Early this spring, the Georgia General Assembly suspended the session on March 13 due to COVID-19. They reconvened on June 15 to complete the remaining 11 legislative days. The legislature adjourned on Friday, June 26 shortly after approving the state’s 2021 fiscal year $26 billion budget that included $2 billion in budget cuts due to the loss in state revenue caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
At last year’s annual Eggs & Issues breakfast, we presented the 2020 Savannah Area Chamber State Legislative Agenda. Below is a list of those legislative priorities that, with the assistance of our legislative delegation, we were able to navigate through the legislative process and have them land on Governor Kemp’s desk for final approval.
Specific Legislative Priorities:
Support State funding to begin the much-needed expansion of the Savannah Convention Center.
- HB 793 FY 2021 State Budget
- HB 793 included $70M towards the Savannah Convention Center expansion project
Support legislation that provides meaningful tax and regulatory relief to existing small businesses.
- House Bill 276 Sales Tax for Online Marketing
- HB 276 This bill seeks to collect sales tax from online and third-party platforms selling retail products, leveling the playing field for Georgia-based retailers while increasing tax revenue for the state.
Support proactive military legislation that seeks to protect and expand Georgia’s military installations and grow this important statewide economic driver.
- House Bill 914: Military Spouse Licensure
- HB 914 would provide reciprocity to military and National Guard spouses who are licensed in other states. It would allow spouses who practice certain professions and occupations to obtain a license by endorsement to continue practicing in our state. HB 914 presents a reciprocal licensing process similar to other states and circumvents obstacles to military spouses, and HB 914 will help these families to begin working upon relocation.
Support state funding and tax credits for the continual development of the Savannah Logistics Technology Corridor, to include logistics technology job training, an innovation center, and incentives to develop the Savannah area into the global center of logistics innovation.
- House Resolution 935: Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics
- HR 935 reauthorizes the Freight and Logistics Commission for another year. The commission met four times across the state in 2019 to study Georgia’s future freight growth and its impacts on our economic future. This reauthorization will allow the Freight and Logistics Commission to continue its work to provide transportation solutions in Georgia.
Support funding and state policies that will have a positive impact on healthcare for the citizens of Georgia and that positively impact medical education, support for increased funding for mental health, access to healthcare throughout the state of Georgia and adequate funding of Medicaid and the State Health Benefit Plan.
- House Bill 888: Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act
- HB 888 intends to prevent people from receiving high hospital bills when they are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network doctors in an emergency situation.
- House Bill 957: Charter School Employee Health Insurance
- HB 957 provides that qualified charter school teachers and employees to be included in the health insurance fund for public school teachers.
- Senate Bill 303: Georgia Right to Shop Act; greater transparency of prices for nonemergency healthcare services
- SB 303 would allow a consume to ask an insurance company to disclose to the consumer the out of pocket expenses for medical procedures.
Support Georgia Southern University’s two Board of Regents approved capital requests totaling $7.5M to convert existing under-utilized space into Student Success and Mentoring Centers at the Armstrong ($4.5M) and Statesboro ($3M) campuses.
- HB 793 FY 2021 State Budget
- HB 793 included $3M for the renovation of the Georgia Southern Williams Center (Statesboro Campus), $4.5m for the renovation of the Georgia Southern Memorial College Center (Armstrong Campus).
Other bills of interest to the business community:
House Bill 167: Georgia Pandemic Protection Act
HB 167 limits liability for businesses and health care providers if workers or customers contract COVID-19 unless they engage in gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct or intentional infliction of harm.
House Bill 426: Georgia Hate Crimes Bill
HB 426 provides sentencing guidelines for anyone found guilty of intentionally targeting a victim because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.
House Bill 1037: Film Tax Credit
HB 1037 requires an audit of productions that receive the Georgia film tax credits but eliminated provisions in the measure that would have expanded the $800 million-a-year program.