Gold Dome Update 
Highlights from the House 
Session Wrap-Up
Just over one month ago, we completed our 2017-2018 legislative session. Over the years, we have focused largely on tax reform, allowing our citizens keep more of their hard-earned money; healthcare access; education reform; and infrastructure to help foster economic development and growth. The 2017-2018 legislative session continued these efforts as we passed numerous bills aimed at strengthening our state.
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget

We completed our constitutional obligation by successfully passing House Bill 684 , the 2019 Fiscal Year Budget, which totals approximately $26.2 billion. The largest budget allocations for the coming fiscal year are education ($743m); healthcare ($359.7m); public safety and infrastructure. The budget will go into effect on July 1st of this year.
Rural Revitalization

House Rural Development Council
Last year, Speaker Ralston implemented the House Rural Development Council, under the leadership of Representatives Chairman Terry England, Co-Chairman Jay Powell and Vice Chairman Sam Watson. The 26 member council studied ways of improving our rural economy by focusing on education, infrastructure needs, access to health care and economic growth incentives. Much of the legislation that we considered this session came directly from the recommendations of this Council.

Rural Broadband
Senate Bill 402 lays the groundwork for expanding broadband access to rural Georgia by promoting public-private partnerships. This legislation also gives oversight to the Georgia Technology Authority to evaluate communities and create plans for broadband expansion. Under the legislation, local communities will receive incentives such as a new designation of “broadband ready,” allowing designees to qualify for grant programs and tax exemptions in their areas. Further, the legislation requires use and expansion of existing DOT right-of- ways to lay the fiber optic networks and allows Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) wishing to deploy broadband services, VoIP or wireless services the opportunity to do so.

Rural Health Care Access
House Bill 769 works to improve quality rural health care access. Health care provisions under the bill are as follows:
  • Allows for remote pharmacy orders, updating credentialing and billing practices under the direction of the Department of Community Health.
  • Establishes the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability which will provide training and health data analysis focused on rural health.
  • Allows for micro-hospitals, defined as a hospital in a rural county that has two to seven inpatient beds and provides 24/7 emergency services.
  • Creates a grant program for physicians practicing in medically underserved rural areas of the state. 
  • expands the Rural Hospital Tax Credit to allow 'S' corporation shareholders

Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation
House Bill 951 establishes the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI). The CRPI will serve as the central information and research hub for training rural leaders in best practices for community planning, aiding certain industries, and working collaboratively with non-profits to foster economic growth.

Tax Reform Efforts

Tax Rate Cut
Of the many bills passed this session, House Bill 918 is one of the most notable. This bill reduces our income tax rate for the first time since 1937. The bill also lowers the corporate tax rate and the standard deduction. This tax reform measure will save Georgia taxpayers an estimated $5 billion over the next five years. Provisions of HB 918 are as follows:

  • Doubles the standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers to $4600 for a single taxpayer
  • $3000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return
  •  $6000 for a married couple filing a joint return effective tax year 2018
  • Decreases the income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% effective tax year 2019 and adjusts the Georgia corporate tax rate to 5.75% beginning tax year 2019.
  • Includes a provision to decrease the individual and corporate income tax rate further to 5.5% subject to approval by the General Assembly and the Governor effective tax year 2020.
Education Measures

Quality Basic Education Funding
For the first time since the recession, the fiscal year 2019 budget will fully fund the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula. QBE is the formula used to determine proper funding for our public schools. This is the second time, since the formula was created in the mid 1980's, that QBE has been fully funded.  

Student Scholarship Organization Tax Credit
House Bill 217  raises the annual cap on state income tax credits for donations to an approved student scholarship organization from $58 million to $100 million. The program allows taxpayers to receive a dollar for dollar tax credit on their state income tax return.
Public Safety

School Security Study Committee
House Resolution 1414 was introduced in response to the number of recent school shootings across the nation. This resolution creates a study committee to explore what is needed to provide more school security while facilitating life-saving procedure responses. The committee will be composed of nine members from the House of Representatives, including Heath Clark, who will be representing our local delegation.

Distracted Driving
House Bill 673 , prohibits an individual from physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device, sending any text-based communication, watching a video or movie, or recording a video while driving. Drivers will be allowed to use: voice text, use for navigation with a GPS system, and dash camera recordings. Certain exemptions apply to law enforcement, utility workers and first responders.

Leasing Agreements
House Bill 834 allows a tenant to terminate a residential rental agreement without being penalty when the tenant or his/her minor child is a victim of family violence. The bill also outlines tenant documentation requirements of terminating such lease. This Code section only applies to rental or lease agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2018.

