The 2014 legislative session was unusually short – ending on March 20th – and lacked many explosive issues. Speaking of explosive issues, a gun bill did pass, HB 60. It is designed to allow licensed gun owners to carry firearms in “unsecured” government buildings and churches. Churches can “opt in” if they so choose. The bill also allows suppressors to be used in hunting and prohibits state and local government from seizing firearms during a declared state of emergency. The other “big” bill was the medical cannabis legislation (HB 885). This measure would allow the use of cannabis oil for medical treatment. Though you would think the controversy
centered around the fact that cannabis is a marijuana derivative, the ultimate battle was a “playground” fight between the House and Senate that prevented a final vote by the Senate. The issue has widespread support on both sides of the aisle.
All GCC legislative initiatives were adopted:
Early in the session, we engaged the General Assembly regarding legislation to restore appeal rights for property owners whose facilities have been listed as hazardous sites under the Hazardous Site Response Act (HSRA). These companion bills, SB 333 and HB 904, were introduced in January and February respectively, and both ultimately passed through both chambers of the General Assembly days before the end of session. As one of the only bureaucratic decisions that provided no appellate recourse, HSRA reform was a necessary, common sense step towards maintaining Georgia’s status as havingthe best business climate of any state in the U.S.
Along with the passage of the GCC’s priority issue, 2014 was a successful year for bills that we supported, most of which became law in the waning days of the legislative session, as is tradition. The following pieces of legislation were supported by GCC and await the governor’s signature:
- HB 741 provides for more local control when the EPD is considering a sludge land application
- HB 549 created emergency response procedures for reporting and responding to toxic spills into public waterways that would create a public health situation.
- HJR 1158 and HR 1159 were companion resolutions that encouraged the EPA to consult with the states in determining new emissions standards for new and existing coal powered electric generating facilities.
- In another positive step for Georgia manufacturing, the General Assembly passed HB 900 which eliminated the distinction between ‘equipment’ and ‘consumable supplies’ in the tax code in an effort to save manufacturers time and money wasted in ensuring compliance.
There were several bills, most of which we opposed, that we covered over the course of session that either did not pass out of its chamber of origin before crossover day or was not passed into law before sine die.
- HB 823 proposed that the sales tax exemption for alternative fuel facilities extend to those engaged in the production of wood pellets. GCC opposed this bill, and we were glad to see it die in Senate committee.
- GCC monitored the progress of HB 864 that would prevent interbasin transfers of surface water. This bill never passed out of the House Natural Resources committee and was effectively dead on crossover day.
- SB 306 was legislation introduced early in the session that would restrict the injection of ground and surface water into the Floridian Aquifer. We opposed this bill from the outset, and it did not gain any traction after it was introduced.
Lastly, legislation to provide a per vehicles tax credit to companies that purchased compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks proved to be our only significant legislative defeat in 2014. HB 348 passed the Senate in the final days of session, and we worked to oppose this measure, but were ultimately unable to overcome the powerful interests (UPS, Waste Management and other waste haulers) behind this bill. While the passage of this legislation was disappointing for GCC, we were successful in limiting the bill. Our efforts cut the total annual subsidy from $10 million through 2018 to $2.5 million through 2017. Our major concern now is that this will become a vehicle for expanding subsidies, and GCC will work diligently in the coming years to ensure this does not occur.
Despite the expectation of a quiet legislative session in the midst of an early primary season, several important and controversial pieces of legislation were proposed in 2014:
- Sweeping gun legislation that made national headlines passed in all but name this session. While the original omnibus gun bill, HB 875, failed to pass this session, much of its original language was included in HB 60, which ultimately passed the Senate on sine die. This legislation lifts the ban on bringing licensed firearms into many public places such including bars and certain government buildings.
- HB 702 and HB 1080 were passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2014 to commission a Ten Commandments monument and statue of Martin Luther King Jr., respectively, to be placed on Capitol Grounds.
- Georgia’s medical marijuana bill, HB 885, failed to pass in the waning hours of session despite widespread, bipartisan interest and support.
- The original ACA Nullification Legislation, HB 707, failed to pass this session, but much of its language was added to HB 943 which did receive final approval from the General Assembly.
- A measure to require drug testing for food stamp recipients passed with modifications to soften the impact. HB 772 originally provided for drug testing of all food stamp recipients, but was amended so that only those suspected of drug use are required to submit to drug testing.
All in all GCC had a great year. We kicked off the second leg of the 2013-14 continuing session with our perennially well attended legislative reception on Monday January 13. This year was no exception as we welcomed over 150 elected officials to meet with our members and learn about the impact that the chemical industry has on the Georgia economy. Governor Nathan Deal and his wife Sandra, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were several of the notable guests who wanted to learn about not only what the chemical industry does for Georgia, but what Georgia can do for the chemical industry. The reception provided us with the momentum we needed to tackle every legislative issue that came our way. We have scheduled next year’s event for January 13, 2015. Mark your calendar today!
- Reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act is the foremost legislative issue for ACC this year. Our reform efforts include the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2014 pending in the Senate and the recently released discussion draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act of 2014. ACC believes that it is necessary to modernize how we regulate chemicals in commerce in a way that puts public health and the safety of our children as the highest priority. You can visit the American Chemistry Council website for more information on what ACC is doing to help craft a regulatory system that can adapt to changes in science and technology and will help maintain American competitiveness in chemicals manufacturing.
- The U.S. rail system has fallen short of its promise to deliver competitive service for businesses and consumers.ACC aims to bring railway reform to the forefront of the conversation as a way to boost American manufacturing. Currently, shippers face skyrocketing freight rates and have little recourse when treated unfairly. It is the American Chemistry Council’s vision to update rail performance standards and implement technologies that will help modernize U.S. railways and provide a strong foundation for the revitalization of American manufacturing.
In Other News…
- Political Mobilization Efforts in 2014
- On March 17th GCC, along with ACC and the Dow Chemical Company, had the opportunity to host Congressman Tom Price (GA-6) at the Dow facility in Marietta, GA. It was a good opportunity to share who we are and what we do for the State of Georgia with one of our strongest leaders in Washington.
- As well on March 19th GCC, representatives from DSM, Olin Corporation, Chemtrade Logistics Inc., NutraSweet, Solvay America, Inc., and W.R. Grace & Co. held an informal breakfast meeting in Augusta, GA with Congressman John Barrow (GA-12) to express industry support for the efforts presently underway in Washington regarding TSCA reform. The meeting was a success and would not have been possible without the support of the members who attended. We would like to express a special thank you to those who took the time to participate.
- If you have an interest in having your member of Congress visit your facility, please contact Thomas Beusse, Political Mobilization Manager with ACC at 706-202-9308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Georgia Senate race has quickly become possibly the most interesting contest in the country and could be critical in deciding the partisan majority in the U.S. Senate. While Georgia is considered by most to be a blood red state, Republicans are concerned that the battle for the GOP nomination, led by David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston by slim margins, could drain the candidates’ war chests before the general election. Whoever wins this war of attrition will face a strong Democratic challenger in Michelle Nunn who carries an iconic name in Georgia politics and the unified support of the Georgia Democratic Party.
- The Obama administration has excluded funding for the deepening of the port of Savannah from its budget proposal only a few months after Vice President Biden promised that the project would be completed. The deepening of the port has been slated for completion, pending federal funding authorization, for a number of years, and if this project does not begin soon, the port of Savannah will not be ready to handle the larger cargo ships that are expected when the major expansion of the Panama Canal is completed as early as next year.