What Happened at the Gold Dome?Stan Jones & Helen Sloat | Georgia Nonprofit NOW, Spring 2012
A Wrap-up of the 2012 Legislative Session of the Georgia
The Georgia General Assembly convened its 2012 Session on January 9th and concluded with a whirlwind of activity on March 29th at the stroke of midnight. The legislature generally focused on five major areas due to sheer time constraints: the State’s budget, abortion, tax reform, criminal justice reform and charter schools. While nonprofits fared relatively well in the current climate, in terms of the state’s budget and governance issues, those who are served by Georgia’s many nonprofits did not fare as well (such as passage of HB 861).
Following is a wrap-up of this year’s legislative activity, highlighting the key pieces of legislation that passed or failed:
HB 742, the State's 2013 Budget, includes approximately $39.5 billion to serve the state's needs with no major cuts to Medicaid funding or services to children. (Note: there is an actual rate increase for certain providers in PeachCare for Kids when those providers serve those children rolling from the State Health Benefit Plan and into PeachCare program)
HB 954, the abortion amendment, criminalizes abortion procedures performed after 20 weeks gestation period with a few exceptions.
HB 386, the Comprehensive Tax Reform bill includes among its provisions an increase in the marital exception from $5,400 to $7,400 for couples filing joint income tax returns; excludes tax on energy used in manufacturing; eliminates certain taxes on agricultural inputs; amends law on retirement income exclusion; and it will also eliminate the "birthday tax" on automobiles beginning March 1, 2013 instituting in its place a tax on sales of automobiles at the time they are titled.
HR 1162 creates a Charter School Constitutional Amendment that will go to the voters to restore an alternative route in creating charter schools.
HB 1176, the criminal Justice Reform Bill, includes standardization of drug and mental health courts; permits greater permission to restrict access to criminal records for individuals who have not been found guilty of crimes; and increases mandatory child abuse reporters to also include pregnancy resource centers, clergy (with some exceptions) and reproductive healthcare centers.
HB 861 creates drug testing for individuals receiving TANF benefits, but does not require such testing on dependent children receiving these benefits who are under the age of 18 years of age.
HB 822, Georgia's Taxpayer False Claims Act, revamps current law and allows more protections to whistle blowers.
HB 397 updates the State's open meetings and open records laws, as requested by the State's Attorney General.
SB 427 and SB 428 provide regulatory reforms by timely processing permits required by the Environmental Protection Division, and requires an annual report on federal rules and regulation from each agency, so as to protect against duplication.
The effort to rewrite Georgia's Juvenile Code (HB 641).
The creation of the low-profit limited liability companies (HB 594).
The Uniform Fraudulent transfers Act (SB 299 and HB 1079)
A number of sales and use tax exemptions that would have benefitted food banks across the State, Goodwill Industries, nonprofit health clinics, and the Federally Qualified Health Centers (HB 306, HB 317, HB 318, HB 319, HB 331, HB 333, HB 334, HB 359 and HB 379).
The prohibition of mass picketing applying to certain private residences of company officer, representative, executive, or employee of an organization, entity or labor organization party to a labor dispute (SB 469).
the Constitutional Amendment to "prevent discrimination in the public funding of social services by allowing religious or faith based organizations to receive public aid, directly or indirectly, for the provision of such services" (HR 425).
Learn more about the Georgia General Assembly, the legislative process, and 2012 developments here.
Stan Jones serves as lobbyist for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and is a Partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.
Helen Sloat is Legislative Consultant at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.