Sen. Bill Heath: Session Recap # 1

14
Apr

Sen. Bill Heath: Session Recap # 1

Your Georgia Desk:

Bill Heath

From Senator Bill Heath:

Session Recap # 1

Sen. Bill Heath (R–Bremen)

Now that the dust has finally settled after the 2014 Session, legislation is now awaiting final approval from the governor. After session concludes, the governor is given 40 consecutive days to either veto or sign legislation into law. This year, 135 general bills and 119 local bills were approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

Over the next several months, I will be highlighting several of the bills that passed during the 2014 legislative session – many of which will ensure the future prosperity of individuals and communities statewide. This week, we will be discussing several bills of interest that fall under the following topics: Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Banking and Financial Institutions and Economic Development.

Agriculture and Consumer Affairs

Year after year, agriculture continues to be ranked as Georgia’s #1 industry. With thousands of acres of arable farmland, Georgia is prime real estate for farmers to grow and produce a large variety of crops. This is specifically true for Georgia’s northern region, which includes portions of the 31st Senate District. Below are a few bills that will directly impact agribusiness in our state and throughout our community:

HB 778:

  • ·         Current law exempts certain establishments that prepare and serve food from falling under the label of a ‘food service establishment’
  • ·         House Bill 778 simply adds residential properties where ill or injured children are provided temporary housing and where food is prepared and served by volunteers to the list of exemptions

 

HB 825:

  • ·         Creates a new license for fruit growers who are already licensed as a farm winery to manufacture distilled spirits for sale exclusively through a wholesaler
  • ·         The bill also requires that these farm wineries not have more than one tasting room on premise
  • ·         Just one of many recent bills expanding the sale of alcohol in the state

 

HB 915:

  • ·         This legislation allows consumer credit agencies to place a security freeze for a protected minor consumer who is a victim of identity theft, if the agency receives a request from a parent or guardian
  • ·         This bill will provide an additional measure of protection for our young people as identity theft continues to compromise the identity of people of all ages and is a growing issue not just in Georgia, but nationwide

 

Banking and Financial Institutions

The ownership and operation of Georgia’s baking and financial industry has a direct impact on the state’s fiscal health and future economic success. Below is a pro-business bill that will help protect companies from superfluous lawsuits and further reinforces Georgia’s commitment to being a competitive place to conduct business.

HB 809:

  • ·         HB 809 amends the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act to prohibit bad faith assertions of patent infringement
  • ·         The legislation was introduced in response to a practice called “Patent Trolling,” which involves the purchasing of patents – mostly from companies that have declared bankruptcy – to request licensing fees, often from companies who do not owe them
  • ·         Under this legislation, companies who are being specifically targeted for patent infringement will be afforded protection from frivolous patent infringement claims

Economic Development

With the world’s busiest airport located in Atlanta and the Port of Savannah directly to our South, Georgia is well positioned as one of the southeast’s foremost leaders in job creation and economic development. The economic landscape of tomorrow is shaped by the pro-business tax environment we build today. Below is a bill that I voted against because I feel state and local officials should be held accountable for the money they spend. Taxing at the state level to loan money to local governing bodies is poor policy for the state.

HB 128:

  • ·         This legislation provides for a new revolving fund to be titled the “Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fund”
  • ·         The fund will help cities with planning and revitalization of downtown areas through technical assistance and low interest loans
  • ·         The commissioner of community affairs will be the director of the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fund
  • ·         The department of community affairs will be authorized to declare any rules and regulations necessary to implement the fund
  • ·         The initial investment into the fund will be capped on an annual basis of $5 million per year for up to four years, not to exceed $20 million

While many of these bills are expected to be signed into law, some may be vetoed at the discretion of the Governor. It is important to note that all of the bills signed into law won’t necessary go into effect immediately. Generally, legislation becomes law on either July 1 or January 1.  Occasionally it is upon the Governor’s signature.

If you’re interested in learning more about a particular piece of legislation and whether it was signed into law, please visit https://gov.georgia.gov/bills-signed/2014.  Of course you can always call or email the Governor’s office if you wish to influence his decision.

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