GBAN 2021 Legislative Update – Sine Die Edition

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR

This week, the General Assembly convened on Monday, March 29, and Wednesday, March 31, completing legislative days 39 and 40, the final days of the session.

Governor Brian Kemp will have 40 calendar days to consider signing, vetoing or taking no action on legislation passed by the General Assembly.

The Georgia Chamber tracked approximately 400 bills during the 2021-2022 legislative session. The organization supported 50 pieces of legislation and opposed 14 bills. As of March 31, 2021, any bill that has not received final legislative approval will no longer be considered until the 2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

BUDGET UPDATE

On Wednesday, March 31, the Joint Budget Conference Committee agreed upon the General Assembly’s final version of the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan which was subsequently adopted by the House and Senate by a vote of 148-21 and 52-0, respectively.

To view the final version of HB 81 (FY 2022), click here. To view the House and Senate differences document for the final version of HB 81 (FY 2022), click here.

To see the Governor’s recommendations for FY 2022, click here.

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

RESILIENCY & RECOVERY

House Bill 112: Immunity Extension for COVID Liability
Chamber Position:  SUPPORT; SCORECARD
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) 
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough)

HB 112  is an extension of liability relief for healthcare providers, facilities, and businesses that was originally passed in 2020 as SB 359, and is currently scheduled to sunset on July 14, 2021.  HB 112 extends liability protections for an additional year until July 14, 2022. On Tuesday, February 9, the House of Representatives passed HB 112 by a vote of 99 – 68, which was followed by a vote of 36 – 17 in the Senate on Wednesday, March 18. The bill has been sent to the Governor for his consideration.

Georgia Chamber Statement on House and Senate Passage of HB 112
The Georgia Chamber commends the House and Senate on passing House Bill (HB) 112 which extends COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers, facilities, and businesses. This bill protects the lives and livelihoods of all hardworking Georgians as our economy continues to recover. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of the Georgia General Assembly to ensure a more resilient future for our state and look forward to working with Governor Kemp as HB 112 moves to him for final consideration.

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

House Bill 479: Repeal of Citizen Arrest Law
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Bill Cowsert (R- Athens)

HB 479 repeals Georgia’s antiquated citizen’s arrest law authored in 1863. HB 479 would revise the grounds for arrest and detainment by a private citizen. This bill provides a shopkeeper’s exemption for retail, food-service establishments across the state as well as their agents and employees, and protections for citizens on their personal property. On Monday, March 29, HB 479 was amended and passed the Senate by a  52-1 vote. The House agreed to the Senate change and adopted the measure by a unanimous vote marking final passage. HB 479 moves onto the Governor for his consideration.

Georgia Chamber Statement on Final Passage of HB 479
The Georgia Chamber commends Governor Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly on the passage of HB 479 to repeal Georgia’s antiquated citizen’s arrest law. Originally crafted in 1863, the state’s former law allowed for gross negligence within our judicial system, as seen in the case of Ahmaud Arbery’s senseless murder in 2020.

We are grateful for the bipartisan efforts of our state leaders to build on the Hate Crimes legislation passed last year and proactively move us all toward a more inclusive future.

House Resolution 185: Reauthorization of the Rural Development Council
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor: Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge)

House Resolution 185 would reauthorize the Rural Development Council (RDC) from May 1, 2021, to December 31, 2022. The RDC will focus on addressing issues in rural Georgia including, but not limited to, access to healthcare, infrastructure, talent and workforce opportunities, and population loss. On Wednesday, March 3, the House adopted  HR 185 by a 164-0 vote.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TAXATION

House Bill 265: Annual Internal Revenue Code Update
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative David Knight (R- Griffin)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Billy Hickman (R- Statesboro)

HB 265 is the annual legislation matching our state tax code to the federal tax code. By doing this, HB 265 provides the simplicity and predictability needed for a business-friendly tax environment.  This update included matches to all federal laws regarding the taxation of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds as well as other federal pandemic recovery programs. The uniformity of tax rules assists in fiscal planning for businesses of all sizes across Georgia.  HB 265 has been unanimously passed in both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor for his consideration.

House Bill 593: Tax Relief Act of 2021
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Larry Walker (R-Perry)

House Bill 593 increases the standard deduction for Georgians paying state income tax. This economic recovery bill is targeted to allow Georgians to keep more of their taxable income starting in tax year 2022.  Having unanimously passed the House on March 3, the bill was taken up in the Senate on Thursday, March 18, and passed by a vote of 35 – 15. This bill was signed by the Governor on March 22, 2021.

Omnibus Tax Legislation

On March 31, an omnibus piece of tax legislation was negotiated in a conference committee.  The final bill contained provisions from Chamber supported HB 586 including extension of the sunset date for sales tax exemption on personal property in relation to regionally significant projects, addition of a tax exemption towards museum tickets or tickets to fine arts events, extension of a tax exemption for concrete mixing while in transit, and extension of the sales tax cap on certain boat purchases.  It also contained provisions from Chamber supported HB 587 including extending the jobs tax credit to medical equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers and fine-tuning existing tax credits to fit our current needs for business recruitment, defense, and transportation.

