On Wednesday, March 31, the 2021 session of the Georgia General Assembly ended. MAC’s public policy team worked on many legislative issues this session and achieved a number of successes.
Numerous pieces of legislation were introduced this year, but election bills drew the most attention both inside and outside the state capitol. The moment election reform became a topic this legislative session, our business community engaged. For more, read our most recent statement in response to the passage of Senate Bill 202.
Among other bills is the historic passage of House Bill 479, which repeals and replaces Georgia’s 150-year-old citizen’s arrest statute. Sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) and Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), the bill closes legal loopholes that could be used to justify future acts of vigilantism and ensures that private businesses and law enforcement retain the ability to temporarily detain lawbreakers when necessary and appropriate. It does not infringe on private citizens’ rights to defend themselves under existing self-defense statutes. If signed by the governor, Georgia will become the first state to repeal its citizen’s arrest statute. This legislation builds on the 2020 passage of Georgia’s hate crimes law and is a result of the collaborative efforts of many partners.
Another highlight of the session is the passage of Senate Bill 105, carried by Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) and Rep. Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen). This bill clarifies the 2017 probation reforms and streamlines the various processes for early termination of probation. It will reduce barriers to employment and housing, reduce crime and recidivism costs, and help our economy and communities thrive.
House Bill 112 received final approval, and it renews legislation establishing gross negligence as the legal standard relating to COVID-19 for any business that opens its doors. This bill, carried by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) and Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), does not provide blanket immunity but does provide heightened protections for businesses that don’t act recklessly.
Gov. Brian Kemp has 40 consecutive days to sign or veto all legislation. For a more detailed look at the bills our team followed this session, including their final status, please refer to the list below. All legislation that did not pass will be available for consideration again next year.
We are grateful to Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, certain members of the General Assembly, legislative staff and our many partners at the Capitol for their hard work this session.
The General Assembly is expected to reconvene later this year for a special session to draw new district maps using 2020 Census data. We will keep our members informed along the way.
Marshall Guest, SVP, Public Policy and Business Climate
Dave Williams, SVP, Public Policy, Infrastructure, and Government Affairs
SB 10 (Sen. Emanuel Jones) - creates new criminal offenses and penalties associated with drag racing. DID NOT PASS
SB 33 (Sen. Clint Dixon) - provides victims of human trafficking a civil cause of action against perpetrators and gives the Attorney General a cause of action against perpetrators of human trafficking in certain circumstances. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 34 (Sen. Clint Dixon) - allows human trafficking victims to change their legal name without the usually required public ad in their legal organ. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 63 (Sen. Matt Brass)/HB 229 (Rep. Kasey Carpenter) - prohibits digital application distribution platforms from requiring app developers to use an in-application payment system as the exclusive mode of accepting payment. DID NOT PASS
SB 142/SR 135 (Sen. Jeff Mullis) - if approved by voter referendum, this constitutional amendment and accompanying enabling legislation would legalize online mobile sports betting with revenue being directed to needs-based aid, rural healthcare, and broadband expansion. Permits collegiate sports betting excluding Georgia colleges and universities. DID NOT PASS
SB 166 (Sen. Bill Cowsert) - requires prospective jurors to fill out a questionnaire instead of being questioned in open court about a relationship they might have with an insurance company that might have a financial impact on the case. DID NOT PASS
SB 189 (Sen. Bill Cowsert) - sets forth circumstances in which a court must split up a trial into two phases: liability and damages. DID NOT PASS
SB 190 (Sen. Bill Cowsert) - limits recovery and admissibility of special damages for medical and health care expenses to amount actually paid by providers. DID NOT PASS
SB 266 (Sen. Marty Harbin) - prevents transgender girls from playing on an all-girls team in public schools as well as private schools when competing against public schools. DID NOT PASS
HR 30 (Rep. Ron Stephens) - if approved by voter referendum, this constitutional amendment would allow casinos to operate in Georgia. DID NOT PASS
HB 86 (Rep. Ron Stephens) - legalizes online mobile sports betting. Revenue would be directed to the HOPE scholarship and pre-K funding. This bill does not include collegiate sports betting. DID NOT PASS
