2016 Georgia Legislative Session

Legislative Days 36 – 38  March 18, 2016

By Katie Base Roberts
Director of Governmental Affairs
Fiveash Stanley, Inc.

Final Week Approaches
With the 2016 edition of the Georgia General Assembly nearing an end, activity under the Gold Dome is busier than ever.  The legislature met well into the evening Monday through Wednesday this week in a final push to finish their work.  As is always the case this time of year, several legislators saw their bills hijacked, gutted and loaded with new language to resurrect otherwise lifeless legislation before the clock runs out.

Next week, lawmakers will meet Tuesday, March 23 for day 39 and Thursday, March 24 for day 40, the last day of session.  These final days are dangerous, and your Government Affairs Team remains vigilant until the last bell of the 2016 session rings at midnight next Thursday.

Industry Issues

HB 935: Freeport Exemption
Representative Brett Harrell, R-Snellville
Favorably reported from the Senate Finance Committee on 3/15

HB 935 adds certain fulfillment centers to properties eligible for a freeport exemption.  A fulfillment center is defined "for purposes of a level 1 freeport exemption, as a business location in Georgia which is used predominately to pack, ship, store or otherwise process tangible personal property sold by electronic, internet, telephonic, or other remote means.”  This is part of the Department of Economic Development’s 2016 legislative package.

Healthcare & Workers’ Compensation Issues

* Indicates the legislation needs agreement from one of the chambers before final adoption

HB 818: State Board Housekeeping
Representative Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland
Pending in the Senate Rules Committee

HB 818 is the annual State Board of Workers’ Compensation housekeeping bill, drafted in conjunction with the Advisory Council.  It makes a number of changes relating to benefits:

  • Increases the temporary total disability payout from $550 to $575 per week
  • Increases the temporary partial disability payout from $367 to $383 per week
  • Increases the death benefit to a surviving spouse from $220,000 to $230,000

The bill also makes terminology changes and clarifies policies relating to administrative law judges, self-insured employers and the self-insurer’s guaranty trust fund.

HB 216: Occupational Diseases
Representative Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Favorably reported from the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee on 3/14*

As originally introduced, HB 216 provided a rebuttable presumption that an expanded list of medical conditions suffered by firefighters are occupational diseases. 

The version currently under consideration is more conservative.  The legislation does not provide a rebuttable presumption and only extends the list of medical conditions to include cancer, which “is shown by a preponderance of the competent and credible evidence, which shall include medical evidence, to have been attributable to the firefighter’s performance of his or her duties as a firefighter.”  This new language would allow the firefighter to appear before an administrative law judge to determine if workers’ compensation benefits are payable in the event of cancer.

While under consideration by the Senate, the Insurance and Labor Committee made a small revision; therefore, the bill must return to the House for agreement before it is eligible for action by the Governor.

HB 866: Employer of Self-Insured Health Plans
Representative Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire
Favorably reported from the Senate Insurance Committee on 3/9*

HB 866 exempts multiple employer self-insured health plans from the payment of premium taxes on the plan's net premium.

General Business Issues

* Indicates the legislation needs agreement from one of the chambers before final adoption

HB 238: Tax Reform
Representative Ben Harbin, R-Evans (no longer in the Legislature)
Adopted by the Senate on 3/16*

As originally introduced, HB 238 provided a sales tax exemption for construction materials used to expand the Georgia Aquarium; it was adopted by the House last year and has been pending in the Senate Finance Committee.  Senate Finance Chairman Judson Hill (R-Marietta) stripped the original language from HB 238 and inserted language from his own SB 280, which enacts a variety of tax reform measures.  Specifically it reduces the maximum state income tax from 6% to 5.4%, reduces the number of itemized deductions, raises personal exemptions and eliminates the state's corporate net worth tax that companies pay.

SB 255: Wage Garnishment
Senator Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro
Scheduled for debate in the House on 3/22*

In 2015, a federal judge ruled that Georgia’s existing garnishment law did not provide sufficient notice about income exemptions (like income from Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation and welfare).  After the ruling, some counties stopped issuing garnishments altogether until the law could be improved.  SB 255 is the product of a working group of House and Senate members to address these constitutional issues.

HB 381: Notarial Acts and Notaries
Representative Andy Welch, R-McDonough
Pending in the Senate Rules Committee*

HB 381 comes out of the Uniform Law Commission and makes significant changes to laws governing notarial acts and notary publics.  The Uniform Law recommends notary publics complete a course of study, pass an exam, maintain a journal of notarizations and require certain certificates.