Weekly Legislative Update, February 13, 2012
Last Week in the Georgia Legislature
The January Revenue numbers have not been released as yet. The release is expected any day. State Revenues for the first six months of this fiscal year are only running 5.2 percent ahead of the FY 2011 revenue collections. December revenues showed a 1.2 percent decline compared to December of 2011. The FY 2012 budget is based on revenue growth of 4.5 percent.
The House and Senate will be in recess through Tuesday, February 14th. They are scheduled to go into session for the 19th legislative day on Wednesday, February 15th, and stay in session through Friday, February 17th (21st legislative day). The legislative calendar is set through Monday, March 12th (31st legislative day). Back to top
Amended FY 2012
The House passed the Amended FY 2012 budget on Friday February 3rdby a vote of 159-0.
Due to the delay in releasing the January revenue numbers it is unclear when the Senate will act upon the Amended budget.
FY 2013 Budget
Both the House and Senate are continuing to hold hearings throughout the week on the FY 2013 budget. Download the proposed budget.
Dowload FY 2013 Budget Analyses:
HB 48 was approved by the Senate Finance Committee this week after already passing the House last year. It would enable counties, via referendum, to cut their inventory taxes (a taxes paid by businesses on their stock of goods) up to 100%. A similar measure passed in 2010 before being vetoed by Governor Perdue. Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2012/02/07/1894819/business-tax-cut-looks-likely.html
SB 402 would reform Georgia’s pension system so as to allow the state’s Employees Retirement Fund to invest in various “alternative investments,” such as venture capital and private equity. A maximum of 5% of pension assets could be invested in alternatives, and teacher pensions would be excluded from the reform altogether. The bill is in the Senate’s Retirement Committee.
HB 811 would restrict legislators’ ability to redirect the revenue collected from fees previously approved for a specific purpose. For example local tire removal is funded by a small fee customers pay when they purchase new tires, and extra fees on traffic violations help fund police officer training; however the revenue from such fees has often been diverted to the General Fund. The proposed bill would require legislators to appropriate the revenue from fees as intended, with some exceptions. Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2012/02/07/1894820/bill-aims-to-direct-user-fees.html
HB 862 would expand the Georgia Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, which legislators created in 2008. The credit allows individuals and companies to claim a credit against their income taxes in exchange for donating to qualified “student scholarship organizations,” which help students attending private schools. HB 862 would enable companies to claim the credit against additional taxes beyond the income tax, such as alcohol or insurance premium taxes. As written, the bill would not change the program’s $50 million annual cap.
HB 868, the lead piece of legislation stemming from Governor’s Deal Competitiveness Council, is scheduled to be heard by the Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee on February 15th. Aimed at reforming two of Georgia’s jobs tax credits, the bill would cost approximately $68 million per year according to its author. For additional information, download the HB 868 (LC 34 3275) Fact Sheet.
HB 890 is in the House Ways & Means Committee. It would create two new tax breaks related to the commercial use of natural gas, such as the construction of natural gas fueling stations for commercial trucks and taxis. While there is not an official fiscal note yet, the chairman of the committee estimated the new credits would cost $117 million over five years.
HB 920 is before the House Budget & Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee. Sponsored by Representative Chuck Martin, the bill would expand Georgia’s annual tax expenditure report to include a statement of each tax credit’s purpose and a cost-benefit analysis of whether that goal is being achieved (e.g. job creation). The proposed changes would strengthen lawmakers’ ability to analyze the effectiveness of tax expenditures.
Drug Testing of Applicants for Public Assistance (TANF, Medicaid and UI)
SB 292 referred to Senate Health & Human Services Committee
HB 464, HB 668, HB 697, HB 698, HB 699, HB 861 referred to House Judiciary Committee
Several bills have been introduced that require drug testing (mandatory or random) of adult applicants or recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, State Unemployment Insurance, and possibly other “state or state-administered federal public assistance”. The bills generally require the applicant or recipient to pay for the cost of the drug test, which is reimbursed if the test result is negative, using federal funds. These bills may not be constitutional (e.g., if considered suspicion-less searches) or may not be allowable under current federal law that governs public assistance (e.g., current unemployment law does not allow drug testing).
The Senate Health & Human Services Subcommittee for Health Care Delivery heard testimony on SB 292 on Monday, February 6, 2012. The bill sponsor is expected to introduce a substitute bill for future consideration.
The subcommittee also discussed SB 312 which requires “personal growth activities” for TANF and food stamp applicants. The subcommittee passed SB 312, but the Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Senate Health & Human Services Committee tabled the bill until the fiscal note could be reviewed.
The House Judiciary committee will discuss HB 668 on Wednesday, February 15, 2012.
Proposed Transfer of Rehabilitation Service
House Bill 831 proposes moving the Division of Rehabilitation Services from the Department of Labor to the Department of Human Services effective July 1, 2012. The governor has included the transfer in the FY 2013 budget report. The House Human Relations & Aging Committee passed HB 831 after hearing testimony on February 2 and February 6. HB 831 is now in the House Rules Committee.
Mandatory Volunteer Service for Unemployment Insurance Applicants
SB 294 requires an individual who is otherwise eligible for state unemployment benefits to perform at least 24 hours of volunteer service per week for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as a further condition of eligibility. This requirement would not apply for the first two weeks of eligibility. When a similar provision was proposed inFloridain 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor advised that a mandatory community service requirement would be out of conformity with federal law. SB 294 was prefiled and is currently in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee