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Chambers of Commerce

Georgia Chamber says “2014 Legislative Session Ends on High Note for Business”

Category: Chambers of Commerce

Brunswick Business Journal Special Report

March 24, 2014 - Following a flurry of action on measures important to the business community last week, the last week of the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is pleased with progress on their legislative priorities, and bills that passed that were positive for business.

“Governor Deal now has 40 days to sign or veto the bills that passed both chambers.  During this legislative session, the Georgia Chamber worked with lawmakers to pass several bills important to the business community and block measures that would hurt our state’s competiveness,” according to the Chamber’s legislative team.  “The Chamber welcomed passage of HB 958, a bill created as a result of Governor Deal's Competitiveness Initiative, which was co-chaired by the Georgia Chamber, and will enact a number of measures related to revenue and taxation that will boost Georgia’s business community,” they added.  “Additionally, the Chamber and our coalition blocked legislative measures that would have negatively impacted the implementation of the Georgia Common Core State Standards, which are key to ensuring our children’s future success. “The Chamber also worked with members and lawmakers to pass the Flint River Drought Protection Act, a bill that will aid Georgia’s agriculture, our largest and strongest industry, while protecting the environment, and strengthening our legal defenses to water use challenges by third-party activist groups and neighboring states,” they state.  The Chamber’s Government Affairs Council is currently chaired by board member Roy Robinson.  

Here’s a summary of the Chamber’s view on top bills during this session.  Those bills considered most important to Georgia’s future economic success were deemed “scorecard” issues by the Georgia Chamber:  

House Bill 176: Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard House Bill 176, the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, sponsored by Representative Don Parsons (Marietta) provides for a streamlined regulatory process for companies investing in new or upgrading existing wireless infrastructure.  Wireless and broadband infrastructure is a vital economic development resource to attract business and improve the quality of life for area residents, especially in rural Georgia, and this bill encourages those continued, important investments.  

House Bill 213: Flint River Drought Protection Act  Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard One of the Georgia Chamber’s top priorities, Senate Bill 213 sponsored by Sen. Ross Tolleson (Perry), will amend the current Flint River Drought Protection Act to ensure the protection of the environment while also enhancing Georgia's agricultural economy in the Lower Flint River basin during times of extreme drought. This preventive measure will strengthen the state's legal defenses to challenges by third-party activist groups and neighboring states. While the bill does not directly affect water users outside of the Flint, the interests and economies of different regions of the state are interconnected. Passage of SB 213 demonstrates Georgia's responsible management of water resources and enhances our economic development efforts in the lower Flint River region.  

House Bill 714: Providing Uniformity in Unemployment Benefits Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard House Bill 714 sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton (Cumming) seeks to ensure uniformity in unemployment benefits qualifications for educational institution employees statewide. Under current law, public educational institution workers are not allowed to receive unemployment benefits during the summer, holiday and other temporary breaks. However, some private companies, as third-party vendors, encourage and train their employees to file for unemployment benefits during such breaks. The Chamber supports 714 to prevent these select companies from using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system to supplement employee salaries, while all other Georgia employers pay between $8 million and $10 million annually.  

House Bill 958: Competitiveness Initiative Legislation Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard House Bill 958 sponsored by Rep. Chad Nimmer (Blackshear) was created as a result of Governor Deal's Competitiveness Initiative, which was co-chaired by the Georgia Chamber, and would enact a number of measures related to revenue and taxation.  It provides a state income tax credit for qualified entertainment production companies (film, video or digital); an exemption from state sales taxes for qualified food banks; a sales tax holiday for energy efficient or water efficient products; and extends the sales tax exemption on construction materials used in competitive projects of regional significance (determined by the Department of Economic Development).

Senate Bill 125: Liability of Owners/Occupier of Land; Codify the Duty of a Possessor of Land to a Trespasser Against Harm Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard Senate Bill 125 sponsored by Sen. Jesse Stone (Waynesboro) offers landowners liability protection against lawsuits brought upon by trespassers that were unintentionally harmed and injured on the property. The Chamber believes this legislation is an essential tool to protect property owners from unfair and unwarranted litigation brought by criminals.

House Bill 348: Tax Incentive for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Chamber Position: Support House Bill 348 sponsored by Rep. Don Parsons (Marietta) provides an income tax credit for Georgia companies that purchase new alternative fuel vehicles or the conversion of existing medium and heavy duty vehicles, and helps businesses that have fleets of vehicles throughout the state.  

House Bill 697: Expanding Zell Miller HOPE Grant Tuition for Technical College Students Chamber Position: Support House Bill 697 sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans (Smyrna) expands the Zell Miller HOPE Grant program to provide full tuition for technical college students in technical certificate and diploma programs with a GPA of 3.5 or greater.  This will allow more Georgians to receive the training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.  

House Bill 782: Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014 Chamber Position: Support House Bill 782, the Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (Monroe) seeks to give relief to utility responders in times of natural disasters or emergencies that impact the state’s infrastructure.  The bill would provide tax relief for workers who cross state lines to assist repairing infrastructure in the case of a declared disaster or emergency called by the Governor or President. The bill would also exempt infrastructure companies that enter the state during the disaster from various licensing, unemployment insurance and net/gross receipt or income taxes.   

House Bill 809: Prohibiting Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement Chamber Position: Support House Bill 809 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (Monroe) amends the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act to prohibit Patent Assertion Entities, or "patent trolls," from making bad-faith assertions of patent infringement, essentially giving targeted companies a new tool to fight back against these practices.  

House Bill 933: Making Permanent the Sales Tax Exemption for Parts or Equipment Used in the Maintenance or Repair of Aircraft Chamber Position: Support House Bill 933 sponsored by Rep. Alex Atwood (Brunswick) removes the sunset for the sales tax exemption on parts and equipment used in the maintenance or repair of certain aircraft, and benefits the many aviation companies in Georgia.  

House Bill 755: Revising Definition of Forest Land Fair Market Value Chamber Position: Support House Bill 755 sponsored by Jay Powell (Camilla) would provide for a revised definition of forest land fair market value and address the appeal process.  

House Resolution 1573: To Create a Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding House Resolution 1573 sponsored by Rep. Jay Roberts (Ocilla) with the support of Sen. Steve Gooch (Dahlonega) creates a Joint Legislative Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding.  The study committee will meet over the summer of 2014 and includes members of the House, Senate, and private sector, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Transportation Alliance. The committee will produce legislative recommendations on transportation funding for consideration in the 2015 legislative session.

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