Today marks the 26th day of the 2014 legislative session. Crossover day is rapidly approaching and if we stay on track that will occur on March 3, 2014. With the “Ice-pocalypse” behind us, the movement of legislation will start to quicken. GCC will remain closely engaged at the Capitol as we anticipate our HSRA appeals rights legislation to be before the full House early next week along with other key measures that are still in play.
Our bill in the Senate to restore appeal rights under HSRA is currently waiting to be considered by the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment committee. The committee hearing for this bill has been postponed again due to conflicts for several committee members. We will present SB 333 before the committee during its next meeting.
HB 904 serves as the House version of GCC’s bill to restore appeal rights under HSRA. This legislation passed the full House Natural Resources & Environment committee Thursday, February 20 and now is in Rules. We will continue to push legislation to ensure Georgia businesses have the appellate rights they deserve.
On February 18, the Senate read and adopted SR 946 which designated the month of October as Plastics Awareness Month. SR 946 was a “privileged” resolution, which was only read by title, with no discussion, before the floor vote. The resolution contained inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies about the plastics industry. Because the plastics industry is important to Georgia citizens and the Georgia economy, GCC is working with a coalition to address this resolution.
HR 1158 and HJR 1159, which encourages the EPA to consult with the states in determining new emissions standards in coal powered electric generating facilities, resumed their progress this week. HJR 1159 passed the House, and was introduced in the Senate on February 18 when it was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee. HR 1158 also passed the House on February 17 and will be transmitted to US EPA.
Introduced during the 2013 legislative session, HB 348 would provide a tax credit up to $20,000 per vehicle for companies that convert fleet vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG). On February 18, HB 348, was in a sub-committee of the House Ways & Means committee, for a hearing only. A dozen industry representatives and trade associations where present at the hearing and testified in support of the measure. GCC stood alone and testified in opposition to the bill. We maintain our stance that free market forces, not government subsidies, should determine the demand for natural gas. GCC will continue to work in opposition to this bill and any measure that undermines the organic marketplace for natural gas.
HB 823, which would expand the tax exemption for alternative fuel sources to include wood pellets, was in sub-committee On February 18. It was a hearing only where ACC, GCC, the Forestry Association, and others testified in opposition to the measure. We will continue to monitor this legislation closely.
On February 10, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 741 intended to provide local control and input when the EPD is reviewing an application for a sludge land application permit. The bill has since been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment committee for further review.
HB 900 is a piece of tax code legislation that would consider items deemed “consumable supplies” as exempt from sales tax for manufacturing. The bill passed through the House Ways & Means Committee on February 20 and now awaits action by the powerful Rules Committee. We are engaged on this issue. It will save our members a lot of accounting headaches and administrative costs.
SB 299 was introduced on January 21 and allows local governments flexibility in watershed protection standards. It has undergone a second reading and is currently in the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.
Buzz Around the Dome:
- Georgia could become one of the first states to hold its presidential primaries if Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s plan is implemented. The Kemp plan would set March 1, 2016 as the date for presidential primary elections in Georgia. Kemp has also reached out to other southern states to work together to create a “Super Southern Tuesday” early in the primary season.
- Georgia’s controversial gun bill, HB 875, was adopted by the House on Tuesday Feb 18. The bill significantly loosens restrictions on gun ownership and where Georgians are allowed to carry firearms.
- Several changes were adopted in Georgia to the insurance policies of public school teachers that, they claim, will cause significant financial burdens and loss of coverage. Teachers and opponents of the changes rallied outside the capitol on Tuesday to voice their concerns.
- Georgia currently has a law that guards the identities of those who provide lethal-injection drugs to prison officials, but this law will face a challenge in the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday. While state officials claim executions would not be possible without this law, opponents claim that without this information, it is impossible to determine if a prisoner is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment with its use.