Development Authority of 
Peach County Georgia | 425 James E. Khoury Drive | Unit B | Fort Valley, Georgia 31030 | (478) 825-3826 | peachcountydevelopment@ymail.com

Legislative Lowdown

April 9, 2024
Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus

 

 

                Legislation potentially affecting Georgia's Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Week 12 Update- Sine Die

Legislative Days 39, 40

 

 

To paraphrase The Shawshank Redemption, get busy living or get busy Sine Dieing. Day 40 of the legislative session has come to an end, and the General Assembly won’t meet again until after a new crop of legislators has been elected. Especially in the second year of the biennium, the final few days of a session always see a flurry of activity. While issues can avoid scrutiny by waiting until these final hours, even high profile measures can get left behind. Bills that passed both chambers now await a signature or veto from Governor Kemp before May 5. If the Governor does not take action on a bill, that measure still becomes law. 

 

Bicameral and Partisan Politics

Before breaking down which bills passed or were left behind, take a moment to consider how the State House and State Senate operated this biennium. Setting aside opinions and partisan preferences, political realities undeniably shaped both sessions. While the two chambers often don’t agree on priorities, 2024 saw a number of bills cross over but never receive a vote.  The 101 Republicans in the House led by Speaker Jon Burns seem to be in line with Brian Kemp, who has 2 years left as Governor. The 34 Republican Senators seem more fractured, with LG Burt Jones pushing his own agenda ahead of his imminent campaign for Governor in 2026. The Democrats will not return Minority Leaders Gloria Butler or James Beverly. While it will be important to watch the contested House and Senate seats this summer, advocates will want to pay close attention to who is chosen to lead the Democratic Party in each chamber.

 

What Passed?

Georgia’s $36.1 billion FY25 budget included:

 

The Republican majority promised a few things from the start:

A number of study committees will meet in the off-session. SB 366 will convene a Joint Committee comprised of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance. After DOAA audits are delivered by November 15th, this joint meeting will consider economic analyses of at least 12 state incentives. Senator John Kennedy’s Forest Innovation Committee will consider Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The Senate might even reconvene their investigation into DA Fani Willis. Special study committee meetings often lead to legislation, but that schedule likely won’t be set until after the May primaries.

C-PACE financing will be available for developers across Georgia once Governor Kemp signs HB 206 giving Development Authorities the power to issue Commercial Property Assessments for Clean Energy and Resiliency. While this measure initially failed in the House on the 39th day, 68 votes flipped to pass the bill overwhelmingly on Sine Die. Democrat Senators Derek Mallow and Jason Esteves both worked to achieve unanimous support from their party in the House.

HB 279 will offer insurance premium discounts for storm resilient fortified construction.

Historic Rehab Tax Credits won a sunset extension through 2029. Rep Buckner presented SB 496 as an amalgam of a number of preservation measures (you can hear her comments in the Gold Dome Scramble podcast by WABE). The bill passed the House on Day 37 with 3 NO votes, and promptly passed the Senate to save and enhance the residential component of the incentive. Also, beginning in 2026, the Department of Community Affairs can allow for locally approved historic designation, making approval of residential projects much easier.

Although opponents claim HB 1105 will lead to racial profiling, incarcerated undocumented individuals will receive new added scrutiny. UGA student Laken Riley’s death has been invoked since February and her father addressed the Senate, but state laws targeting sanctuary city policies (like in Athens) have been introduced throughout the biennium.

Foreign adversaries will have a harder time purchasing land in Georgia under SB 420. While critics of the bill claim it won’t survive judicial review, it now goes to the Governor’s desk. Another bill dealing with foreign money has seen some scrutiny. SB 368 would introduce a State registry of  “Foreign Agents” and prohibit campaign donations from international companies. While protecting Georgia seems reasonable, the bill would require anyone employed by an entity incorporated abroad to register before speaking to their elected officials. This could violate the first amendment rights of many Georgians working for international companies bearing no threat to the State. There is a strong chance that Governor Kemp vetoes this measure.

Ever walk into a gas station and wonder what’s going on with all the slot machines? HB 353 will increase the tax rate from 10% to 13% and enable gift cards for these Coin Operated Amusement Machines. Senators debated COAM reform for two years, hoping to prevent illegal cash payouts.

