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Friday, March 15, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MARCH 15, 2019

FEBRUARY REVENUES UP 5.5%

Net tax revenues showed an increase of $67.6 million, or 5.5% for February over February of 2018. Individual income tax refunds were down $24 million, withholding payments were down $28.5 million and individual income tax return payments also down $14.5 million.
Net sales taxes were back up at 4.1%. Corporate income tax collections increased $46.2 million. Tag, Title and Fees were up 8.6% while Title Ad Valorem tax collections were down -3.1%. Tobacco collections were negative -3.6% while alcohol beverages increased 10.2%. Fuel taxes were up slightly 3.8%, impact fees were down -$571,000 and hotel motel fees were up $718,000. Total DOT taxes/fees were up 3.5%.

YEAR TO DATE TOTALS STILL LOW

Overall revenues still lag at 1.89%, growing $270.4 million after 8 months. Individual Income Taxes continue negative for the year at -1.1%. Net Sales Taxes continue consistent at 5.9% growth and corporate income taxes remain well up at $124.1 million. Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverage and Tag, Title and Fees are all up YTD, while Title Ad Valorem taxes are down YTD. Motor fuel taxes and fees are up 2.55% YTD.

THE ELECTION BILL

House Bill 316 passed the Senate (35-21) and the House agreed, so the bill now awaits the Governor's signature. This bill provides the legislation for new voting machines across the state. The new machines would require the voter to fill out the ballot on a computer, which would produce a printed version of the ballot that the voter can review before placing into a secure box to be counted by an electronic ballot scanner.

The ballot must have human readable text. It must include a candidate's political party, and it will indicate if the voter has skipped a contest.

Election superintendents are now required to ensure directions are posted with signs reminding electors to verify their ballots before submitting their final ballot into the scanner.

The bill also changes the provisions for removing voter registrations, allowing the registration of a former Georgian to be revoked if a copy of their new out of state registration is provided to the county board of elections. Changes the term "no contact" to lengthen the time to five years, and to include not submitting an absentee ballot application or voted with an absentee ballot.

State and county elections will be included in the type of elections for which electronic ballot delivery is available to overseas and military electors. Non-felons in jail who have not updated their mailing address will be allowed to have an absentee ballot mailed to the jail. Voters will be able to cancel their absentee ballots and vote in person if their ballot has not yet been returned to the elections office.

BILLS PASSED THIS WEEK

SR 266: Encourages the Georgia High School Association to assess the operations of their organization and to consider more practical locations for tournaments and playoff sites.
HB 166: Creates licensure requirements for genetic counselors.

HOUSE BILLS NOW IN THE SENATE

HB 83: Requires elementary schools to provide a daily 30 minute recess for all students in kindergarten through grade five.
HB 118: Makes it a felony to make an unlawful request for emergency services if the request results in bodily harm or death. Includes lying about an individual who has committed a criminal act involving the use of physical force or violence or act posing an immediate threat to a person's life or safety.
HB 382: Redefines the applicants who are eligible to receive Outdoor Stewardship grants to include qualified local governments, registered recreational authorities, state agencies, or nongovernmental entities. Allows for up to 5% of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to cover costs incurred by the Department of Natural Resources in administering the program.
HB 424: Includes sex crimes in the definition of criminal gang activity.
HB 444: Revises the structure for funding relating dual enrollment classes by placing limitations on the number of state funded credit courses versus other funded credit courses. The student is limited to 30 hours of covered dual credit courses, but may take non-covered dual credit courses at the student's expense or by the utilization of lottery funds. Lottery funded courses taken would count against the hourly cap of 190 quarter hours or 120 semester hours. Allows a maximum of 16 hours per semester and requires a meeting with an academic advisor prior to participating or after attempting 15 and 30 hours as required. Rates are published and determined by Student Finance Commission.
HB 454: Prohibits the operation of motorized mobility devices on sidewalks except in areas where it has been authorized by a local ordinance or resolution. Creates rules for authorized motorized mobility devices to follow, including yielding to pedestrians, signaling to pedestrians when passing and leaving two feet of space when passing a pedestrian. Allows people to move a bicycle or motorized mobility device with care if the device impedes the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
HB 459: Requires local Boards of Education to submit a list of full names and driver's license numbers to the Department of Public Safety for every person employed to be a school bus driver.
HB 470: Requires a DNA sample to be collected from individuals charged with a felony but sentenced as a first offender or under a conditional discharge.
HB 478: Improves the central child abuse registry by requiring more information such as the date of the incident and the date of the report. The name of the child abuser and a copy of the report will be included in the child abuse registry. The child abuser will be advised of the right to a hearing to dispute the investigator's determination and the consequences of being named in the child abuse registry.
HB 527: Changes the program weight for funding purposes for different education programs to increase the funding for grades K-8, programs for persons with disabilities, programs for intellectually gifted students, remedial education programs, alternative education programs, and English for Speakers of Other Languages programs. Decreases the funding in grades 9-12 in career, technical and agricultural education laboratory programs.

Full transcripts of bills 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. The FY 2019 budget (HB 30) may be found at http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2019_FiscalYear/AFY_2019_Bill_As_Passed.pdf. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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