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 29 (Monday, March 5, 2012): In an effort to reach out to those who have opposed legislation dealing with solar power that I am sponsoring, I invite representatives from Georgia Power to meet with me this morning. While we have agreed to disagree on this particular issue, it is important to maintain respectful relationships at the Capitol and it is my desire to do this.
Afterwards, I meet with a student from Georgia State University to discuss the future of the HOPE Scholarship and to listen to his concerns and suggestions. It is encouraging to hear from young people in our state who have an interest in our state’s government and future. As we go into session today, we have a total of 16 bills on the calendar in what is shaping up to be a very busy day. As is often the case, we move quickly through most of the bills only to run into a controversial bill that we spend 2-3 hours debating.
Today that controversial bill is SB 458, a bill that requires applicants for post-secondary education public benefits have their lawful presence verified. Known as the Prohibition of Illegal Immigrants from Georgia Colleges bill, this is one of those bills that both sides bring legitimate points to the discussion and agree is a problem being forced upon the states by the inaction of our federal government. Nevertheless, as responsible public servants we must face the issue and after a full 3 hours of debate, the bill passes.
Also passed today is SB 288 which will allow pharmacists and nurses to administer other vaccines besides the influenza vaccine. It restricts pharmacists and nurses from administering any vaccine to a person under the age of 19 without an individual prescription.
Another somewhat controversial bill is SB 355, the Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting bill that requires a person who witnesses child abuse as defined in Georgia law or receives reliable information from a person who has witnessed child abuse that child abuse has occurred, to report the abuse under this legislation.
The only bill I have on the calendar today is SB 416 dealing with electronic prior authorization of drug requests. The bill requires the Insurance Commissioner to adopt standards for e-prior authorization requests between benefits managers and healthcare providers that are consistent with those adopted by the National Council of Prescription Drug Programs. I am very pleased that the bill passes overwhelmingly and this helps me to endure the long day of speeches and debates from well meaning but sometimes long winded Senators.
Day 30 (Wednesday, March 7, 2012): As is customary during our 40 day session, we take the day off between the 29th and 30th day in order to prepare for the long and arduous 30th day known as Crossover Day. This is the day that bills must pass one chamber in order to be considered during this session.
Although we are off, we make the most of our time up here with committee meetings primarily dealing with the FY 13 budget. As we go into session this morning, we have a total of 28 bills and 5 resolutions on the calendar. With the exception of breaks for lunch and dinner, we are in session from 10AM until late in the evening as we rush against the clock to finish our business. I have two bills on the calendar today, both of which pass easily.
SB 368 requires nurses to meet continuing education requirements as a condition of licensure renewal while SB 380 revises the requirements of security paper for prescription drug orders. SB 380 is actually a follow up to the Prescription Monitoring Bill that I passed last year. As is often the case with legislation, there are unintended consequences and this was the case last year as physicians were being required to obtain unnecessarily expensive prescription pads for their practice.
One of the bills that we pass corrects an embarrassing oversight with the availability of license plates issued to Purple Heart recipients. Currently only retirees may receive the license plate, but SB 473 will allow recipients of the medal who are currently serving on active duty or in the reserve to receive the Purple Heart license plates.
SB 459, the bill allowing consumers to opt out of using the “smart meters” that I had attempted to amend in committee with my solar power bill, is moved to the foot of the calendar at the request of the author presumably killing the bill. However, as we proceed through the night, a number of bills are tabled and time permits a second chance at hearing the bill which the author takes advantage of. After some discussion, the bill passes 37-13 with an amendment prohibiting any charge for the removal of the meters.
A number of bills, such as SB 312 requiring recipients of food stamps to engage in “professional development” such as obtaining a GED diploma or pursuing technical education, and SB 292 which requires Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to take a drug test as a condition to receiving benefits, create a great deal of controversy and are debated for hours with emotional and arousing speeches from members.
A form of protest takes place as we vote on SB 438, a bill prohibiting the State Health Benefit Plan from providing coverage for abortions, as female Senators opposed to the bill stand side by side at the front of the chamber to protest the bill. Mercifully, as the clock strikes 10:39PM we adjourn and Crossover Day for the 2012 Legislative Session is history.
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.