Gold Dome Report - January 12, 2016
Greetings from the Gold Dome! Lawmakers went to work on Legislative Day 2 after being fed breakfast by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at its annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast.
Congratulations to Hank Linginfelter, who is Executive Vice President, Distribution Operations with AGL Resources, as he assumes his new role as Chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Speakers at Eggs and Issues this morning included Senator Johnny Isakson, Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston.
Governor Deal discussed a number of initiatives about growing Georgia's business climate this morning. He mentioned that since 2011, Georgia had seen an addition of 452,000 new jobs in the private sector which in turn caused Georgia's unemployment rate to drop to about 5.6 percent. The construction industry is now on the rebound after the "Great Recession." Also, in this month alone, Georgia will have announcements of 3,134 new positions which total $376 million in capital investment in our State. Governor Deal thanked the staff of the Department of Economic Development for its work and recognized the Department's leadership and staff for its being named by the International Economic Development Council as the number one economic development agency in the country. Since July 2014, Georgia has grown the number of Fortune 500 entities which are headquartered in our State – we have 15 such entities since July 2014 that have relocated their headquarters to Georgia.
Turning to the motion picture, film and television sector, the Governor stated that this industry represented more than 79,000 Georgia jobs or roughly $4 billion in Georgia wages – the average job in this sector pays $84,000 annually. There are about 3,000 motion picture and television businesses in our State, including 1,957 production-related entities. He announced his commitment to the protection of Georgia's film tax credits- especially as this industry has brought billions of dollars into our economy. Georgia, though, does need to grow the "crew base" and efforts to help students be trained for those jobs have begun.
The Governor credited our State's job growth in part on the passage of HB 170 (which did not include an income tax increase) and the State's transportation assets. Georgia's Ports Authority has seen a record year in FY 2015 – tonnage of freight was 31.69 million tons in that year. Georgia has also announced the Appalachian Regional Port in Murray County; that entity comes "online" in 2018. The State's bond package for the Savannah Harbor Expansion has been sold and the State has fully committed all of its portion of the more than $700 million project. His latest effort will be the announcement on transportation infrastructure projects (as we mention more below).
Highway safety was another area he mentioned to business leaders this morning. In particular, he stated that he devoted $10 million last year to expand personnel and resources along Georgia's transportation corridors – including I-95 and I-16 – which connect the ports with the rest of our State.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium promises to also bring further growth to Georgia. It is a project which is to generate a $400 million economic impact and will create about 4,500 jobs over the three-year construction phase of this stadium. The initiative will help Georgia host events such as a NCAA Men's Final Four Tournament and Super Bowl among other sporting events.
Governor Deal did mention education in his remarks but did not focus on the Education Funding Commission's recommendations. Rather, he talked about the Move on When Ready initiative which helps allow students more options and permits them the ability to get their associate's degree being dually enrolled in high school. Under QuickStart, they have added a new WorkSmart program to help Georgia employers customize training for their employees. Internet connectivity is another effort which he wishes to push; he noted that since FY 2014, he has devoted over $100 million to make sure that Georgia's schools have broadband speed and internet connectivity – in part because students need to learn through the most current delivery options. Failing schools are a concern, especially for economic development. He asked Georgia's business leaders and community representatives to step up – particularly as the Opportunity School District initiative will hit the ballots in November
Governor’s Transportation Press Conference
Governor Deal announced major transportation investments earlier today with the help of a number of legislators and employees and representatives of the Georgia Department of Transportation. His list of investments is part of a comprehensive infrastructure maintenance plan which was developed through last year's HB 170, the "Transportation Funding Act of 2015." The listing of projects is spread over 18 months with a total investment of $2.2 billion; another list over a ten-year time frame represents more than $10 billion. All of these projects will improve Georgia's roads, bridges, improve congestion and help the State move freight traffic more efficiently. See www.GAroads.org .