Don’t know what a Kratom is? State lawmakers feel the same way, increasing the age limit to 21 in HB 181SB 494 will also ban consumable hemp sales to those under 21, and SB 495 will further enable the state’s registration process for medical grade Low-THC oils.

Opponents question the constitutionality of SB 351, which will require parental consent or age verification for social media users and ban social media on school devices.

HB 1410 will establish the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless. Squatter reform through HB 1017 will establish this kind of trespassing as a criminal offense as opposed to current civil cases that take longer to resolve. On the tenant protection side, HB 404 the “Safe At Home” act will give local governments the power to hold landlords accountable for property habitability.

Navigable streams continue to be a flash point, as HB 1172 attempts to allow for watersports and fishing while protecting property owners. Whip Burchett’s bill on riparian rights does not protect swimming or wading, and seems explicitly targeted at Georgians drinking beer in rivers.

The OneGeorgia Authority’s Research and Development and Advanced Packaging Incentives Fund, along with the CHIPS Economic Development Fund will partner with universities to offer grants and incentives for high tech semiconductors companies under HB 1026.

HB 663 enshrines “No Patient Left Alone” into law, ensuring patients have companionship in the hospital. The Senate unanimously agreed that nobody should die alone and it passed 49-0. The “PRAISE Act” HB 925 would give religious services similar protections from overreach.

HB 1339 will achieve some degree of CON reform, although perhaps not as much as once hoped.

SB 362 withholds state incentives from newly unionized companies that don’t use secret ballots.

SB 384 the GAME “Georgia As a Model Employer” program will empower the state ADA coordinator and equip state agencies to hire some of the 150k disabled Georgians without a job.

Local government service delivery will see changes with HB 1407 after a joint study committee sought to ease negotiations between cities and counties. Regulatory fees also get some guardrails with HB 461 mandating those funds pay for regulatory activity and not general operations.

Does your insurance company want to sell part of your book of business? HB 1049 from Representative Bruce Williamson establishes guidelines for these transactions.  

Representative Trey Kelley’s Solar Technology Trust Fund in HB 300 will now be considered by the Governor. After years of debate, this fund will pay for planned obsolescence of solar panels. 

HB 1292 requires photo ID for deed recording. This bill from Democrat Representative Okoye also served as a vehicle for Senator Goodman’s unsolicited mail inquiries language. Real estate investors will now need to abide by disclosure rules when mailing out offers for property.

HB 516 increases the road construction bid threshold to require an RFP from $200k to $500k

An omnibus on income tax credits HB 1181 has been sent to the Governor. Credits with low utilization and questionable return saw carryforward years reduced and sunsets introduced. HB 1192 will pause sales and use tax exemption certificates for data centers that use a lot of power.

SB 429 the “Small Business Protection Act” redefines small businesses as under 300 employees.

A “High Demand Career List” published through the State Workforce Development Board will give TCSG oversight when it comes to workforce development priorities. HB 982 seeks input from across the state to direct educational and economic development entities.

After awful experiences at hospitals during the pandemic, HB 663 the “No Patient Left Alone Act” ensures that patients have the right to designate a companion for the duration of treatment.

HB 1146 gives private water options to Bryan County and the nearly completed Hyudai plant.

While the promoter of Orange Crush claims he won’t be organizing anything on Tybee Island this year, SB 433 serves as a deterrent for those planning unpermitted events across the state. It allows local governments to hold event planners responsible for costs of unpermitted events under certain circumstances.

An early test for legislators to take a stand has already been signed by Governor Kemp. HB 30 encodes a definition of antisemitism, and this vote may play a role during campaign season.

A priority for LG Burt Jones, changes to Georgia’s foster care system can be found in SB 342SB 376SB 387SB 401SB 483SR 471, and SR 474.

 

What didn’t pass?

Bills left on the table tell an important part of the story each session. Some legislators introduce bills past the crossover deadline, then claim they tried to do something when running for reelection. While those instances can be disregarded as campaign fodder, political advocates must take inventory of eligible bills that failed to advance to the Governor. Whether they ran out of time or political support, bills that failed this session could be reintroduced in 2025-2026.

