Legislative Calendar
The Georgia General Assembly completed Day 34 of 40 on Friday, March 7.  They will be in session Monday through Thursday this week.

Day 40 or Sine Die, the last day of the 2014 legislative session, is currently scheduled for Thursday, March 20.

Election Qualifying
he last day of the qualifying period for candidates to run in the May 20, 2014 Primary/Nonpartisan Election.   To view all of the candidates who have qualified, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.

Federal Funding for Savannah Harbor Expansion Project
On Monday, President Obama released his budget for fiscal year 2015 with no construction funding included for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  Although, Congress reclassified the project from a “planning” project to a “construction” project in January, the Obama administration’s 2015 budget only included $1 million for further study of the project.

The Georgia Chamber released the following statement in response to the President’s budget:

“It is incredibly disappointing to see the Obama administration go back on their word with regard to their commitment to the completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  The lack of construction funding included in the budget released today threatens the completion of one of the most significant economic development projects in the nation, as well as the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment it is estimated to create.

We commend Governor Deal for pledging that Georgia will continue to move ahead with this critical project and will remain hopeful that the federal government will ultimately live up to the promises that have been made.  We also want to once again thank the members of our congressional delegation including both Senator Isakson and Senator Chambliss, as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for their steadfast support of the harbor deepening, which we know will continue despite today’s disappointing news.”

U.S. House Passes Flood Insurance Relief Legislation
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, to provide relief to homeowners and businesses in flood-prone areas who have seen a sharp hike in their insurance premiums as the result of a 2012 law.  Georgia Representatives John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Jack Kingston, John Lewis, David Scott, and Rob Woodall voted in support of the bill which now awaits action in the Senate.

Read the Georgia Chamber’s full statement on the bill’s passage HERE.

Updates on Key Business Legislation 
This week the Georgia General Assembly took action on several Georgia Chamber priorities important to the business community:

House Bill 176: Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act
Georgia Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
House Bill 176, the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, sponsored by Representative Don Parsons (Marietta) passed the House on January 31, 2014 by a vote of 154-4 and passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 48-1.  This bill provides for a streamlined regulatory process for companies investing in new or upgrading existing wireless infrastructure.  Wireless and broadband infrastructure is a vital economic development resource to attract business and improve the quality of life for area residents, especially in rural Georgia, and this bill encourages those continued, important investments.

House Bill 697: Expanding Zell Miller HOPE Grant Tuition for Technical College Students
Georgia Chamber Position: Support
House Bill 697 sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans (Smyrna) passed the House on February 19, 2014 by a vote of 172-2 and was reported favorably by the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Thursday.  This proposal expands the Zell Miller HOPE Grant program to provide full tuition for technical college students in technical certificate and diploma programs with a GPA of 3.5 or greater.  This will allow more Georgians to receive the training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

House Bill 782 – Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014
Georgia Chamber Position: Support
House Bill 782, the Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (Monroe) passed the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.  The bill seeks to give relief to utility responders in times of natural disasters or emergencies that impact the state’s infrastructure.  The bill would provide tax relief for workers who cross state lines to assist repairing infrastructure in the case of a declared disaster or emergency called by the Governor or President. The bill would also exempt infrastructure companies that enter the state during the disaster from various licensing, unemployment insurance and net/gross receipt or income taxes.

House Bill 958: Competitiveness Initiative Legislation
Georgia Chamber Position: Support; Scorecard
House Bill 958 sponsored by Rep. Chad Nimmer (Blackshear) passed the House by a vote of 167-5 on Monday and was favorably reported by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.  This bill was created as a result of Governor Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative and would enact a number of measures related to revenue and taxation.  It provides a state income tax credit for qualified entertainment production companies (film, video or digital); an exemption from state sales taxes for qualified food banks; a sales tax holiday for energy efficient or water efficient products; and extends the sales tax exemption on construction materials used in competitive projects of regional significance (determined by the Department of Economic Development).