Georgia’s 2017 legislative session concluded just after midnight on March 31. While the final results were mixed, they were generally positive.
Measures advancing MAC’s legislative priorities fared well, in the key areas of business climate, education/workforce, transportation and environment. MAC’s public policy team worked hard to ensure legislative proposals didn’t harm key industries such as ride-sharing, payment processing, logistics, and hotel lodging. Our team helped successfully suppress several attempts to advance religious discrimination in Georgia, in the form of new legislation and amendments to bills.
Tax issues dominated the session, with the passage of several important tax measures, including the Quality Jobs tax credit, an Enterprise Zone to support infrastructure in downtown Atlanta, and music production incentives.
Positive progress was made in Education and Workforce this session, including:
- The First Priority Act, creating a Turnaround Officer and coaches to assist our most challenged public schools,
- A series of education bills helping our military families and children,
- Other advances including – HOPE grant expansion for dual enrolled students, increased flexibility for reading and math assessments in early grades, and a grant fund to implement proven school improvement programs in our most challenged schools.
There were several transportation wins, including the creation of additional financing options for major road projects, and new flexibility for counties to approve TSPLOSTs. While actual funding for transit was deferred, the House approved a transit study committee and $1 million was included in the budget for transit study support.
For a more thorough summary of this session’s bills, please refer to the document that follows.
President & CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber
The Metro Atlanta Chamber Supported the Following Bills:
HB 93 ENERGY Star and WaterSense (Rep. John Corbett) DID NOT PASS – extends the sunset for the sales tax holiday on ENERGY Star and WaterSense appliances. Also, bill allows businesses to have direct payment permits to remit sales and use taxes to Department of Revenue.
HB 145 Aviation Fuel Tax Policy Change (Rep. John Carson) DID NOT PASS – Revises the tax policy for the sale of aviation fuel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Purchasers of aviation fuel for interstate flights would pay 45% of the 4% state sales tax rate.
HB 155 The Georgia Musical Investment Act (Rep. Amy Carter) PASSED – Creates an income tax credit for certain expenditures by a production company on state certified musical or theatrical productions.
HB 192 The Business Judgement Rule (Rep. Beth Beskin) PASSED – Establishes gross negligence as the standard by which an officer/director may be held personally responsible for the process by which their decision was made.
HB 199 Georgia Entertainment Industry Post-production Investment Act (Rep. Trey Rhodes) PASSED – This legislation enhances Georgia’s film and video game tax credits, particularly for post-production.
HB 243 Local Government Preemption (Rep. Bill Werkheiser) PASSED – Preempts local governments from levying fines on business for scheduling changes to employee’s schedule.
HB 265 Quality Jobs Tax Credit (Rep. Chuck Efstration) PASSED – Allows the tax credit to be used by businesses already receiving the credit to now use it for expansions or for the creation of new quality jobs in the state, which is currently prohibited. Also adds a sales tax exemption for tickets purchased for admissions to fine arts performances, and allows for a sales tax exemption on construction materials for renovation of facilities that include the Alliance Theatre.
HB 342 Downtown Atlanta Enterprise Zone (Rep. Chuck Efstration) PASSED – Creates a sales and use tax exemption for urban redevelopment areas designated as enterprise zones (minimum investment of $400 million).
SB 2 The FAST Act (Sen. Mike Dugan) DID NOT PASS – expedites the licensing and permitting process for small businesses, by removing duplicate and needless regulations. Bill will provide for the imposition of fees on entities that issue licenses or permits, if they delay the return of important documentation.
Education & Workforce
HB 237 Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation (Rep. Brooks Coleman) PASSED - Authorizes the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation to receive private donations to be used for grants to public schools for school improvement. The tax credits would be capped at $5 million until 2021.
HB 338 The First Priority Act (Rep. Kevin Tanner) PASSED – Creates the Education Advisory Council and Chief Turnaround Officer and Turnaround Coaches who will work with the lowest performing five percent of public schools to enact turnaround strategies for school improvement.
HB 430 Governor’s Education Reform Commission Charter Schools (Rep. Buzz Brockway) PASSED – Enacts the provisions of the Governor's Education Reform Commission and clarifies language as related to charter schools and local school board governance of charter school finances and property.
SB 3 The CONNECT Act (Sen. Lindsey Tippins) DID NOT PASS – Provides high school students additional opportunities to obtain industry credentials aligned with critical workforce needs; establishes a grant program to support workforce initiatives and teacher training required for credentialing programs; includes career demand inventories as part of career awareness for middle and high school students. The most recent version includes language from HB 458 allowing speed detection devices in school safety zones.
