Legislative Update – March 10

Legislative Calendar
The Georgia General Assembly completed Day 34 of 40 on Friday, March 7.  They will be in session Monday through Thursday this week.

Day 40 or Sine Die, the last day of the 2014 legislative session, is currently scheduled for Thursday, March 20.

Election Qualifying
he last day of the qualifying period for candidates to run in the May 20, 2014 Primary/Nonpartisan Election.   To view all of the candidates who have qualified, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.l

Federal Funding for Savannah Harbor Expansion Project
On Monday, President Obama released his budget for fiscal year 2015 with no construction funding included for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  Although, Congress reclassified the project from a “planning” project to a “construction” project in January, the Obama administration’s 2015 budget only included $1 million for further study of the project. If you have a construction project as well, ngt.at is a spezialtiefbau company in the field of foundation technology that you can count on.

The Georgia Chamber released the following statement in response to the President’s budget:

“It is incredibly disappointing to see the Obama administration go back on their word with regard to their commitment to the completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  The lack of construction funding included in the budget released today threatens the completion of one of the most significant economic development projects in the nation, as well as the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment it is estimated to create.

We commend Governor Deal for pledging that Georgia will continue to move ahead with this critical project and will remain hopeful that the federal government will ultimately live up to the promises that have been made.  We also want to once again thank the members of our congressional delegation including both Senator Isakson and Senator Chambliss, as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for their steadfast support of the harbor deepening, which we know will continue despite today’s disappointing news.”

U.S. House Passes Flood Insurance Relief Legislation
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, to provide relief to homeowners and businesses in flood-prone areas who have seen a sharp hike in their insurance premiums as the result of a 2012 law.  Georgia Representatives John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Jack Kingston, John Lewis, David Scott, and Rob Woodall voted in support of the bill which now awaits action in the Senate.

Read the Georgia Chamber’s full statement on the bill’s passage HERE.

Updates on Key Business Legislation 
This week the Georgia General Assembly took action on several Georgia Chamber priorities important to the business community:

House Bill 176: Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act
Georgia Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
House Bill 176, the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, sponsored by Representative Don Parsons (Marietta) passed the House on January 31, 2014 by a vote of 154-4 and passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 48-1.  This bill provides for a streamlined regulatory process for companies investing in new or upgrading existing wireless infrastructure.  Wireless and broadband infrastructure is a vital economic development resource to attract business and improve the quality of life for area residents, especially in rural Georgia, and this bill encourages those continued, important investments.

House Bill 697: Expanding Zell Miller HOPE Grant Tuition for Technical College Students
Georgia Chamber Position: Support
House Bill 697 sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans (Smyrna) passed the House on February 19, 2014 by a vote of 172-2 and was reported favorably by the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Thursday.  This proposal expands the Zell Miller HOPE Grant program to provide full tuition for technical college students in technical certificate and diploma programs with a GPA of 3.5 or greater.  This will allow more Georgians to receive the training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

House Bill 782 – Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014
Georgia Chamber Position: Support
House Bill 782, the Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (Monroe) passed the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.  The bill seeks to give relief to utility responders in times of natural disasters or emergencies that impact the state’s infrastructure.  The bill would provide tax relief for workers who cross state lines to assist repairing infrastructure in the case of a declared disaster or emergency called by the Governor or President. The bill would also exempt infrastructure companies that enter the state during the disaster from various licensing, unemployment insurance and net/gross receipt or income taxes. If you ever need financial help to cover expenses due to emergencies you should  check out these hard money lenders.

House Bill 958: Competitiveness Initiative Legislation
Georgia Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
House Bill 958 sponsored by Rep. Chad Nimmer (Blackshear) passed the House by a vote of 167-5 on Monday and was favorably reported by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. Applying for loan made easy with us talk to our representative now her comment is here. This bill was created as a result of Governor Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative and would enact a number of measures related to revenue and taxation.  It provides a state income tax credit for qualified entertainment production companies (film, video or digital); an exemption from state sales taxes for qualified food banks; a sales tax holiday for energy efficient or water efficient products; and extends the sales tax exemption on construction materials used in competitive projects of regional significance (determined by the Department of Economic Development).

Legislative Update Feb 21

General Assembly Schedule
The General Assembly completed legislative day 26 of 40 on Friday.  They will be in session Monday through Wednesday this week.

