Day 34 (March 28): This morning I found myself right back where I left off the week before, in front of the House Judiciary Committee where I was presenting S.B. 36, the prescription drug monitoring bill. This is one of the toughest committees in the legislature and, while they have made major revisions to my bill, I am glad that it passes out and will now be in the House Rules Committee.
Next, I attended the Senate Appropriations Committee where we passed the 2012 budget with total revenues of $18.2 billion. As always, there are some changes from the House plan, and this year it is mainly in the bond package as we include almost $700 million in our version, compared to the $562 million and $610 million that the governor and House proposed.
Also during our session today, we honored U.S. Rep. John Lewis for his lifetime of achievement and for receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.
Day 35 (March 29): Most of the buzz at the Capitol today centered around the joint legislative committee on revenue structure and the tax revision proposal, H.B. 387. While there are an equal number of House and Senate members on this committee, the House seems to be in favor of the initial proposal while we in the Senate have major questions and want more time to review the proposal. The proposal would lower the personal income tax rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent while eliminating itemized deductions for tax filers as well as keep the existing $35,000 income exemption for elderly taxpayers and exempt sales tax on energy for manufacturing purposes. It would also add sales tax to the casual sales of cars and automobile repairs and impose a 7 percent tax on telecommunications services such as cable and satellite TV.
As we went into session today, I offered a floor amendment on a House bill to add language from one of my earlier Senate bills in case I am unable to get it passed in the House. Later I present S.B. 79, the statewide school board bill that will return Chatham County school board members back to four-year terms, to the House education committee, where it passed.
Day 36 (March 30): After our weekly Bible study this morning, I appeared before the House rules committee to get S.B. 36, the prescription drug monitoring bill on the calendar but was unsuccessful in my efforts. Most of the talk at our daily caucus meeting was still on the tax revision proposal as we found some major issues that must be resolved before we can support such an important piece of legislation. While the House is openly critical of our deliberative approach, I am proud to be a member of a body that takes such a cautious and guarded attitude to this monumental task.
As we went into session later this morning, we passed out the 2012 budget as well as five other bills. During the session, it is announced that the House Rules Committee is having a special meeting this afternoon to consider more Senate bills, and I was successful this time in getting S.B. 36 on the calendar. Before leaving for the day, we have a special caucus meeting to again discuss the tax revision proposal.
Day 37 (March 31): The news was good this morning as we have received solid numbers to support changes we have proposed to the tax revision proposal and the deliberative, thoughtful approach that the Senate has taken on this issue proves to be invaluable. As we went into session today, we approved S.B. 122 that will allow local governments and water authorities to work with private companies to build reservoirs.
Although today turned out to be one of the most stressful days in my seven years at the Capitol because of political battles within the Senate, I am delighted that S.B. 36, the prescription drug monitoring bill, passed the House – ending three long years of work.
Carter, R-Pooler, can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.