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Senate addresses unemployment, drug update
40 days at the Capital
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Day 22 (Tuesday, Feb. 21):  Although it made for a late-night drive, I was delighted to join the Skidaway Island Republican Club on Feb. 20 for its annual Presidents Day dinner, where we heard from Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus. Marcus’s story is that of the true American dream, and he certainly is an inspiration to many of us.
After an early-morning caucus meeting Feb. 21, we had an appropriations meeting to pass out the fiscal year 2012 amended budget.
During the session, we had three bills on the calendar, all of which passed rather easily. 
SB 367 authorizes the commissioner of agriculture to require anyone incurring civil penalties to obtain a surety bond or suspend portions of those penalties, while SB 383 updates the procedural rules for international commercial arbitrations in our state.
SB 390 allows the dean of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to designate any certifying agency to provide for seed certification.
I was delighted to welcome to the Capitol participants in Classical Conversations, a group of home-schooled students pursuing a classical Christian education program. One of their leaders, Kristin Bigalke from Rincon, is a fellow pharmacist who helps us occasionally in our pharmacies. 
Later in the evening, I was a guest on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s lawmakers program and debated the HOPE scholarship with Sen. Jason Carter. You can view the telecast at
Day 23 (Wednesday, Feb. 22):  Early-morning meetings are the norm during this busy time of year, and today was a perfect example. I met with representatives from the Savannah Economic Development Authority and Georgia Workforce Development Office before heading downtown to speak to the Independent Colleges’ Association. 
Our calendars are beginning to get longer as we race toward the 30th day (crossover day), when bills must be passed in the Senate in order to be heard in the House this session. 
We had eight bills on the calendar, including SB 324, which states that the shoeing and fitting of equines for shoes is excluded from the definition of “practice of veterinary medicine.” We also discussed SB 360, which would allow tilapia to be released into private ponds. While these may seem like silly subjects for the state Legislature to be considering, it is important to those who are being prohibited from these practices because of existing laws. 
I presented SB 370, which is the annual drug update that revises lists of drugs classified as dangerous drugs. 
We also passed SB 396, which transfers the governance of the Herty Advanced Materials Development Center to Georgia Southern University. 
Later in the day, I presented SB 377 to the Ethics Committee. The bill would require signers of election-related petitions to provide proof of identification. This turned out to be a very controversial bill and failed to pass.
Day 24 (Thursday, Feb. 23):  I was back in front of another committee early in the morning to present SB 376, a bill that calls for mandatory reporting to the state nursing board by employers of nurses who are believed to be impaired. The bill passed this subcommittee and now heads to the full Health and Human Services Committee. 
Today was another busy day during session — we had nine bills and one resolution on the calendar, including the fiscal year 2012 amended budget, which totals $18.5 billion. 
Because there were changes made in the budget after it was passed in the House, it now will go to a conference committee made up of Senate and House members who will work out a compromise. 
I had another bill on the floor, SB 378, which changes the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that pharmacists in our state can fill out-of-state prescriptions. It also brings our state’s sampling laws into compliance with federal law. 
Later in the afternoon, during the Regulated Industries Committee meeting, I offered an amendment dealing with solar power to a bill in the same code section that was being presented. If the subject matter is germane to the code section being discussed in a bill, it can be amended.
In one of the most closely watched meetings of the year, with a full room and lots of media coverage, I presented as an amendment what originally was SB 401.
Although the bill ended up being tabled, I was pleased that we were able to bring the issue to the forefront and live to fight another day.
Day 25 (Friday, Feb. 24):  We welcomed back to the Senate the first African-American elected to the General Assembly after the Reconstruction period, Sen. Leroy Johnson. It was an honor to have this fine gentleman and great Georgian back at the Capitol. 
I presented my third bill in three days. SR 765 passed and grants nonexclusive easements in Butts, Bryan and Liberty counties for the placement of power lines. 
We also passed SB 372, a bill that will require the funeral director in charge of a crematory to make a reasonable effort to determine whether any body submitted for final disposition by cremation is that of a deceased veteran. 
We also spent about two hours debating SB 447, a bill that increases the amount of employee wages that are taxed for unemployment insurances. It passed, mostly along party lines.
The bill addresses the $736 million that our state has borrowed to pay state unemployment benefits, allowing us to pay back the federal government by the end of 2014, and gives us $1 billion in the trust fund by the end of 2016. While this is difficult for all of us to do, I am proud that we are facing our responsibilities and addressing this dilemma.

Carter, R- Pooler, will report each week during the Legislative Session. He can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 301-A, Atlanta, Ga., 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. You can connect with him on Facebook at or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.

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