House approves Rep. Shaw’s jobs plan, metal theft bill
Two legislative proposals that were detailed in last week's report received overwhelming approval by the House of Representatives this week.
On March 11, House members voted 151-18 to approve HB 439, the New Markets Jobs Act, which I introduced to assist underserved and rural areas by establishing an investment fund to help put more capital investments for small businesses in those areas. Through tax credits, New Markets initiatives help entrepreneurial small businesses owners create private sector jobs and expand their businesses. The success of the federal New Markets program has encouraged 14 states to enact similar legislation.
Studies of the federal and state programs show they pay for themselves by creating more new revenue, which exceeds the cost of the tax credits. Following House approval, HB 439 was referred to the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee for its consideration.
The same day, the House voted 165-2 in favor of HB 461, which I sponsored in an effort to strengthen Georgia's metal theft laws by imposing stricter conditions on the sale of scrap catalytic converters to secondary metal recyclers. This bill is now under consideration by the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee.
Additionally, House members voted unanimously to approve HB 470, the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights, which I co-sponsored. This legislation provides that the Commissioner of Insurance will have regulatory oversight of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) doing business in Georgia, which will greatly benefit our local independent pharmacists throughout the state. I was pleased to have helped get the PBMs to the table for negotiation and work out a compromise. HB 470 goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Criminal Justice Reform: As the next step in Georgia's highly successful criminal justice reforms of the past several years, the House voted March 11 to approve legislation proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal that would combine the supervision functions of three state agencies into a new Department of Community Supervisions.
Under HB 310, the new combined agency would assume the current supervisory functions of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections. The proposal, which would impose new transparency requirements on companies that provide probation services, is designed to streamline government oversight and communications, save tax dollars and improve the delivery of justice in our state.
Just last month, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform reported a reduction in the growth rate of adults behind bars, the near elimination of a backlog of state inmates being placed in county jails and a 62 percent decline in juvenile offenders locked up in state facilities.
These improvements are the result of reforms aimed at using less-expensive counseling and supervision for non-violent offenders, while freeing up prison beds for the most dangerous criminals. It is also in the interest of the state to reduce the criminal recidivism rate and ensure that inmates completing their sentences are able to re-enter society as productive citizens instead of returning to criminal behavior. HB 310 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Fireworks Legalization: On March 9, House members approved legislation that would legalize the sale of all fireworks in Georgia, where only sparklers can currently be sold lawfully.
HB 110 seeks to keep money spent by Georgians on fireworks in our state's economy, instead of going to bordering states. It would also eliminate confusion among many new residents who move to Georgia from other states and are unaware that fireworks are illegal.
Under the proposal, firework sales would be regulated by the Commissioner of Insurance, who also serves as the State Fire Marshal. Fireworks dealers would be required to pay an initial license fee of $5,000, followed by annual renewal payments of $1,000. HB 110 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Other House Action: The past week was the busiest of the year so far for the Georgia General Assembly. March 13 was the 30th legislative day, also known as Crossover Day, which is the deadline for most legislation to pass either the House of Representatives or the Senate in time to be considered by the other chamber this year.
Legislation approved by the House and sent to the Senate in the past week includes:
• HB 17, the Hidden Predator Act, which would increase the statute of limitations for filing civil claims in cases of child sex abuse from five years to 35 years.
• HB 48, which would allow law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders who have sustained a major injury on the job to receive special license plates.
• HB 131, the End to Cyberbullying Act, which would expand schools' anti-bullying policies to include bullying that occurs via the Internet, email, text messaging and social media.
• HB 225, which would require drivers for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, to undergo criminal background checks and require the companies to pay state sales tax or an annual fee for each car in their networks.
• HB 237, which would extend until 2020 the state income tax credit for angel investors, individuals who invest in small, startup businesses.
• HB 308, which would increase the state income tax credit for rehabilitating a certified historic structure from $300,000 to $5 million.
• HB 314, which would consolidate the state boards that oversee licensed barbers and cosmetologists.
• HB 370, which would authorize the Republican and Democratic legislative caucuses to make campaign expenditures and would grant a grace period for local candidates to comply with state ethics commission campaign disclosure filings.
• HB 393, which would allow Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers without opening independent dealerships.
• HB 397, which would administratively move the Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission under the Department of Agriculture, keeping the agency intact and creating a new statewide governing board made up of five members from different geographic regions.
• HB 474, which would allow educationally disadvantaged students and military students to be included in Charter School enrollment policy.
• HB 475, which would expand the legal allowed period for hunting feral hogs without a license.
• HB 514, which would authorize a referendum to create a City of South Fulton.
• HB 535, which would allow local governments where Sunday alcohol sales are already legal to authorize restaurant to sell drinks beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.
The House gave final approval to SB 103, which would authorize bars in Savannah to open from 12:30 p.m. to midnight on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day. The bill was quickly signed into law by Gov. Deal so as to take effect March 15.
House members defeated HB 338, a proposal to add a $5 fee to all traffic citations to pay the costs of implementing an electronic citation system.
Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts on these and other issues, or whenever I can be of service. My legislative office is located at 508-A Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone 404-656-0213 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.