To our readers: 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. .
Day 34 (Monday, March 19, 2012): My week gets off to an inauspicious start today as I am running late and find that the streets around the Capitol have been closed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Georgia State Patrol. I am already late for House rules and as I sit in traffic outside the Capitol I decide to pull over in a public parking space and run inside before I miss the meeting. Out of breath from running down the street, I make it to the meeting before the committee adjourns only to find out that my bills from last week have not been placed on the list for consideration. It is definitely Monday morning!
After retrieving my truck and parking in my designated space, I make it to our morning caucus meeting where we review the 2012 Tax Reform Package, one of our signature pieces of legislation this session that we will be voting on later this week. As we go into session early in the afternoon, we recognize six different groups before we pass four bills.
HB 39 seeks to discourage truancy among the students of the state’s education system by requiring that a school send a statement of attendance requirements by first class mail to a student’s parent after five unexcused days of absence without a response.
HB 900 provides that in order for a trailer to be scrapped, the owner must also surrender the trailer’s certificate of title while HB 868 amends existing incentives for job creation in Georgia.
Although not on the agenda for today, HR 1162, the charter schools constitutional amendment that had been tabled after hours of debate a few weeks ago, is brought off the table and debated for over an hour again today. Persistence pays off today as HR 1162 passes by a vote of 40-16, easily surpassing the two-thirds majority needed for passage of a constitutional amendment. After session we spend a full 4 & ½ hours in one of the most contentious and intense committee meetings I have ever experienced before finally passing HB 954, the fetal pain bill, out of Health and Human Services. As I leave at 8PM, I am exhausted but thankfully the traffic around the Capitol is better than it was at 8AM this morning.
Day 35 (Tuesday, March 20, 2012): After paying my daily visit to the House rules committee to request my bills be put on the House calendar, I attend an Appropriations committee meeting where we pass out the FY13 budget. As we go into session at 11:30AM I am honored to have my good friend, Rev. Kenny Grant from Savannah as our Pastor of the Day.
We pass out five bills today, including HB 514 that authorizes licensed distillers to provide educational and promotional tours of distillery premises upon application to the commissioner of Agriculture. The tours may include limited free tasting of one-half ounce per person per day. Because this involves opening up the code section dealing with distilled spirits, a number of amendments are attempted to be added only to be defeated. As is always the case when a vote is taken relating to alcoholic beverages, cries of “liquor bill, liquor bill” can be heard being shouted in the chamber.
Also passed today is HB 1146, which establishes the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services Board. It also transfers the Division of Rehabilitation Services from the Department of Labor to the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.
Day 36 (Wednesday, March 21, 2012): The morning begins with a Chatham County legislative delegation meeting where we adopt a resolution from the Chatham County Commission changing the makeup of the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) board. We welcome Governor Nathan Deal to our caucus meeting this morning as he comes to thank us for our vote to pass the charter school constitutional amendment on Monday.
Our devotional today is led by one of our fellow members, Senator Frank Ginn from Danielsville. Although I only met Sen. Ginn when he entered the Senate two years ago, I attended Young Harris College with two of his brothers, Candler and Charlie. In what was one of the most heartfelt and difficult devotions I have ever witnessed, Sen. Ginn recounted how he tragically lost his 10 year old son in a four-wheeler accident weeks after he had announced he would be running for the State Senate. After the horrible accident, he recounted how he had decided not to qualify to run only to change his mind when he discovered a letter his son had written days before his untimely death saying how proud he was of his father willing to serve.
I present HB 897 on the floor today and explain how it amends language governing the Georgia Workforce Investment Board by deleting the term “Georgia Work Ready.” Other bills to pass today include HB 742, the FY13 budget, and HB 208 which repeals the provisions that allow a retired teacher to return to full-time service as a classroom teacher and continue to receive retirement benefits from the Teacher Retirement System.
Day 37 (Thursday, March 22, 2012): The news is good this morning as we have another meeting of the Chatham County legislative delegation and finally have district maps we can all agree on. Thanks to the efforts of Senator Lester Jackson and the Dean of our delegation, Rep. Ron Stephens, this long and arduous process is finally completed.
After my usual House Rules and Republican Caucus meetings, we go into session at 10AM. We spend most of the morning debating HB 181, the Special Needs Scholarship, which requires local resident school systems to notify parents of disabled students that their child may be eligible for a scholarship and where additional information may be obtained. After a very emotional and controversial debate the bill passes.
After lunch, by a unanimous vote of 54-0, we pass HB 386, the 2012 Tax Reform Package, one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in many years and the signature piece of legislation for this session. It includes a three year sales tax holiday for school supplies and energy efficient products, significant reduction of the marriage penalty, elimination of the “birthday” tax and sales tax on motor vehicles, a tax exemption on energy used in manufacturing as well as an E-Fairness measure which will aid in the growth of local businesses. This momentous piece of legislation is the culmination of three years work and makes us all, Democrats and Republicans, proud of our work at the Capitol.
Senator Buddy 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. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.