Sen. Bill Heath: Session Recap # 2

29
Apr

Sen. Bill Heath: Session Recap # 2

Your Georgia Desk:

From Senator Bill Heath:

Session Recap # 2

The 2014 legislative session can be described more succinctly in one word—efficiency. We moved diligently through the people’s work and saved the state more than a million dollars in expenses because our session ended in March this year instead of April as we did last year.

Even though the session has come and gone, several measures will leave lasting impressions on our state’s future. In 2014, the Georgia General Assembly continued its ongoing commitment to making Georgia a competitive place to do business, a competitive place to own a small business, and a competitive place for an individual to work.

To do this, we addressed several of the following areas: Education, Ethics and Finance. Let’s take a look at some of the bills below.

Education

Providing a strong education for Georgia’s students is critical to keeping our best and brightest in state and remaining a top destination for business. Here are a few of this year’s highlights:

 SB 288:

  • ·         This bill seeks to bring transparency to the Georgia High School Association
  • ·         SB 288 amends current law to define ‘athletic association’ as a body that governs, writes rules, sanctions or organizes interscholastic athletic events in which Georgia public schools participate
  • ·         In order for an athletic association to participate in an interscholastic event, SB 288 requires the annual distribution of the previous year’s financial report to all members
  • ·         By requiring the release of comprehensive annual financial reports, we are increasing the level of accountability for all involved in the management of student athletic activities

SB 301:

  • ·         This legislation will permit the use of certain wood materials in school construction as long as it is in compliance with state fire and building codes
  • ·         This measure will help advance Georgia’s timber and forestry industry while allowing school systems greater flexibility and cost saving options for new construction or renovation

 SR 875:

  • ·         This resolution creates the Property Tax Digest Impact on Education Funding joint study committee
  • ·         This committee will study and evaluate the reporting of local tax revenues that impact the funding received by local school systems

HB 405:

  • ·         HB 405 requires board members of charter schools to participate in governance training and establishes guidelines to create training uniformity
  • ·         For charter schools that are college and career academies, the state board will provide or approve training in conjunction with the Technical College System of Georgia
  • ·         The state board will also be responsible for approving or providing for the initial and annual training

 

HB 766:

  • ·         This legislation, renames the Youth Apprenticeship Program to the Work Based Learning Program
  • ·         Any eligible student aged 16 or above, regardless of grade, may participate
  • ·         This program provides career-minded high school students an opportunity to gain on-the-job training and practical knowledge relevant to their chosen career path while still in school

HB 826:

  • ·         House Bill 826 softens the zero-tolerance policy pertaining to carrying weapons within school safety zones
  • ·         HB 826 also gives local school boards the authority to regulate punishments for students who bring hazardous objects within a school safety zone
  • ·         HB 826 gives local school authorities to opportunity to use common sense in dealing with students found in possession of weapons
  • ETHICS
  • Demonstrating the Georgia General Assembly’s ongoing commitment to strengthening how the state operates and conducts business, the following ethics bills were passed:

HB 310:

  • ·         This legislation revises the schedule of state and local candidate elections to correspond with federal candidate election dates
  • ·         Georgia is now required to have at least 45 days of absentee balloting before the date of a runoff or primary election where a federal candidate is on the ballot
  • ·         Maintaining two separate election calendars would place a heavy burden on state resources and would likely require a costly update to technology infrastructure
  • ·         By combining the two calendars into one streamlined schedule, the state will be able conserve both state resources and taxpayer dollars

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee is responsible for passing legislation that maintains the fiscal health of Georgia.  The following bills achieved passage this year and are awaiting the governor’s approval:

SR 415:

  • ·         This resolution proposes an amendment to our state constitution, capping the maximum income tax rate at the current 6 percent
  • ·         SR 415, which was adopted by the General Assembly and quickly signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal
  • ·         It also sends a clear message to businesses looking to move from another state or expand within our borders that Georgia is serious about tax reform

HB 658:

  • ·         This legislation lays to rest one of Georgia’s most egregious taxes: the death tax
  • ·         The elimination of the death tax in Georgia will leave property taxes as the most egregious tax paid to a Georgia entity

HB 816:

  • ·         HB 816 defines that a delivery charge will not include postage charges for the delivery of direct mail only when the postage charge is passed on without being marked up to the purchaser and when separately stated on an invoice
  • ·         HB 816 makes clear that sales tax is not to be collected on the charges by the Federal Government for the delivery of direct mail

HB 900:

  • ·         This legislation proposes to exempt manufacturers’ purchases of consumable supplies from sales and use tax
  • ·         Consumable supplies’ means tangible personal property that is consumed or expended during manufacturing
  • ·         This does not include machinery, equipment, and industrial materials
  • ·         These supplies include water treatment chemicals for use in, on, or in conjunction with machinery or equipment and items that are readily disposable

HB 933:

  • ·         This legislation extends the current state sales tax exemption on the sale of parts used in the maintenance or repair of aircraft not registered in Georgia
  • ·         Under current law, this exemption is set to expire on June 30, 2015, and this bill will make the exemption permanent
  • ·         HB 933 was amended to include a tax credit for civil rights museums larger than 40,000 feet
  • ·         This is an example of poor legislation – these bills are arguably distinctly different in their function and should not have been lumped together under one bill

HB 958:

  • ·         This bill includes extension and revision of the video game tax credit, sales tax exemptions for purchases made by food banks, food donated to food banks, donations of food during natural disasters, extension of the project of regional significance sales tax exemption, and back to school sales tax holidays
  • ·         This benefits movie productions in our state that generate revenue to the state
  • ·         The income tax credit for qualified interactive entertainment production companies now includes the following qualifications:

-          Maintains a business location physically located in Georgia

-          The interactive entertainment production company has a total aggregate payroll of $500,000 or more for employees

-          Has gross income less than $100 million for the taxable year

-          Qualified production activities related to interactive entertainment which are approved the Department of Economic Development

  • ·         The following tax exemptions are extended through HB 958:

-          Sales of food and food ingredients to a qualified food bank is extended until June 30, 2016

-          Purchases of back to school supplies from August 1, 2014 to midnight on August 2, 2014

-          The personal purchase of energy efficient products/ water efficient products with a sales price of $1,500 on October 3, 2014 to midnight on October 5, 2104

  • ·         Sales of property used for/ in the construction of a competitive project of regional significance are extended until June 30, 2016
  • ·         Even though Georgia families may see some financial benefit to state sales tax holidays, the total cost savings is debatable
  • ·         My concern with this legislation is that it may produce irresponsible spending habits and encourage individuals to purchase items they may not otherwise purchase

Governor Deal has 40 days to sign or veto legislation and Tuesday, April 29, 2014 was the final day the governor could take action on bills passed during the 2014 Session. If you’re interested in learning more about a particular piece of legislation and whether it became law, please visithttps://gov.georgia.gov/bills-signed/2014. Additionally, please feel free to contact my office at any time to discuss questions or matters of concern.

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