Additionally, the omnibus legislation provided for the auditing of preferential tax laws and added a reporting requirement for companies using a technology purchasing sales tax incentive.
On March 31, the Senate adopted the conference report 52-0, and the House adopted the report 146-25. The legislation is now available for the Governor’s consideration.  To see the vote counts and the most recent version of the legislation click here.

EDUCATION & WORKFORCE

Senate Bill 59: Additional QBE Funding
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator John Albers (R- Roswell)
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Todd Jones (R- South Forsyth) 

Senate Bill 59 would provide additional QBE funding for each full-time equivalent student within a local charter school. This bill establishes a per-pupil funding weight for local charter school students. It ensures districts allocate a proportionate share of federal funding to local charter schools, and it requires districts to provide facility stipends to these facilities. On Monday March 29, SB 59 passed the House by a 138-31 vote. This bill is now available for the Governor’s consideration.

House Resolution 11: House Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock)

House Resolution 11 would create a study committee to examine innovative ways to maximize global talent in the state of Georgia. As our economy continues to grow and innovate, more individuals from around the globe will be required to meet our evolving workforce needs. On Wednesday, March 31, the House adopted the resolution by a unanimous vote, 154-0. This bill now awaits the Speaker of the House to officially name members of the committee.

ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY

House Bill 150: Fuel Choice
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Bruce Williamson (R- Monroe)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator John Kennedy (R- Macon)

House Bill 150 would prohibit any local government from adopting an ordinance or other regulation preventing the connection to a particular type of energy or fuel in residential or commercial properties. HB 150 would ensure that there is a statewide energy policy to maintain the same choices for Georgia’s homeowners and businesses alike.  On Monday, March 22, an amended version of HB 150 passed out of the Senate by a 34-15 vote.  On Monday, March 29, the House agreed to the Senate changes by a vote of 107-52, marking final passage.  It is now available for the Governor’s consideration.

HEALTH & WELLNESS

House Bill 307: Georgia Telehealth Act
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R- Marietta)

House Bill 307, “The Georgia Telehealth Act”, would authorize healthcare professionals to provide telemedicine services from home. HB 307 would also make it possible for patients to receive telemedicine services from home, work, or school without first requiring an in-person visit. As introduced, this bill would allow the prescribing of medicine post-visit, prohibit separate deductibles, and require virtual visits to be as thorough and consistent as with an in-person visit. The Chamber has been supportive of voluntary investments and incentives to encourage the use of telemedicine, as well as technology advancements and infrastructure necessary to expand healthcare services. This is especially important when it comes to mental health services in order to create a more effective delivery system.  On Monday, March 29, HB 307 passed out of the Senate by a unanimous vote and, on March 31, it received House agreement. It is now available for the Governor’s signature.

Health Professional Licensure Compact Legislation

House Bill 34: Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact
Chamber Position:  SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Dave Belton (R- Buckhead)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Valencia Seay (D- Riverdale)

House Bill 34 allows audiologists and speech pathologists to maintain their license to practice in Georgia through an interstate compact that would recognize other member state licenses. On Thursday, March 25, HB 34 was unanimously passed out of the Senate. It is now available for the Governor’s signature.

House Bill 268: The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Bill Werkheiser (R- Glennville)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Ben Watson (R- Savannah)

HB 268 would increase public access to occupational therapists by recognizing other states’ licenses in allowing these practitioners to operate in Georgia. On Thursday, March 25, HB 268 was unanimously passed out of the Senate. It is now available for the Governor’s signature.

House Bill 395: The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Dave Belton (R- Buckhead)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R- Rome)

HB 395 would increase public access to professional counselors by recognizing other states’ licenses in allowing these practitioners to operate in Georgia. On Tuesday, March 22, HB 395 was unanimously passed out of the Senate. It is now available for the Governor’s signature.

LAW & JUDICIARY

Senate Bill 168: Virtual Shareholder Meetings
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Larry Walker (R- Perry)
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Stan Gunter (R- Blairsville)

Senate Bill 168 allows the board of directors of a corporation to determine that an annual shareholders’ meeting may be held virtually, in whole or in part, unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise. This increased flexibility is a continuation of the Governor’s executive action that has been successful during the pandemic state of emergency. SB 168 was voted unanimously  (51-0) out of the Senate on March 3 and unanimously out of the House on March 18 and has been sent to the Governor for his consideration. This bill’s companion, HB 306, includes non-profit entities and passed the House of Representatives unanimously on February 24. HB 306 passed unanimously by the Senate on March 31. The House agreed to the Senate changes to HB 306 by a vote of 163-0, marking final passage. The bill is also now available for the Governor’s consideration.

