2017 Georgia Legislative Session

Katie Base RobertsReview of Legislative Days 21-28

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

Crossover Day

Crossover Day, the all-important deadline for a bill to be adopted by its originating chamber, came and went last Friday, March 3.

Legislation that was not adopted by one chamber by the end of Friday is lost as a standalone measure this year.  However, a bill is never truly dead until the Legislature adjourns sine die; advocates often attach the entire contents of lost legislation to related active bills through the amendment process in an effort to see their proposal enacted.  Vigilance becomes even more important as the session moves into the frenetic final days.

Bills that did not make the Crossover Day deadline appear in an abbreviated form in the following legislative report.

Workers’ Compensation Legislation

HB 146: Insurance Coverage for Fire Departments
Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Pending in the Senate Rules Committee

HB 146 requires legally organized fire departments to purchase and maintain insurance coverage to pay claims for certain defined cancer diagnoses in all members of the fire department who have served at least 12 consecutive months if the diagnosis renders the fire fighter unable to perform their duties.  The inability to perform is deemed a permanent physical disability and is conclusively presumed to have been incurred in the line of duty.

The bill provides tiered payouts depending on the severity of the cancer diagnosis.  The insurance benefit must include, at minimum, the following:

  • A lump sum benefit of $25,000 upon submission of proof of diagnosis of one or more malignant tumors that has metastasized, requires surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or that has yielded a terminal diagnosis.
  • A lump sum benefit of $6,250 upon submission of proof of diagnosis of certain carcinomas and prostate cancers, malignant tumors that are treated by endoscopic procedures, and malignant melanomas.
  • A monthly benefit equal to 60% of the member’s monthly salary at the time of diagnosis or a monthly benefit of $5,000, whichever is less, to begin 6 months after proof of diagnosis and lasting a total of 36 consecutive months.  If the member is a volunteer fire fighter, the monthly benefit is $1,500 over the same term.
  • These benefits are subordinate to any other benefit actually paid to the firefighter for the disability from any other source, not including private insurance, and are limited to the difference between the amount of the other paid benefit and these specified amounts.

The monthly benefits stop if the member’s condition is reevaluated and it is determined they are able to perform their duties again or the member dies.  The bill clarifies that a member who leaves or retires from the fire department after at least one year is entitled to continue the coverage provided through a continuation or conversion to individual coverage by the insurer, at which point the member becomes responsible for premium payments.

While in the Senate, the bill was amended to clarify the definitions of firefighter and volunteer firefighter.  The House must agree to those changes if the bill is to be eligible for enactment by the Governor.

Tax and Lien Legislation

HB 61: Tax Online Sales
Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
Pending in the Senate Finance Committee

HB 61 requires delivery retailers to collect and remit sales taxes OR maintain sales tax data for each purchaser and remit that information to the purchaser and the Department of Revenue so the purchaser may pay owed taxes on their tax return.  These delivery retailers are defined as retailers who have a gross revenue exceeding $250,000 or conduct 200 or more separate transactions from the sale of property that is physically or electronically delivered in Georgia.

HB 247: Concrete Equipment Exemption
Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas
Pending in the Senate Finance Committee

This legislation creates a sales tax exemption for machinery used to mix or transport concrete, including mixer trucks and their engines, interior and exterior operational controls, hydraulics, and structural and safety components.  The bill clarifies that motor fuel used by concrete mixer trucks is not exempt from sales taxes.

HB 337: Tax Liens
Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe
Adopted by the House on 3/1

HB 337 is the Department of Revenue’s lien registry bill, which creates an electronic statewide lien registry for state tax executions and liens of state tax executions against real and personal property.  It also allows a taxpayer to appeal directly to the Georgia Tax Tribunal.

Building and Construction Industry Legislation

SB 2: The FAST Act
Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton
Pending in the House Small Business Development Committee

SB 2 attempts to support Georgia’s businesses by creating efficiency and transparency in the permitting and licensing process at the state and local level.  The bill has been amended to require that an applicant initially only pay 50% of permitting or licensing fees, with the balance to be paid before the license, certificate or permit is issued.  The legislation requires state and local government agencies to establish a fee schedule that will include turnaround times.  If the agency fails to meet that schedule, the fee will be reduced by 10% for every ten days past the deadline.  In addition, agencies will be required to offer expedited processing, which can be no more than twice the original fee.

The bill also requires state agencies that engage in site visits to provide “reasonable notice” to the licensee of the date and time of the visit and when possible, conduct visits during non-peak hours.

HR 284: State and Local Construction Management
Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas
Pending in the House Special Rules Committee

HR 284 creates the House Study Committee on State and Local Construction management to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the construction management at risk model versus the design, bid, and build model.  Because this resolution only pertains to the House, it is exempt from the Crossover Day deadline.

General Business Legislation

HB 221: Power of Attorney
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula
Adopted by the House on 3/3

HB 221 updates and conforms provisions relating to powers of attorney to align with the Uniform Law Commission.  This act provides a simple way for people to deal with their property by providing a power of attorney in case of future incapacity.  While chiefly a set of default rules, the act also contains safeguards for the protection of an incapacitated principal. Analysis provided by the Uniform Law Commission.

HB 192: Responsibilities of Directors
Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta
Adopted by the House on 3/3

HB 192 is the result of a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that permits members of a failed bank’s board of directors and other officers to be held personally responsible for losses if they were found to be negligent in their fiduciary responsibilities.  This bill enhances the liability protection for board members and only allows courts and juries to hold directors and officers personally liable in cases of gross negligence, fraud or bath faith.

HB 87: Multi-Year Registrations
Rep. Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek
Adopted by the House on 2/28

HB 87 allows for three-year registrations for most types of business organizations, including non-profits, partnerships, and limited liability companies.  Companies who choose to register their business for more than one year and need to update information during that time will continue to be assessed a change fee.

Lost Legislation

These items failed to meet the Crossover Day deadline:

  • HB 152: Coverage for Cancer in Fire Fighters.  Permits firefighters to receive workers' compensation benefits for certain defined cancer diseases if it is shown by a preponderance of the competent and credible evidence, which includes medical evidence, to have been attributable to the firefighter's performance of their duties as a firefighter.
  • SB 25: Healthcare Transparency Initiative.  Creates an all-payor claims database administered by the Georgia Health Care Transparency Initiative Board (within the Department of Insurance).
  • HB 56: Equipment Rental Agreements.  Levies a “property tax recovery fee” on certain rental agreements with rental equipment companies engaged in construction, mining or forestry and general rental centers.
  • HB 310: Secondary Metal Recyclers.  Exempts battery retailers and wholesalers who receive used lead acid vehicle batteries from those regulations.