Day 28 (Monday, March 22): The historic vote last night by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass national health care reform has the Capitol abuzz this morning. While some are happy, others are in disbelief, and almost all are wondering what the financial impact on our state will be. While serving as the Mayor of Pooler for nine years, I was always resentful of programs created by the State that resulted in financial burdens for cities. As a state legislator, I am even more leery of federal programs and their financial impact on our state. Whether coincidental or not, today we debate SB 401, a bill that is aimed at investigating certain federal mandates before they are enforced in the state. The bill, which passes easily, will allow the governor to delay compliance with federal Cap and Trade programs until a cost analysis to determine the financial impact on the state has been completed. Two constitutional amendments are considered today. One of these, allowing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to utilize more flexible funding options on larger projects passes with the necessary two/third votes. The other, an amendment to protect Georgia’s right to a secret ballot, is not as successful and does not pass. Finally, Senator David Adelman offers his resignation from the State Senate today as he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore.
Day 29 (Wednesday, March 24, 2010): SB 308, the Georgia Common Sense Lawful Carry Act, passes the Senate today after years of study and much hard work. The bill, which will help clarify the confusing provisions under the current law, will be a relief to Georgia’s 400,000 lawfully carrying citizens and especially to the states law enforcement officials. Whether one agrees or disagrees with this bill, clarification of the laws is essential as law enforcement officials within the same department often disagree on the current carrying laws. SB 308 preserves property owner rights by allowing them discretion as to having weapons on their property, provides for clearer penalties for violators and allows universities the authority to regulate weapons on campuses and at athletic events. Also today we pass SB 418, a bill that I authored to deal with prescription drug abuse and have been working diligently on since the beginning of the session. Known as the Patient Safety Act, the bill will create a database of controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed in our state. The database will be maintained by the state Board of Pharmacy, shared with the state Medical Board and will be accessible to doctors and pharmacists within the state, while law enforcement will be required to have a subpoena to access the information.
Day 30 (Friday, March 26, 2010): Today is “crossover day” in the legislature as bills originating in their respective chambers must be passed out in order to be considered by the other chamber. This is very important to the passage of legislation and creates a tense atmosphere around the Capitol, especially among the legislators. Among the 33 bills we have on the calendar today that pass are SB 161 requiring certain insurance coverage of autism, SB 496 establishing the HOPE needs based scholarship and SB 515 that will prohibit furloughs of local school system personnel when local reserve funds are available. The bill generating the most controversy today is SB 529 that makes abortion a criminal act by the person performing the procedure when they have actual knowledge that a woman has been unlawfully coerced into having an abortion. They are also held criminally liable when they have actual knowledge that the intent of the abortion is based upon the race, color or gender of the unborn child or the race or color of either parent. After a full 3 hours of debate, the bill passes.
To readers: State Senator Buddy Carter (R- Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 11.
Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.