The 2011 Legislative Session came to an end just before midnight on April 14. Over 1,600 bills and resolutions were filed in the House, while in the Senate, over 900 bills and resolutions were filed. After 40 days of work, debate and politics the 2011 Session produced some important changes to Georgia law and left some matters to be considered either in the next legislative session or during the Special Session set for August 15 to take up reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts.
HB 24 was passed which modernized the Georgia evidence code and brought it more in line with the federal rules. After 20 years of effort, the Georgia Bar was finally successful.
Georgia consumers will be able to buy health insurance policies from other states because of HB 47, but the Insurance Commissioner must approve any policies before they are sold in Georgia.
The comprehensive immigration reform bill, HB 87, passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This legislation provided a balance between trying to control illegal immigration and allowing Georgia businesses to grow. Every public employer and businesses with more than 10 full-time employees are required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the status of all new workers. Specifically excluded from this requirement are any businesses which employ “seasonal” (agricultural) employees. Companies with 500 or more employees will have to implement the bill’s measures by January 1, 2012, and companies with 100 or more employees will have until July 1, 2012.
HB 292 gives the Department of Labor Commissioner the discretion to increase the overall unemployment insurance tax by a maximum of 50% to address the current $600 million debt owed to the Federal Government. HB 500 made technical changes in Georgia’s unemployment insurance law to bring in an additional $175 million in federal funds which will cover payments for another 20 weeks.
HB 346 was passed in the closing hours of the session which provides for tax credits for the construction, purchase or lease of clean energy property placed in service before December 31, 2014. The Clean Energy Facilities Tax Credit was extended for three years and increased the total credits from $2.5 million to $5 million.
One of the most controversial bills introduced this year was SB 10 which permitted local communities to hold referendums on the retail sale of alcohol on Sunday. Anticipate seeing the Sunday sale of alcohol referendum on numerous ballots in November.
SB 122 allows the public-private development of reservoirs by authorizing governments to contract with private entities for the financing, development and operation of water and environmental projects. This bill was modeled after similar legislation passed in 2008 for the Department of Transportation.
One of the most debated issues in this Session was the revision to the Georgia tax code. HB 388 was not passed but may be placed on the Reapportionment Special Session agenda this summer if permitted by the Governor. If it isn’t on the Special Session agenda it is sure to be one of the leading bills to be considered in the 2012 Session.
To see the full text of the bills mentioned above, please visit: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation.