Day 11 (Feb. 7): As we began last week, we welcomed the Leadership Liberty County group to the Capitol. After pictures with the governor and a tour of the House chambers led by Rep. Al Williams, I had the privilege of leading the group on a tour of the Senate chambers.
During our majority caucus meeting at lunch today, we were honored to have Gov. Nathan Deal address us and give us the latest news on the HOPE scholarship. Gov. Deal has made solving the HOPE Scholarship dilemma one of his top priorities this year and is intent on bringing this issue to a quick resolution.
As we went into session this afternoon, we welcomed the many 4-H members from across the state as we celebrated 4-H day at the Capitol. I am honored today to have seven pages, all of whom are 4-H members from my district. The page program is an excellent opportunity for students, ages 12 and above, to participate in activities at the Capitol. More information on this program can be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/hr/en-US/PageProgram.aspx.
Later in the afternoon I presented two bills I am sponsoring, HB 37 and HR 84, before the State Institutions and Properties Committee. HR 84 calls for a constitutional amendment to allow the state to enter into multi-year leases, and HB 37 details how the leasing contracts are to be carried out. Both bills passed unanimously out of the committee and now go before the Rules Committee to be considered for placement before the full Senate.
Day 12 (Feb. 9): Although we were not in session yesterday, we certainly had a busy agenda as committee meetings dominated the day. A number of bills were introduced this week, including SB 63 that will establish the Georgia Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program. This program is intended to reduce Medicaid fraud by requiring Medicaid cards to be integrated with a computer chip that includes a digital photograph and fingerprint of the card holder.
Also introduced were SB 65, which prohibits illegal immigrants from collecting unemployment benefits, and SB 140, which will draw $10 from existing vehicle registration fees into a trauma trust fund. As a co-sponsor of all of these bills, I am excited that they are being introduced and look forward to working to have them passed.
After a very short session today, I had the pleasure of spending time with members of the Savannah Federation of Educators, who traveled to the Capitol to lobby for their group. Afterwards I met with Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, who oversees our state’s prison and parole system that falls under the committee I chair.
Finally, I presented SB 36, the Patient Safety Act of 2011, to a subcommittee of the Health and Human Services Committee and am pleased it passed on to the full committee.
Day 13 (Thursday): The day began with good news as the governor announced that state revenues for the month of January increased 8.1 percent compared to the same month last year. We are thick in the budget process as the House passed the FY2011 amended budget yesterday. According to our state’s constitution, the budget starts in the House and is sent to the Senate for our recommendations. As vice chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of Appropriations, I have the responsibility of reviewing the House submissions for prisons and parole and reporting my recommendations to the full committee.
As we headed to session today, we finally got down to some business as we passed out our first bill of the session, SB 30. With a 51-4 vote, this bill requires that all municipal court judges must also be licensed attorneys and standing members of the State Bar of Georgia. As you can imagine, this bill brings out plenty of good-hearted lawyer jokes.
Carter, R- Pooler, is reporting each week during the legislative session, which began Jan. 10 and is expected to last until the latter days of March. He can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 301-A, Atlanta, Ga., 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.