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Legislators as busy as ever
40 days at the Capitol
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 • Day 31 (Tuesday, March 30): Having passed the deadline where bills originating in the Senate can be passed over to the House, we began concentrating on those House bills that have been sent to us this year as well as bills left over from last year. But before we started the official business of the day, we took time to honor a popular country music star from Douglas, Jennifer Nettles, of the musical group Sugarland.
House Bill 905, an effort to grant schools more flexibility as they face daunting budget challenges, received unanimous passage as did Senate Bill 231, a bill that defines the powers of an interior designer in relation to drawing and consulting on construction permits previously designed by an architect. SB 67, left over from last year, deals with limiting driver’s license exams to be offered only in English and created a lengthy debate on the floor before it was passed by a 39-11 vote.
The federal government’s proposed cap and trade legislation, and its potential high cost to the state’s citizens, is the target of Senate Resolution 801, which passed mostly along party lines. This resolution urges Congress not to adopt cap and trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying that global warming caused by carbon emissions is due not only to natural gas, oil and coal production, but also to cropland and forest conversion.           
• Day 32 (Wednesday, March 31): Today was a sad day for members of the Senate as we traveled to Toccoa for the funeral of former Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband Bruce, who were tragically killed last week.
Although the session was brief, we passed HB 128, which extends from 1 year to 10 years the validation period for a disabled war veteran’s or blind person’s eligibility certificate for operating a business. The business operator also is exempt from certain taxes or fees.
At this point in the legislative session, most legislators are running around the Capitol not only attending their own committee meetings, but also attending the other chambers’ committee meetings where their bills are being heard. I attended certain parts of 10 committee and sub-committee meetings today and presented three of my bills to different groups, which makes for a very hectic day.
Fortunately, one of my bills passed out of sub-committee to the full committee and the other two passed out of the full committees.                
• Day 33 (Thursday, April 1): Although we didn’t go into session until the afternoon, the morning was full of more committee meetings. For the first time in my six years in the legislature, I have a bill before the House Judiciary Committee, widely considered to be the toughest and most deliberate committee at the Capitol.
Consisting of 15 lawyers and three non-lawyers, the committee is sometimes merciless; however, I came prepared. I brought legal counsel for the group I represent and we were successful in getting our bill passed out. After this stressful experience, the day got even more hectic as we went into session to debate arguably the most controversial bill not only of this session but, for many of us, of our careers.
HB 307 would impose a 1.45 percent tax on most of the state’s hospitals and generate about $169 million in state revenues, as well as draw down more than $500 million in federal funds for Medicaid, helping fix a massive hole in the budget. After hours of intense debate and closed-door meetings, an amendment to add a major tax exemption by repealing the state’s insurance premium tax on health-care plans was added, making the bill revenue neutral. The bill passed by the slimmest of margins.       
Carter, R-Pooler, 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. He has been reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 11, and is expected to last a long time.
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