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Capitol Updates

Friday, March 2, 2018  
Posted by: Jennifer Addington
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Capitol Update


Crossover day is now in the rear view mirror at Georgia's General Assembly and any bill that did not advance through it's chamber by Thursday is now effectively dead. The remaining 11 days will be spread across the balance of the month of March with the final gavel dropping on sine die on Thursday, March 29th. Several bills of interest saw movement this week. 


Representative Karen Handel

Immigration Reform- In addition, we were very pleased to join other agriculture interest groups in a meeting focused on immigration reform. The event was hosted by the GA Agribusiness Council and GA Department of Agriculture and featured Representatives Karen Handel and Austin Scott.  The participating groups represented various segments of agriculture in Georgia, all of whom are looking for solutions to their own labor issues. Conversation centered 

on legislation currently being developed in Washington that

Representative Austin Scott

does contain beneficial 

relief for agriculture and the green industry. There are also shortcomings with the proposal including a requirement for health care coverage for workers participating in the proposed H-2C program.  We are appreciative of the efforts of Representatives Handel and Scott and look forward to continuing to push for meaningful reform. We will also continue to coordinate our response to this and other immigration reform with AmericanHort who remain deeply engaged on the issue in Washington D.C.. Read more from AmericanHort in the Lighthouse Report below. Stay tuned....


GATE-Chairman Sam Watson's GATE bill, HB 886, passed the House this week and is now in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Revisions to the GATE program include: 

  • Plastic cards will be issued every 3 years
  • Raises the revenue threshold for participants to $5,000 annually
  • Sets up penalties for misuse of the card including revocation for a period of up to 3 years
  • Requires users to present their card to retailers in order to claim sales tax exemption
  • GATE applicants must obtain a state tax payer ID number via the Department of Revenue

GGIA supports these changes to improve enforcement and compliance within the program.


Tax Changes Proposed- After gaining attention for the lack of a tax break for Delta Airlines, HB 918 raced through both the House and Senate this week.  The action would double the standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018. It would also reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent effective Jan. 1, 2019. Finally, the legislation includes a provision further reducing the tax rate to 5.5 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2020. This reduction would require approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor in order to take effect.

HB 885 by Chairman Tom McCall seeks to limit restrictions on outdoor burning on property being used for agricultural production. EPD has oversight on these issues. Passed the House and is now in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

SB 451- Ag metering. Though likely far being finished, this bill remains of interest. Metering of permitted agriculture water withdrawals remains a complex but important issue. Oversight is being shifted from the Soil and Water Conservation Commission to EPD. But exactly who maintains the meters, reads the meters and pays for the meters going forward is still be hammered out. As we have seen in the GA/FL water wars, reliable data on actual water use is critical. Stay tuned. This bill passed out of the Senate this week and will now be heard in the House.


John WilkinsonSB 330- Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson has a rich history in Ag education and brings that experience to help advance this bill which proposes to develop a pilot program for ag education based on classroom instruction, leadership training and the proven SAE  program offering hands on instruction. This bill also passed out of the Senate this week and will next be heard by the House Education Committee. 

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