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Senate works on tax reform
40 days at the capitol
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Day 34 (Monday, April 12): This is the sixth year that I have had the honor and privilege of serving in the Georgia State Legislature and one of the things that I am most proud of is how we begin each session in the House and Senate with the Pledge of Allegiance, a short devotion led by our “Pastor of the Day,” and a prayer. Today is a special day for me as I have my pastor from Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah, Rev. Creede Hinshaw as our “Pastor of the Day.” As usual, Creede does a wonderful job and afterwards, it is a delight for me to introduce he and his wonderful wife, Bonnie, to my Senate friends. Although the calendar is getting quite heavy as we get closer to the 40th and final day of the session, we take time out today to honor veterans form the Korean War in recognition of the war’s 60th anniversary. HB 1015, an addendum to the Gang Act of 2006, is aimed at fine tuning and building upon the original gang act that has had significant positive impact on Georgia communities and passes unanimously. We also pass a number of voting issues today including HB 665 which requires the secretary of state to develop a pilot program for the electronic transmission of absentee ballots by military and overseas citizens. HB 1073 also passes and is an effort to allow eligible overseas voters to register to vote by a write-in absentee ballot.           
Day 35 (Tuesday, April 13, 2010): Many of you will remember the brutal murder of hiker Meredith Emerson in the North Georgia Mountains over two years ago and the sickening request last month of Hustler magazine to publish crime scene photos taken of Emerson’s corpse. Today we unanimously pass HB 1322, the Meredith Emerson Memorial Privacy Act, which exempts crime scene photos and video recordings from open records requirements that depict a deceased person in a state of nudity, dismemberment, or decapitation. Also passed today is HB 244 that allows the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) to transfer any funds that they deem to be in excess of those needed for corporate purposes to the state. These excess funds will be sold and the proceeds used to help cover the severe budget shortfall that the state is currently facing. After a long and heated debate, the bill passes by the slimmest of margins. I am proud today to present HB 361, the Safe Medications Practice Act, to the Senate. This bill passes unanimously and authorizes hospital pharmacists to work with members of the medical staff on drug therapy management such as Coumadin, Dilantin and insulin dosing.                  
Day 36 (Wednesday, April 14, 2010): Our “Pastor of the Day” today is one of our own, as retiring Senator Don Thomas from Dalton leads us in our morning devotion. One of the most loved members of the entire legislature, Senator Thomas is the only medical physician currently serving at the Capitol and is the Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services committee. After 14 years of legislative service, “Doc” Thomas as he is affectionately referred to as, is planning on returning to his medical practice and spend time with his wife of 55 years, Emma Jean. Today is an important day on the schedule as we are running out of time to balance the FY 2011 budget. Early in the day we pass HB 1055 that establishes a consistent basis for the state to set and revise user fees, some of which have not been updated since the 1960’s. Later in the afternoon we vote on a revised version of the bill that includes not only the revised user fees, but also the hospital fee passed last week as well as two significant tax cuts, phasing out the state’s .25-mill property tax and state income tax paid by persons aged 65 or older on passive (non-wage) income. Although debated passionately, the bill passes and the FY 2011 budget is finally shaping up.  
Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.    

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