Georgia Legislative Special Session 2018: What You Need to Know

SPECIAL SESSION UPDATE: Lawmakers in the Georgia House approved an amendment to the state’s 2019 budget that includes more than $270 million dollars in funding to assist with Hurricane Michael relief efforts. South Georgia experienced catastrophic losses within our agriculture and forestry industries that are critical engines of Georgia’s economy. Gov. Nathan Deal raised the revenue estimate by $270 million dollars to meet the immediate needs facing the state. However, the needs are much greater.

Revenue projections for the fiscal year have been very strong and enabled budget writers to accommodate this emergency spending without any other alterations to the current budget.

The most notable increases in funding include:

  • $9 million to cover insurance costs for state-owned buildings damaged in the storm
  • $69 million for the Governor’s Emergency Fund
  • $75 million for the Georgia Development Authority to assist in disaster relief support
  • $35 million for economic development deal closing funds; funds for transportation that exceed current budget spending levels and recognition of higher revenues from motor fuel

Secondly, the House passed two bills giving tax breaks to timber landowners in the form of a refundable tax credit that encourages owners to incentivize replanting and reforestry in a 28-county area devastated by the storm. The House also ratified Gov. Deal’s executive order that suspended tax collection on jet fuel. Under this measure jet fuel will be exempt from tax collection through the end of the fiscal year, June 20, 2019.

The bills linked below are now with the Georgia Senate and will be taken up for a full vote when senators convene on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 8:30 a.m. If the Senate passes the bills without changes, they will adjourn Sine Die and the bills will head to the governor’s desk. If the Senate makes changes, the Legislature will return on Monday to address the differences in the bills.

Legislation under consideration during special session

HB 1EX: Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019

HB 4EX: Income tax; tax credit for certain taxpayers based on certain expenses incurred due to Hurricane Michael; create

HB 5EX: Governor; executive order suspending collection of sales and use tax levied on jet fuel; ratify

November 12, 2018

FAQs: Special Legislative Session in Georgia 

What is a special session of the Georgia General Assembly?

Georgia’s governor has authority to call a special session of the Georgia General  Assembly for special circumstances. The duration of a special session is much shorter, and the timing occurs outside of the legislature’s annual regular session which convenes the second Monday in January as required by the state’s constitution. The regular session lasts for approximately 40 legislative days. During this time legislators are mandated by the constitution to approve a balanced budget. Lawmakers also pass a host of laws that go to the governor for approval.

Why is it being called?

Because of the financial costs and implications to the state, lawmakers must return to the Capitol to review the annual fiscal spending plan that began July 1 and amend the plan to ensure the state can support the recovery efforts while fulfilling current and new obligations. The state passes a balanced budget and cannot spend more than what it expects to receive in revenues. Lawmakers must review current revenue projections and determine current spending and support needed for hurricane recovery and amend the budget accordingly.

The Georgia General Assembly will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 13, following the state’s observance of Veteran’s Day on Monday, Nov. 12.

How long will it last? Will the newly elected representatives participate?  

The special session is expected to last no more than five days.

Newly elected representatives take the oath of office and are inaugurated in January 2019, therefore they will not participate in this process. All current lawmakers will work on amending the current fiscal year 2019 budget.

Will Georgians vote on the decisions made during this session? 

No, there will not be a special vote for the issues lawmakers cover during the General Assembly. The Georgia General Assembly will fulfill its legislative duty by appropriating state dollars and amending the state’s budget plan as they do each year.

How will Georgia pay for hurricane relief? Will Georgia have to spend money from its Rainy Day Fund? 

Gov. Deal has approximately $2.5 billion in the state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve, or rainy day fund. This summer the rainy day fund reached an all-time high as Gov. Deal work over the last eight years to build the fund that was nearly depleted after the Great Recession.

It is not likely that the rainy day fund will be used toward hurricane relief efforts. Instead, the state may adjust upward this year’s revenue estimate as the first four months have seen positive growth over expectations. That may enable the legislature to appropriate additional tax dollars to pay for recovery efforts. GBPI will watch the legislative process to monitor how lawmakers will plan to pay for the relief efforts and adjust the state’s spending plan. We want to ensure lawmakers make responsible and fiscally sound decisions.

Learn more about how the budget for the State of Georgia is created, allocated and approved. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute publishes an annual Budget Primer that guides Georgians through the process and highlights how our tax dollars are spent.

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