  • SB 473 from Senator Albers did not get a House vote. This Consumer Data Privacy bill would have been far-reaching and seems to be a topic for another session.
  • Georgia’s gig musicians will go another year without a Music Office, as the cornbread bill saw no action in the Senate. Macon especially could benefit from a dedicated advocate. 
  • Goodwill’s “Excel” high school diploma program for adults will not come to Georgia, as SB 112 did not receive another vote in the House after changes made in the Senate. 
  • Senator Larry Walker’s measure to divest from the American Library Association never made it out of the House Higher Education Committee.
  • HB 1121 Short Term Vacation Rental legislation, for places like Tybee did not pass.
  • Medicaid expansion- a study committee will meet over the summer after votes failed.

 

The House emphasized their position on the Film Tax Credit, video game tax credit, LIHTC, and data center tax credits. Language from the original bills modifying these tax credits was inserted into SB 349. Neither the original bills nor the combination bill saw any discussion in the Senate.

Georgia’s film industry has seen massive growth and investment despite strikes and Artificial Intelligence advances. While nobody in the business uses the phrase “Y’allywood”, Lobbyists successfully prevented changes to the Film Tax Credit by blocking HB 1180 from the Senate Rules consideration calendar. Film advocates should revisit the final Senate Finance Committee meeting that discussed this measure to better understand how Senators like Rules Chairman Matt Brass defended this billion dollar tax credit. 

Georgia will continue to match 100% of Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as reductions in HB 1182 and the tax credit omnibus SB 349 were never considered by the fulll Senate.

SB 180 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act never received a vote in the House. Once Senate Sponsor Ed Setzler deals with the winner of the Democrat primary in his General Election, he will likely sponsor RFRA legislation again next session.

Online Sports Betting earmarked for expanded pre-k funding died with a whimper. While SB 386 and the constitutional amendment did make it out of Higher Education, this was the last bill to be considered by any committee and the measure never received a full vote from the House.

Following up on the 2023 ban on gender reassignment surgery for minors, Dr. Watson amended HB 1170 in committee to introduce a ban on puberty blockers. Transgender debates were very contentious between the political parties, with Senator Kim Jackson taking the well to cite her 10 year old son who has been transgender since age 5. The House did not take this bill up for consideration after it passed the Senate on the 40th day.

Hb 514 the Housing Regulation Transparency Act got caught in some political crossfire, with a number of Republicans voting alongside Democrats to defeat the bill 12-40. There will be no new limits on local government when it comes to new construction moratoriums.

Numerous gun bills failed. SB 344 removed language for a “hunting sales tax holiday” and ultimately passed as a vehicle for BEAD money towards rural broadband. SB 340 became a tax exemption for diesel exhaust fluid in the Agricultural Trust Fund and HB 971 exempting sales taxes on firearm safe storage didn’t pass. SR 203 might give us a Safe Storage Study Committee, but it remains to be seen who will be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.

A vape registry of approved products in HB 1260 did not receive a vote in the Senate.

HB 101 - a tax omnibus including historic property tax freeze extensions didn’t get a House vote.

Okefenokee swamp protections failed, with mining permits pending approval. Environmental activists will work to influence the permitting process in lieu of SB 132.

HB 370 quieting title for coastal marshlands didn’t see any movement later in the session.

Premises liability reform in HB 1371 failed to advance, leaving Georgia businesses exposed.

SR 82 was initially aimed at facilitating delinquent property sales, but became a bill to give tax breaks to foresters. It failed to receive a vote in the Senate.

The House did not consider the collection of education restrictions stuffed into Democrat freshman Omari Crawford’s HB 1104. Sex ed limitations, gendered bathroom requirements, and other culture war fodder passed on party lines out of the Senate but progressed no further.

Plant Vogtle reactor 4 has reached full power, but the Public Service Commission elections will still be delayed another year. We won’t see the Consumer Utility Counsel revived through SB 457, and electric vehicle charging provisions in HB 406 also did not pass. Power problems.

HB 986 criminalizing political deep fakes did not receive a vote.


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Call: (478) 825-3826 or peachcountydevelopment@ymail.com425 James E. Khoury DriveUnit BFort Valley, Georgia 31030