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Friday, March 10, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MARCH 10, 2017

STATE REVENUES SLIP INTO NEGATIVE TERRITORY

The eighth month of the fiscal year showed a negative 5.6% figure for February on total revenues of $1.175 billion. Increased tax refunds sent back to taxpayers by the Revenue Department, up $65.4 million, is seen as one reason for the drab month.

Frankly, however, even without the higher tax refunds, the month would still have been a poor month with virtually no revenue growth. Individual Income Taxes came in at a minus 11.4 % number compared to February of 2016. Corporate Income Taxes continued to be a problem area, decreasing an eye-opening $55.8 million for the month.

Net Sales taxes to the state continued to be a bright spot, increasing 10.1% for the month. Motor Vehicle Ad Valorem taxes increased slightly at 2.9%, and Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages were both up 7.6% and 5.6% respectively.

Fuel taxes were up only slightly, 1.9%, but the other fees together dropped about $1 million for the month.

Year to Date state revenues, taking out fuel tax growth, are up only 2.82% and the state is only $58.7 million above budget.

SENATE BILLS PASSED FROM CROSSOVER DAY FORWARD

SB 153 - Allows FDA approved over the counter hearing aids to be sold to purchasers over the age of 18. (Passed 52-1)

SB 164 - Requires health benefit plans to charge the same copays for physical therapists and chiropractors as they do for primary care physicians. (Passed 51-1)

SB 170 - The Georgia SERVES Act of 2017, provides for the certification of volunteers of child care services for foster children and their families, to streamline involvement of Georgians volunteering. (Passed 40-13)

SB 191 - Requires a permit from the Environmental Protection Division for new petroleum pipelines and extensions in the state. Allows eminent domain if a certificate of need is issued by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. Blocks new pipelines in coastal areas within the Georgia Coastal Zone Management area. (Passed 40-13)

SB 200 - Requires health benefit policies to be synchronized so that patients can get all prescriptions refilled at once rather than having to wait and obtain them separately. (Passed 53-0)

SB 221 - Allows doctors of optometry to administer pharmaceutical agents like Botox by injection if they have completed or are enrolled in an injectables training program. (Passed 34-17)

SB 250 - Requires individuals convicted of a sexual offense in another country to register on the State Sexual Offender Registry and grants the Superior court sentencing judge the authority to determine the likelihood that an offender will commit another sexual offense. (Passed 50-0)

LEGISLATION PASSED BY THE SENATE THIS WEEK

HB 146 - Requires fire departments to provide insurance coverage for firefighters for injuries sustained travelling to and from fire calls as well as during duty fighting fires. For veteran firefighters serving over 12 months, cancer insurance must be provided, as well as disability benefits with a total benefit limit of $50,000. (Passed 52-0)

HB 183 - Recreates the Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council under the Department of Community Affairs, and transfers all documents and data of the current Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council that is under the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources. (Passed 51-0)

HB 264 - Increases the bonding capacity for revenue bonds issued by the Geo. L. Smith II Georgia World Congress Center Authority from $200 million to $400 million. (Passed 45-9)

SR 195 - Calls on the U.S. Congress to hold a convention in order to set term limits for members of the U.S. House and Senate. This application continues until two-thirds of state legislatures make the same applications. (Passed 31-19)

BUDGET UPDATE

The Senate completed work on the FY 2018 General Budget and after passage will begin negotiations in conference with the House. A balanced budget must be passed by Day 40, scheduled for March 30.

Full transcripts of legislation may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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