HB 112 (Rep. Trey Kelley) - renews legislation establishing gross negligence as the legal standard relating to COVID-19 for any business that opens its doors. This bill does not provide blanket immunity, but does provide heightened protections for businesses that don’t act recklessly. The legislation will expire July 14, 2022. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 146 (Rep. Houston Gaines) - provides all state employees with three weeks of paid parental leave. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 276 (Rep. Philip Singleton) - prevents transgender girls from playing on an all-girls team in public high schools, and private high schools competing against public high schools, as well as college sports. DID NOT PASS
HB 327 (Rep. Martin Momtahan) - creates the offense of "organized retail theft" to address acute challenges with stolen goods, fraudulent returns, and gift card scams. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 372 (Rep. Rick Jasperse) - prevents transgender girls from playing on an all-girls team in public high schools and creates a panel of physicians to examine the genetic makeup of transgender girls who petition for the right to participate in sports. DID NOT PASS
HB 389 (Rep. Todd Jones) - establishes new criteria for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. DID NOT PASS
HB 401 (Rep. Ginny Ehrhart) - makes it a felony for doctors to administer treatment or a medical procedure to a minor undergoing transgender transition. DID NOT PASS
HB 479 (Rep. Bert Reeves) - repeals and replaces Georgia’s 150-year-old Citizen’s Arrest Statute, closes legal loopholes that could be used to justify future acts of vigilantism, and ensures that private businesses and law enforcement retain the ability to temporarily detain lawbreakers when necessary and appropriate; does not infringe on private citizens’ rights to defend themselves under existing self-defense statutes. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 511 (Rep. Bert Reeves) - dedicates certain fees to their stated purpose. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 534 (Rep. Josh Bonner) - creates new criminal offenses and penalties associated with drag racing. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 536 (Rep. Dominic LaRiccia) - limits the Governor’s emergency powers so that the exercise of religious freedom cannot be restricted during an emergency or disaster. DID NOT PASS
HB 714 (Rep. Trey Kelley) - sets forth new requirements for settlement offers in personal or bodily injury cases and death cases; also allows for bad faith uninsured motorist claims to be 25% of the recovery or $25K, whichever is greater. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 47 (Sen. Steve Gooch) - increases options for Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship for pre-K through 12 grade to include students with certain 504 plans. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 66 (Sen. Jason Anavitarte) - moves certain K-12 turnaround school grant funds from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 81 (Sen. Jeff Mullis) - allows institutions at the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to carry forward certain unexpended revenues into the next fiscal year. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 88 (Sen. Russ Goodman) - helps grow the teacher pipeline throughout recruitment, mentorship, and retention. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 105 (Sen. Brian Strickland) - streamlines various processes for early termination of probation so that more people benefit from legislative changes made in 2017 and re-enter the workforce. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 220 (Sen. Chuck Payne) - creates the Georgia Commission on Civics Education, on which the Metro Atlanta Chamber would serve. DID NOT PASS
SR 154 (Sen. Nan Orrock) - creates a joint study committee on strengthening Georgia’s future workforce by assessing the need for a state sponsored needs-based aid program. DID NOT PASS
HB 60 (Rep. Wes Cantrell) - creates an Education Savings Account program that moves state funding to private or at-home education for K-12 students. DID NOT PASS
HB 81 (Speaker David Ralston) - the fiscal year 2022 budget includes $3.5 million for the Child and Parent Support (CAPS) which will boost state resources for working parents who need quality childcare options. The budget also includes $125,000 for a pilot program covering the cost of AP exams for computer science and $344,000 for K-12 computer science education. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 120 (Rep. Kasey Carpenter) - allows Georgia’s DACA students to receive in-state tuition at Georgia colleges and universities. DID NOT PASS
HB 330 (Rep. Bill Werkheiser) - eliminates the driver’s license reinstatement fee for those that can’t afford it, helping them re-enter the workforce. DID NOT PASS
SB 202 (Sen. Max Burns) - standardizes advance voting hours to 9am-5pm (with the option to extend to 7am-7pm); requires two weekend advance voting days and allows two more advance voting days; authorizes drop boxes for the first time in Georgia law but regulates how many can be deployed per county and where they are located; implements new ID requirements for absentee ballot applications; allows poll workers to serve in counties adjacent to their county of residence; requires poll watchers to receive training. SIGNED INTO LAW
Read the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s statement on elections legislation here.
