Day 29 (Monday, March 5): In an effort to reach out to those who have opposed legislation dealing with solar power that I am sponsoring, I invited representatives from Georgia Power to meet with me this morning. While we have agreed to disagree on this particular issue, it is important to maintain respectful relationships at the Capitol. Afterward, I meet with a student from Georgia State University to discuss the future of the HOPE Scholarship and to listen to his concerns and suggestions. It is encouraging to hear from young people in our state who have an interest in our state’s government and future.
As we go into session today, we have 16 bills on the calendar in what is shaping up to be a very busy day. As is often the case, we move quickly through most of the bills only to run into a controversial bill that we spend a few hours debating. Today, that controversial bill is Senate Bill 458, which requires applicants for post-secondary education public benefits have their lawful presence verified. Known as the Prohibition of Illegal Immigrants from Georgia Colleges Bill, this is one of those bills that both sides bring legitimate points to the discussion and agree is a problem being forced upon the states by the inaction of our federal government. Nevertheless, as responsible public servants, we must face the issue, and after a full three hours of debate, the bill passes.
Also passed today is SB 288, which will allow pharmacists and nurses to administer other vaccines besides the influenza vaccine. It restricts pharmacists and nurses from administering any vaccine to a person under the age of 19 without an individual prescription.
Another somewhat controversial bill is SB 355, the Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Bill, which requires a person who witnesses child abuse as defined in state law, or receives reliable information from a person who has witnessed child abuse that child abuse has occurred, to report the abuse.
The only bill I have on the calendar today is SB 416, which deals with electronic prior authorization of drug requests. The bill requires the insurance commissioner to adopt standards for e-prior authorization requests between benefits managers and health-care providers that are consistent with those adopted by the National Council of Prescription Drug Programs. I am very pleased that the bill passes overwhelmingly, and this helps me to endure the long day of speeches and debates from well-meaning but sometimes long-winded senators.
Day 30 (Wednesday, March 7): As is customary during our 40-day session, we take the day off between the 29th and 30th days in order to prepare for the long and arduous 30th day known as Crossover Day. This is the day that bills must pass one chamber in order to be considered during this session. Although we are off, we make the most of our time up here with committee meetings primarily dealing with the fiscal year 2013 budget. As we go into session this morning, we have 28 bills and five resolutions on the calendar. With the exception of breaks for lunch and dinner, we are in session from 10 a.m. until late in the evening as we rush against the clock to finish our business.
I have two bills on the calendar today, both of which pass easily. SB 368 requires nurses to meet continuing education requirements as a condition of licensure renewal, while SB 380 revises the requirements of security paper for prescription-drug orders. SB 380 actually is a follow up to the Prescription Monitoring Bill that I passed last year. As is often the case with legislation, there are unintended consequences and this was the case last year as physicians were being required to obtain unnecessarily expensive prescription pads for their practice.
One of the bills that we pass corrects an embarrassing oversight with the availability of license plates issued to Purple Heart recipients. Currently, only retirees may receive the license plate, but SB 473 will allow recipients of the medal who currently are serving on active duty or in the Reserve to receive the Purple Heart license plates.
SB 459, which would allow consumers to opt out of using the “smart meters” that I had attempted to amend in committee with my solar power bill, is moved to the foot of the calendar at the request of the author, presumably killing the bill. However, as we proceed through the night, a number of bills are tabled and time permits a second chance at hearing the bill, which the author takes advantage of. After some discussion, the bill passes 37-13 with an amendment prohibiting any charge for the removal of the meters.
A number of bills, such as SB 312 requiring recipients of food stamps to engage in “professional development” such as obtaining a GED diploma or pursuing technical education, and SB 292 which requires Temporary Assistance for Needy Families TANF recipients to take a drug test as a condition to receiving benefits, create a great deal of controversy and are debated for hours with emotional and arousing speeches from members.
A form of protest takes place as we vote on SB 438, a bill prohibiting the state health benefit plan from providing coverage for abortions. Female senators opposed to the bill stand side-by-side at the front of the chamber in protest. Mercifully, as the clock strikes 10:39 p.m. we adjourn and Crossover Day for the 2012 Legislative session is history.
Carter, R-Pooler, 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 facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.