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Bills coming fast and furious in session

POSTED: February 13, 2014 7:01 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 15 (Monday, Feb. 3): After a very short weekend we’re back in session today with three bills on the calendar including SB 296, a bill that sets the acreage limit of developable land on Jekyll Island. This bill is the result of many hours of work by the Jekyll Island Authority members and other interested parties and is a great compromise that will ensure this coastal gem will continue to be a treasure for many years to come.

It is especially nice that the bill is voted on today since leaders from Glynn County are at the Capitol including Mike Hodges, who serves on the Authority and is in the Senate gallery to witness the unanimous vote.

The other two bills we pass today are SB 291, creating the Georgia Adult and Aging Services Agency and Board, and SB 292, establishing the Alzheimer’s Disease Registry. We also have the second reading on SB 334, a bill I introduced that will prohibit any departments of the state from helping to enforce any of the provisions of Obamacare. I am proud to sponsor this legislation in the Senate and look forward to presenting it in committee soon.

It is also good to welcome realtors from the district who are visiting today, including from Chatham County who I have a chance to speak to before a meeting with the Leadership Liberty group who are also visiting. The only committee meeting that we have this afternoon is Health and Human Services where we pass out HB 511, a bill that creates a pilot program to provide coverage for bariatric surgical procedures for the treatment and management of obesity.

Day 16 (Tuesday, Feb. 4): Today is a very special day at the Capitol as we are celebrating Firefighters Appreciation Day. I was humbled last year to be named Legislator of the Year by this group of great Georgians and I am honored today to be able to sponsor a resolution recognizing them. It is especially good to see firefighters from Savannah as well as new Bryan County Fire Chief Freddy Howell at the Capitol today. It is a very busy day during session as we have five bills on the calendar, including SR 736 calling for a convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balancing of the budget and limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

We also pass SB 273, a bill creating the Maternal Mortality Review Committee to review maternal deaths in Georgia and develop strategies for the prevention of these deaths. Shockingly to me, Georgia leads the nation in the number of maternal deaths (defined as mothers dying at childbirth or within one year of childbirth).

Most of the discussion today involves SB 283 which allows students to be educated about the history of traditional winter celebrations and to offer traditional greetings such as “Merry Christmas.”

While this may seem silly to some, there have been situations in our state where using these greetings and displaying traditional Christmas scenes or symbols have been disallowed. The afternoon is filled with committee meetings and visits with folks from Camden and Liberty counties.

Day 17 (Wednesday, Feb. 5): We begin the day with an Appropriations meeting where we pass out the FY14 amended budget. This is the culmination of much work over the past few weeks by members of the committee and now will go to the Rules committee to be put on the calendar for a full vote by the Senate. After a caucus meeting, we are in session at 10 a.m. where we recognize a few groups before walking over to the House chambers for a joint session to hear the State of the Judiciary address delivered by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson. Judge Thompson delivers an update of the judicial system in our state where he describes the system as strong and sound but warns that too many Georgians don’t get the legal assistance that they need. In his speech, he estimates that less than 10 percent of low-income Georgians get the legal counsel that they need — a real concern for our state.

After a Pharmacy caucus meeting, the afternoon is filled with a Health and Human Services meeting as well as a meeting with Aaron Keplinger, whose son Hunter suffers from seizures and who is the stimulus behind the push for the use of medical marijuana in Georgia. The Keplingers have recently relocated to Colorado where they are able to obtain the medical marijuana, which is the only drug they have found to control Hunter’s seizures.

Day 18 (Thursday, Feb. 6): Today is Georgia Southern University Day and it is good to welcome friends from Statesboro and the largest university south of I-20 in Georgia to the Capitol. Dr. Brooks Keel along with other university officials and students take over the second floor of the Capitol with exhibits displaying the many fine programs offered at this great institution.

After an early morning caucus meeting, we’re in at 10 a.m. and take up three bills including SB 286 which changes the maximum percentage of alcohol by volume for distilled spirits, fortified wine, and wine and dessert wine to mirror the federal limits.

We also pass SB 288, a bill aimed at requiring legislative oversight of the Georgia High School Athletic Association, which organizes sporting events for schools in our state. A very busy afternoon of meetings includes a Public Safety meeting where we pass out SB 323, a bill that allows drivers licenses to be displayed on cell phones for proof of validity. I also chair a Health and Human Services Subcommittee meeting where we meet for over two hours and hear four bills.

Day 19 (Friday, Feb. 7): Per our customary Friday routine, we are in at 9 a.m. after our caucus meeting at 8 a.m. Our only item on the agenda today is the amended FY14 budget. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), chairman of the Appropriations committee, does his usual excellent job of explaining the now $20.2 billion final product. The main change to the FY14 budget that we passed last year is the addition of $313.98 million that includes $129.5 million for the mid-year enrollment adjustment in our school systems. After explaining the changes and answering questions for almost two straight hours, Chairman Hill yields the well and we pass the budget unanimously.

Before we adjourn for the weekend, I submit SB 361, renewing the Georgia Geospatial Commission, which will help Georgia citizens in dealing with the flood remapping process that is taking place in our state.

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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