Day 5: As outlined in our state’s Constitution, we begin our legislative session on the second Monday of each January. As was the case last week, we are in recess during the third week of January in order for the House and Senate Appropriations committees to review the governor’s proposed budgets. Each state department head presents their budget to the joint committee to explain the proposal and answer legislators’ questions.
As chairman of the Public Safety subcommittee of Appropriations in the Senate, I spent much of last week going over the details of their proposals. After having enjoyed a visit with elected officials from Richmond Hill last night, I am happy to be able to join Pembroke officials this morning for the annual Mayor’s Day breakfast.
As we go into session today, much of the media attention has shifted to the House where the Hospital Provider Fee, SB 24 that passed the Senate during our first week in session, will be considered this week. Our only action today is the passing of the consent calendar for Privileged Resolutions.
As we head back to our offices after a relatively short day, we are greeted by a loaf of delicious raisin bread that the good folks from Effingham County have delivered. We are always glad to see our good friends in Atlanta as we celebrate “Effingham County Day” at the Capitol today.
Day 6: My day starts early as I speak at breakfast to the emergency room physicians group who are visiting the Capitol today.
Today is a special day as we celebrate National Guard Day, honoring these fine men and women who represent our state and country so well. During our session, we are honored to be connected via Skype from members of the 165th in Savannah who are serving a one year mission in Afghanistan. We are also delighted to honor a number of other groups today, including the Tourism and Hospitality industry, the Georgia Realtors Association and the Arts Advocacy Association.
The only item of business that we handle today is the local consent calendar which turns out to be a fierce battle between senators from Macon and Bibb County as we pass a resolution establishing non-partisan municipal elections for their new consolidated government.
Later in the day, I am happy to welcome members of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, who are up here to attend the Georgia Music Foundation’s annual meeting.
Day 7: We welcome more groups to the Capitol today, including the Georgia Economic Development Association, the American Institute of Architects the General Contractors of Georgia and the Liberty County Development Authority. All of the groups that visit the Capitol are important and we appreciated them being here.
While we don’t have a lot of business during session today, we do take the opportunity to honor the USS Georgia with Senate Resolution 65, sponsored by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick. Today is also Georgia Tech Student Day as we honor these outstanding students who are attending one of the finest institutions of higher education in our nation (and that comes from a UGA grad).
Although it is a typical hectic day at the Capitol, our thoughts and prayers are with those in the Adairsville area where a tornado caused extensive damage including at least one death.
Day 8: Today is the day — Savannah/Chatham day. The most anticipated event of the session, by far. And although I am obviously excited, I am also somewhat relieved as I have been inundated with requests for tickets to tonight’s event.
We start the day off early with a meeting of the Chatham delegation with Mayor Edna Jackson and members of the Savannah City Council as we review their concerns and requests. During session today, my Chatham County colleague, Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, and I are busy presenting resolutions. We begin by recognizing Mayor Edna Jackson as we proclaim today Savannah/Chatham Day at the Capitol and present a resolution to Savannah’s City Manager Stephanie Cutter in recognition of her fine work.
We also present a resolution to St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems and their CEO Paul Hinchey for being awarded the 2012 Foster G. McGaw prize for Excellence in Community Service, one of the most esteemed community service honors in healthcare.
Later in the afternoon, the Savannah/Chatham Day participants hear from numerous state leaders as they get caught up on happenings at the Capitol and have the opportunity to share their concerns. This most productive session is emceed by WTOC’s Sonny Dixon, who is a Savannah treasure and always does an outstanding job.
Afterwards the group heads to the Depot and, as usual, no one is disappointed as the Savannah/Chatham Seafood Fest, the most anticipated event of the session, is standing-room only and proves to be outstanding once again.
Day 9: While we are all trying to recover from the great time last night, all eyes are on the House today as it votes on SB 24, the hospital provider fee. This is the governor’s signature legislation this year and he is granted a hard fought victory as the House passes the bill without any changes.
This means that SB 24 will now go to the governor’s desk for his signature and there will not be a $700 million hole in the FY14 budget. Although there are still many challenges ahead in the budget process, having this taken care of early in the session puts all of our minds at ease. Without question, in my nine years of serving in the Georgia Legislature, I have never seen a bill move as fast this early in a session as this bill has. My hat is off to the governor and his staff for their efforts on this legislation.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. He is reporting each week during the legislative session, which began Jan. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.