March 3: While serving on the Appropriations Committee is a great honor, it is also a big responsibility. While most legislators went home last Thursday and Friday, me and other members of the Appropriations Committee remained in Atlanta working on the 2015 budget.
Today is also Day 30 of our 40-day session and is typically one of the busier days of the session. Known as Crossover Day, all bills must crossover to the other chamber by the end of business today in order to remain active.
Because of this we have 30 bills on the calendar today, including SB 382, the Retail Theft Crimes bill that addresses the growing nationwide problem of stolen merchandise being returned to a store without a receipt for store credit. The most controversial bill of the day is SB 98, prohibiting the State Health Benefit Plan and health plans offered through the state of Georgia from providing abortion coverage except in the case of a medical emergency. After an hour of debate, the bill passes by a vote of 38-16.
March 4: We start the morning early with a meeting of the Appropriations Committee where we pass out the 2015 budget. Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, chairman of Appropriations and my seatmate in the Senate, does a fine job of presenting the budget that passes out unanimously.
After a long and busy day yesterday, we have only four bills on the calendar today, including HB 176 the Mobile Broadband Leads to Development (BILD) Act, or the “cell tower bill” as it is often referred to as. This bill has been worked on for two years and limits fees by local governments to actual costs and streamlines the review process for permit approvals for cell towers.
March 5: We celebrate Women’s History Month today by honoring First Lady Sandra Deal for the tireless efforts she has given to the children of our state. Georgia’s First Lady has led the effort to promote early reading in our schools as well as increasing immunizations in our state.
We only have two bills on the calendar today, HB 229 dealing with property and casualty insurers and HB 774 that makes various changes in code relating to DOT reporting and maximum lawful speed limits. Among other things the bill increases the maximum speed limit on the highway interstate system inside an urbanized area of 50,000 or more from 65 to 70 miles per hour.
March 6: I start the morning early with an interview with Savannah radio host Bill Edwards as I give an update of our progress under the gold dome and also express my disappointment and outrage at the president’s omission in his budget proposal of federal funds for the Savannah River Harbor deepening.
I am at the Capitol at 8 a.m. to present SB 361, a bill extending the sunset date of the Georgia Geospatial Commission, to the House Natural Resources Committee.
I am proud to be wearing my green blazer today as I have the honor of welcoming the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to the Senate. Led by Parade Committee Chairman Kevin Halligan and Grand Marshall Dave Roberts, the committee takes the opportunity to invite all Georgians to what is one of the best events in our state. Also this morning I take to the well during points of personal privilege to speak out against the president’s failure to include funding for the Savannah Harbor Deepening in his budget proposal.
While we only have two bills on the calendar today, they are both important particularly HB 744, which is the 2015 budget. Later in the afternoon I chair a Public Safety meeting and attend two more committee meetings before heading to the event of the year, Savannah-Chatham Day. As has been the case for the past ten years that I have been in Atlanta, the food is excellent and the company is even better.
March 7: As we finish up the week today, I take to the podium again to welcome South Carolina legislators who are members of the Savannah River Caucus to the Capitol. The Savannah River Caucus consists of Georgia and South Carolina legislators whose district includes any portion of the Savannah River and whose purpose is to work cooperatively on issues affecting this vital natural resource.
Carter, R-Pooler, can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, 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. He reports each week during the legislative session.