To our readers: State Senator Buddy Carter (R- Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began January 14, 2013 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 23 (Monday, February 25, 2013): After a very short weekend, we’re back in session this morning and for the third year in a row I am presenting a synthetic marijuana bill to the Senate. HB 57, sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R- Peachtree City), has already passed the House and is on the fast tract so that the Governor can sign this bill into law and it can become effective immediately. Manufacturers of synthetic marijuana continuously change the chemical make-up of the drug, requiring us to follow suit by adding their most recent formulas to the list of banned substances. Although we don’t have anything controversial today, we do have six other bills on the agenda, including SB 120 which allows for a probate court judge in a county with no state court to request the district attorney to prosecute criminal cases. Primarily intended to address some of our less populated rural counties, bills like these continue to highlight the different population trends and, therefore different needs within our state. Also passed is SB 125 that clarifies liability issues facing property owners who have tenants, visitors, or trespassers on their property. Today is the 12th annual Clergy Day at the Capitol as we welcome members of the clergy from across our state. Participating in the event this year is Rev. Joe Buck, who currently serves as Pastor of Sandersville United Methodist Church, and who earlier served as Associate Pastor of my home church, Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah.
Day 24 (Tuesday, February 26, 2013): As we get closer to crossover day (the 30th day when bills must crossover from one chamber to the other in order to be considered this session) some of the more controversial bills are now coming to the floor. Today we have five bills we are considering including SB 68, sponsored by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). While this seems like a relatively innocuous bill, it turns out to be anything but. The bill establishes the week of September 17 as Celebrate Freedom Week in Georgia Public Schools during which students would be required to receive at least three hours of instruction regarding our nation’s founding principles as well as recitation of important historical writings from materials provided by the Department of Education. After much debate, primarily focusing on what materials should be included in the instruction, the bill passes. Also causing some debate but eventually passing is SB 135, the DNA Sample Collection bill. This bill would require that law enforcement agencies collect DNA samples from those both arrested for and convicted of a felony within 30 days of finding that probable cause for the arrest was established. If a DNA sample is required, the court will ensure the DNA sample is provided as a condition of bail.
Day 25 (Wednesday, February 27, 2013): The Capitol is a sea of purple shirts today as we celebrate Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. These dedicated advocates, including Gordon Varnedoe, aka “Batman” from Savannah, do a great job of making legislators aware of the effects of this horrible disease. We are also happy to welcome Armstrong Atlantic State University President Linda Blieken to the Capitol today. I have SB 134, a bill expanding the definition of “Prescriber,” on the calendar today. This bill simply clarifies our code to include anyone authorized to prescribe a controlled substance under the laws of any state or territory of the United States so that pharmacist can honor out of state prescriptions. We pass 3 other bills before adjourning for the day. The afternoon is taken up by committee meetings including a marathon 4 hour Health & Human Services meeting where we vote out one bill and have hearings on two others.
Day 26 (Thursday, February 28, 2013): The day starts early as I am at the Capitol at 7:30AM to speak to the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). These dedicated public servants are some of the finest law enforcement personnel in the nation and we are proud to have them in our state. Next I attend a meeting of the newly formed Savannah River Caucus, a group of legislators whose district includes the Savannah River. Stretching from the mountains to the coastal area, these legislators share common concerns about the impact of legislation and government regulations on this precious natural resource. As we go into session later in the morning, I am successful in passing SB 10, a bill requiring continued competency requirements for nurses, on the calendar. Working closely with the state nursing board, I have offered this legislation to address the situation of nurses being the only allied health field in our state without continuing education requirements. We pass 3 other bills today as well as recognize 2013 Georgia Superintendent of the Year Christopher B. Erwin from the Banks County School system. We also welcome five Miss Georgia Peach Queens to the Capitol. The Georgia Peach Festival originated in 1987 in Peach County, Georgia for the purpose of promoting Peach County and the peach industry. Georgia’s peach industry currently ranks second in the nation in the annual production of peaches.
Day 27 (Friday, March 1, 2013): Today is a special day at the Capitol as it is Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Georgia leads the United States in peanut production, producing nearly 50 percent of the nation’s total supply. Peanut production is the largest single cash food row crop in our state. Yesterday and today, as we celebrate peaches and peanuts, reminds us of the importance that agricultural industry plays in our state. Freshman Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), a former army ranger and West Point graduate, presents his first bill today and is subjected to the time honored tradition of senate hazing. Although his pedigree would lead one to believe he would be unfazed by any hazing, he does appear to get flustered on several occasions. Nevertheless he is successful in passing his bill. We also pass SB 136, the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” and “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law.” Named in honor of these young people who were killed in boating accidents in our state last year, this bill will reduce the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08 for hunting or boating while under the influence. Before heading home for the weekend, I chair a Health & Human Services sub-committee meeting where we pass out SB 171, a bill proposing changes to single specialty ambulatory surgical centers.
Senator Buddy Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, 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.