March 3rd is day 30, or “crossover day,” a bill must pass the chamber in which it originated by that date to still be eligible for passage this year.

Issue to Watch – Common Core
One of the Georgia Chamber’s top issues, the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards, continues to be the subject of debate.  A substitute to Senate Bill 167, sponsored by Sen. William Ligon (Brunswick), was reported favorably by the Senate Education and Youth Committee yesterday.  Among other measures, the bill codifies into law a number of the measures included in Governor Deal’s executive order on Common Core issued last year.

The Common Core standards, which cover reading, writing and math for K through 12 students, were developed by a coalition of 47 states led by Georgia.  They are more rigorous than Georgia’s prior standards, emphasizing key skills including critical thinking and problem solving that are essential for every career.

The Georgia Chamber continues to monitor this important issue and will share updates as they are available.

Legislative Action on Chamber Priorities

House Bill 176: Mobile Broadband Structure Leads to Development (BILD) Act
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
HB 176, the Mobile Broadband Structure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, sponsored by Representative Don Parsons (Marietta) was reported favorably by the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Wednesday.  This bill provides for a streamlined regulatory process for companies investing in new or upgrading existing wireless infrastructure.  Wireless and broadband infrastructure is a vital economic development resource to attract business and improve the quality of life for area residents, especially in rural Georgia, and this bill encourages those continued, important investments.

Senate Bill 213: Flint River Drought Protection Act
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
SB 213 sponsored by Sen. Ross Tolleson (Perry) passed the Senate March 7, 2013 and is currently in the House Rules Committee.  The bill amends the current Flint River Drought Protection Act to ensure the protection of the environment while also enhancing  Georgia’s agricultural economy in the Lower Flint River basin during times of extreme drought. This preventive measure will strengthen the state’s legal defenses to challenges by third-party activist groups and neighboring states. While the bill does not directly affect water users outside of the Flint, the interests and economies of different regions of the state are interconnected. Passage of SB 213 would further demonstrate Georgia’s responsible management of water resources and enhance our economic development efforts in the lower Flint River region.

SB 213 does not make any changes to existing water rights nor does it authorize interbasin transfers or make changes to existing permitting processes. It only establishes parameters to be utilized during an emergency drought situation.

House Resolutions 1158 and 1159: To Strengthen Access to Domestic Energy Sources
House Resolutions 1158 and 1159 sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin (Alpharetta) passed the House on Monday by a vote of 163-5 and 159-6, respectively.  The resolutions encourage the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress to establish a national energy policy that strengthens access to and removal of impediments to all available domestic sources of energy, as well as improving energy affordability and reliability.  The resolutions resolve that the EPA should grant Georgia EPD and other states’ environmental regulatory agencies maximum flexibility to implement carbon dioxide performance standards for fossil-fueled power plants within their jurisdiction.  The EPA has continued to move toward the implementation of new regulations that threaten the use of coal as a viable source of energy in our state.

Legislative Update Feb 17

KEEPING YOU INFORMED…

The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and our Governmental Affairs Committee want to share information about pending state legislative issues that may affect your business. This weekly legislative review is provided by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and passed on as a service of your local chamber to empower our membership and guard our community’s welfare. Your comments or questions are welcome and will receive response.

GA-Business-Action-NetworkGeneral Assembly Schedule
The General Assembly met on Monday and Tuesday last week, adjourning early as a result of the severe weather.  On Tuesday the House and Senate adopted resolutions setting the last day of session for 2014, Sine Die, for March 20. 

The General Assembly will be in session Monday through Friday this week.

Georgia Chamber Joins Partnership for a Better Energy Future
The Georgia Chamber joined with more than 40 partners, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturing, as part of the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, an effort to ensure the continued availability of reliable and affordable energy for families and businesses in our state and throughout the nation.  Efforts like these have become even more important as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has continued to move toward the implementation of new regulations that threaten the use of coal as a viable source of energy in our state.

The Georgia Chamber is also supporting a nationwide effort to send over 1 million messages to the EPA regarding their proposed Green House Gas regulations.  Please visit www.TellEPA.com to send this powerful message to EPA about Georgia’s need for reliable and affordable energy.

You can hear what Chris Clark had to say about this issue here: www.gachamber.com/energy-video.

