Your Georgia Desk
From Senator Frank Ginn
Each year, the Georgia General Assembly is asked to consider a significant number of bills that will change the way the state operates. Some bills ask to expand industry regulations, while others seek to tighten or clarify regulations. Others ask the taxpayers of our state to consider funding vital infrastructure projects or approve constitutional amendments. These types of bills are the ones that cause the most heated of debates at the Capitol. This year is no different, and there is certainly no lack of controversial bills. However, there are three bills that I especially would like your input on ASAP.
Senate Bill 63 – The “Beer Jobs” Bill
Currently, Georgia follows a three-tier system when it comes to the sale of alcohol and malt beverages. Under this system, manufacturers can only sell to distributors, distributors can only sell to retailers, and retailers can only sell to individual consumers. This has helped keep tight regulations on the industry and create a more efficient tax collection method. However, with the recent popularity and growth of the craft beer industry, this system has brought to light an unintended consequence—craft-brewers that brew beer are not allowed to sell their product at the brewery to customers to consume at home. The beverage must be consumed on-site or sold thru a distributor and then a licensed retailer. They can only give their product as samples to of age tourists at the facility.
SB 63, sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill (R – Atlanta), would allow licensed breweries to sell limited amounts of their malt beverages for off-site consumption. The bill would also allow licensed brewers like the locally-based Terrapin Brewing Co. to sell limited amounts of beverages in their tasting rooms to the public. This bill limits the sale to 144 oz. per person, per day, for off-site consumption. SB 63 only concerns the sale of malt beverages to individual consumers and does not change or authorize the sale of malt beverages from a brewer to a licensed retailer. This is a growth industry in Georgia, and we are one of five states that do not allow this type of sale. I am a co-sponsor of the bill because I believe it helps tourism and economic development in our state. I ask for your thoughts on the three tier system.
Senate Resolution 135 – The Constitutional Amendment for Horse Racing and Wagering
The HOPE scholarship program is, without a doubt, one of the most successful education initiatives in Georgia history. Since the program started, over 1.6 million scholarship recipients have been able to attend one of Georgia’s excellent universities and technical colleges, and it has helped fund pre-k for thousands of children in our state thanks to funding through proceeds from the Georgia Lottery. Georgia has had horse racing in its past. Pari-mutuel wagering (which creates a betting pool based on odds) on the sport is currently not allowed but could be put to a vote if Senate Resolution obtains a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate to allow the public to vote.
SR 135, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach, proposes a constitutional amendment that would let Georgians decide whether or not to allow pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. The net proceeds would be used to supplement Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program, as well as the state Pre-K program. The funding and proceeds for such a program would be accounted for in a separate budget category, and would become part of the Governor’s annual budget recommendations. I see good and bad aspects of this proposal, and I solicit your input.
House Bill 170 – Transportation Funding
Georgia has struggled to find a way to revamp its transportation funding structure in recent years. No one has been able to come up with an acceptable “plan B” after an attempt to pass regional TSPLOSTs throughout the state failed a few years back. Georgia has seen a drastic drop in the in the amount of money received from the Federal Highway Trust Fund—the money available to our state has declined 12 percent, compared to 3.5 percent nationally. It is clear that Georgia does not have time to waste when it comes to finding a solution to transportation funding.
The first question I ask is do we need better roads? My belief is we do. Then the next question is how would you propose we create the funding required to make these improvements? This is a house bill, but at some point it will come to the Senate. We all are looking at options, and I would love to have your ideas.
All of these bills are currently making their way through the legislative process, and the debates have just begun. I am doing my due diligence and research on each bill, but I am voting on YOUR behalf in the Senate chamber. These are not simple bills that will only affect a certain industry or group of people—these are complex bills that will significantly impact every single Georgian.
Before I cast my vote in committee or in the Senate chamber, I want to make sure I am accurately representing the voice of the 47th Senate District. My staff and I keep notes of the topics discussed in every phone call, email or office visit because YOUR VOICE MATTERS. I encourage you to contact my office with your thoughts, concerns and feedback on SB 63, SR 135 and HB 170.