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Georgia Legislature

Yesterday in the Georgia Legislature – 03/04/21

This is an informal rundown of the legislative happenings. These bills are from the most recent legislative day – 03/04/21, or Day 26.


The House of Representatives passed the following measures, all of which now head to the Senate:

HB 94 – Rep. Bonnie Rich 

LINK: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58933
What the bill does? 

  • establishes definition for “possessing” stolen mail
  • 3 different addresses for a combined total of 10 pieces of mail 
  • Felony punishable by 1-5 years in prison
  • Each set of 10 pieces of mail is additional felony 

ISSUES: The number is arbitrary and the federal gov’t is already prosecuting these offenses. 
PASSED: 101-67

HB 248 – Rep. Alan Powell

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59234 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Codifies speed zone camera practice. Currently, if a local gov’t wants to place speed zone cameras, which are unmanned, in a school zone, the school or school system has to sign off. This dips into the profits for the private company and the local gov’t so this legislation seeks to remove the provision that requires the school to sign off and instead allows the local gov’t, which is applying for the permit, to grant approval for the placement of the cameras. 

ISSUES: The Georgia Virtue has covered this extensively: Here and here.
PASSED: 133-35

HB 303 – Rep. Mike Glanton

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59344 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • The Jaida Act,’ creates a new code section by adding language for OCGA 33-9-43.1 to allow private insurance companies to offer reduced car insurance rates for active duty military members on their personal and family vehicles
  • defines “active duty” as “full-time duty status in the military of the United States, including members of the National Guard or reserve components of the armed forces on active duty orders” and would apply to persons who are permanent residents of Georgia and who also can provide to the insurance company “Proof of financial responsibility’ for the ability to respond in damages for liability on account of accidents occurring.

ISSUES: This is a swap from a previous version in sessions past in which it was required that insurance companies provide lower rates. This version merely grants insurance carriers the ability to offer lower rates to any person who provides proof of their active-duty status.
PASSED: 170-0

HB 322 – Rep. Marcus Wiedower

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59376 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Strikes ‘prostitution’ and relevant code reference from the definition of sexual exploitation as it pertains to minors, child abuse, and other offenses relating to minors.

ISSUES:
PASSED: 169-0

HB 334 – Rep. Joseph Gullett

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59400 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Addresses notaries public 
  • Allows notaries to notarize remotely and via the internet – ‘Remote Online Notarization-
  • Establishes the process for becoming a RON or electronic in-person notary (plus renewal process, maintaining notary, not having it revoked, etc) all supervised under the Georgia Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority 
  • Outlines records retention policy of online notaries (including recordings) is upwards of 10 years
  • Electronic in-person notaries may be done in the presence of others and may be done remotely if the notary is physically in Georgia
  • Wills, codicils, and testamentary trusts are excluded from docs allowed by remote notary 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 167-2 (NOs=Lewis-Ward & R. Taylor)

HB 355 – Rep. Marcus Wiedower

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59427 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Establishes a Sustainable Building Material Technical Advisory Committee under the Georgia Forestry Commission 
  • The purpose of the committee is to advise the Director of Forestry Commission on ‘state credits derived from carbon sequestration materials’ with global carbon credits 
  • Purpose also will focus on establishing guidelines for carbon baselines
  • Creates a Carbon Registry as well and developers will have to be registered in order to be eligible for carbon credits 
  • The Georgia Forestry Commission then conducts random checks of carbon developers if they want to have credits for the carbon-capturing building materials.
  • The committee’s members consist of the following: one member with expertise in engineering and architecture from the Georgia Tech; one member with expertise related to the Georgia State Minimum Standard Codes; one member that is a real estate developer or builder; one member with expertise related to carbon offset protocol development; one member with whole building life cycle assessment expertise; and up to three at-large members. Forestry director sets chairperson of the committee
  • Will be abolished one year after creation but can meet any time the Director calls for the committee to meet.

Passed: 163-0

HB 363 – Rep. John LaHood

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59463 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Deletes OCGA 16-5-20 re: simple assault against a person 65+ to 
  • Removes code section for simple battery and battery if the offending person is employee of a long-term care facility 
  • Adds definition of ‘abuse of access’ pertaining to taking resources belonging to disabled or elderly person and taking was due to incapacitation by the disabled or elderly person (added in OCGA 16-5-100)
  • Strikes code section for theft when the victim is over 65+ and the theft amount > $500

ISSUES: My assumption is that other reforms made relating to crimes against the elderly would be conflicting with this old code section, so it needs to be repealed. 
PASSED: 171-0

HB 371 – Rep. Stan Gunter

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59504 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Allows judges to conduct hearings by telephone and/or video conference 
  • Can also administer oaths
  • Prohibits use of video trials if the guilt or innocence is to be determined for an accused person
  • Does not require judge to be present in the courtroom for proceedings conducted via telephone/video conference 
  • Any telephone/video hearing conducted per this code section is the same as would be had it been physically in open court so public must be given access to view the court 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 157-0

HB 410 – Rep. Eddie Lumsden

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59572 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Moves BINGO regulation from the GBI to the SOS effective June 30, 2021
  • Requires the SOS to further any rules and regulations in place by GBI Director at the time of agency succession
  • Requires GBI to transfer to all exclusive records records to SOS by July 1, 2021

ISSUES: Makes sense to move something that is legal to a regulatory agency as opposed to a law enforcement agency that is constantly looking for wrongdoing.
PASSED: 151-0

HB 435 – Rep. Victor Anderson

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59616 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Amends OCGA 36-91-22 
  • Excludes public works contracts from code section provision which provides exceptions to bidding requirements including advertisements, written contracts, and other guidelines
  • Adds subsection (j) allowing an exclusion when the contracts were competitively procured by the state or through a cooperative purchasing organization that is certified by the state

ISSUES: This is already a problem for local governments, which skirt transparency laws and exclude private businesses from consideration of these projects and contracts because another business is ‘endorsed’ by the state. Limits publication requirements, like advertisements, announcements, and discussion in public meetings.
FAILED: 80-86

HB 470 – Rep. Dale Washburn 

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59706 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Removes condos from the code section requiring individual plans to be submitted for review
  • Only applies if the boundaries of the unit are on a plat on a survey
  • Means walls, floors, ceilings, and other internal structures need not be included or designated 
  • Does not apply when filing plats for single-family homes or sub condominiums (or ensures does not apply to subcondominimums). 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 165-0

HB 477 – Rep. Sam Watson

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59724 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Extends the sunset for donations of real property to 12/31/26 (5 year extension set to expire 12/31/21)
  • Under O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.12

ISSUES: No one will vote against this but exemptions and sunsets in perpetuity are part of the tax structure problem that both chambers claim to want to resolve.
PASSED: 165-0

HB 480- Rep. Dale Washburn

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59727 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Adds liens for labor, services, or materials performed by interior decorators 

ISSUES: Under most circumstances, this is a civil matter.
PASSED: 164-0

HB 497 – Rep. Chuck Efstration

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59777 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Annual Code revision 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 165-0

HB 511 – Rep. Bert Reeves

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59805 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates special funds for dedicated fees by segregating them off with interest – done by Office of the Treasurer
  • For 10 years beginning FY 2023
  • Then budget offices will receive reports on collections for each fund + interest 
  • Appropriates the funds collected to their respective fund by state law, beginning in the next budget
  • Would apply to:
    • Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Wildlife Endowment Trust Fund, under the Department of Natural Resources; 
    • Solid Waste Trust Fund and Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, under the Environmental Protection Division; 
    • State Children’s Trust Fund, under the Division of Family and Children Services; 
    • Trauma Care Network Trust Fund, under the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission; 
    • Transportation Trust Fund and Georgia Transit Trust Fund, under the Department of Transportation; 
    • Georgia Agricultural Trust Fund, under the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture; and Fireworks Trust Fund, under the Department of Revenue. 
  • Adds a process for fiscal note processes if there are additional funds in the future for fee dedications (via new legislation) Requires it to be provided by Fiscal Office and State auditor alongside the bill by the 20th day of the legislative session. If it doesn’t pass in first year of session, must have a new fiscal analysis (to ensure things don’t change) 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 168-0

HB 548 – Rep. Katie Dempsey

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59877 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Gives the Administrative Office of the Courts the privilege of accessing child abuse records in cases of dependency actions and actions to terminate parental rights
  • Through MOU and confidentiality agreements with DFCS 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 171-0

HB 553 – Rep. Stan Gunter

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59882 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Changes ‘Georgia Administrative Procedure Act’ 
  • Gives authority of court hearings that are administrative in nature to be held via telephone or video conference
  • Also permits a process for electronic filing process
  • Administrative hearings like when your license is revoked at a DUI
  • Also allows documents to be emailed, transferred remotely/electronically, a process previously prohibited

ISSUES: None
PASSED: 166-0

HB 574 – Rep. Beth Camp

LINK→https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59922 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates the Companion Local Government Animal Trust Fund 
  • Allocates up to $50,000 of fees from pet dealers, kennels, stables, animal shelters, etc to the fund
  • Fund cannot be more than $200,000
  • Local governments can obtain reimbursements from the fund for impounding cats and dogs (29+)
    • Or up to 9 horses as part of an investigation 
  • Dept of Ag oversees program and decides where reimbursements qualify
  • Dept. of Ag keeps up to $10,000 administrative fees 
  • A report is given to the House and Senate Ag committees each year by 2/1. 
  • Fund only exists for 10 years through 7/1/31

PASSED: 164-0.

