Georgia Legislative Highlights from 2018 Session

Miller & Martin PLLC Alerts | June 01, 2018

The 2018 Legislative Session ended March 29 and May 8 was the last day Georgia's Governor Deal could sign or veto legislation.  While the Legislative Session had its usual amount of drama and excitement, especially for an election year, no landmark legislation passed; but several notable bills became law including an income tax reduction, adoption reform legislation, creation of a new integrated public transit plan for metro Atlanta and an internet sales tax bill.  Several significant business related bills were passed that are worth noting.
           
Every tax payer will benefit from the passage of HB 918 that gradually lowers the state income tax rate from 6% to 5.5% over the next two years, and doubles the standard deduction for individuals to $4,600 from $2,300 for single taxpayers and to $6,000 from $3,000 for married couples filing jointly.  While you will be paying less in state income tax you will be paying more for internet purchases because of HB 61.  Online retailers that meet certain minimum standards will be responsible for collecting and remitting the state sales tax of 4%.
               
HR 993 is a constitutional amendment that will create a statewide business court.  This will appear on the November 2018 ballot because it amends specific provisions of the constitution related to venue and the appointment of business court judges.
           
The Georgia Legislature acted to try and address the growing problem of traffic in metro Atlanta by passing HB 930 that could expand mass transit for a 13-county area.  HB 930 authorizes counties to approve local funding for transit through local sales taxes up to 1% for up to 30 years to finance construction or operation.  Gwinnett County is expected to be the first county to utilize HB 930 to develop local controlled mass transit options.
           
The construction industry and developers will be glad to know that HB 876 prohibits counties and cities from outlawing the use of wood as a construction material so long as its use complies with the state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code.  Title 13 was modified by HB 899 to allow contractors to bid on projects using construction delivery methods that are new or they lack experience applying.  Data centers will especially appreciate HB 696 that exempts certain high-technology equipment from state sales and use tax.  There are certain minimum standards and reporting requirements but the savings could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
           
Sometimes it is more interesting to see what legislation did not pass or was vetoed by the Governor.  All Uber and Lyft fans should be glad that HB 225 did not pass because it would have added in state sales tax to the cost of a ride.  Senate Bill 315 would have made it a crime to intentionally access a computer or computer network with knowledge that such access is unauthorized, but it did not survive the Governor’s veto pen.  This legislation should reappear next year.

Finally, all of us are going to have to stop checking email and texting while driving because of HB 673.  It is now a crime for a driver to hold or support a wireless telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle in Georgia.  The use of an earpiece or headphone device is permitted.  Eyes on the road and not the screen.

For more information, contact Bobby Baker, Neil Wilcove, Tom Harrold or any member of Miller & Martin's Government Relations group.