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March 25, 2016

2016 Legislative Policy Update

MAC Closes Out Successful Legislative Session

Much of this legislative session was spent defending Georgia’s brand as the number one place to do business. MAC made good progress on expanding transit and worked to oppose legislation that would create a perception of discrimination in our state. The Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757), passed on March 16 by the Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia Senate, was vetoed on March 28 by Gov. Deal. We applaud Gov. Deal’s decision to veto the potentially damaging legislation. His thoughtful deliberation and consideration ensures that Georgia maintains its reputation as a business-friendly climate for job growth and opportunity for all people.

Several bills will improve our workforce pipeline by increasing access to early training or “dual enrollment” programs for juniors and seniors in high school passed during the session. The bills will reduce the overall number of standardized state tests for students in primary grades. To encourage more students to enroll in STEM college courses, the bills will also increase the weight of STEM classes in determining a graduating student’s HOPE scholarship eligibility.

Our economic development partners will benefit from the renewal of the “Projects of Regional Significance” sales and use tax exemption, increased funding for Invest Georgia, removal of barriers for foreign nationals seeking driver’s licenses and other tax credit measures.

Finally, the General Assembly approved a sales tax waiver on tickets to non-recurring major sporting events, which is a crucial element to the city’s ability to secure the Super Bowl and other major sporting events such as College Football Championships, Final Fours and MLB and NBA All-Star games.

hala Hala Moddelmog President & CEO Metro Atlanta Chamber


HB 171 DID NOT PASS Ban of Foreign Law in Georgia Courts (Rep. Dusty Hightower) HB 171 would render inapplicable some types of foreign law from use in Georgia court.  The substitute approaches the concern from a different angle and gives a judge discretion that before he or she releases a case to an out-of-state jurisdiction, he or she must consider whether the jurisdiction allows the same protections of a US citizen.

HB 751 PASSED Fiscal Year 2017 Budget (Speaker David Ralston) Recognizing the importance of improving our business climate and increasing funding for early and growth stage businesses, the General Assembly approved $10 million for the Invest Georgia fund bringing the fund total to $20 million.

HB 757 VETOED Free Exercise Protection Act  (Rep. Kevin Tanner) HB 757 creates grounds for a person or faith based organization to contend that religious beliefs justify the denial of employment, goods or services to others.  It also clarifies that clergy will not be forced to perform a marriage ceremony they find objectionable.

HB 935 PASSED Properties Eligible for Freeport Exemption (Rep. Brett Harrell) HB 935 expands the number of fulfillment center properties that are eligible for a freeport exemption from ad valorem tax.

HB 936 PASSED Quality Job Tax Credit (Rep. Brett Harrell) HB 936 expands the types of jobs that would qualify for a quality job tax credit.  In addition, it creates a tax credit for employers who hire certain qualified parolees for full-time jobs.

HB 937 PASSED Projects of Regional Significance (Rep. Brett Harrell) HB 937 extends two tax code sunsets.  First, it extends the current sales and use tax exemption for construction projects of regional significance from 2016 to 2019. In addition, the bill extends an existing tax credit on rental cars.

HB 951 PASSED Major Sporting Event Ticket Sales Tax Exemption (Rep. Chad Nimmer) HB 951 eliminates the state sales taxes on Super Bowl tickets as well as other major non-recurring sporting events expected to generate at least $50 million in other revenue, including all-star games for professional baseball, soccer and basketball and national college tournament finals or championships. The bill also renews the state’s sales tax holidays on the purchase of school supplies and energy efficient appliances.

HB 1060 VETOED Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act (Rep. Rick Jasperse) HB 1060 is a gun cleanup bill from the 2014 legislation.  The cleanup language provides weapons carry license holders from outside of Georgia with reciprocity for 90 days after moving to Georgia and lessens certain restrictions on the possession of firearms.  It also creates new policy which makes it illegal for a financial services company to discriminate against a business engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms or ammunition products.

SB 6 DID NOT PASS Driver's License Restriction Bill (Sen. Josh McKoon) SB 6 bans Georgia driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Advocates recipients.  The substitute creates “driver’s privilege cards” and “special identification cards” for immigrants who have received deportation deferrals or work permits through this program.  Those who have a current valid driver’s license are grandfather in until expiration – they are then subject to the provisions of the bill.  The state would use different colors and fonts to distinguish them from standard Georgia driver’s licenses and ID cards.  The card would carry the label: “No lawful status,” and would be valid during the length of the immigrant’s deferred action status or five years, whichever comes sooner.

SB 277 PASSED Protecting Georgia Small Businesses Act (Sen. John Albers) SB 277 clarifies that neither a franchisee nor a franchisee’s employee be considered employees of the franchisor, highlighting this difference in Georgia law.

