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Assembly passes fiscal 2014 budget

Legislative update

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POSTED: March 5, 2014 9:00 p.m.

I started Feb. 24 with a meeting with my Senate budget analyst to review the public safety fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. After welcoming the anesthesiology assistants who were visiting the Capitol, I went to our caucus meeting before going into session.
We were honored to welcome U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who addressed our chamber and updated us on the Savannah Harbor deepening.
After many more invite resolutions, we took up nine bills including Senate Bill 255, the Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act. This bill authorizes the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to develop public infrastructure and facilities.
We also passed SB 320, permitting courts with jurisdiction over criminal cases to create special veteran’s court divisions similar to accountability courts, such as drug-court treatment programs and mental-health treatment programs.
Senate Resolution 415 is a constitutional amendment that caps income tax in Georgia at its current rate of 6 percent, an important step to maintain our state’s attractive low-tax environment.
The Georgia Council on Lupus Education and Awareness is created by SB 352, and a joint study committee on the emergency relocation of abused adults is created by SR 828.
After a Higher Education meeting and a meeting with Memorial University CEO Maggie Gill, I attended a health and human services committee meeting. We passed out a number of bills, including SB 268, allowing PAs to prescribe schedule II (oxycodone, morphine, etc.) drugs under the protocol of a supervising physician, and SB 360, disallowing hospitals from prohibiting doctors from practicing in them.         
In order to get bills moved out of committees and reported to the full Senate, we had committee meetings the morning of Feb. 25 and didn’t convene until the afternoon.
One of the bills that I have been working on since last session is SB 52, a bill that would allow the Savannah airport-police officers to be eligible to participate in the state’s peace-officer retirement plan. We were delighted to learn that the situation has been rectified and that the officers will be permitted to participate without the legislation.
After a morning of committee meetings, we went in at 1 p.m. and had four bills on the agenda. SB 343 creates the high-school athletics overview committee and sets certain requirements to be met by any high-school athletic association. The bill underscores the continuing rift between the current Georgia High School Athletic Association and certain members of the Legislature.
We unanimously passed SB 397, which requires insurers to cover children 6 years old or younger who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This bill has been worked on for many years and is the result of the concerted effort of many legislators, including Sens. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and John Albers, R-Roswell. During his presentation of the bill, Insurance and Labor Chairman Sen. Tim Golden, R-Valdosta, made a plea for passage of the bill and did an outstanding job of describing the need for this important legislation.
After passing the FY 2014 amended budget, by a vote of 47-0, we finished the day with SB 167, a bill that allows Georgia to move away from national standards and limits the collection and sharing of student data.         
Feb. 26 — sure to be a busy day — started early. We had a Chatham County delegation breakfast meeting in Chairman Ron Stephen’s office. We have had quite a few controversial pieces of local legislation to deal with this session, and the meeting gave us an opportunity to meet with the lobbyists from the city of Savannah, Chatham County and Chatham Area Transit to gain more insight.
After our morning caucus meeting, we’re in at 10 a.m. with no less than 13 bills on the agenda. We start out with SB 93, which allows the use of suppressors on legal hunting firearms and suspends hunting privileges of a person convicted of violating certain hunting regulations. SR 70 passes, 36-13, and urges Congress to draft a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and federal spending limit.
Also passing was SB 282, implementing changes to state child-support laws recommended by the Georgia Child Support Commission, and SB 365, enacting criminal-justice re-entry reforms recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.
Another important bill that passed was SB 386, which requires redaction of personally identifiable information — including Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank-account numbers and names of minor children — from public-court filings. The only bill that didn’t pass was SB 363, a bill that would have offered a plan for construction contractors to receive a schedule of disbursements, verification of funds, notice of any material-loan default and notice of any proceedings initiated for a bank or lending institution’s lien on the real property to be improved. This bill was vigorously opposed by the banking industry and failed, 26-25.
 
Carter, R-Pooler, can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109 or connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga.

 

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