House Bill 334: Remote Notarization
Chamber Position:  SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House:  Representative Joseph Gullet (R- Dallas)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Blake Tillery (R- Vidalia)

HB 334 creates a framework for the use of remote notarizations in Georgia. Remote notarization allows for access to notary services for all Georgians, including those in under-served communities and those for whom travel is challenging. HB 334 balances access to these services with the security requirements of traditional notarization and brings Georgia’s notarization laws in line with the majority of other states. HB334 passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 4, by a vote of 167-2.  On Wednesday, March 31, HB 334 was tabled by the Senate. The legislation will remain on the table until the next legislative session.

Senate Bill 105: Community Supervision and Probation Reform
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Brian Strickland (R- McDonough)
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R- Bremen)

Senate Bill 105 creates a framework for the use of community supervision in Georgia’s criminal justice system by streamlining eligibility for shortened probation sentences and providing a path to terminated sentences for those Georgians that have met the terms of their probation, stayed law-abiding, and paid restitution. This legislation provides relief to business owners and employees by simplifying Georgians’ re-entry into the workforce and their communities.  On February 25, the Senate passed SB 105 unanimously; it was then passed out of the House on March 29 by a 169-2 vote. The bill is now available for the Governor’s consideration.

Senate Bill 185: Tax Tribunal Legislation
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Bo Hatchett (R- Cornelia)
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Todd Jones (R- South Forsyth)

Senate Bill 185 is designed to level the playing field for taxpayers in disputes with the Department of Revenue. SB 185 allows the Tax Tribunal Judge more flexibility in taxpayer dispute cases and frees them from an administrative rule requiring them to defer to Department interpretations of ambiguous laws. SB185 passed the Senate unanimously on March 1 and on Monday, March 22, SB 185 passed out of the House by a 162-4 vote. The bill is now before Governor Kemp for his consideration.

TRANSPORTATION

House Bill 317: Innkeeper to Include Marketplace Facilitators
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Ron Stephens (R- Savannah)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah)

House Bill 317 would update the definition of an innkeeper to include marketplace facilitators, like Airbnb and VRBO, and extend the $5.00 hotel/motel fee in House Bill 170 (Transportation Funding Act of 2015) to these entities. On Monday, March 8, House Bill 317 was passed out of the House by a vote of 147-22. On Wednesday, March 31, HB 317 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 31-5, and subsequently agreed to by the House marking final passage.

House Bill 511: Appropriation of Dedicated Taxes & Fees to Separate Trust Funds
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett)

Approved in the November 2020 election by 82% of Georgia voters, Amendment 1 allows the Georgia General Assembly, with a two-thirds vote, to dedicate tax or fee revenue to the public purpose for which the taxes or fees were imposed. House Bill 511 codifies this constitutional amendment and would ensure that the taxes or fees collected by the state are in fact dedicated to their intended purpose. HB 511 would establish separate trust funds in the state treasury and require appropriation to each, including a Transportation Trust Fund and Georgia Transit Trust Fund. On Wednesday, March 3, HB 511  passed out of the House by a vote of 168-0. On Thursday, March 18, House Bill 511 passed out the Senate by a vote of 51-0. The bill is now available for the Governor’s signature.

House Bill 588: Georgia Freight Railroad Program
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Rick Jasperse (R- Jasper)
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega)

House Bill 588 would enable the Georgia Department of Transportation to make investments in private freight and logistics infrastructure provided that the projects serve a “public benefit” including, but not limited to, enhanced public safety, enhanced mobility of people or goods, congestion mitigation, and enhanced trade and economic development. On Wednesday, March 3, House Bill 588  passed out of the House by a vote of 164-0. On Wednesday, March 31, House Bill 588 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 49-0, and subsequently agreed to by the House marking final passage.

Senate Resolution 102: Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega)
Bill Sponsor in House: Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper)

Senate Resolution 102 would establish the Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding due to accelerated growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, March 8, SR 102 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 54-0. SR 102 passed out of House Transportation with a committee substitute that specified the make-up of the Freight & Logistics Commission to be 4 members from the House, 4 members from the Senate, and 4 representatives from the transportation industry. On Monday, March 29, Senate Resolution 102 passed out of the House unanimously. On Wednesday, March 31, the Senate agreed to the House changes to SR 102 by a vote of 45-0, marking final passage. The bill is now available for the Governor’s consideration.

FEDERAL AFFAIRS

Senate Resolution 201: Commending SK Innovations
Chamber Position: SUPPORT
Bill Sponsor in Senate: Senator Butch Miller (R- Gainesville)

SR 201 commends SK Innovations for their commitment to investing $2.58 billion in a new electric car battery manufacturing plant that will bring 2,600 clean energy jobs to Jackson County. On Tuesday, March 22, the Senate passed SR 201  unanimously.

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