After taking a day off to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we continued our session Jan. 21. Traditionally, the shortened week is set aside for budget hearings, so only members of the Appropriations Committee would need to be in attendance. However, with the fast pace that we have started out with this year, budget hearings were held the week of Jan. 13 in order to save time.
My week got off to a great start Tuesday morning when I welcomed friends from one of the finest nursing homes in our state, Coastal Manor in Ludowici, to the Capitol. I served as the consultant pharmacist at Coastal Manor for many years and witnessed first-hand the care and compassion their great staff provides to the residents.
We got to work at 10 a.m. and, while we still had little business to tend to at that point, the number of bills being introduced had increased, indicating the pace will pick up shortly. On Monday afternoon, I chaired my first public-safety meeting of the session, where we introduced new staff and members and reviewed the bills held over from last year. Since this is the second year of a two-year session, any bills that did not pass last year still are eligible this year for consideration.
Afterward, I met with Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss issues in my district, including state funds for the Tybee Island beach re-nourishment project. We also discussed the impact Biggert-Waters will have on flood-insurance rates in our state and what we may be able to do to help alleviate that.
Jan. 22 was Armstrong Atlantic State University Day at the Capitol, and it was great to have President Linda Blieken and other school officials join me in Atlanta. After sharing breakfast and taking pictures, I joined other pharmacist legislators for a trip to Mercer University north of Atlanta, where we attended a state board of pharmacy meeting and offered testimony.
At 10 a.m. in Senate chambers, we presented a privileged resolution to President Blieken and the AASU delegation. During the day, I admired the displays set up on the second floor of the Capitol by AASU’s different health-care departments. Other legislators and staffers embraced the opportunity to learn more about AASU’s programs.
After many early-morning meetings, work started at 10 a.m. Jan. 23. Savannah State University President Cheryl Dozier and other SSU delegates joined us at the Capitol to lobby for funds for the science building SSU badly needs.
Afterward, I attended a press conference with Gov. Deal regarding the National Prescription Drug Abuse Conference that will be held in Atlanta later this year.
After lunch, I chaired a public-safety meeting, where we passed out Senate Bill 298, which removes the notary requirement from a doctors affidavit for disabled-parking permits as long it appears on security paper approved by either the Composite Medical Board or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
I was in session at 9 a.m. Jan. 24, and things got interesting. Members of both parties discussed changes to the State Health Benefit Plan. We only had SB 297 on the calendar today, but it turned out to be a controversial piece of legislation because it was not engrossed and opened up the ethics statue.
Engrossment is a parliamentary procedure that requires a two-thirds majority vote and means a bill cannot be amended. Because SB 297 was not engrossed, three separate amendments were offered, including one that would change the appointment process of the state ethics commission.
After nearly two hours of debate, the original bill, which exempts local officials from filing campaign finance-disclosure reports if they don’t raise or spend more than $2,500 per election cycle, was passed.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. Connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.