April 2, 2021 | Week 11
Council for Quality Growth Members, 
Thank you to the members of the Council's Government Affairs Task Force. They provided weekly input and guidance throughout the session, with a special thanks to Council Vice-Chairman and GATF Chair, Al Edwards, for leading the GATF efforts, and Council Board Chairman, Doug Jenkins, for his leadership.  
 
We look forward to continuing our advocacy work on the local level to ensure your voice is heard on issues directly impacting the growth and development industry. For more information on joining the GATF or policy questions, please contact Joseph Santoro

On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the Georgia General Assembly gaveled in "Sine Die," the last day of the 40-day session. Governor Brian Kemp now must sign or veto legislation within 40 days after Sine Die adjournment, or it becomes law without his signature. 
 
Starting the 2021 Georgia Legislative Session in unprecedented times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state lawmakers put in place COVID safety protocols to mitigate exposure and the spread of the virus. House and Senate put rules into place that required masks to be worn by all members and staff while present in the Capitol complex. All members and staff were required to be tested twice weekly during the 2021 session. As in June 2020, the House Page Program was suspended and there were no invite resolutions or recognition of guests on the floor. The legislature continued the Chaplain of the Day Program, but no guests were permitted into Chambers with the Chaplain of the Day.
 
In the last remaining days of the session, the top policy priority and the constitutional obligation for the Georgia General Assembly was to adopt a balanced Fiscal Year 2022 budget beginning on July 1, 2021. On Sine Die the House and Senate adopted the Conference Committee Report to House Bill 81, appropriating $27.2 billion in total state funds, an increase of $1.34 billion, or 5.2%, over the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Nearly 90% of the new revenue for FY 2022 is set to be spent within education and health and human services agencies.
 
The budget includes more than $200 million in increased motor fuel funds in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) budget with an increase of $157.1 million to the Capital Construction Program. HB 81 moves the Atlanta-Region Transit Authority (ATL) to the Department of Transportation from the Department of Community Affairs pursuant to HB 511 (2020 Session) and includes a $1 million investment in Airport Aid to advance more projects from the airport priorities developed by the department for airports across the state. The Council for Quality Growth applauds state lawmakers for including an additional $3.1 million to the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (GTIB) restoring a Fiscal Year 2021 budget cut. GTIB is a grant and low-interest loan program administered by the State Road and Tollway to Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) and local governments for acceleration of road and bridge projects that enhance mobility and drive economic development in their communities. To review Georgia's Fiscal Year 2022 budget highlights, click here
 
On March 22, 2021 Governor Kemp signed HB 593, the Tax Relief Act of 2021 into law. HB 593 sponsored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) and Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) would let Georgians pay less income tax starting July 1, 2021 following up on a previous reduction passed in 2019 that lowered the state’s income-tax rate from 6% to 5.75%. The bill allows single taxpayers and heads of household an increase from $4,600 to $5,400 in their standard deduction. Married taxpayers filing separately will get an increase from $3,000 to $3,550. Married taxpayers filing jointly will get an increase from $6,000 to $7,100.
Listed below are bill summaries for key pieces of legislation headed to Governor Kemp for a signature that are important to the growth and development industry. Please check out our Legislative Tracker to read more about the bills the Council was engaged with during the session.
Local Government Virtual Meetings in Emergency Situations
House Bill 98 Sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) & Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming)
HB 98 explicitly grants local governments the authority to hold virtual public hearings, such as budget or zoning proceedings, in (federal, state, or local) emergency situations, if all opportunities for participation offered for in-person meetings were also made available virtually.
Passed House by 151-1 vote and Senate by 43-1 vote 

COVID Business Liability Relief Extension
House Bill 112 Sponsored by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) & Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough)
HB 112 is an extension of the business COVID liability relief bill that was originally passed in 2020 as SB 359 and which is currently scheduled to sunset on July 14, 2021. The bill extends liability protections for an additional year until July 14, 2022.
Passed House by 99-68 vote and Senate by 36-17 vote 

Preserve Consumers Energy Choice
House Bill 150 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) & Sen. John Kennedy (R- Macon)
HB 150 is a bipartisan bill that preserves Georgians’ right to choose their energy source by preventing local governments or state agencies from banning connections of any one utility service based on the type of energy or fuel used. The Council supports HB 150 and is part of the Georgians for Fuel Choice Coalition ensuring Georgians retain the right to choose the energy that best fits their needs.
Passed House by 107-52 vote and Senate by 34-15 vote 

Definition of Innkeeper to Include Marketplace Facilitators
House Bill 317 Sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) & Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah)
HB 317 would require online short-term rental companies such as VRBO and Airbnb to charge its customers and remit to the government the $5 per night room fee that was created by HB 170 in 2015 to fund transportation. The bill includes all lodging facilities and rooms except for accommodations that do not provide shelter. Fiscal analysts estimate the measure could increase state tax revenue by more than $17 million in 2022 and more than $100 million over the next five years.
Passed House by 142-22 vote and Senate by 31-5 vote 

