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Update from the Capitol - 4/11/18

Senator Tyler Harper

By: Sen. Tyler Harper (R - Ocilla)

 

Just a few minutes after midnight on March 29, the 2018 Legislative Session came to an end. It was a long session, but after looking back on all that we did, I am sure that we made Georgians across the state proud.  Even working all throughout the 14 hours on the last legislative day, there is simply not enough time to get through every bill and resolution. While Thursday was the final day of the session, we still had an equally long and productive day on Tuesday. Among the issues we took action on were enhancing public safety and promoting and securing our outdoor resources and agricultural industry.

 

To highlight a few bills that will have an impact on our district, we passed House Bill 871 which would create sales and use tax exemptions for manufactured homes being converted into real property. The bill provides for a 50 percent exemption from state sales and use taxes if the conversion is within 30 days of the sale. With the number of jobs in our district associated with building and maintaining manufactured homes, this legislation should provide a positive direct economic impact for our district. Regarding the courts in our area, and per the request of the circuit, we made a few changes to the term dates for the terms of superior courts. The legislation, HB 808, only impacts the counties and courts covered by the Waycross Judicial Circuit.

As we reported earlier this session, we passed, and the governor has signed, a comprehensive tax overhaul and the largest reduction of the state income tax for all families since 1937 and the largest reduction of the corporate tax rate on businesses since 1969. This was a great win for our state as we continue our efforts to make our tax code fair. In that effort and to improve parity between the brick and mortar businesses in our state and online retailers by ensuring that online retailers don’t have a special advantage over local businesses, we passed House Bill 61. HB 61 would require that businesses that are located out of state who make $250,000 or more in revenue or conduct more than 200 individual transactions of goods to be subject to our state sales tax laws. 

Unfortunately, our state knows all too well that the job of a public safety officer is a dangerous one. Sometimes, our officers are involved in situations that leave emotional scars. HB 703 would create the Office of Public Safety Officer Support which would provide officers with counselors to help with trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. After putting their lives on the line for us, the least we can do is see to it that they are given the support that they require in dealing with the job they so bravely volunteer to perform. We also passed HB 809 which will be a cost-saving measure for the Georgia State Patrol. Currently, GSP Patrol Cars are painted in a two-tone color. This bill would simply give GSP the option to paint their cars in a solid color to save money on extraneous paint. HB 867, also passed on Thursday, would grant individuals taking the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) exam more leniency and would allow those who already hold a college degree to waive the POST exam requirement altogether. These pieces of legislation will open up more opportunities for those who wish to serve as peace officers while at the same time ensuring that all who join are qualified.

Georgia’s outdoors also got a boost with the passage of HB 332. HB 332 creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund which will be used to fund the protection and conservation of land. The bill requires that up to half of the sales and use tax collected by outdoor and sporting goods stores to be dedicated to the fund which would pay for grants to cities, counties and municipalities to support the preservation of parks and trails. This legislation is dependent on a separate constitutional amendment, House Resolution 238, being adopted by voters across the state. We also increased the list of items that can be recycled in Georgia through a measure I carried, HB 785. This bill updates certain language to ensure that plastic recycling plants are not wrongly classified as landfills and allows more types of plastic to be recycled which will lead to a cleaner environment. 

Rural Georgia was a key focus this session and we passed many bills designed purely to benefit these communities. One of these bills we passed last week was HB 951 which would create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation. This center will work in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and others to establish pilot programs for rural development and facilitate innovation, economic growth, and redevelopment in rural Georgia.

The final piece of legislation I want to mention is the final passage of the FY 2019 budget. This budget is significant because it fully funds the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula for the first time since QBE was put in place in 1985. Our schools and students need these funds to reach their full potential and the Senate was thrilled with Gov. Deal’s leadership in securing this allocation. The budget also includes a number of key wins for our district and I look forward to sharing those with you as I travel the district.  

While the atmosphere was celebratory most of the week, we did take a few days to reflect on the passing of Governor Zell Miller. Governor Miller served the state of Georgia in the State Senate, as Lt. Governor, Governor, and finally as a United States Senator. He left a lasting legacy through the HOPE Scholarship and left an immeasurable impact on our state. Gov. Miller was brought to the Capitol to lie in state on Tuesday before an executive funeral service on Wednesday. While the occasion was somber, it was a great recognition of the life of one of the greatest Georgians of my lifetime.

We also were paid a visit by former governor and current United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue. Secretary Purdue stopped by a meeting of the Rural Caucus last week to fill us in on some of the current initiatives happening at the federal level. Having strong leadership at the top for agriculture issues is crucial for our state and I am thankful we have Secretary Purdue who knows our needs first-hand.

As you can tell, it was a long week under the Gold Dome. While session may be over, I am still your senator year-round. If you ever have any questions or concerns, or if there’s anything I can help you with please do not hesitate to contact my office. Thank you for putting your faith in me to represent you this session.

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Sen. Tyler Harper serves as Chairman of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. He represents the 7th Senate District which includes Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Coffee, Irwin, Pierce and Ware counties and portions of Charlton and Wilcox counties.  He may be reached at 404.463.5263 or via email at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .