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First bill draws hazing
40 days at the Capitol
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Editor’s note: Carter (R- Pooler) is reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 11, and is expected to last until the latter days of March.

Day 18 (Feb. 16):
Although we were not in session yesterday, committee meetings were still held, including Special Judiciary, one of the new committees that I serve on. Because this committee is made up primarily of lawyers, I often remind my fellow members that we non-lawyers are appointed in order to bring “common sense” to the proceedings. It was certainly needed yesterday as we spent the afternoon reviewing SB 167, Georgia’s Common Sense Lawful Carry Act, which attempts to clear up confusion in the current handgun law and provide lawfully carrying citizens and law enforcement clear guidelines. One of the three bills passed in session today is SB 374 which creates the Legislative Economic Development Council to evaluate the state’s overall economic development strategy. Economic Development, particularly business formation and job creation, is one of the top priorities of the legislature this session and therefore is receiving much of our time and attention. This bill sets up a council that will review the state’s goals regarding economic development and periodically review current tax exemptions and credits, detailing how many jobs were created as a result of a particular tax credit.            

Day 19 (Feb. 17): Today is a special day for me as I present my first bill on the Senate floor. Having been forewarned, I am prepared for the traditional hazing that each new senator receives when they go to the well for the first time. As fate would have it, my bill is the annual update on dangerous medicinal drugs which includes about 40 new drugs with names like abobotulinumtoxinA and fospropofol, both of which I am asked to pronounce and describe their use. The good hearted ribbing lasts for quite a while and finally ends with the Senator from the 53rd representing the North Georgia Mountains asking me to assure him that this dangerous drug update is not a back door attempt at legalizing marijuana. After proper assurances and a great deal of personal anxiety, the bill passes unanimously. On a more serious note, we spend a great deal of time debating SB 50, a bill that increases transparency when health insurance companies utilize rental networks. Many companies throughout the state group together a network of medical providers and contract their services to health insurance companies. Insurers who use these rental networks can then reimburse doctors for less than the rate agreed upon by the doctor and the original insurance company. This bill requires that health insurance companies disclose when they use a rental network so that doctors will know who is paying the medical bill. The legislation passes easily.          

Day 20 (Feb. 18): The budget continues to dominate our session with news today that we will be taking a two-week break in order for the House and Senate Appropriation committees to work on possible solutions to the ongoing budget crisis. This break will keep us out until March 8, at which time February revenues should be available and will give us an idea if revenue collections are stabilizing after 20 straight months of decreases. The pace is picking up now as we have 10 bills on the floor, and while all are important, the main focus is on HB 947, the FY 10 Amended budget. As is the case with all budget bills, this bill started in the House and, after passage, came to the Senate. Because we made changes to the House approved version, it must now go to a conference committee made up of three members from each chamber who will hold off meeting until we return in March. The FY 10 Amended budget is currently set at $17.4 billion which is 23 percent less than it was two years ago and could be reduced even further.       

Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.
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