SB 320 PASSED Additional ID for Foreign Driver's License  (Sen. Ben Watson) SB 320 revises state law on the regulation of taxi services and removes the requirement for an international driver’s license.  Instead, it allows law enforcement officials to require a second form of identification for anyone possessing a foreign driver’s license to ensure the validity of that license.

SB 323 PASSED Open Records Exemption for Economic Development (Sen. Mike Dugan) SB 323 expands an existing exemption to the Department of Economic Development from open records laws to include all agencies involved in an economic development project.  The extension for the other agencies remains while the project is confidential.

SR 675 DID NOT PASS English as the Official Language of Georgia (Sen. Josh McKoon) SR 675 proposes an amendment to the Constitution to authorize English as the official language of the State of Georgia.  It requires that all official actions of the state which bind or commit Georgia’s official views be made in English.


HB 22 DID NOT PASS HOPE Scholarship Full Tuition (Rep. Stacey Evans) HB 22 aligns the cost of tuition for students enrolled in the Technical College System of Georgia with HOPE Grant awards and reduces out-of-pocket expenses. The bill‘s intent is to retain students who otherwise might not be able to afford to complete their education.

HB 402 PASSED Work Based Learning Opportunities Incentives (Rep. Eddie Lumsden) HB 402 provides a Workers’ Compensation discount for employers that offer work-based learning opportunities to students between 16 and 18 years of age. The workplace incentive is intended to close Georgia’s skills gap, to teach young people soft skills and to increase career awareness.

HB 801 PASSED HOPE Weighting for STEM Curriculum (Rep. Jan Jones) HB 801 expands the weighting for STEM-focused classes to be included similar to Advanced Placement classes for the purposes of calculating HOPE scholarship eligibility.

HB 859 VETOED Campus Carry Bill (Rep. Rick Jasperse) HB 859 allows anyone 21 or older with a weapons carry license to carry a concealed gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events.

SB 329 VETOED: High School Diploma for In Demand Workforce Needs (Sen. Lindsey Tippins) SB 329 amends the Quality Basic Education Act to award a high school diploma to certain students who meet existing requirements and work in an industry or have the requisite skills for a workforce need identified by the Technical College System of Georgia.

SB 355 VETOED: Student Opt Out (Sen. William Ligon) SB 355 ends certain punitive measures for students not taking standardized tests and allows for medical provisions for exemption.

SB 364 PASSED: Reduction in Teacher Evaluations (Sen. Lindsey Tippins) SB 364 changes the evaluation and testing system for teachers and offers schools the chance to reduce the total amount of overall student testing.


HB 116 and SB 36 DID NOT PASS Ban on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (Rep. Alex Atwood, Sen. Bill Ligon) HB 116 and SB 36 attempt to ban aquifer storage and recovery in the Floridian aquifer. In 2015, the House created a study committee on Saltwater Intrusion in the Coastal Aquifer which was HR 601.

SB 330 DID NOT PASS MARTA Expansion Bill (Sen. Brandon Beach) SB 330 allows for a ballot initiative in Dekalb and Fulton counties that, if approved, would raise the sales tax by a half percent to fund at least three major MARTA expansion projects.

SB 369 PASSED MARTA Expansion Compromise Bill (Sen. Jeff Mullis) SB 369 allows for a ballot initiative in the City of Atlanta that, if approved, would raise the sales tax by a half percent to fund MARTA expansion projects.

SB 420 PASSED Local Referendum for Fixed Guideway Transit (Sen. Lindsay Tippins) SB 420 requires a local referendum before any fixed guideway transit is approved by the government.  It exempts the current MARTA counties.

HR 1622 and SR 1097 PASSED Both the House and Senate passed a resolution recognizing the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District for its diligent work for the past 15 years to make metropolitan Atlanta one of the most water efficient regions in the nation.


HR 827 PASSED (Rep. Matt Ramsey) House Study Committee on the Preservation of the HOPE Scholarship Program

HR 1605 PASSED ( Rep. Chuck Martin) House Study Committee on Regional Transit Solutions

SR 360 PASSED (Sen. Brandon Beach) Senate Data Security and Privacy Study Committee

SR 883 PASSED (Sen. Brandon Beach) Joint Study Committee on Industry Incentives for Financial Technologies and Payment Processing Industry

SR 1001 PASSED (Sen. Fran Millar) Study Committee on Higher Education Affordability

SR 1132 PASSED (Sen. Brandon Beach) Senate Study Committee on Venture Capital Investments in Georgia which will include an employee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber

SR 1509 PASSED (Sen. Bruce Thompson) Senate Study Committee on Nonembryonic and Nonfetal Cell Therapy

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