Georgia Business Action Network – January 31, 2020

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR

This week, the general assembly reconvened on January 27, 2020 for legislative day 5, and worked through Friday, January 31 completing legislative day 9. The legislature will reconvene on Monday, February 3 and work through Thursday, February 6.

ACTION ALERT: STATEWIDE BUSINESS COURT UPDATE

Contact your senator to vote YES on Senate Bill 110.

In 2019, the State-wide Business Court enabling legislation was passed and signed into law. The statute currently requires both parties to consent to the transfer of a case from superior or state court to the Business Court. This model has proved not only in the Atlanta-metro Business Court but also in other states to be inefficient, so there is legislation to remove the two-party consent provision. The two-party consent provision would be replaced to allow one party to file a motion to transfer the case to the Business Court. This important change is needed to make the Business Court accessible and properly utilized.

***We anticipate a vote on Monday. Please call or email your Senator with your support for this critical revision to the Business Court statute.***

To find your legislators, click here.

FEDERAL UPDATE

This week, the Georgia Chamber acted on three items pertaining to federal legislation and agency regulations. The Canadian Snowbird Act, House Resolution 3241, would allow Canadian citizens age 50 and older who rent or own property in the U.S. to extend their visa for 59 days. This bill would benefit economic development and commerce, and has been widely supported across the United States. The Chamber has taken a support position for this piece of legislation that was originally brought to Congress in 2017.

Access to rural broadband continues to be a key issue at both the state and federal levels. On Wednesday, the Chamber approved a letter of support to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the expansion of broadband access through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.) This fund would distribute more than $16 billion dollars in broadband support to areas currently without service as well as allow broadband providers, both large and small, to work on the expansion.

Finally, this week, the organization tool a position of opposition to a pending regulation change before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The proposed CMS federal rule would shift a significant portion of the responsibility for Medicaid funding to the state at a cost of almost $1.5 billion.

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

MARKETPLACE FACILITATOR BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

On Thursday, Governor Kemp signed House Bill 276 into law that will bring greater parity between online and brick and mortar retailers with respect to the collection and remittance of sales taxes to the state. The Georgia Chamber supports this legislation and commends Governor Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly for ensuring that all Georgia retailers are treated fairly.

DUAL ENROLLMENT LEGISLATION PASSES SENATE

On Tuesday, the Georgia Senate approved House Bill 444 entitled “The Dual Enrollment Act”. Passed by the House of Representatives and supported by Governor Kemp, HB 444 seeks to control the skyrocketing costs of Georgia’s dual enrollment program. By narrowing Dual Enrollment to upperclassmen who take core curriculum classes, Georgia is allowing students who are ready for college course work to focus in areas that clearly transfer to post-secondary institutions. By protecting the financial security of this important workforce development educational pathway, we ensure generations of Georgia’s students will continue to enjoy the benefits of the Dual Enrollment program.

BENEFIT CORPORATIONS BILL PASSES SENATE COMMITTEE

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee took up House Bill 230 sponsored by Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta). HB 230, provides for the creation of “Benefit Corporations” as an option for corporate structure in Georgia. Currently, 34 states have similar corporate structures, all geared towards accommodating businesses that welcome the dual role of creating shareholder profit and creating a positive social impact. Having already passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate Judiciary committee, HB 230 is now eligible for a vote before the State Senate.

TAX TRIBUNAL LEGISLATION CLEARS HOUSE COMMITTEE

Legislation designed to level the playing field for taxpayers in disputes with the Department of Revenue passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday with a unanimous vote. House Bill 538, sponsored by Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth), allows judges more flexibility in taxpayer dispute cases and frees them from an administrative rule requiring them to defer to Department interpretations of ambiguous laws. The bill is now eligible for a floor vote in the House of Representatives, and, if passed, would move to the Senate for further consideration.

REAUTHORIZATION OF FREIGHT & LOGISTICS COMMISSION

Last legislative session, the Georgia Chamber supported position on House Resolution 37 and Senate Resolution 19, both of which created a joint legislative commission to study Georgia’s future freight growth. Ultimately, HR 37 passed and created the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics. The commission met four times across the state in 2019 and took a deep dive into the future of Georgia’s freight infrastructure and studied Georgia’s future freight growth and its impacts on our economic future.

Yesterday, the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committees met to release the commission’s report and recommendations, including extension of the Commission. The commission also recommended creating a line item in the budget for a freight rail program at the Georgia Department of Transportation. Both recommendations were addressed with 2 bills passed out of the House Transportation Committee immediately following the joint committee meeting.

House Resolution 935, sponsored by Chairman Kevin Tanner, reauthorizes the Freight and Logistics Commission for another year.

House Bill 820, sponsored by Chairman Kevin Tanner, creates a line item in the budget for the Georgia Department of Transportation to allocate funds, as needed, directly to freight rail. This bill helps identify freight rail as a priority for Georgia and allows for direct state investment specifically in railways and railroads.

The Georgia Chamber and Georgia Transportation Alliance support both pieces of legislation.

SMART DECISIONS COALITION RECOMMENDATIONS RELEASED

The Smart Decisions Coalition released a set of recommendations that represent a variety of policy options that can be pursued by policymakers, local community leaders, or business leaders to improve Georgia’s talent pipeline.

The Smart Decisions Coalition is a coordinated effort by Georgia’s community, business, and education leaders created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Foundation to increase college enrollment and completion to improve the long-term success of the state’s workforce.

The Coalition began meeting in December 2018, considering all potential solutions to the challenges of affordability and access as well as how to ensure students are immediately employable upon completion of a degree and able to adapt as technology and industries evolve. The recommendations released provide an overview of existing programs, and inventory of organizational engagement, and future opportunities.

The Coalition was pleased to honor Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman P.K. Martin IV with the “Championing Georgia’s Future Award”. Chairman Martin is dedicated to creating a more educated and qualified workforce in the state. The Coalition is grateful for his leadership and hard work.

Chris Clark, President and CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, stated, “Talent development is critical to Georgia’s economic prosperity. 60% of Georgia jobs will require some college by 2025 and today only 47.9% of adults qualify statewide. Through this collaborative effort, our state will be better positioned to prepare Georgia students for the jobs of today and those of the future.”

The Smart Decisions Coalition recommendations can be found here.

GEORGIA CHAMBER PUBLIC AFFAIRS STAFF

David Raynor
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs
404-223-2267 | draynor@gachamber.com

Cosby Johnson
Vice President of State & Political Affairs
404-223-2285 | cjohnson@gachamber.com

Daniela Perry 
Senior Director, Public Policy & Federal Affairs
404-223-2270 | dperry@gachamber.com

Nancy Palmer 
Director, Government Affairs
404-223-2489 | npalmer@gachamber.com

Allison Plummer
Manager, Government and Political Affairs
404-223-2295 | aplummer@gachamber.com

Jasmine King 
Manager, Government Affairs
404-223-2285 | jking@gachamber.com

Emily Pateuk 
Manager, Public Policy
404-223-2475 | epateuk@gachamber.com

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