At the Capitol: Week of February 5

The legislative session paused on Monday as a memorial service was held for former Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who passed away last week. Still, lawmakers are nearing the halfway point of the legislative session with Days 15-18 scheduled this week. 

Here are some other updates from the past week:

– The House adopted a series of tax relief measures this week. House Bill 1015, authored by Rep. Lauren McDonald, R-Cumming, lowers the state income tax rate from 5.49% to 5.39% for 2024. House Bill 1019, sponsored by Rep. Matt Reeves, R-Duluth, doubles the state’s homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000. And House Bill 1021, sponsored by Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, increases the dependent exemption from $3,000 to $4,000. 

– Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, praised the tax cuts, saying “cutting taxes and returning more money to taxpayers continues to be a priority for the Georgia House of Representatives, and today’s passage of HB 1015, HB 1019, and HB 1021 will help return over a billion dollars to Georgia families, homeowners and taxpayers alike.”

– Legislation to provide an effective 3% annual cap on tax increases via assessed values cleared the Senate Finance Committee this morning. Senate Bill 349 is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. A recent op-ed from the Foundation looks at this proposal to cap property tax increases. 

– Also sponsored by Hufstetler is Senate Bill 163, which would allow breweries to sell directly to businesses under certain conditions. That bill was heard in the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee this week, but no action was taken. The Foundation has previously written how Georgia’s current regulations hurt breweries. 

– Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R–Dallas, introduced Senate Bill 420, which would prohibit “foreign adversaries” from acquiring agricultural land or other nonresidential land within 25 miles of a military installation. 

– Another bill from Anavitarte that would provide a sales tax exemption on firearms, ammunition, gun safes and related accessories for a five-day period in October passed the Senate.

– Reps. Carter Barrett, R-Cumming; Jordan Ridley, R-Woodstock; and Mitchell Horner, R-Ringgold, recently co-sponsored House Bill 1112, which would remove Georgia’s Secretary of State from the State Elections Board. 

– Legislation to change Georgia’s law on the sale and distribution of drugs like opioid antagonists, which can be lifesaving during an opioid overdose, passed this week. House Bill 1035 is authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta.

– Changes to the Special Needs Scholarship Program advanced in the House Education Committee. House Bill 579, authored by Rep. Carter Barrett, R-Cumming, clarifies that a student does not need to satisfy the prior year public school attendance requirement when he or she has previously qualified for a scholarship and that a student receiving the scholarship does not need to keep their IEP or Section 504 plan up to date after establishing eligibility.

– State Rep. Brad Thomas, R-Holly Springs, is a lead sponsor for two bills recently filed on artificial intelligence. House Bill 986, also known as the “AI Transparency and Protection Act” would create criminal felony offenses of election interference by use of deep fakes. House Bill 988would require the Georgia Technology Authority to audit all artificial intelligence usage by state agencies. 

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