Editor’s note: State Sen. Buddy Carter, R- Pooler, will periodically provide written updates during the legislative session, which began Jan. 10 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 1 (Monday, Jan. 10): If the late Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Carey described the start of the 2011 Georgia legislative session, he would undoubtedly say that it was off to an inauspicious start. As tradition has it, most legislators and staff members arrived yesterday, on Sunday evening, for the 49th annual “Wild Hog Supper” at the railroad depot near the Capitol.
Sponsored by a private agriculture foundation to celebrate Georgia’s largest industry, more than 20 hogs are typically consumed, along with more than 40 gallons of Brunswick stew and 1,100 ears of corn. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to a new legislative session. But while legislators, lobbyists and staff were excited to see each other, the talk was focused more on the weather than any other subject. With predictions of snow and sleet on Sunday night, many of the planned festivities for the week, such as the Governor’s Inaugural Ball on Monday night and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast on Tuesday morning, were canceled.
True to the predictions, at around 8 p.m. Sunday, the snow began to fall and continued throughout the night until it was replaced by sleet, creating a winter wonderland in Atlanta. Like most cities in the deep south, Atlanta is minimally prepared for such an event and as we woke up Monday morning, we found a city paralyzed by ice-covered roads.
However, Georgia’s constitution calls for the legislative session to begin on the second Monday in January, and the transfer of power from one governor to the next must be done on this day as well. With the assistance of the Georgia State Patrol and other emergency personnel, as many legislators as possible made it to the Capitol and were sworn in at 10 a.m.
Although both chambers had a quorum, many legislators trickled in throughout the day and grabbed judges to inaugurate them as they arrived. At 2 p.m., all legislators assembled in the House chambers to witness Nathan Deal become the 82nd governor of the state of Georgia. Sworn in by his son Jason, a superior court judge in Hall County, the new governor also had his wife, Sandra and their three daughters by his side.
Following his inauguration, Gov. Deal performed his first official duty by swearing in the other state officials. After the ceremony, senators met individually with the Committee on Assignments and learned their committee assignments.
I was delighted to find out that I was chosen to lead the State Institutions and Properties committee, serve as vice chair of Health and Human Services and serve on the Appropriations, Ethics and Regulated Industries committees.
As we headed home for the day, we were informed that because of the dangerous conditions on the roads, tomorrow’s session had been canceled and we would not go back in until Wednesday afternoon.
• Day 2 (Wednesday, Jan. 12): While conditions in the Atlanta area had not improved much, we went back into session at 1 p.m. this afternoon so the governor can give his state of the state address to a joint session of the House and Senate at 2 p.m. During our session on Monday, we adopted new Senate rules for the year, which included a change that calls for us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Georgia flag at the beginning of each session. The pledge was led by the Dean of the Senate, Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, who jokingly commented that he was present when the pledge was adopted back in 1935.
During his address, Gov. Deal presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, which includes $32 million in bonds for the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. I was all smiles as the governor expressed his understanding and support of this vitally important project.
Carter 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.