Legislative Action on Chamber Priorities

Providing Uniformity in Unemployment Benefits
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
Monday, the House passed House Bill 714 sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton (Cumming) by a vote of 111-60. See how your representative voted HERE.  This bill seeks to ensure uniformity in unemployment benefits qualifications for educational institution employees statewide. Under current law, public educational institution workers are not allowed to receive unemployment benefits during the summer, holiday and other temporary breaks. However, some private companies, as third-party vendors, encourage and train their employees to file for unemployment benefits during such breaks. The Chamber supports 714 to prevent these select companies from using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system to supplement employee salaries, while all other Georgia employers pay for it.

Expanding Zell Miller HOPE Grant Tuition for Technical College Students
Chamber Position: Support
House Bill 697 passed the full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. The proposal expands the Zell Miller HOPE Grant program to provide full tuition for technical college students in technical certificate and diploma programs with a GPA of 3.5 or greater.  This will allow more Georgians to receive the training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

CALL TO ACTION: Seat Belt Evidence and E-Discovery

The House Judiciary Committee meeting scheduled this week to consider two Georgia Chamber legal reform priorities has been rescheduled for next week.  House Bill 504 by Rep. B.J. Pak (Lilburn) would permit a defendant to show that a plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt when involved in an automobile accident, and how this may have contributed to the injuries sustained in the case.  Georgia law currently prohibits a jury from hearing seatbelt use evidence in civil cases.

House Bill 643 by Wendell Willard (Sandy Springs) establishes a judicial process for handling electronic discovery requests.  Specifically, the bill mirrors the federal rules adopted recently in North Carolina which require a pre-trial discovery conference for determining the scope of discovery for electronically stored information, introduces a concept of proportionality in searching, so that duplicative, burdensome, or expensive searches are not required unless there is a demonstrated need and permits the court to allocate discovery costs between the parties, and provides a safe harbor in the event that relevant information is unintentionally lost or destroyed.

Please contact the following members of the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to support the Chamber’s language on House Bills 504 and 643:
Rep. Wendell Willard: 404-656-5125
Rep. Barry Fleming: 404-656-0152
Rep. Stephen Allison: 404-656-0188
Rep. Roger Bruce: 404-656-0314
Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr.: 404-656-0325
Rep. Stacey Evans: 404-656-6372
Rep. Mike Jacobs: 404-656-5116
Rep. LaDawn Jones: 404-656-7859
Rep. Trey Kelley: 404-656-0287
Rep. Edward Lindsey: 404-656-5024
Rep. Ronnie Mabra: 404-656-7859
Rep. Larry O’Neal: 404-656-5052
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver: 404-656-0265
Rep. Jay Powell: 404-656-7855
Rep. Dale Rutledge: 404-656-0109
Rep. Pam Stephenson: 404-656-0126
Rep. Andy Welch: 404-656-0109
Rep. Tom Weldon: 404-656-0213
Rep. Rich Golick: 404-656-5943
Rep. Joe Wilkinson: 404-463-8143

Legislative Update Feb 10

The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and our Governmental Affairs Committee want to share information about pending state legislative issues that may affect your business. This weekly legislative review is provided by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and passed on as a service of your local chamber to empower our membership and guard our community’s welfare. Your comments or questions are welcome and will receive response.

GA-Business-Action-NetworkLegislative Schedule

The General Assembly convened Friday for Legislative Day 19 of 40. They will be in session Monday through Thursday this week.

Better Standards for a Better Georgia Coalition Announces Support for Common Core
The Better Standards for a Better Georgia Coalition of business, education and community leaders came together for a press conference at the state Capitol Wednesday to announce support for continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Georgia’s public schools.  The Georgia Chamber believes these college and career-ready standards will promote a more globally competitive workforce for the state.

The Common Core standards, which cover reading, writing and math for K through 12 students, were developed by a coalition of 47 states led by Georgia.  They are more rigorous than Georgia’s prior standards, emphasizing key skills including critical thinking and problem solving that are essential for every career.

Click HERE to read more about the coalition’s announcement.

Congress Approves the Farm Bill
Wednesday, the Georgia Chamber welcomed congressional approval of H.R. 2642, the Farm Bill. The bill provides a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of the agriculture industry and gives farmers the certainty they need to plan for the future. Agriculture remains one of Georgia’s largest and most significant industries – contributing more than $70 billion annually to our state’s economy,according to https://completeautoloans.com/special-financing/zero-down-car-loans-explained/ most of it due to the large amounts of loans that have been granted to the students for their cars, despite their low credit score.