SB 97 Childcare Subsidy Caps (Sen. Elena Parent) DID NOT PASS - Expands childcare subsidy caps for parents in school full-time.
SB 186 Move on When Ready (Sen. Lindsey Tippins) PASSED – Allows dual enrollment students to be eligible to receive the HOPE Grant to obtain an Associate's degree. Previously, these students would use up their Hope grant eligibility a few credits shy of an Associate's degree and therefore were unable to complete the degree program without other funding sources.
SB 211 Education Assessments (Sen. Lindsey Tippins) PASSED – Instructs the State Board of Education and local school districts to pursue maximum flexibility for assessments as allowed under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Allows for innovation in testing for reading and math skills particularly in early grades.
HB 44 FY ’18 Budget (Speaker David Ralston) PASSED – The FY ’18 budget provides $200,000 for the North Georgia Metropolitan Water Planning District and $1 million for a Transit Study. It also includes $2 million for a Chief Turnaround Officer division which is created under Rep. Kevin Tanner’s first priority legislation and a 2% pay increase for teachers.
HB 134 TSPLOST Enhancements (Rep. Bubber Epps) PASSED – provides greater flexibility to counties to use TSPLOST funds.
HB 150 SRTA Provisions and Financing Options (Rep. Alan Powell) DID NOT PASS – Extends indexing of the state motor fuel tax until 2022.
HB 506 MARTA Procurement (Rep. Tom Taylor) PASSED – Provides MARTA with additional flexibility when selecting retail concession partners to operate at MARTA rail stations.
HR 848 House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding (Rep. Kevin Tanner) PASSED – Both chambers had bills creating commissions with appointees to oversee transit governance. Ultimately neither HB 160 (Rep. Kevin Tanner) not SB 6 (Sen. Steve Gooch) were passed by the other chamber. However, HR 848 did pass the House which creates a House commission on transit.
SB 89 Georgia Freight Rail Program (Sen. David Shafer) DID NOT PASS – Creates a new program within the Georgia Department of Transportation which could be used to provide for the maintenance and rehabilitation of state-owned rail lines.
SB 156 DeKalb County SPLOST Proceeds (Sen. Fran Millar) PASSED – limits DeKalb SPLOST proceeds to transportation and public safety, exempts groceries from sales tax.
SB 183 SRTA Cleanup Bill (Sen. Brandon Beach) PASSED – Creates additional financing mechanism for large roadway projects.
SB 219 Autonomous Vehicle Operations and Liability (Sen. Steve Gooch) PASSED – Establishes minimum operating requirements and liability coverage for autonomous vehicles in Georgia.
SB 251 DeKalb MARTA Referendum (Sen. Gloria Butler) DID NOT PASS - Enabling legislation for DeKalb county to levy a 0.5 percent sales tax to expand MARTA.
MAC WAS NEUTRAL ON THE FOLLOWING BILLS:
HB 158/SB 9/SR 249 Destination Resort Act (Rep. Ron Stephens/ Sen. Brandon Beach) DID NOT PASS – Both bills authorize the licensing of two casino resorts in Georgia. The bills create a Georgia Gaming Commission and lay out its procedures and processes for licenses, suppliers, and employees. The Senate resolution creates the constitutional authority to allow the casinos for the Senate bill.
HB 225 Rideshare Tax Liability (Rep. Jay Powell) DID NOT PASS – Assigns liability to ridesharing services to collect the 4% state transportation services sales tax.
HB 280 Campus Carry (Rep. Mandi Ballinger) PASSED – Allows anyone 21 years and older to possess a concealed licensed handgun on college campuses excluding some preschool spaces, sporting events, disciplinary proceeding rooms/offices and student housing.
HB 329 Tax Reduction/Internet Sales Tax (Rep. Jay Powell) DID NOT PASS – Changes Georgia’s income tax law by replacing the graduated income tax rate with a flat tax of 5.4 percent. In addition, it mandates that a business not physically located in Georgia still pay sales tax if it obtained gross revenue of $250,000 in a previous calendar year or conducted at least 200 retail sales on tangible personal property.
MAC OPPOSED THE FOLLOWING BILLS:
HB 324 Driver’s License Bill (Rep. Alan Powell) DID NOT PASS – Requires the term “noncitizen” to be listed on certain driver’s licenses, permits or identification cards.
SB 233 RFRA (Sen. Marty Harbin) DID NOT PASS – Incorporates the federal Religious Freedom US code section into Georgia code.
Education & Workforce
HB 425 Testing Opt Out (Rep. Joyce Chandler) VETOED – Requires the state School Superintendent, with approval from the State Board of Education, to develop guidelines for schools that will prohibit punitive action against students whose parents opt the student out of state mandated assessments.