His press conference outlined a new 10-Year Strategic Transportation Plan was presented. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston joined the Governor to tout the initial planning for the new road improvement funds enabled by the increase in the motor fuel tax adopted in the 2015 Session of the General Assembly. 30 members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees flanked the three leaders. Former Rep. Jay Roberts, who championed the motor fuel tax in HB 170 and now is head of strategic planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation, developed the new strategic plan that was presented by the Commissioner of Transportation. The Plan includes funding for State and county bridge repair and replacement, maintenance of existing roads and major new initiatives. Highlights include doubling the funds for bridge replacements and road improvements from a range of $130 million-$200 million per year to $400 plus million per year. In addition, 45 new projects were outlined for sites of major traffic congestion on the federal and State road intersections. For example, the Plan includes an outside express lane for all of Interstate 285 North of Interstate 20; new express lanes on State Road 400 North and Interstates 75 North in Atlanta and Macon; and rebuilding of the Georgia 400/Interstate North 285, Interstate 475 and 75, and Interstate 16/95 exchanges in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah. It was a triumphant press conference for the State’s unified efforts to improve roads and bridges in the State and local systems.
HB 701, by Rep. David Casas (R-Duluth), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-144(a) to require that each local board of education prescribe mandatory instruction concerning alcohol and other drug use such that each local board of education provide a minimum of 12 hours of alcohol and drug use prevention curricula every year in every grade from grade three through grade 12. This instruction would be determined by the State Board of Education as it currently is done; also, now, Georgia requires such alcohol and drug use prevention instruction every year in every grade from kindergarten through the 12th grade so this law eliminates such instruction for early grades.
HB 706, by Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta), is a local piece of legislation involving a proposed new charter for the City of Atlanta and annexing new property which is in DeKalb County.
HB 726, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-11-2(f) concerning taxes on tobacco products. Specifically, it attempts to clarify charges which are not subject to Georgia's excise tax by adding in (2) that "if the dealer or distributor separately states the amount of any federal excise tax or shipping charges on the sales invoice for the tobacco product, such amount shall not be taxed pursuant to this chapter."
HB 727, by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville), comprises several 2016 changes to the regulation of fireworks in Chapter 10 of Title 25. Among the revisions include a number of new definitions: "electric plant;" "public gathering;" "wastewater treatment plant;" and "water treatment plant." There are several specific changes in O.C.G.A. § 25-10(b) including that it will be unlawful to use fireworks, consumer fireworks or other items defined in O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1(b)(2) "within five yards of a vertical or overhead obstruction, or across, into, or within the right of way of a public road, street, highway, or railroad of this State." It further changes the times when such fireworks are permitted to be used, moving the ending time from midnight to 10:00 p.m. if such is permitted by noise ordinance of the county, municipal corporation or consolidated government. It does add specific times for January 1 and July 3-4 and December 31. It does make it illegal to use fireworks within 100 yards of an electric plant, water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant or where other flammable or combustible liquids or gasses are stored in excess of 500 gallons; within 100 yards of any public or private electric substation, jail or prison; within 100 yards of a hospital, nursing home or other healthcare facility regulated under Chapter 7 of Title 31 (unless the owner/operator of the facility uses the consumer fireworks); at a public gathering where there is a public safety interest (as determined by law enforcement or fire department); while under the influence of alcohol or drug or a combination and to the extent it is unsafe for the person to use or explode or cause to be exploded consumer fireworks or where a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that such use by the person is unsafe; and for purposes of deliberately or intentionally harassing, intimidating or causing harm to others or where a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that such use is deliberately or intentionally harassing, intimidating or causing harm to others. It also revises in O.C.G.A. § 48-13-131, regarding taxation of consumer fireworks, that a local excise tax is to be imposed on consumer fireworks and other items enumerated in O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1(b)(2) at a rate of one (1) percent per item sold and that the local excise tax is to be paid by the seller and due and payable to the local governing authorities imposing such tax on sales occurring within their jurisdiction.
HB 728, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), addresses the offense of stalking and prohibits a person who has secured protective orders from affirmatively soliciting or inviting contact or approach from the party to which the protective order applies for the interests of public safety in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d)(1). It also amends O.C.G.A. § 16-5-95 and adds a new subsection (b.1) so that "a person commits the offense of violating a civil family violence order when such person affirmatively solicits or invites contact or approach from a party against whom such person has secured a civil family violence order when such affirmative solicitation or invitation is in violation of paragraph (1) of subsection (d) of Code Section 16-5-94 and paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of Code Section19-13-4." Other changes are proposed concerning relief by superior courts in O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4 concerning protective orders and consent agreements.
