The legislative session has passed the half-way mark and several bills important to businesses have passed or are being considered. Unlike past sessions, this one has been relatively quiet in part, because the Legislature is still working on numerous local bills dealing with redistricting of school boards, county commissions and city councils.
On February 7, Governor Deal signed H.B. 683, which reforms the way businesses can review and respond to garnishment requests. Businesses don’t need to hire attorneys, but can handle garnishment requests through authorized employees.
The Georgia House passed HB 730, which prohibits state and local government agencies from requiring bidders for public works projects to have union workers on their payrolls. Additionally, the House voted 151-5 to pass HB 811 that prohibits the diversion of state fees to unrelated budget areas. Both bills move to the Senate for action.
Regulatory reform legislation (SB 427, SB 428) that helps to reduce regulation of and costs to businesses was passed by the Senate Economic Development Committee. The legislation would require state agencies to monitor the impact of federal rules and regulations, and develop real-time tracking systems for permit applications.
On February 24, the Senate voted 34 to 13 to pass SB 447, which reduces the period that unemployment benefits would be paid from 26 weeks down to a range of 12 to 20 weeks. The legislation will also require the Labor Commissioner to impose a 50% surcharge on the premiums paid by employers.
The Secretary of State withdrew SB 445, which would have consolidated 43 professional licensing boards into one board with seven members. Secretary Kemp cited time constraints and the desire to get more public feedback on the massive bill, which is over 800 pages in length.
Speaker David Ralston is soliciting business input regarding his “Red Tape Watch” regulatory review initiative. The speaker is seeking specific recommendations regarding unnecessary and costly state regulations that can be eliminated. Comments can be made at www.house.ga.gov.
Finally, businesses are waiting for the introduction of legislation that would remove sales tax from energy used in manufacturing, mining and farming. This legislation has been heavily debated in past sessions, but is expected to be introduced prior to cross-over day, March 7.