HB 586 – Rep. Sam Watson 

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59947 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021
  • Re: sales and use taxes in O.C.G.A. 48-8-3,
  • Extends sunset on sale of tangible personal property and for ‘competitive project of regional significance’ from June 30, 2021, to June 30, 2023
  • Sales tax exemption at state and local level for tickets/admission for performances – fine arts by 501(c)3, museums, exhibits for arts/cultural significance 
  • Adds sales tax exemption for certain machinery and equipment used in manufacturing, by including manufacturing plants that are motor vehicles. (this is because of all the mega-companies that are moving to Georgia for manufacturing)
  • Does not exempt things not related to mix, agitate, and transporting fresh concrete in a plastic or unhardened state 
  • Does not exempt motor vehicle fuel in a manufacturing plant 
  • Caps sales tax on a boat for maintenance, repair, or refitting (eliminates sunset of 2025 entirely)

ISSUES: This does nothing to help the mom&pop businesses that are struggling, only helps large corporations that are already heavily subsidized by the state and federal government. 
PASSED: 164-6

HB 587 – Rep. Bruce Williamson

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59948 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021
  • Addresses the income tax
  • New tax credit for jobs in the medical equipment industry if the jobs manufacture medical supplies, drugs, or other medicine
    • $1,250 per job
  • Cannot be combined with other credits 
  • Cannot use this credit with the PPE manufacturers credit either 
  • If the credit is more than the tax liability, it can carry over to the state withholding payments for up to 10 years
  • Port Traffic can use tax credits to offset payroll taxes
  • Existing manufacturers of high impact aerospace projects also get a tax credit if 40% of the revenues from sales are to US government (and also certified by the Dept. of Economic Development)
    • This is a facility tax credit if there are 1,000 jobs and $500 million investment with the promise of moving to $800 million investment and 1800 jobs. All must be in state lines but can be off-site from the manufacturing facility 
  • Repeals cap on tax credit for jobs at 4,500 under O.C.G.A. 48-7-40.24
  • Changes OCGA 33-1-25, or the ‘Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act,’ by adding $100 million to the 2021 allocation of funding to begin August 1, 2021. 
    • Those applying will have to pay an application fee of $25,000 as opposed to $5,000, must pay a fee of $7,500 each year to maintain the fund, and must include all capital investments in the annual reporting
  • Railroad sunset of credits is moved to 12/30/2028 instead of 2023. 

PASSED: 157-14

HB 593 – Rep. Shaw Blackmon

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59953 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates the Tax Relief Act of 2021
  • Changes how state income is taxed by increasing the standard deduction for single/heads of household from $4,600 to $5,400, married and filing from $6,000 to $7,100, and married and filing individual returns from $3,000 to $3,550
  • Starts tax year 2022

ISSUES:
PASSED: 171-0

HB 588 – Rep. Rick Jasperse

LINK→https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59949 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • This is a Rules Committee Substitute (the version online is different than the Rules sub)
  • Pertains to Georgia Freight Railroad Program under GDOT 
  • Defines state benefit for larger expenditures as something that is ‘enhanced public safety, enhanced mobility of people or goods, congestion  mitigation, enhanced trade and economic development, improved air quality or land use,  reduction of public expenditures due to improved transportation efficiency or infrastructure preservation, or other public benefits identified and approved by a majority of the board”
  • clarifies definition of ‘project’ for the GFRP 
  • Offers a number of ways to entertain negotiations for the department, including one-on-one meetings, RFPs, etc (problematic because something subject to an RFP should not also be subject to one-on-one meeting. that seems anti-transparent)
  • Provides a fuel tax exemption for the next 10 years for sale of fuel to carriers which are regulated by the US Surface Transportation Board (exclusive to locomotives)
  • Funds otherwise generated are to go to GDOT for exclusive use on Freight & Logistics projects 

PASSED: 166-0

HB 635 – Rep. Leverett

LINK→https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/60047 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Gives probate judges the authority to conduct probate judge activity regardless of location (i.e. – when socially distancing, conducting biz outside of small courtrooms/offices amid pandemic)
  • Same privilege afforded to magistrate judges
  • Whenever it is impractical to hold court at state or superior courthouse, gives permission to hold court at alternate facility, taking into consideration transportation, reasonableness of the relocation,e tc 
  • Allows jury trials to resume at alternate locations so long as the county owns the facility or there is a contract in place with the facility 
  • Any judicial act at an alternate facility has the same force and effect as it would had it been done at the courthosue 

ISSUES:
PASSED: 166-0

HR 130 – Rep. Lauren McDonald 

LINK→https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59575 
WHAT THE RESOLUTION DOES:

  • transfer Forsyth County from the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to the Atlanta Regional Commission, adopted by  said board on November 18, 2020

ISSUES: Procedural as this was adopted by the Board already
PASSED: 163-0

HR 185 – Rep. David Ralston

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59865 
WHAT THE RESOLUTION DOES:

  • Reauthorizes the House Rural Development Committee through 2022

PASSED: 164-0

Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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