Georgia's Citizen's Arrest Statute
House Bill 479 Sponsored by Rep. Burt Reeves (R-Marietta) & Sen. Bill Cowsert (R- Athens)
HB 479 would repeal citizen’s arrest from state law while still allowing employees at businesses, those conducting business on someone else’s property, security officers, private investigators, and inspectors at truck scales to detain someone they believe has committed a crime. The bill also would allow law enforcement officers to make arrests outside their jurisdictions.
Passed House by 169-0 vote and Senate by 52-1 vote 

Appropriation of Dedicated Revenues to Separate Trust Funds
House Bill 511 Sponsored by Rep. Burt Reeves (R-Marietta) & Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett)
HB 511 is the follow-up to a constitutional amendment Georgia voters ratified overwhelmingly last fall requiring all revenues the state’s dedicated trust funds collects to remain inside those programs rather than be diverted into the general fund budget. The bill includes the Transportation Trust Fund, which supports road projects through the state’s motor fuels tax and the Georgia Transit Trust Fund, a per-ride tax on ride-sharing services that helps fund public transit improvements. The constitutional amendment ratified last fall includes a 10-year sunset date to give lawmakers a chance to review each trust fund and ensure the services it helps pay for are still needed. It allows governors and legislatures to suspend the dedication of trust fund revenues during economic emergencies to free up those funds for general spending needs.
Passed House by 168-0 vote and Senate by 32-19 vote 
 
Georgia Department of Transportation Legislation
House Bill 577 Sponsored by Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) & Sen. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega)
HB 577 is a Georgia Department of Transportation clean-up bill that looks at best management practices and minimum requirements for rules, regulations, ordinances, or resolutions for land-disturbing practices. The bill provides for the adoption of rules by the Board of Natural Resources relative to requests for variances for road construction and maintenance projects undertaken by the Georgia Department of Transportation. It authorizes GDOT to take enhanced administrative and civil action against any person that owns or operates an airport open to the public for general aviation purposes without a valid permit. It also revises bond validation processes for the State Road and Tollway Authority and posting of signage of maximum speed limits.
Passed House by 155-14 vote and Senate by 47-1 vote 
 
Georgia Freight & Logistics Investment in Public Private Partnerships
House Bill 588 Sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) & Sen. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega)
HB 588 contains GDOT and SRTA procedures to facilitate future investments in private freight and logistics infrastructure. The bill further defines the public benefit definition under the GDOT State Freight Railroad Program to include enhanced public safety, enhanced mobility of people or goods, congestion mitigation, enhanced trade and economic development, improved air quality or land use, reduction of public expenditures due to improved transportation efficiency or infrastructure preservation, or other public benefits identified and approved by a majority of the board. Additionally, the bill Includes legislative intent that the state sales tax derived from the sale of locomotive fuel be used for freight and logistics projects located on or connected to publicly owned roads. The Council supports HB 588 and applauds the passage to further investments on freight and logistics in state.
Passed House by 162-2 vote and Senate by 49-0 vote 
 
Definition of Small Business
House Bill 611 Sponsored by Rep. Mike Cheokas (R- Americus) & Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White)
HB 611 divides the state "small business" definition into three tiers. Tier One has 10 or fewer employees or $1 million or less in gross receipts per year. Tier Two has 100 or fewer employees or $10 million or less in gross receipts per year. Tier Three has 300 or fewer employees or less than $30 million or less in gross receipts a year. The bill was amended to include definitions relating to the Department of Economic Development, to define innovation, innovative product or service, and startups.
Passed House by 167-0 vote and Senate by 49-0 vote 
 
Transfer Forsyth County to Atlanta Regional Commission
House Resolution 130 Sponsored by Rep. Lauren McDonald (R-Cumming) & Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming)
HR 130 transfers Forsyth County from the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to the Atlanta Regional Commission. The bill was amended to extend the effective date upon Governor Kemps signature by a period of 90 days following the release of the 2020 United States decennial census.
Passed House by 160-5 vote and Senate by 53-0 vote 
 
Tax Credit Return on Investment Act
Senate Bill 6 Sponsored by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) & Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire)
SB 6 is a tax credit review bill that would require the Office of Planning and Budget to determine the direct and indirect effects of Georgia’s tax credits and incentives upon the request of either the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee. Each chairman may choose up to five incentives each year to be reviewed, with such reviews to be completed no later than December 1st of that year. An economic analysis will include an estimate of the effects on net change in state revenue; net change in state expenditures, including the costs of administering the bill; net change in economic activity; and net change in public benefit, if applicable.

