2016 Georgia Legislative Session
Legislative Days 13 – 16  February 5, 2016

By Katie Base Roberts
Director of Governmental Affairs
Fiveash Stanley, Inc.

Bills Begin to Move

As was the case last week, committee activity has continued at an active pace.  Throughout Capitol Hill, various committees meet throughout the day to consider and vote on a variety of policy issues. 

Several long-anticipated bills were introduced this week and will likely receive hearings when the legislature returns on Monday.

There is plenty of time left in the session for members to advance their initiatives through the process, but the calendar will become a factor as the midway point grows near.

Next week promises to be the liveliest yet. This is some ways a strategic decision by legislative leadership, who can benefit from a chaotic atmosphere as they push through their priorities.

General Business Issues

SB 276: Georgia Personal Data Security Act
Senator John Albers, R-Roswell
Pending in the Senate Science & Technology Committee

SB 276 requires covered entities that maintain physical or computerized data that include personal information give notice of a breach of the security system to any Georgia resident whose personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, accessed because of the breach.  A covered entity is defined as "a data collector, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperation, association or other commercial entity that acquires, maintains, stores or uses personal information."  It obligates these covered entities to notify every person whose information was breached with a series of information and requires that the covered entity issue notice, even if they use a third-party agent. 

The bill encompasses nearly every business engaged in commerce and makes Georgia’s breach notification laws more stringent than other states.  As such, a large working group of businesses have come together to amend or oppose the legislation.

SB 255: Wage Garnishment
Senator Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro
Heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 1/26

SB 255 modernizes, reorganizes and provides constitutional protections in garnishment proceedings.  It also provides for property that is subject to garnishment.

SB 280: Elimination of Corporate New Worth Taxes
Senator Judson Hill, R-Marietta
Pending in the Special Joint Committee on Revenue Structure

SB 280 eliminates corporate net worth taxes and the filing of corporate net worth returns.  It lowers the personal income tax rate to 5.4 percent beginning January 1, 2017 and increases the personal exemption from state income tax.  The Governor has signaled caution on any comprehensive tax reform efforts during the 2016 session. While the sponsors of SB 280 are in a position to move the bill along, final passage appears unlikely.

Industry Issues

HB 836: Renovation of Affordable Housing Exemption
Representative Amy Carter, R-Valdosta
Pending in the House Ways & Means Committee

HB 836 creates a limited time sales tax exemption for tangible personal property use in direct connection with the construction, renovation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing by non-profit organizations.

HB 346: Manufactured Housing
Representative Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas
Pending in the House Ways & Means Committee

HB 346 ensures that sales tax is charged only on construction materials used to produce a manufactured, single-family structure and other tangible items used in the construction and installation of those structures.

SR 447: Joint Study Committee on School Construction
Senator Ellis Black, R-Valdosta
Pending in the Senate Education & Youth Committee

SR 447 creates a Study Committee on School Construction with members of the House and Senate.  The Committee will specifically look at construction costs and financing.

HB 411: Hauling Unfinished Wood Products
Representative Sam Watson, R-Moultrie
Pending in the House Transportation Committee

HB 411 states that on all non-interstate highways, the max weight for a load of unfinished wood products is 84,000 pounds.  The legislation allows a vehicle hauling unfinished wood products from a harvest location to the first point of marketing or processing a 10% variance within a 150 mile radius of the point of origin.

HB 547: Tax Lien and Widow’s Support
Representative Barry Fleming, R-Harlem
Pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee

HB 547 pertains to “widow’s support” which shields property that passes to a surviving spouse from a year’s worth of property taxes.  The law dates back to the Civil War.  This bill clarifies that the tax shield only applies to homesteaded property, not other property that passes to the surviving spouse after the owner’s death.

Healthcare & Workers’ Compensation Issues

HB 866: Employer of Self-Insured Health Plans
Representative Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire
Favorably reported from the House Insurance Committee on 2/3

HB 866 exempts multiple employer self-insured health plans from the payment of premium taxes on the plan's net premium.

HB 216: Occupational Diseases
Representative Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Pending in the House Industry & Labor Committee

HB 216 defines “firefighters’ occupational disease” to mean any condition or impairment of health caused by respiratory disease, and cancer, AIDS and hepatitis in certain situations.  As a result, workers’ compensation benefits would be extended to firefighters and/or their dependents in the event of disability or death from one of these new occupational diseases.  The legislation was favorably reported from the House Industry and Labor Committee but was recommitted after the session ended.  It has not yet received a hearing in 2016.

SB 29: Occupational Diseases
Senator John Albers, R-Roswell
Pending in the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

Like HB 216 described above, SB 29 expands workers’ compensation liability by defining “firefighter’s occupational disease” to include hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, AIDS, and hepatitis.  This legislation was introduced in the first days of the 2015 session and is still pending in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.