Georgia Chamber Weekly Business Legislation Update

Press release from the issuing company

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Action on Key Business Legislation
The General Assembly took action on the following Georgia Chamber priorities last week.  You can stay updated on the status of Georgia Chamber scorecard legislation by visiting our scorecard tracker webpage and see where we stand on bills important to the business community on our bill finder webpage.
HB 57: Solar Financing Bill
Chamber Position: Support 

Today, HB 57, sponsored by Representative Mike Dudgeon (Johns Creek), passed the Senate by a vote of 51-0.  This bill now goes to the Governor for his signature into law.  HB 57 would allow for the financing of solar panels for both residential and commercial customers. The Georgia Chamber recognizes the importance of renewable energy sources as a part of a balanced portfolio for consumers.  HB 57 is the product of Georgia's utility and solar industries reaching an agreement that allows for solar development in a responsible, cost effective way that preserves the integrity and reliability of the electric grid in Georgia and does not burden non-solar customers.  Click here to view the bill.
HB 170: Transportation Funding Act of 2015
Chamber Position: Support

On Monday, the House and Senate appointed their representatives to the conference committee to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate passed versions of HB 170, sponsored by Representative Jay Roberts (Ocilla).  House members appointed to the committee are Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts (Ocilla), Representative Mark Hamilton (Cumming), and Representative Calvin Smyre (Columbus).  Senate members appointed to the committee are Transportation Chair Tommie Williams (Lyons), Senator Steve Gooch (Dahlonega), and Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer (Duluth).  Governor Nathan Deal has indicated that he will force the General Assembly to hold a special session if they do not pass an adequate transportation funding bill by the end of the regular legislative session next Thursday.
Funding Georgia's transportation infrastructure is one of the most important steps we can take as a state to ensure the safety and economic prosperity of all Georgians.  We appreciate the incredible amount of time and effort that our elected leaders have spent on this critical issue this year and look forward to continuing to support their efforts in the days ahead.  As the legislative process moves forward, we remain hopeful that a bill will be agreed upon that provides the minimum $1 billion to $1.5 billion in dedicated funding needed to address both Georgia's short term priorities and long term plans in a way that is both predictable and sustainable.  Find out more about HB 170 on the Georgia Chamber's Transportation Funding Act of 2015 resource webpage.  Click here to view this bill.
HB 237: Angel Investor Tax Credit
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
Today, HB 237, sponsored by Representative Bruce Williamson (Monroe), passed the Senate by a vote of 48-3.  This bill now goes to the Governor for his signature into law.  The Chamber supports efforts to identify and create means to improve the availability of capital in Georgia, attract more venture capital firms to our state and create a healthy ecosystem for keeping Georgia-grown companies in our state.  Angel groups in Georgia have seen an increase in angel activity, as well as partnerships with venture capital firms.  Georgia is competing with other states for start-up companies, many of which get their start in our very own publicly funded research institutions.  The program began in tax year 2011, was extended in 2013 and expires at the end of 2015. HB 237 extends the credit for five years and allows eligible investors to claim 35% of their investment against their taxable income, but no more than $50,000. The extension caps the aggregate statewide tax credit amount at $5 million per year.  Click here to view the bill.
HR 601: House Study Committee on Saltwater Intrusion into Coastal Aquifers
Chamber Position: Support
On Monday, HR 601, sponsored by Representative Lynn Smith (Newnan), passed the House by a vote of 159-0.  HR 601 seeks to establish a House study committee on saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers.  This study committee would examine the issues of saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers, recognizing principles espoused in the state-wide water plan: population forecasts, economic development forecasts, and water quality and quantity needs.  The study committee's deliberations will help determine the steps needed to ensure the security of Georgia's coastal drinking water supply for the present and future.  Click here to view the resolution.
HR 613: To Encourage EPA to Withdraw the Proposed Clean Power Plan
Chamber Position: Support
On Wednesday, HR 613, sponsored by Representative Chuck Martin (Alpharetta), passed the House by a vote of 111-41.  HR 613 encourages the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw the proposed Clean Power Plan.   The resolutions also encourages EPA to provide Georgia with full credit for CO2 reductions achieved since 2005; supports the comments on the Clean Power Plan submitted to EPA by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Public Service Commission, and the Georgia Attorney General; and urges Congress and the President to enact legislation to prohibit the Clean Power Plan from taking effect unless and until any and all legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan have been fully resolved and no appeals remain. Click here to view the resolution.
SB 2: Career Education Dual Enrollment
Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard

On Tuesday, the House passed an amended version of SB 2, sponsored by Senator Lindsay Tippins (Marietta), by a vote of 165-0.  This bill now goes to the Governor for his signature into law.  SB 2 would allow a high school student who has completed ninth and tenth grade requirements for coursework and assessments to enroll in a qualifying post-secondary institution and pursue an associate degree, technical diploma, or industry certification program while counting that coursework towards high school graduation requirements. SB 2 will create a new tool to address many workforce needs of Georgia businesses.  By further aligning our K-12 education system with our university and technical college systems and allowing students to simultaneously access both, Georgia will be in a better position to remain economically competitive.  Click here to view the bill.
SB 88: Establishing Payroll Card Program 
Chamber Position: Support
On Wednesday, SB 88, sponsored by Senator Burt Jones (Jackson), was amended and passed the House by a vote of 145-0.  SB 88 would give employers another option in paying their employees by allowing companies to enroll them in a payroll debit card program.  Payroll cards would give employees who may not have access to traditional bank accounts another way to receive their wages electronically.  Click here to view this bill.
SB 101: Coastal Marshland Buffers
Chamber Position: Support
Yesterday, SB 101, sponsored by Senator Ben Watson (Savannah), passed the House by a vote of 164-0.  The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of the House amended version.  SB 101 will establish a 25 foot buffer along coastal marshlands and provide variances for activities associated with existing infrastructure, proposed new activities within the buffer zone and the activities of utilities.  The bill clarifies permitting requirements for business and private activities within the marshes and will reduce permitting time, complexity and costs for businesses and utilities with infrastructure and other developments located within the marsh environment.  Click here to view this bill.
SB 133: Opportunity School District
Chamber Position: Support
On Wednesday, SB 133, sponsored by Senator Butch Miller (Gainesville), passed the House by a vote of 108-53.  The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of the House amended version.  SB 133 would create an Opportunity School District (OSD), a mechanism that allows the state to intervene in persistently failing schools through a new system of governance that would be controlled under the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.  Under the proposed model, the OSD would only focus on the state's poorest performing schools - those that are 60 or below on CCRPI for 3 consecutive years - and would operate by giving individual school leaders more flexibility to achieve better results in exchange for increased accountability.  The state proposes to intervene in no more than 20 schools per year and in no more than 100 schools at any given time. The Georgia Chamber has long supported improving K-12 outcomes as a critical component in the recruitment, expansion, and retention of employers in Georgia. Click here to view the bill.
SR 287: Constitutional Amendment:  Opportunity School District
Chamber Position: Support
On Wednesday, SR 287, sponsored by Senator Butch Miller (Gainesville), passed the Senate by a vote of 38-15.  SR 287 is a Constitutional Amendment to allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment of an Opportunity School District (OSD) to provide for state intervention for failing schools. Click here to view the bill.