Please join the Georgia Chamber in thanking the following members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation who supported this important measure: Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Johnny Isakson, Congressman John Barrow, Congressman Sanford Bishop, Congressman Hank Johnson, Congressman Jack Kingston, Congressman Austin Scott, Congressman David Scott, and Congressman Rob Woodall.

Amended FY2014 Budget Passes Senate
Today, the Senate passed the amended FY2014 budget by a vote of 49-0.  A conference committee of House and Senate leaders will now convene to reconcile differences in the appropriations act before final passage.

Legislative Action on Chamber Priorities

CALL TO ACTION: Seat Belt Evidence and E-Discovery

Early next week the House Judiciary Committee will consider two Georgia Chamber legal reform priorities.  House Bill 504 by Rep. B.J. Pak (Lilburn) would permit a defendant to show that a plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt when involved in an automobile accident, and how this may have contributed to the injuries sustained in the case.  Georgia law currently prohibits a jury from hearing seatbelt use evidence in civil cases.

House Bill 643 by Wendell Willard (Sandy Springs) establishes a judicial process for handling electronic discovery requests.  Specifically, the bill mirrors the federal rules adopted recently in North Carolina which require a pre-trial discovery conference for determining the scope of discovery for electronically stored information, introduces a concept of proportionality in searching, so that duplicative, burdensome, or expensive searches are not required unless there is a demonstrated need and permits the court to allocate discovery costs between the parties, and provides a safe harbor in the event that relevant information is unintentionally lost or destroyed.

Please contact the following members of the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to vote YES on House Bills 504 and 643:

Rep. Wendell Willard: 404-656-5125

Rep. Barry Fleming: 404-656-0152

Rep. Stephen Allison: 404-656-0188
Rep. Roger Bruce: 404-656-0314
Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr.: 404-656-0325
Rep. Stacey Evans: 404-656-6372
Rep. Mike Jacobs: 404-656-5116
Rep. LaDawn Jones: 404-656-7859
Rep. Trey Kelley: 404-656-0287
Rep. Edward Lindsey: 404-656-5024
Rep. Ronnie Mabra: 404-656-7859
Rep. Larry O’Neal: 404-656-5052
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver: 404-656-0265
Rep. Jay Powell: 404-656-7855
Rep. Dale Rutledge: 404-656-0109
Rep. Pam Stephenson: 404-656-0126
Rep. Andy Welch: 404-656-0109
Rep. Tom Weldon: 404-656-0213
Rep. Rich Golick: 404-656-5943
Rep. Joe Wilkinson: 404-463-8143

Flint River Drought Protection Act
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
Wednesday, the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs committee passed Senate Bill 213, the Flint River Drought Protection Act authored by Senator Ross Tolleson (Perry).  SB 213 amends the current Flint River Drought Protection Act to better assist the agricultural economy in the Lower Flint River basin during extreme drought conditions. This bill would authorize EPD to augment stream flows in the Flint River basin during times of drought to protect at-risk aquatic life. It will also strengthen the state’s defenses to legal challenges which could jeopardize agriculture water permit use along the Flint. The Georgia Chamber believes that it is important for our state to be able to make decisions about Georgia water management rather than leaving ourselves vulnerable to litigation in federal court.

Providing Uniformity in Unemployment Benefits
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
Thursday, the House Industry & Labor Committee passed House Bill 714 sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton (Cumming).  This bill seeks to ensure uniformity in unemployment benefits qualifications for educational institution employees statewide. Under current law, public educational institution workers are not allowed to receive unemployment benefits during the summer, holiday and other temporary breaks. However, some private companies, as third-party vendors, encourage and train their employees to file for unemployment benefits during such breaks. The Chamber supports 714 to prevent these select companies from using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system to supplement employee salaries, while all other Georgia employers pay for it.

Prohibiting Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement
Chamber Position: Support
Thursday, the House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 809 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (Monroe) by a vote of 169-0.  HB 809 amends the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act to prohibit Patent Assertion Entities, or “patent trolls,” from making bad-faith assertions of patent infringement, essentially giving targeted companies a new tool to fight back against these practices.