Day 31 (Monday, March 12): My day started off with an early morning meeting with the Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, Tricia Pridemore, as we discussed legislation that I will be carrying in the Senate. Workforce Development is working to turn our state’s unskilled labor force into skilled workers who can meet the demands of today’s employers. On the days we are in session, we have a doctor of the day who assists the Capitol’s nurse in providing any health-care needs we may have. On March 12, we were honored to have Dr. Keith Cobb, an internist with SouthCoast Medical in Savannah, helping us. Besides being a fine physician, Dr. Cobb is also the author of “The Grief Survival Handbook,” which was recently picked as a top read by the magazine WORLD.
Two of the three bills the Senate had on the calendar that day easily passed. House Bill 48 authorizes local ad valorem Freeport exemptions for inventory with voter approval, and HB 175 establishes the Online Clearinghouse Act to create a system to allow local school systems and charter schools to share their computer-based courses with students in other districts and charter schools, pass easily.
However, HB 110, which authorizes counties and municipalities to establish foreclosure and vacant real property registries, generates two hours of debate before finally passing. Before we adjourned, we again took up the FY 12 amended budget that the appropriations committees of both chambers have been working on since the start of the session. After reaching an agreement between the two chambers, we passed the budget and sent it to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Day 32 (Tuesday, March 13): I was proud to be wearing my green blazer March 13 as we were set to welcome the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to the Capitol. Before we went into session, I presented HB 897 to the Senate economic development committee. This is a bit unusual for a Senator to present a House bill to a Senate committee, but the House sponsor was unable to be present so I handled the responsibility. While in session, we had quite a few special presentations, but none were as special as when the St. Patrick’s Day parade committee entered the chamber with bagpipes playing. The sea of green from Savannah always is a welcome site at the Capitol, and my Senate colleagues and I were proud to have them there.
None of four bills that we passed out that day were controversial, which made for a short session. HB 895 expands the GBI’s duties to provide information to the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board, while HB 729 updates the Georgia Code to reflect and adopt annual changes in the Federal IRS code.
The two other bills, HB 642 and HB 805, are related as they both deal with abolishing the State Personnel Administration and transferring certain functions to the Department of Administrative Services. The afternoon was full of committee meetings, including a marathon three-hour meeting of the Regulated Industries Committee, during which we passed HB 1146. The governor’s legislation switches rehab services programs, including the vocational rehab program, to a stand-alone agency attached to the Department of Human Services for administrative purposes. During the meeting, I had to leave on several occasions to attend other meetings where I was presenting legislation, making for a very hectic afternoon.
Day 33 (Wednesday, March 14): My luck with House committees continued that day as I was successful in passing Senate Bill 416 — which deals with electronic prescriptions and prior approvals for drugs not covered by insurance — out of the House Insurance Committee.
We had three bills on the calendar that day. Two bills — HB 713 delaying the implementation of some college and career readiness initiatives until 2013, and HB 886, bringing state chartered banks in line with federally chartered banks in regards to credit exposure in derivative transactions — both pass easily. However, HB 706 was a different story. This “clean-up” bill, as we often refer to bills updating certain code sections, dealt with Title 20 of the elementary and secondary education code. These changes are based upon the recommendations of the Student Finance Study Commission, which has been reviewing this area for the past year. While the changes in this bill are generally technical, anytime a code section is opened we can expect a number of amendments to be offered on the floor. Many legislators were waiting for this type of opportunity, and that day was no exception as we had six separate amendments to consider. And while only one amendment passed, there was much debate and time spent on the others before they finally were defeated.
After a Senate appropriations meeting, I presented two more of my bills to House committees, keeping my record intact by passing both. I also had the opportunity that day to meet privately with Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss Chatham County as well as Senate issues.
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. He is reporting each week during the Legislative Session.