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Debate on ethics bill brings week to end

POSTED: January 27, 2014 4:11 p.m.

State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 13 and is expected to last until the first of March.


Day 6 (Tuesday, Jan. 21): After taking yesterday off to celebrate the MLK holiday, we are back in session today. Traditionally this week has been set aside for budget hearings and only members of the Appropriations committee would need to be here. However, with the fast pace that we have started out with this year, budget hearings were held last week in order to save time.


My week gets off to a great start this morning as I welcome friends from one of the finest nursing homes in our state, Coastal Manor in Ludowici, to the Capitol. I served as the consultant pharmacist at Coastal Manor for many years and witnessed first-hand the care and compassion their great staff provides to the residents.


We are in at 10 a.m. this morning and, while we still have little business at this point, the number of bills being introduced is increasing, indicating that the pace will increase shortly. Later in the afternoon, I chair my first Public Safety meeting of this session where we introduce new staff and members and review the bills held over from last year. Since this is the second year of a two-year session, any bills that did not pass last year are still eligible this year for consideration.


Afterwards, I have the opportunity to personally meet with the governor to discuss issues in my district, including state funds for the Tybee Island beach renourishment project. We also have the opportunity to discuss the impact Biggert-Waters will have on flood insurance rates in our state and what we may be able to do to help alleviate that.


Day 7 (Wednesday, Jan. 22): Today is Armstrong Atlantic State University Day at the Capitol, and it’s great to join President Linda Bleicken and other school officials here.


After sharing some breakfast and taking pictures, I join other pharmacist legislators as we make a quick trip to Mercer University north of Atlanta to attend a state Board of Pharmacy meeting to testify before them.


After a busy early morning, we’re in at 10 a.m. and I have the honor of introducing President Bleicken and the AASU delegation to the Senate chambers, where we present them with a privileged resolution. During the day, different health care departments from AASU have excellent displays set up on the second floor of the Capitol giving legislators and staff an opportunity to learn more about the great programs AASU has to offer.


After a short session, I have the opportunity to visit the headquarters and training facilities of the trade workers association in Atlanta. This impressive organization offers training to welders, electricians, plumbers, and other trades that benefits’ our state workforce. Once back at the Capitol, I spend the afternoon in my office catching up on paperwork and returning constituent calls.


Day 8 (Thursday, Jan. 23): After many early morning meetings, we are in at 10 a.m. again today for what turns out to be another short session. We are indeed fortunate today to have President Cheryl Dozier and staff and faculty from Savannah State University visit us here at the Capitol. President Dozier is here to lobby on behalf of the science building so badly needed at SSU and does a great job of stating her case to the entire Chatham delegation, as well as House and Senate leaders.


Afterwards, I attend a press conference with Governor Deal and other state leaders regarding the National Prescription Drug Abuse Conference that will be held in Atlanta later this year. Shortly after lunch I chair a Public Safety meeting where we pass out SB 298, a bill removing the notary requirement from a doctor’s affidavit for disabled parking permits as long it appears on security paper approved by either the Composite Medical Board or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


Later I attend a Health and Human Services Committee meeting where we address two important health issues in our state, Alzheimer’s and maternal mortality.


A total of four bills are passed including one that creates the Alzheimer’s Disease Registry and another creating the Maternal Mortality Review Committee. While most of us are familiar with the increase of Alzheimer’s, I was surprised to learn that Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate (mothers who die at childbirth or within one year) in the nation.


Day 9 (Friday, Jan. 24): After an early morning caucus meeting, we are in session at 9 a.m. and things start to get interesting today. During this morning’s points of personal privilege, members of both parties go to the well to discuss the issue of healthcare and particularly this year’s changes to the State Health Benefit Plan.


While we only have SB 297 on the calendar today, it turns out to be a controversial one as it opens up the ethics statue and is not engrossed. Engrossment is a parliamentary procedure that requires a two-thirds majority vote and means that the bill can’t be amended. Because SB 297 is not engrossed, three separate amendments are offered, including one that would change the appointment process of the state ethics commission.


After nearly two hours of debate, the original bill, which exempts local officials from filing campaign finance disclosure reports if they don’t raise or spend more than $2,500 per election cycle, is passed. After adjourning, it’s up to the office for more paperwork and constituent services.


Sen. 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.

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