On Wednesday, March 29, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. This completes the 2023 state legislative session and marks the start of the 40 days Governor Brian Kemp has to either sign or veto all passed legislation. Legislation that didn’t pass will be carried over to the second half of the biennial General Assembly starting January 8, 2024.
Below is an update on several pieces of legislation that pertain to the Savannah Chamber’s 2023 legislative agenda.
HB 18 is the state’s midyear budget. It passed the House and the Senate. Gov. Kemp signed the bill on March 10. HB 18 includes two items on the Savannah Chamber’s legislative Agenda: $2M for the current expansion of the Savannah Convention Center and an additional $18M in intermodal aid to the airports in the state, taking the funding from $26M to $44M. Each Georgia public school will receive a $50,000 safety grant. HB 18 also provides that homeowners receive an extra one-time exemption on the value of their homes which, on average, will save each Georgia homeowner $500.
HB 19: The state’s $32.4 billion budget for FY 2024 passed the House and Senate on the 40th and last day of the legislative session. Gov. Kemp will sign the bill at a later date. HB 19 includes the final $8M needed to complete the Savannah Convention Center expansion. HB 19 has $1.690M for renovations at the Armstrong Center and Health Professional Building for a new medical campus of the Medical College of Georgia at the Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus in Savannah. HB 19 gives state law enforcement officers $4,000-$6,000 raises, and teachers and state employees would receive a $2,000 raise. The $2000 raise in teacher salaries will bring the average teacher salary in Georgia to $61,000 a year, the highest in the Southeast.
HB 514, the Housing Regulation Transparency Act, The House and Senate could not agree on HB 514. 2023 is the first year of the two-year biennium session. So, HB 514, not receiving final passage this year, will remain eligible for consideration next year. HB 514 does align with the Savannah Chamber’s position on assisting endeavors to construct, renovate, and acquire affordable housing by waiving fees for affordable housing development. HB 514 allows local governments to waive regulatory costs of developing and building single-family housing of less than 2,500 sq feet. HB 514 also states that if a city or county intends to adopt a moratorium on residential development, it will be limited to 180 days in length and may not be extended or renewed until 180 days have passed.
HB 538, Georgia Early Literacy Act, requires schools to revamp how they teach reading in kindergarten through third grade, and it would overhaul teacher certification and training. HB 538 passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s approval. The Georgia Early Literacy Act calls for high-quality instructional materials aligned to the science of reading, defined as research that identifies evidence-based approaches. These terms are core to a movement that seeks a heavier dose of phonics and other techniques and strategies endorsed by a panel convened by the U.S. Congress more than a quarter century ago.
SB 112, The Workforce EXCELeration Act, stalled in House Rules Committee and never made it to the House floor for a vote. 2023 is the first year of the two-year biennium session. So, SB 112, not receiving final passage this year, will remain eligible for consideration next year. SB 112 would establish a pilot program for individuals who have previously dropped out of school and will provide the needed resources to further their education. This bill creates a pathway for non-traditional students to gain the skills and training necessary to enter the workforce in hopes of helping to address our statewide labor challenges. The program is for individuals at least 21 years of age who would become eligible to receive a Georgia high school diploma upon completion. Additionally, this program would alleviate traditional burdens for adult learners, such as childcare, transportation, and financial challenges.
SB 195 The Freedom to Work Act, The House and Senate could not agree on SB 195. 2023 is the first year of the two-year biennium session. So, SB 195 not receiving final passage this year will remain eligible for consideration next year. SB 195 creates an expedited licensing process of 30 days (from the previous 90 days) for military personnel and spouses. SB 195, passed out of the Senate Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee, aligns explicitly with the Savannah Chamber’s long-held position to support proactive military legislation.
Several pieces of local legislation that passed both the House and Senate are awaiting the Governor’s signature:
HB 702 increases the compensation of the Savannah Chatham County School Board to $25,000 a year for each member, and it would increase the compensation of the Savannah Chatham County School Board Chair to $35,000. HB 702 passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s approval.
HB 703 limits the Alderman of the City of Savannah to three consecutive four-year terms of office in the same district or the same at-large post. Any term to which an alderman was elected before July 1, 2023, will not count toward these limits. HB 703 passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s approval.
HB 718 raises the Hotel/Motel lodging tax in Savannah from 6% to 8% per dollar. Because of the increase, state law requires that 15% of the Hotel/Motel tax be used for tourism development products. HB 718 passed both the House and the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s approval.