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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Five


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● Feb 10, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 4 mins…1,122 words

18 legislative days down; 22 to go. Next week lawmakers are in session every day except Wednesday when there will be GDOT board elections and committee hearings. See the schedule.

One fun thing: Last week’s GA Legislative Watch survey says the majority of you don’t agree with the bill passed out of the House to name cornbread as Georgia’s official bread. Instead…

  • It should be biscuits! We agree, and so do some Reps. 😉

1. One big thing

Speaker Burns, Lt. Gov. Jones, and tax policy chairmen Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) introduced a plan to amend the state’s lucrative tax credit program.

🎞 The new proposal, which will start in the House, would require productions to do more than feature the Georgia logo at the end of credits. It would:

  • Increase the minimum investment to be eligible for the film tax credit from $500K to $1M
  • Cap the amount of tax credits film companies can collectively sell in a year to the equivalent of 2.5% of the previous year’s state revenue predictions

🔌 As for data centers, the proposal would suspend tax breaks for the expensive, power consuming equipment used in these facilities and ensure that if the incentive were to ever come back there would be increased salary requirements to qualify.

Back up: Last summer, the Joint Tax Credit Review panel began its assessment of a range of state tax breaks, with the film industry and data centers taking center stage.

What they’re saying: State economists and legislative leaders argue that the ROI hasn’t materialized as robustly as predicted.

  • Since many film companies aren’t based in Georgia and aren’t required to pay state taxes, they sell their credits to tax-owing individuals and some companies.

The other side: Continuity in incentive programs is crucial to business recruitment, and even current incentives could be strengthened to compete with neighboring states.

  • Economic developers also note the ripple effect on jobs that serve film productions like electricians and caterers.

The bottom line: A state audit determined that it costs taxpayers $59,455 per film industry job created by the incentives.

1️⃣ big question: Would these companies have come to Georgia if these incentives weren’t in place?

2. Notable legislation

The midyear budget passed through the House and much like the Gov.’s proposal, includes massive spending to build roads, college facilities, and other infrastructure projects.
  • AFY24 adds $5B in new state spending through June 30, including $1.5B just on roads.
  • What’s next: The Senate will take it up and potentially add to or subtract from the spending plan.

🚘 EV advice. SB 26, carried over from last session, establishes the Georgia Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Commission to advise the state on how to best move forward with EV manufacturing and sales.

  • The commission is a priority of the Gov.’s and is now on its way to his desk for signature.

🏠 SB 349 passed out of committee and would cap increases on homeowners’ assessed property value at 3% per year as long as the owner maintains a homestead exemption. It would also require a constitutional amendment to be enacted.

  • Catch up quick: Atlanta home prices rose 6.5% last year.
  • The other side: Some argue the reduction in tax collections could hurt funding for public schools and local government services, in addition to potentially stifling the housing market.

💵 Do not pass go. 30 more crimes have been added to the list that requires cash payment for bail outs with SB 63 headed to the Gov.’s desk.

  • Charities and individuals will be limited to posting bail for only three people a year, reserving that ability to those who meet the legal requirements of bond companies.
  • Why it matters: Opponents say it will undo criminal justice reform led by Gov. Nathan Deal and could increase jail overcrowding.

Resourcing mental health. The Senate passed a bill to ease the licensing process for some therapists, attempting to help fill job vacancies.

  • Situational awareness: Amidst its mental health crisis, the state has lost many healthcare workers and has had a hard time recruiting and retaining them.

Gun tax holiday. SB 344 was approved on a party-line vote to relieve sales tax for guns and gun accessories such as magazines during the first week of hunting season in October.

  • 🦌 Backers say it will help control the state’s deer population.

3. Other political news

🛬 Fly-ins for health. FLOTUS Jill Biden talked up women’s health research at Morehouse School of Medicine, and VP Kamala Harris visited Savannah to talk reproductive freedoms on her 3rd trip to Georgia in the last two months and 11th since taking office.

Border tit for foreign tat. Gov. Kemp joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to call more attention to the immigration crisis at the border while Congress battled over pairing its policy reform with foreign aid.

  • The Senate rejected a stand-alone foreign aid package and the House rejected the bipartisan Senate deal that paired the two issues together.

“Quest for the truth.” The new Senate Special Committee on Investigations reported at their first meeting that they’ve already been contacted by whistleblowers as they begin their review of Fulton DA Fani Willis’ recent allegations of misconduct.

  • Committee rules ensure one D on the committee, Sens. Harold Jones (Augusta), Gloria Butler (Stone Mountain), or Jason Esteves (Atlanta), will be included in depositions, subcommittees and decisions to release testimony.

⚖ State of the Judiciary. Chief Justice Michael Boggs highlighted significant cuts in violent felony case backlogs due to federal pandemic aid that enabled temporary hires, but staff shortages and high turnover persist as the extra funds run out.

  • He also noted the impact of AI on the legal system and asked lawmakers for help to ensure judges’ safety.

Walk, not drive. Atlanta City Council approved getting rid of minimum parking requirements within a half-mile of the Beltline, except for restaurants and bars.

  • Zoom out: Less parking means a more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly Atlanta and encourages mixed-use projects, according to a Council statement.

4. What’s next

On Monday, the Safe at Home Act, HB 404 will come (back) before the Senate Judiciary committee at 4 pm.

  • Catch up quick. The momentous housing proposal introduced last year aims to strengthen tenant rights and keep families in their homes.
  • What they’re saying: “Address unsafe housing crisis to protect children,” opines Georgia Appleseed’s Michael Waller.

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