Monday, Feb. 11: Although we went into session at 10 a.m., we suspended roll call until 11 a.m. in order to allow our newest member, Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, to be sworn in and participate in the session. Burke has been a physician for 25 years and brings a wealth of health-care experience to our chamber.
Of the two bills we had on the calendar, Senate Bill 65, which authorizes professional counselors (“LPC”) to perform emergency evaluations of people who are mentally ill or alcohol dependent, generates the most debate.
Currently, only physicians, psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists in psychiatric/mental health can perform this function.
The author argues that many areas of rural Georgia are underserved with these health-care professionals and that adding LPC’s would help alleviate many problems. The bill passed, 51-2.
Also, SB 66, which increases the maximum penalty for contempt of court from $500 to $1,000, passed, 42-9. Judges who spoke in favor of this bill in committee noted that the ability to levy higher fines would assist them in maintaining order in their courtrooms.
Later that day, I presented nonpartisan legislation to the Ethics Committee, although this time I agree to withdraw SB 7 dealing with county commissioners. I was elated that all of the bills to allow counties, if they so desire, to change the election of coroner, tax commissioner, clerk of superior court, sheriff, district attorney and solicitors general are passed by the committee.
The day ends with the joyous news of the birth of Isabella Chance, the newest daughter of Majority Leader Ronnie Chance and his lovely wife, Cressida.
Tuesday, Feb. 12: House Bill 55, an important and time-sensitive bill that allows investigators to conduct wiretapping statewide regardless of the county where the warrant was issued, was on our agenda.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that wiretap evidence obtained outside of the jurisdiction where the warrant authorizing the wiretap was issued cannot be used in a criminal prosecution. This ruling has caused some ongoing investigations into drug trafficking to be suspended indefinitely until the matter is resolved.
The bill passed, 48-6, and went to the governor for his signature.
We honored a number of groups, including the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, the Girl Scouts and the DENTAC command form Fort Stewart. Georgia Day was observed as we celebrated the 281st birthday of our great state. It was a pleasure to welcome former state Sen. Ed Zipperer and Ottawa Farms owner Pete Waller to the Capitol. It’s always good to see folks from back home.
That afternoon, I chaired the first meeting this session of the Public Safety Committee. We passed out SB 74, which allows people ages 18-21 who have military training to obtain a concealed-weapons permit. Later, I was successful in passing out SB 10, which requires continued education for nurses, and SB 13, which requires mandatory reporting by nurses, out of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Wednesday, Feb. 13: As is Senate tradition, freshman Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, was grilled unmercifully as he presented his first bill before the chamber. The young senator from South Georgia did an outstanding job of presenting SB 91, a bill that repeals the Emerging Crops Fund Act. This act is no longer necessary, since similar funds already are available for framers and it has yet to be appropriated. After enduring an onslaught of good-natured ribbing, the senator’s bill passes unanimously.
We honored both Gwinnett and Henry counties and commended the Lupus Foundation of America for the outstanding work that they do in our state. Later in the day, I presented SB 11, which re-establishes the Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council, to the Natural Resources Committee, where it receives a positive vote. This council plays an important role in helping to coordinate the state’s geographical-information systems program between local, county and state agencies.
Thursday, Feb. 14: The day started early with a 7 a.m. breakfast with more than 700 pharmacists and pharmacy students from across the state who were present for VIP (Very Involved Pharmacist) Day at the Capitol. This incredible showing of support from my chosen profession made me very proud as a sea of white lab coats flooded the halls of the Capitol.
It also was “DAWGS at the Dome” Day as we welcomed representatives from my alma mater, the University of Georgia, to the Capitol. Later that morning as went into session, we honored retiring UGA President Dr. Michael Adams. Adams had served as UGA president since 1997, during which time UGA was recognized as one of the nation’s top 20 public research universities for eight of the past 10 years, and its athletic teams won 27 national championships and 58 Southeastern Conference titles.
We had two bills on the calendar: SB 97, which authorizes the creation of the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Beef, and SB 87, which repeals the roadside Markets Incentive Program that is no longer being funded. The afternoon was spent with other chairmen of appropriation sub-committees as we prepared the Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2013 amended budget. The budget was expected to be on the agenda this week.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office phone number is 404-656-5109. The Pooler Republican reports each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.