Four more legislative days have come and gone, and our time under the Gold Dome is beginning to dwindle.
Last week was a productive one, with committees convening to consider long lists of House Bills and senators presenting their legislation in House committees to carry their bills over the finish line. With Sine Die on the horizon, all members of the General Assembly have begun to move with an amplified purpose, doing all they can to perfect and protect their legislation before our final deadline on March 31.
Last week, a joint session of the House and the Senate was called in order to receive the annual State of the Judiciary Address, delivered by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton. Chief Justice Melton provided us with an update on how our judicial system has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and identified the areas where the courts have succeeded in making progress adjudicating cases, and highlighted a few areas of potential improvement. However, he also noted that the General Assembly has already taken critical steps towards ensuring individuals receive timely trials and altering procedures for those on probation to free up additional legal resources. While we will miss Chief Justice Melton’s presence on the court, we feel secure in the knowledge that Presiding Justice David E. Nahmias will lead with integrity on Georgia’s Supreme Court and continue to promote justice for all Georgians.
Last summer, once the Senate returned from our recess due to the pandemic, we worked quickly to pass legislation to support our small businesses and protect them from any potential liability due to potential exposure to COVID-19. That measure, Senate Bill 359, was greatly needed and allowed our businesses to remain open with the peace of mind that they would not be sued frivolously. However, that bill contained a sunset that would end those protections on July 14 of this year. House Bill 112, which passed the Senate this past week, would extend these protections an additional year to continue to provide businesses with liability protections as we continue to recover from the pandemic. If you own a business, please refer to Senate Bill 359’s summary at https://www.gachamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ COVID-19-Business-Liability_final-4.pdf. The Georgia Chamber is a pro-business group which endeavors to protect and support the businesses in our state.
Due to Georgia’s continued economic resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in a strong enough position to pass some of that success on to all Georgians. House Bill 593, the Tax Relief Act of 2021, proposes an increase in the standard deduction that will lower the tax burden for Georgians, but especially for those in most need. In these times where so many are still experiencing financial hardship, we owe this tax cut to the families who worked tirelessly to steer our state through the uncertain waters of the pandemic and ensure that Georgia remained the best state in the nation in which to do business, with our AAA bond rating secured. It is a testament to the strength and resolve of our workforce that a tax cut is even possible, even as the pandemic begins to subside, and we will continue to work to lessen the financial burden so many in our state continue to experience. I am proud to see this bill pass and look forward to bringing additional tax relief to Georgians.
This session, and over the past few years, our state has made substantial progress in the field of foster care and adoption. This week, we passed an additional measure in support of these children with House Bill 114. Under current law, an income tax credit may be claimed for foster children, capped at $2,000 per qualified child. This bill would raise that cap to $6,000 for the first five years and $2,000 for every subsequent year. This increased credit will support those Georgians who engage with our foster care system and will bring more prospective foster parents into the process, which will help more children be placed into loving homes.
This week, we will meet for three legislative days with a few days set aside to focus on our committee work. We have only five legislative days remaining and many important bills to consider before our time is up. If you every have any questions about any of the bills we discussed this week, or any legislation still pending before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to contact my office.