March 8, 2019

The legislature took off Wednesday for a committee workday and met four days this week.  We have now completed 29 legislative days.

Cross-over day was yesterday which means the only bills still able to pass this session are the ones that passed the chamber where they were introduced and then “crossed over” to the other chamber.  Because of the “cross-over” deadline, it was a long day.  The House adjourned around 11:15 last night and the Senate adjourned around 6:30. Both House and Senate met briefly this morning without a calendar of bills for consideration.

After a debate that last more than two hours yesterday, the Senate, along party lines, passed the “Georgia Major Airport Authority Act” (SB 131).  The bill had been amended in committee to include language that the state would not take over the Atlanta airport if the state and city agreed to a “joint governance plan” for the airport before the effective date of July 1, 2020.

The Senate also passed a bill that would authorize EMCs to provide broadband service (SB 2).  This bill was amended in committee to address anti-competitive concerns raised by the cable and telecom industry. It passed by a vote of 53-1.

The House debated Rep. Hatchett’s certificate of need (CON) bill (HB 198) which had been amended in the Rules Committee to increase the pool of available tax credits from $60M to $100M for taxpayers making contributions to rural hospitals.  The bill does not eliminate CON but does modify it to require that an opposing entity must be located within a 35-mile radius of the proposed healthcare facility.  This bill lost by a vote of 72-94.  Even though reconsideration of the bill passed, it was not called up again.

Another bill that sparked a long, and occasionally emotional, debate was the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” (HB 481) which would make abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat can be detected.  After several unsuccessful procedural maneuvers by the House Minority Leader to stop the vote, the bill passed by a vote of 93-73. He then requested reconsideration but that motion failed.

Rep. Tanner’s major transportation funding bill (HB 511) overwhelmingly passed the House yesterday.  The bill had been amended to include a state sales tax on ride-hailing services and eliminate the proposed flat fee of 50-cents per taxi, limo and ride-hailing trips. The funds raised from these taxes would pay for transit projects and pilot programs, such as a program to help transport unemployed residents to work or school or one to provide tax credits to companies that subsidize their employees’ use of transit to get to work. Uber and Lyft agreed to the flat fee, but they oppose a sales tax and have said these taxes would cause Georgia to have the highest taxes on ride-hailing services in the country.

In a bi-partisan vote, the “hate crimes” bill (HB 426) passed the House after a long, heartfelt debate by a vote of 96-64.  This bill would increase penalties for crimes involving bias or prejudice.

Other bills that passed this week include one to reduce vehicle title taxes from 7% to 6.6% beginning on July 1 of this year and ending in 2023 (HB 365), and a bill to establish a statewide Business Court (SB 110 and HB 239).

On Tuesday, the Senate failed to pass the “Ga. Educational Scholarship Act” (SB 173) which would have provided that public money could be used to pay for private school tuition or homeschooling costs.  The vote was 25-28. Although the Senate voted to reconsider their action in failing to pass the bill, it was not called up again.

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