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Already past the halfway point

POSTED: February 20, 2014 3:57 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 20 (Monday, Feb. 10): Today marks the halfway point of our 40-day session and we are flying through it faster than any other session I have been involved with in the past 10 years. After an early-morning caucus meeting, we go into session at 10 a.m. and we are honored to have as our guest U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a long-serving, dedicated public servant who is retiring this year.

The first bill we take up today is SR 290, a bill that allows probate courts to hear appeals of dangerous dog confiscations if there is no animal control or health board in a county. It also allows the non-surgical sterilizations of dangerous dogs in shelters. Dangerous dogs are a problem in certain areas of our state, particularly in the rural southwest area.

Also passing is SB 305, a bill requiring building code inspectors, such as fire marshals or code officials, to provide written notifications that building construction or plans are not in compliance with code and allow an opportunity for the situation to be remedied.

SB 322, the snake habitat protection bill, removes the exemption for poisonous snakes from habitat protection requirements. This bill is intended to protect the gopher turtle, the official state reptile of Georgia that has been identified as being endangered.

Currently, no person can disturb, mutilate or destroy the dens, holes or homes of any wildlife with lights, explosives, chemicals or smokers to drive wildlife out of such habitats. The only exemption to this is in the case of poisonous snakes. This bill will delete that exemption. In the tradition of show and tell, Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), the author of this bill, brings “Gator,” his pet gopher turtle to the well while presenting the bill.

The final bill of the day, SB 329, expands the Youth Apprenticeship Program to a “work-based learning program” in hopes of increasing the number of students and employers in the program. Later in the afternoon, I have a meeting with my fellow pharmacy legislators and the governor to discuss issues affecting our profession. The day is finished with a two-hour Health and Human Services committee meeting where we pass out four bills and have a hearing on another.

Day 21 (Tuesday, Feb. 11): As forecasters are warning of more bad weather for Atlanta and most of Georgia in the next few days, the governor and state officials are taking no chances after the lessons learned from two weeks ago. After our caucus meeting, we go into session at 10 and have three bills on the calendar, including SB 294, a bill that allows licensed electrical contractors to perform low-voltage contracting without obtaining a separate license.

SB 301, a bill allowing wood construction in public school facilities, also passes although it does generate much discussion as to the safety of these structures. The final bill of the day, HB 494, allows private airstrip owners to pay utilities to install security markers on the airstrip. This is a serious problem for many of our smaller airstrips in the state as power lines or nonelectrical cables can often interfere with navigational routes.

While we are scheduled to be in session tomorrow and Thursday, the weather forecast continues to be of concern to everyone and the lieutenant governor announces that all afternoon committee meetings have been canceled and that we will be out for the rest of the week. Before we adjourn, the majority leader, Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone), presents us with an adjournment resolution that will carry us through the rest of the session.

We were in session for day 20 on Monday and the session is scheduled to end March 20. While this is a little later than most of us had expected for the session to end, the unusually harsh winter weather we have experienced in our state this year necessitates this change.

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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