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Senate tackles budget amendments
Legislative update
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Tuesday, Feb. 19: After a long weekend at home, we’re back in business this morning and our first action is to pass the 2013 amended budget out of the Appropriations Committee. The state’s budget runs on a fiscal year from July 1-June 30 and has to be amended midyear primarily to account for revenue adjustments and K-12 student population growth.
As we go into session later in the morning, we have two bills on our calendar including SB 117, which amends the “Call before you Dig” laws. The revisions and updates to this code section regarding blasting and excavation, reflect changes in industry standards and clarify industry terms.
The other bill, SB 81, shortens the length of the legal ginseng harvesting season by changing the start date from Aug. 15 to Sept 1. While some people may feel we should be spending our time on more important issues, for those who make a living doing this, it is extremely important. Ginseng is harvested primarily in the national forests and berries must be replanted to sustain the crop. The berries are not mature enough in August to reproduce and therefore the season needs to be delayed until September. We recognize a number of groups today, including the Future Farmers of America, Toccoa-Stephens County and the restaurant industry.
Wednesday, Feb. 20: After two early committee meetings, we are in at 10 a.m. and I have my first bill of the year on the floor for consideration. SB 11 re-establishes the Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council, a very important part of making certain our local, regional and state agencies are coordinating and organizing our geographic information throughout the state. This is particularly important in flood map modernization as insurance costs and building requirements hinge on these findings.
Also today we pass SB 69, making information supplied by children who report abuses to the Department of Juvenile Justice confidential, and SB 86, amending the Family Violence Act. SB 86 allows law enforcement officers to arrest a person the officer has probable cause to believe has violated a “family violence order” without a warrant. Before passing by a 49-0 vote, the bill is amended to include a judicial review for probable cause to occur within 48 hours if a person is arrested without a warrant.
Among the groups that we recognize today is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the largest interdenominational, school-based, Christian sports organization in America. Later in the afternoon I present two bills to the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee, SB 132 and SB 133, both pharmacy-related bills dealing with updates to the drugs and narcotics code of our laws.
Thursday, Feb. 21: We have our first meeting of the year of the Chatham County legislative delegation this morning as we discuss how we can assist the city of Savannah in obtaining a firefighting vessel for the Savannah Harbor and the potential renaming of the Talmadge Bridge. The consensus for a new name for the bridge seems to be either the Savannah Bridge or the Savannah River Bridge. Although we are undecided on a new name, we all agree one is needed.
We are delighted today to have Dr. Keith Cobb from SouthCoast Medical Group in Richmond Hill to serve as our “Doctor of the Day.” Dr. Cobb is a fine physician as well as an author. His book “The Grief Survival Handbook,” has recently been picked as a top read by WORLD magazine.
We pass two resolutions and two bills today. The resolutions are SR 113, which is the annual easement grants around the state, and SR 201, which requests the Department of the Army to carefully consider the socioeconomic impact the Army 2020 Force Restructuring will have on Fort Benning and the surrounding region. We also pass SB 12 that seeks to combat childhood obesity through participation in afterschool physical fitness programs and SB 104 that removes limitations on actions by counties or municipalities for local plans and projects under the Department of Community Affairs.
Friday, Feb. 22: The amended 2013 budget finally makes it to the floor today and, as is almost always the case with any budget, creates some controversy before finally passing by a 49-0 vote. Appropriations Chairman Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, an invaluable public servant whose knowledge of the budget is unsurpassed at the Gold Dome, shows a rare moment of irritation as an amendment is offered to cut the Georgia Public Broadcasting budget to send a message to the governor over a controversial hiring in that agency. Sen. Hill succinctly instructs the authors of the amendment how to find the governor’s office from the Senate chamber if they want to send him a message first hand. Needless to say, the amendment fails.
We also pass SB 83, a bill that will add cremation to the choices of burial options that a county can choose when an individual passes away with no family member able to provide for a burial. SB 100, re-establishing the Career and Technical Education Advisory Commission, is also passed today.
We honor LaNette Holloman as the recipient of the Technical College System of Georgia 2012 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership, and it is a special pleasure for me today to be part of a group honoring Jean-Yves Vendeville as the Technical College System of Georgia’s Instructor of the Year. On several occasions, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some of Chef Jean’s dishes at Savannah Technical College and have found them to be superb. He is an inspiration to all his students and this statewide recognition is well deserved.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. The Pooler Republican reports each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 14  and is expected to last until the latter days of March.

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