Your Georgia Desk:
From Senator Buddy Carter
40 Days at the Capitol – Installment 1
To our readers: State Senator Buddy Carter (R- Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began January 13, 2014 and is expected to last until the first of March.
Day 1 (Monday, January 13, 2014): Today, I begin my tenth and final session in the Georgia State Legislature. What an honor and privilege it has been to represent the citizens of coastal Georgia at the state Capitol. Every day that I spend in these hallowed halls of the Capitol adds to one of the greatest experiences of my life. I thank all of you for this honor. After arriving at the Capitol bright and early this morning and catching up with staff, we have our first Caucus meeting of the session. Every day that we are in session, Senate Republican members meets to discuss the days’ activities and any other important issues. Today’s meeting is especially important as this is the second year of a two year session and bills that were not passed last year remain active and, if passed out of committee last year, are returned to committees for further consideration. As we go into session at 10AM, our first action item today is to act on a motion made by the Majority Leader to return all remaining bills to the committee from which they came. Also today, we elect David Cook as the Secretary of the Senate, a vital role in the legislative process. Mr. Cook replaces Bob Ewing, the former Secretary who retired during the interim after many years of service. After adjournment, I join my fellow legislators from the 1st Congressional district for a meeting of the Coastal Georgia delegation where we meet with the DOT and DNR Commissioners to discuss issues in our area. Later that afternoon, I attend a Health and Human Services meeting where we hear testimony on SB 141, the Patient Compensation Act.
Day 2 (Tuesday, January 14, 2014): While this is the tenth year that I have written these columns in this same basic format, one difference this year is in the prelude- instead of saying that the session is expected to last until the latter days of March, this year it says that the session is expected to last until the first of March. This becomes more of a reality today as we pass HB 310 which changes the state primary date this year to coincide with the federal date of May 20th. It also sets the runoff date as July 22nd and the qualifying dates as March 3rd -7th, both the same as the federal dates. While many people believe that this is the underlying reason for the projected short session, many “old timers” remind us that a short session was the norm back in the 80’s and 90’s. It is also pointed out that part time hires at the capitol costs the taxpayers around $93,000 weekly and therefore getting out two weeks earlier could save $186,000 in taxpayer dollars. Perhaps the “line of the session” occurs today as Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Douglas) invites legislators to the Okefenokee Occasion tonight. This is an annual gathering of folks from South Georgia featuring local foods such as gator tail. Immediately afterwards, Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) goes to the well and reinforces what a delicacy gator tail is, reminding everyone that the Georgia Southern football team had some gator tail in Florida a few weeks ago and it was “mighty fine.”
Day 3 (Wednesday, January 15, 2014): Today is a very busy day as we start out with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast where we hear from the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker about their expectations and hopes for the session. After a very short Caucus meeting, we are in session at 10AM and then go over to the House Chamber to hear the Governor give his State of the State address and outline his budget proposal for FY 2015. Although I am delighted to find out he has proposed $36 million in bond money for the Savannah Harbor project, I am disappointed that money for the re-nourishment of the Tybee Island beach area is not included. The afternoon is spent in a joint House-Senate Appropriations hearing where the Governor goes into more detail about his proposed budget and we hear from various department heads such as DOT, the Board of Regents, and Education about their specific budgets.
Day 4 (Thursday, January 16, 2014): After an early morning meeting with a constituent and a brief visit to our caucus meeting, I join folks from the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and the Georgia Sportsman Association who are visiting the Capitol today. After receiving greetings from the Governor, the CCA presents me an award for my sponsorship of HB 36 last year. HB 36 established Gamefish status for Georgia’s Redfish and I am honored to receive this award by this fine group. After a very short session, I attend a Senate leadership meeting where we discuss strategy for the upcoming session. As the Chief Deputy Whip, I am privileged to be a member of leadership in the Senate. For lunch today, we feast on seafood gumbo and roasted oysters prepared by members of the CCA. The afternoon is spent in appropriation subcommittee meetings where we scrutinize the public safety and fiscal management portions of the budget.
Day 5 (Friday, January 17, 2014): It’s hard to believe that Friday is already here. The morning starts off early with a meeting with an expert in Geospatial Information Systems from Georgia Tech who I am working with to draft legislation dealing with the federal law known as Biggert-Waters. While I am co-sponsoring legislation calling on Congress to repeal this law, I continue to work on ways for the State to make sure the flood maps are as accurate as possible and proper notification is given to property owners. We go into session at 9AM today and with very little business, we are out quickly. This is typical of the first days of a session. I attend a meeting of the Appropriations Higher Education subcommittee where we review the amended FY 14 budget before spending the afternoon in the office