March 10 — We headed into the home stretch and, as always, things started to get hectic at the Capitol.
After an early morning meeting with the governor’s chief of staff, I went to our caucus at 9 a.m. As we went into session at 10 a.m., we took time to honor six groups, including the Nighthawks DUI Task Force and the Beekeepers Association.
We had 10 bills on the calendar, including House Bill 60, the weapons carry bill. This bill expands the list of judges who are allowed to carry guns. Currently, only state and federal trial and appellate judges are exempted, but HB 60 expands that list to include probate, juvenile and magistrate judges, as well as municipal and city judges.
HB 770 creates the crime of home invasion. This bill is to fill a gap in the current burglary and theft statues for specific instances when perpetrators with weapons invade an occupied home.
Another interesting bill that passed was HB 838, the “revenge pornography” bill. This bill prohibits the intentional electronic transmission of photos or videos depicting nudity or sexually explicit conduct without the consent of the person depicted. If this bill becomes law, Georgia will be only the third state to have passed this type of law.
After adjourning at mid-afternoon, I was in yet another Health and Human Services Committee, which has been one of the busiest committees at the Capitol.
March 11 — This was Savannah State Day at the Capitol, and it was a pleasure to welcome President Cheryl Dozier and other members of this fine university. It also was Israeli Day, and we recognized both of these groups, as well as the peach queens from Macon.
Among the eight bills that we had was HB 153, a bill allowing cities and counties the option of levying a fractional SPLOST in .05 percent increments. Also passed was HB 459, known as the “slowpoke bill.” This somewhat controversial bill, sponsored by former Georgia State Patrol commander and current state Rep. Bill Hitchens, prohibits a driver from continuing in a “passing lane,” defined as the left-most lane in a multi-lane road, once the drive becomes aware that he or she is being overtaken by another driver.
HB 790, which also passed, changes provisions and penalties for illegally cutting timber, including awarding triple the fair market value of trees cut illegally.
I presented HB 791, which deals with military zones eligible for tax credits. This bill addresses a specific situation in Bryan County and passed unanimously. In the afternoon, I met with Jon Pannell, a member of the board of registrars in Chatham County, and Joe Steffen, chairman of the board of elections in Chatham County, to discuss combining these boards.
Later, I chaired a Public Safety meeting before enjoying a surprise visit from Effingham County Commission Chairman Wendell Kessler.
March 12 — This day was special for all senators as we honored retiring Sen. John Crosby. The former superior court judge, affectionately known as Judge Crosby, is from Tifton and happens to be kin to my wife’s family. He will be dearly missed.
We celebrated Young Farmers Day and welcomed University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Chants of “Go Dawgs” were heard throughout the Senate.
One of the most important bills of the session, HB 933, was on the agenda. This bill removes the sunset for the tax exemption for the sale or use of engines, parts and equipment used in the maintenance or repair of aircrafts. We also passed HB 702 and HB 1080 dealing with placing monuments in the Capitol. Monuments can be controversial. This past year, a statue of a former governor was removed from the grounds after historians questioned the appropriateness of it being displayed.
The afternoon was spent in yet another Health and Human Services meeting, where we discussed numerous subjects, including autism.
March 13 — Because this day was the last day bills could be passed out of committee, we delayed the start of our session until 1 p.m. to have committee meetings in the morning.
We started early with a Health and Human Services committee meeting at
8 a.m. and passed four more bills. Later, we had a Higher Education meeting before our caucus at noon. I also attended an Insurance committee meeting, where Rep. Jason Spencer presented HB 707, the Georgia Health Care Freedom Act. It is the same as SB 334, a bill I sponsored in the Senate and that passed the Insurance Committee but did not get to the Senate floor. I am excited to be carrying HB 707 (also known as the anti-Obamacare bill) in the Senate.
As we went into session at 1 p.m., with 22 bills on the calendar, we had a brief recess to allow House and Senate leaders to meet. The majority leader made a motion that all 22 bills be tabled, and we stood at ease for almost an hour before returning.
When we went back in, we brought 12 bills off of the table, including HB 943, the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act and Autism Coverage. This combination bill requires insurance coverage for orally administered chemotherapy at the same level as IV administered coverage. It also requires insurers to cover children 6 or younger who are diagnosed with autism.
We also passed HB 965, the Medical Amnesty Law, creating a “good Samaritan” law that encourages people to seek medical assistance for drug overdoses. It also allows licensed health practitioners and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense opioid antagonists.
Contact Carter by writing to 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; calling 404-656-5109; going to facebook.com/buddycarterga; or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.