Day 1 (Monday, January 9, 2012): As the second year of our two year term begins, we welcome two new Senators to the Senate. Senator Mike Crane from Newnan and Senator John Wilkinson from Toccoa have recently been elected in special elections and join us today for their first session.
After our regular caucus meeting earlier this morning, we get right to work as we take up two bills left over from last session. Both of these bills were passed out of the Senate last year and, although they passed the House last year, had changes made to them while in the House that we must either agree or disagree with. The first agree/disagree is SB 38 which puts the State School Superintendent in line with other department heads with regards to staff control by giving him the ability to enter into contracts up to $250,000 without the state board of education’s approval. It also clarifies that the Superintendent has the sole authority over all employees in the department of education meaning that he has the ability to hire and fire employees. We vote to agree with the changes made by the House last year and the bill now goes to the Governor for his consideration.
We take up another agree/disagree in SB 184, the first in, last out bill that generates much controversy, albeit along party lines. This bill amends the current law that a school board primarily considers a teacher’s effectiveness in advancing student achievements when considering whom to lay off in a reduction of force implementation. The bill says that the amount of time a teacher has been employed cannot be the primary or determining factor in this decision. In my eight years in the legislature this bill generates the most intense debate of any bill considered on the first day before finally passing.
Day 2 (Tuesday, January 10, 2012): After attending the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting last night at the World Congress Center, we are back again this morning at 7AM for the Chamber’s annual state Eggs & Issues breakfast. We hear from Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston on what they expect to see in this year’s session. Although no bills are debated today in session, we do hear from U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who updates us on goings on in Washington, D.C.
As the new chairman of Higher Education in the Senate, I have the honor today of addressing the state Board of Regents at their monthly meeting. Later in the afternoon, I chair my first meeting of the Higher Education committee as we introduce new staff members and review bills left over from last year.
Finally, we finish the day by joining the House at 7PM in a joint session to hear the Governor’s State of the State address. The Governor does an outstanding job of presenting his message and briefly outlining his budget priorities for the upcoming budget, which includes money for higher education in our state as well as bond money for the deepening of the Savannah Harbor.
Day 3 (Wednesday, January 11, 2012): After a full day yesterday, today is much more manageable as the only bill on the calendar, HB 110, a bill dealing with foreclosure registries, is sent back to committee by unanimous consent for more work. Most of my afternoon is spent meeting with Higher Education staff from the Senate research, budget and press offices to discuss plans for the remainder of the session, although I am able to work in a meeting with parents of home school students to discuss their concerns with the HOPE scholarship.
Day 4 (Thursday, January 12, 2012): Chairman Ron Stephens, Dean of the Chatham County delegation, presides over our first meeting this morning as we hear from the state Planning Director, Todd Long, who updates us on the upcoming TSPLOST and the specific projects that have been selected in our region. We also discuss proposed school board and county commission maps as well as other business affecting Chatham County.
After a very short session, I spend most of my afternoon working in my office and preparing for my first live interview on the Georgia Public Broadcasting show Lawmakers. Later that night I appear with my counterpart in the House, Chairman Carl Rogers as we discuss Higher Education issues including college consolidation and the HOPE scholarship.
Day 5 (Friday, January 13, 2012): The newly formed Coastal delegation, consisting of House and Senate members who reside in the 1st Congressional District, meets this morning to discuss issues affecting the Coastal region of our state. The session starts early this morning and after a very short session where only points of personal privilege are heard, we are adjourned until Monday, January 23rd, as we are out next week for budget hearings.
State Senator Buddy Carter (R- Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began January 9, 2012 and is expected to last until the latter days of March. . Senator 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.