HB 730, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), amends O.C.G.A. § 35-8-3 to add the Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice or his or her designee as a voting member of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. There are currently 20 voting members of this Council and this increases the number of voting members to 21.
HR 948, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), encourages the creation of a high-speed rail transit authority to operate in Fulton, Carroll, and Douglas counties with the intention to expand service throughout Georgia and into Alabama.
HR 972, by Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany), recognizes January 13, 2016 as Easter Seals Georgia and Champions for Children Day at the State's capitol.
HR 978, by Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), proposes the creation of a House Study Committee on Historic Site Preservation looking at the identification and preservation of sites with historical and cultural significance. This Study Committee would be composed of five members of the House.
SB 254, by Sen. Harold Jones II (D-Augusta), amends O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2 to provide that possession of marijuana constitutes a misdemeanor. It further amends Titles 15 and 16 and O.C.G.A. § 17-7-72 and O.C.G.A. § 36-32-6, to conform cross references.
SB 255, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), is a comprehensive modernization of Georgia's garnishment proceedings laws in Title 18. The proposal includes the creation of a new Chapter 4 in this Title. It addresses the process for the affidavit and summons to be issued for a garnishment proceeding as well as provides for property which is subject to garnishment (including certain exceptions).
SB 258, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), adds a new subsection (p) in O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311 concerning creation of county boards of equalization, duties, review of assessments and appeals. It provides that the assessed property value of property for a taxable year would not be increased beyond the initial assessment value established by the board of tax assessors during an appeal of such valuation for such taxable year by the taxpayer but it would be allowed to be reduced as a result of the appeal of the taxpayer.
SB 259, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), addresses property tax exemptions and deferrals in Chapter 5 of Title 48. It specifically adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 48-5-52.2 allowing each resident of Georgia an exemption on such person's homestead from ad valorem taxes for State, county, municipal, or school purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of that homestead exceeds the adjusted base year assessed value of the homestead. It defines "base year" as the 2016 taxable year with respect to an exemption "which is first granted to a person on such person's homestead in the 2017 taxable year or who reapplies for and is granted such exemption in the 2017 taxable year solely because of a change in ownership to a joint tenancy with right of survival or in all other cases, the taxable year immediately preceding the taxable year in which the exemption under this Code section is first granted to the most recent owner of such homestead." A resident must file an application with the tax commissioner to receive this homestead exemption; it is proposed to renew from year to year as long as the owner occupies the residence as a homestead.
SB 260, by Rep. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta), adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 16-11-132.1, prohibiting the purchase of a firearm (handgun, rifle, shotgun or other weapon which can be converted to, expel a projectile by action of an explosive or electrical charge) when such individual is a current party to a proceeding instituted under Chapter 5 of Title 19, who has had a petition seeking relief from family violence or a protective order granted against him or her pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 13 of Title 19 or Article 7 of Chapter 5 of Title 16 as filed by the opposite party to the current proceeding and who attempts to purchase a firearm. Such individual would be guilty of a misdemeanor unless he or she secures written permission for the purchase from the presiding judge over such proceeding.
SB 261, by Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.31, addressing the imposition, rate and computation of and exemptions from State income tax. It creates an income tax credit for employers who hire certain qualified parolees (those granted parole in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 42-9-45 within the past 12 months) for full-time jobs (40 hours or more per week) – the credit is time limited for the period beginning on or after January 1, 2017 and before January 1, 2020 to employers with such workers and permits a credit against income taxes during such taxable year in the amount of $2,500.00 per qualified parolee employed by that employer.
SR 679, by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), is a Resolution which recognizes January 13, 2016 as Korean American Day at the State's capitol. It memorializes, among other things, the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States in 1903.
SR 683, by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), proposes to amend the State's constitution at Article III, Section V, Paragraph V to prohibit the General Assembly from adopting conference committee reports unless they have been made publicly available electronically to the public by no later than 10:00 p.m. of the day prior to a vote.
Our 2015 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Chuck Clay, Helen Sloat, and Logan Fletcher. We will also try our hand at tweeting this year – so follow us! @GDR_Live
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.