the Grand Marshall and other members of the St. Patrick’s Day committee from Savannah. At first glance it appeared that we were in for a long day with 23 bills on the calendar. However, one of the things that a legislator learns is that the number of bills does not necessarily dictate the length of a day as much as the subject of the bills.
Such was the case today as we debate two bills from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., then finish the other 21 bills from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The first bill that we debated today was S.B. 40, the immigration reform bill, that is described by the author as a way to help businesses and state agencies determine that people working for them are not in the country illegally primarily by the use of a computer check called E-Verify. Although this is one of the most discussed bills this session and has been worked on in committee for weeks, it remains highly controversial and generated eight amendments during the debate.
After each amendment was explained and debated, a vote was taken and two were adopted. S.B. 63, a bill aimed at preventing Medicaid fraud using modern technology such as the “smart card,” takes up the rest of the early afternoon. Also passed today was S.B. 98, a gun bill that will expand the list of public locations to include churches and other places of worship where it would be legal for persons with permits to carry firearms.
Day 30 (March 16): While most of yesterday was spent in appropriation committee meetings dealing with the 2012 budget, we did take time to witness Gov. Nathan Deal sign the recently passed HOPE bill that will keep the popular program solvent for the near future.
Today was our annual Crossover Day, signifying not only the 30th day of our 40-day session, but also it was the last day that bills could pass from one chamber to another. As is usually the case, we had a loaded agenda with 50 bills, and, as is usually the case, only a few will take up most of our time.
Today, it was S.B.10, a bill allowing local communities the right to hold voter referendums on the Sunday sales of alcohol, an issue that has been hanging around the Capitol for the past six years, that took up most of our day. Although this may seem like an easy issue from afar, it is anything but as many Senators struggle with their strong beliefs of local control and maintaining the moral integrity as well as safety of our state. In one of the closest and most emotionally charged votes I have witnessed in my seven years in the legislature, the bill passed 32-22. We also passed S.B. 210 today, a bill that protects women by allowing them to sue abortion providers if they do not conform to Georgia abortion laws.
I had a busy day today with three bills on the agenda including S.B. 93, the annual drug update bill for the state board of pharmacy that allows pseudoephedrine to remain available without a prescription but to be sold in pharmacies only. I was also able to pass S.B. 220 that will enable the Board of Regents to enter into multi-year leases and S.R. 312, a resolution endorsing the deepening of the Savannah Harbor that passes unanimously. This brings to 12 the number of bills that I have passed this year, the most in my legislative career.
As I headed home after we adjourned around 10:30 p.m., I spent most of the time on my cell phone catching up with House colleague Rep. Ben Watson, who is about an hour ahead of me. We helped keep each other awake.
Carter, R-Pooler, is reporting each week during the legislative session, which is expected to last until the latter days of March. He can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.