Eleder Protection
Senate Bill 406 creates the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, requiring elder care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities to undergo a comprehensive, fingerprint-based criminal background check. Further, the bill implements a central caregiver registry so that those looking to hire a personal caregiver could access information on eligible and ineligible applicants.
Military Measures

Following the 2016 session, House leadership created the Military Affairs working group. As a result of our findings and positive policy passed in protection of our military/veteran communities, Speaker Ralston elected to make our working group permanent. As Georgia has one of the largest military populations in the nation, this group is critical to ensure we continue to push military friendly measures in support of our servicemen/women and their families. The 2018 legislative session yielded positive results where supporting our military is concerned.

Hope Scholarship Eligibility
Senate Bill 82 allows a member of the Georgia National Guard or a member the reserves located in Georgia to be classified as a legal resident under eligibility requirements for HOPE scholarships and grants.

Georgia Joint Defense Commission
Senate Bill 395 establishes the 18-member Georgia Joint Defense Commission, responsible for advising the governor and the General Assembly on state and national military issues. Further, this bill establishes the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program which will assist military communities with projects, events and activities promoting our military installations.

Military Retirement Exemption
House Bill 749 , exempts compensation benefits of spouses and dependents of deceased veterans from state income tax, further shows our military families how much we value their service and sacrifice.

Military Community Tax Credit
House Bill 843 f urther supports of our military communities by allowing counties which contain a federal military installation qualify for tax credits that apply to business enterprises in less developed areas. Certain conditions apply. The installation must employ at least 5,000 federal or military personnel, and contain a government owned and operated industrial park.


Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act
House Bill 322 and House Resolution 238 work in conjunction towards the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA). This legislation will dedicate a portion of state sales and use tax collected on sporting goods equipment to state conservation efforts. HB 332, provides that 40% of the state portion of sales and use tax collected on sporting goods equipment may be dedicated to the Outdoor Stewardship Fund at this time. Georgia voters will need to approve HR 238, a constitutional amendment, if they wish for more funding towards GOSA.

Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption
House Bill 886 reforms the Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption (GATE) Program, which provides qualified agricultural producers with a sale and use tax exemption on certain agricultural equipment and production inputs. This measure changes the qualifying agricultural production threshold, the review of GATE applicants’ continued eligibility, and procedures for sharing information within certain state departments.

House Bill 159 updates Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly three decades. This legislation expedites the adoption process and expands jurisdictional options for both in state and out of state adoptions while eliminating the 6-month residency requirement. Additionally, the bill shortens a birth mothers revocation period from 10 days to 4 days. HB 159 will also allow birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses in both private and agency adoptions.

Foster Care Updates
In an effort to resolve issues associated with Georgia’s foster care system, the General Assembly passed House Bill 982 which streamlines Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) policy guidelines to ensure children are placed in permanent homes. House Bill 982 allows courts to excuse DFCS from continuing their search for relatives if, after six months the search has been unsuccessful, or removal of the child would be detrimental to his or her health. If the child has been in foster care for a cumulative period of 12 months and the parent has willfully neglected to remedy the situation, the court must order DFCS to file a petition to terminate their parental rights.

Pro-Small Business
House Bill 64 puts our citizens first by ensuring all Georgians have an advocate through local insurance agents who work hard to protect our healthcare plans.

Welcome to Georgia Tax
House Bill 329 addresses unresolved provisions from last year's House Bill 340 regarding the Title Ad Valorem Tax, also known as the Welcome to Georgia tax. After negotiation and compromise provisions of HB 329 are as follows:
  • Makes whole our local governments and public schools
  • Lowers the rate for a number of title transfers
  • Lowers the TAVT rate for those moving to our state down to 3%
  • Removes the automatic rate increase of TAVT up to 9%
All measures that did not pass the 2017-2018 session cycle or received an executive veto from Governor Deal, will have to be reintroduced and start the legislative process all over again. Governor Deal issued his veto statements on Tuesday, May 8. All measures receiving no action (signature or veto) will automatically go into effect July 1, the beginning of our state's fiscal year.

This year also marks an important year as it is a gubernatorial election year. Voters will have the opportunity to choose their state leadership during the May primary and November general election. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for an update regarding statewide elections. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us anytime. Thank you for your support as we continue to work on your behalf for simple,smart and effective government.

Shaw Blackmon
Representative of Georgia's 146th House District

Representative Shaw Blackmon
District 146
Phone: 404-656-0177
Address: 501-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Rep. Shaw Blackmon represents District 146. He currently serves as a Deputy Whip and as a member of Ways & Means, Economic Development and Tourism, Special Rules, Insurance and
Governmental Affairs Committees. Shaw is also a member of the Military Affairs Working Group.