In November, the Metro Atlanta Chamber launched its REFRESH working group to update and modernize the Georgia state code. The status of REFRESH recommendations is below.
SB 168 (Sen. Larry Walker) - allows Georgia business corporations to hold shareholder meetings virtually, even after the Governor’s emergency powers are lifted. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 169 (Sen. Larry Walker) - allows construction surety bonds to be transacted remotely rather than in-person using an electronic signature and corporate seal. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 98 (Rep. Eddie Lumsden) - allows public meetings to be held virtually, even after the Governor’s emergency. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 236 (Sen. Matt Brass) - allows sealed mixed drinks to be sold by restaurants for off-premises consumption. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 306 (Rep. Stan Gunter) - allows Georgia business corporations and nonprofit corporations to hold shareholder meetings virtually, even after the Governor’s emergency powers are lifted. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 334 (Rep. Joseph Gullett) - authorizes the use of online notary services. DID NOT CROSS
HB 553 (Rep. Stan Gunter) - allows witnesses in legal proceedings to participate virtually. DID NOT CROSS
SB 1 (Sen. Dean Burke) - compels employers with a self-insured health plan to provide health claims data to the state’s All-Payer Claims Database in order to receive certain tax credits. DID NOT PASS
SB 6 (Sen. John Albers) - exempts fine arts tickets from sales tax, allowing the vendor to retain that income thereby supporting the arts community. This bill also adds new reporting requirements for companies that take the high tech sales tax exemption, and sunsets the exemption in 2023. The bill also provides tax incentives including for the production of medicines and medical devices in Georgia and for high-impact aerospace defense projects. Additionally, the bill renews an economic development incentive for two years that allows the state to waive the sales tax collections on construction materials for competitive projects of regional significance. Finally, it creates a process for reviewing a handful of tax credits on an annual basis. SIGNED INTO LAW
SB 148 (Sen. Chuck Hufstetler) - creates a special council made up of business leaders, economists and others to recommend changes to the state’s tax structure. DID NOT PASS
SB 185 (Sen. Bo Hatchett) - levels the playing field for taxpayers and establishes fairness in cases before the Georgia Tax Tribunal. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 265 (Rep. David Knight) - updates Georgia’s Internal Revenue Code to align with federal tax law changes. This bill clarifies that expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans are considered deductible and not income, which aligns with the federal tax code. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 317 (Rep. Ron Stephens) - imposes state and local taxes on short-term rental properties. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 428 (Rep. Chuck Martin) - adds a reporting requirement for the high technology sales tax exemption. DID NOT PASS
HB 477 (Rep. Sam Watson) - removes the sales tax exemption on jet fuel. DID NOT PASS
HB 593 (Rep. Shaw Blackmon) - called the Tax Relief Act of 2021, this bill increases the standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 594 (Rep. Kasey Carpenter) - imposes a sales tax on digital goods like e-books, video games, apps and other items. The most recent version of the legislation did not tax SaaS software. DID NOT PASS
TRANSPORTATION and INFRASTRUCTURE
SB 52 (Sen. Bruce Thompson) - establishes safe harbor provisions for companies that implement minimum cybersecurity controls. DID NOT PASS
SR 102 (Sen. Steve Gooch) - creates the Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding to study policy related to freight and logistics. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 134 (Rep. Victor Anderson) - exclude meetings relating to cybersecurity contracting and planning from open meeting requirements. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 150 (Rep. Bruce Williamson) - prohibits cities and counties from adopting policies that prohibit the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon the type or source of energy or fuel. SIGNED INTO LAW
HB 608 (Rep. Bill Werkheiser) - updates and clarifies parts of the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative, which was created in 2018, to help private companies secure grants to help deploy broadband. DID NOT PASS
SB 8 (Sen. Jeff Mullis)/HB 76 (Rep. John Carson) - eliminates the percentage of ownership EMCs may hold in a gas marketer. DID NOT PASS
HB 81 (Speaker David Ralston) - the fiscal year 2022 budget includes funding for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. SIGNED INTO LAW