HB 586, Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021 and HB 587, the Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021were added to the bill. The Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021 extends sales tax exemptions for “competitive projects of regional significance” from June 30, 2021 to June 30, 2023; provides a sales tax exemption through December 31, 2022 on sales of tickets, fees, or charges for admission to a museum or fine arts performance or exhibition conducted within a facility that is owned or operated by a 501(c)(3) organization; removes the sunset on the sales tax exemption for energy used as part of a motor vehicle that mixes and transport concrete; and repeals the sunset date for the sales tax cap on certain boat maintenance. The Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021 provides a $1,250 job tax credit for each job created by a medical equipment and supplies manufacturer or a pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturer; provides that excess port tax credits can be taken against a taxpayer’s payroll withholding; removes the cap of 4,500 new full-time on the New Facilities Jobs Tax Credit; enhances the jobs tax credit available to a business enterprise that operates a new high impact aerospace defense project; and extends a credit related to the maintenance of railroad track owned or leased by class III railroads.
Passed House by 146-25 vote and Senate by 52-0 vote 
 
Private Providers for Plan Review & Inspection
Senate Bill 49 Sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford) & Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville)
SB 49 cements into law Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order 3.20.20.02 that allows owners to go straight to private plan review and/or inspections and pay 50% of that jurisdictions regulatory fee up front to the local government regardless of the time frame in which that local government is able to provide the service. If the local government determines that it did in fact have staff capable of performing the review, they can come back to the owner and request the other 50% of the regulatory fee. The bill also adds a definition for "qualified inspector," which would have to meet all the licensure and training requirements in law. This bill does not change any of the convenience fees owed to local governments, and local governments would retain the ability to prequalify all private providers.
Passed House by 148-15 vote and Senate by 39-13 vote 
 
Joint Study Committee on Airport Infrastructure and Improvements
Senate Resolution 84 sponsored by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) & Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper)
SR 84 creates a Joint Study Committee on Airport Infrastructure and Improvements. The Commission will take the remainder of the year to examine best course of action with regard to funding and policy development relating to airport infrastructure to ensure the growth and support of this critical industry and submit a report and proposal no later than December 31, 2021. The Commission will consist of four members appointed from the President of the Senate including the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee; four members appointed from the Speaker of the House including the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee; the Commissioner of Transportation and Economic Development, representative from Georgia Airports Association and Georgia Chamber of Commerce; and two members appointed from each Chamber having expertise in the operation of an airport.
Passed House by 156-8 vote and Senate by 51-0 vote 
 
Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding
Senate Resolution 102 sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) & Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper)
SR 102 creates a Joint Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding, extending the previous Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission with an emphasis on funding mechanisms. The Commission will take the remainder of the year to examine funding options to enhance the state's freight and logistics infrastructure and submit a report and proposal no later than December 31, 2021. The Commission will consist of four members appointed from the President of the Senate including the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee; four members appointed from the Speaker of the House including the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee; the Commissioner of Transportation, and Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority; and two members appointed from each chamber that provide freight and logistics services. The Council for Quality Growth supported SR 102 and looks forward to working with the Commission on policy solutions to improve Georgia's freight and logistics infrastructure. 
Passed House by 168-4 vote and Senate by 45-0 vote 
Listed below are a few key pieces of legislation that did not get the final passage.
Remote Notarization
House Bill 334 Sponsored by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) & Sen. Blake Tillery (R- Vidalia)
HB 334 would authorize online notarizations and allow the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority to set standards for doing so. Remote notarization allows for access to notary services for all Georgians, including those in under-served communities and those for whom travel is challenging. The House agreed to the Senate amendment but was tabled by the Senate.
Passed House by 162-3 vote and Senate by 46-6 vote 
 
The Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors Act
House Bill 476 Sponsored by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) & Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell)
HB 476 would make the Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors Board an independent state agency, with its own separate budget, its own executive director and staff and its own attorney and investigators to investigate and enforce violations. The bill passed the House and the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and was held in the Senate Rules Committee.
Passed House by 163-2 vote
 
Professions and Businesses Out-of-State Licensure
Senate Bill 45 Sponsored by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White),
SB 45 aims to speed up occupational and professional licensure by comity for new residents of Georgia. The bill would require the professional licensing boards to approve new occupational or professional licenses by endorsement for anyone who moves from another state and establishes residency in Georgia; holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state that was acquired prior to establishing residency in Georgia for which the training, experience, and testing are substantially similar in qualifications and scope to the Georgia requirements for that license; such license is in good standing in that other state; and passes any examination that may only be required to demonstrate knowledge of the laws and rules and regulations of this state that are specific to the practice of the profession, business, or trade for which such license by endorsement is being sought. The bill was passed by the Senate and resides in the House Regulated Industries Committee.
Passed Senate by 37-15 vote
 
Online Sports Wagering
Senate Bill 142 Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) & Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah)
SB 142 would allow Georgians age 21 and older to bet on a variety of professional sports games and some college games through six vendors licensed by the Georgia Lottery Corp. Vendors would be subject to a $10,000 application fee, an annual $100,000 license fee and a 16% tax on their profits. Senate Resolution 135 would amend Georgia's Constitution to legalize sports betting as a game played through the state lottery, which already is a legal form of gambling in the state. Both measures were withdrawn in the House and recommitted. The House companion bill, House Bill 86 sponsored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) was withdrawn in the House and recommitted.
SR 142 Passed Senate by 34-17 vote and SR 135 Passed Senate by 41-10 vote
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