In addition to green-lighting the state’s $27.2 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, Georgia lawmakers worked overtime to pass a number of bills before the legislative session ended early Thursday morning.
The General Assembly approved bills during the 14-hour session that would extend and review state tax breaks, limit police budget cuts, repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest law, keep daylight savings time and allow student-athletes to benefit financially from their abilities.
Gov. Brian Kemp has 40 days to approve or veto the bills before they become law. Here’s a roundup of some of the bills passed on the last day of session:
Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2021: The bill allows the chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to each request up to five economic analyses each year of existing or proposed Georgia laws that deal with tax exemptions, credits, deferrals, rebates, abatements or preferential rates. It includes extensions of sales tax exemptions for economic development projects in specific manufacturing industries. It exempts sales tax on tickets for fine arts performances from nonprofits and museums. It also adds job tax credits for pharmaceutical companies and tax breaks for high-impact aerospace defense projects. It cleared the Senate unanimously, and the House passed the measure with a 146-25 vote.
Hotel and motel tax: House Bill 317 would require online short-term rental companies such as Airbnb to collect hotel and motel excise taxes and pay them to local governments. HB 317 also adds the $5-a-night excise tax on all lodging facilities and rooms except for accommodations that do not provide shelter. Fiscal analysts estimate the measure could increase state tax revenue by more than $17 million in 2022 and more than $100 million over the next five years. HB 317 cleared the Senate, 31-5, and passed the House with a 142-22 vote.
Citizen’s arrest: House Bill 479 would eliminate the right for civilians to arrest other people except for retail business owners and restaurant owners in certain situations. Weight inspectors, licensed private security guards and private investigators also would be allowed to detain someone while on duty, and law enforcement officers would be able to make the arrests outside of their jurisdiction. HB 479 cleared the House unanimously and cleared the Senate with a 52-1 vote.
Police funding: House Bill 286 bans counties and municipalities in Georgia from reducing their police department budgets by more than 5%. Governments that seek assistance from other law enforcement agencies or have been ordered by a court to modify public services would be exempt from the policy. The exemptions, however, do not apply to law enforcement agencies with fewer than 25 full-time or part-time officers. The bill received the final approval from the House with a 100-73 vote. It cleared the Senate, 36-15.
Daylight saving time: Senate Bill 100 would allow Georgia to observe daylight saving time all year if Congress allows states to make the change. The measure would end the need to set clocks an hour ahead in spring and an hour back in fall. SB 100 received final approval from the Senate with a 45-6 vote and cleared the House, 111-48.
Student-athletes: House Bill 617 allows college athletes to be paid for their name and likeness. The measure would take effect if Congress passes a federal law to do so or the NCAA adopts the rule. If not, it automatically would become law in June 2025. HB 617 cleared the House, 163-5, and the Senate, 43-8.
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