March 25, 2017

The House and Senate met past dinnertime yesterday, which was Day 38, and will reconvene on Tuesday and Thursday next week for the final two days of this legislative session. The General Assembly was in session Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week leaving two recess days for committees to meet and pass the last few bills that could make it onto general calendars for the House and Senate Rules committees. The Senate has never set a calendar for Day 40 but uses that day to debate bills that had been postponed from previous legislative days and to consider conference committee bills as well as agreeing or disagreeing to bills that bounce back and forth between the two chambers with various amendments.

Both House and Senate passed the Conference Committee budget for FY 2018 on Wednesday.  This $25B budget includes 20% pay raises for state law enforcement, 19% raises for child protection workers, and 2% raises for teachers and state employees. It also includes money for the new judicial building near the Capitol and the new technical college in Hall County. The budget now goes to the Governor for his signature. Passing a budget is the only thing that is required of the General Assembly each session, so theoretically the session could be adjourned sine die at any time now.

The Senate passed a bill that would give property tax breaks to solar farms (HB 238) and agreed to House changes in the craft brewery bill (SB 85) that would give distilleries as well as brewers the ability to sell their products directly to consumers. They also passed legislation changing the TAVT so that ad valorem taxes on used cars are calculated as they are for new cars and taxes on leased vehicles would not be duplicated (HB 340), a governor-supported school improvement bill that would assist low-performing K-12 schools (HB 338), and a bill that would regulate fracking (HB 205).  The Senate Finance committee passed a bill (HB 217) that would raise the annual cap on tax credits for private school scholarships from $58M to $65M; this bill is now on the Senate Rules general calendar.

The House passed legislation expanding the scope of practice for optometrists after the author inserted that language into a bill that originally dealt with hearing aid dealers (SB 153).  They also passed legislation regulating autonomous vehicles (SB 219) with some changes that will have to be agreed to by the Senate.  The House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committee passed their version of the petroleum pipeline regulation (SB 191) this week.  On Friday the Senate Regulated Industries committee replaced the original language in HB 413 with a revised version of petroleum pipeline regulation and passed it.  These pipeline bills are now on the general Rules calendars in their respective houses and are available for House and/or Senate consideration Tuesday.  The House Regulated Industries committee held another hearing on the casino bill (HB 158) this week even though it was well past cross-over day.  Language from the casino bill could still be attached to another bill before the session ends on Thursday.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need information on any legislative issue. All bills can be found on the state’s legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

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