Georgia Chamber CEO: Georgia General Assembly Focused on Winning the Battle For Talent

Chris Clark

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

For over 8 years, Georgia has been named the best state to do business because of our low unemployment and record economic growth. Our robust economy owes much to the pro-business and pro-job creation partnership between Governor Kemp, Speaker Ralston, Lt. Governor Duncan, the Georgia General Assembly, state leadership, educators, and the business community.

According to research conducted by McKinsey and Company and a year-long survey of Georgia business leaders by the Georgia Chamber Foundation, we can further grow our economy by $68 billion annually and fill over 400,000 jobs if we continue to improve our infrastructure, diversify Georgia's economy and most importantly, Win the Battle For Talent. Currently Georgia has only 1 applicant for every 4 open jobs.

The following opportunities before the legislature have the potential to chart a clear path to meeting the workforce needs for the state of Georgia by accessing underutilized talent, upskilling, accessing global talent, addressing future talent needs, aligning career pathways, and providing stability in certain fast-growth economic sectors.

House Bill 385 would help fill the teacher shortages seen across the state by allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom in high-need areas while still drawing on their retirement, but not accruing any more years of service. These retired educators who wish to return will be allowed to resume full-time instruction.

Georgia's jobs of the future will largely require post-secondary certificates or degrees and House Bill 1184 would ensure every 11th grade student in Georgia has the opportunity to take a college entrance exam during the school day. Currently, students take college entrance exams off-site and during the weekend which is difficult for working families and rural students. If passed, this legislation would allow schools to opt-in if they would like to facilitate a college entrance exam during school hours. It would also allow students to opt-in if they would like to take the test, however, it would still require parents to provide funding.

House Bill 1435 seeks to provide needs-based financial aid to eligible students while pursing an undergraduate degree. The finances would be applicable to students enrolled in a University System of Georgia or a Technical College System of Georgia school.

Senate Bill 231 would provide a pilot program for individuals who have dropped out of school to further their education by enrolling in a charter school. SB 231 creates a pathway for nontraditional students to gain the skills and education necessary to enter the workforce, addressing our statewide labor shortage. This program focuses on individuals aged 21-35 and allows those participating in this pilot program to be eligible to receive a Georgia high school diploma upon completion. Additionally, this program would alleviate traditional burdens for adult learners such as childcare, transportation, and financial needs. This proposal would serve Georgians who would like to continue their education in hopes of achieving a postsecondary degree or entry into the workforce. 

Senate Bill 379 would create the Office of Workforce Development. This entity will establish a program to promote the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in the state, with the goal of creating more programs to support the demands of our growing economy and current workforce challenges. Businesses that train up to five students will be eligible to receive compensation of up to $10,000 per student upon completion of the apprenticeship course.

House Bill 1520 would create the Georgia Council on Addressing Health Care Workforce Challenges. With short-term demands in excess of 122,000 healthcare workers in the next 36 months throughout the state, the work of this council will be imperative in finding ways to attract and retain healthcare professionals. The council would include 26 members from a variety of industries: the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, private colleges, K-12, members of the House and Senate, providers including nurses, physicians, rural health systems and state health entities like the Department of Community Health.

Senate Bill 257 clarifies and prudently extends Georgian's access to criminal record restriction and sealing, commonly known as expungement. Knowing that over 38% of workforce-aged Georgians have a criminal record, the Chamber supports this legislation as a tool that could enhance job opportunities for certain non-violent offenders to help address current statewide labor shortages.

Senate Bill 353 allows for judges' discretion in suspending drivers' licenses in "Failure to Appear" instances. When a license is suspended for "Failure to Appear" this bill would allow for automatic reinstatement upon adjudication or by court order to keep more Georgians in the workforce. Retaining drivers licenses will help ensure that employees are still able to travel to their places of employment and will allow them to perform the necessary tasks requiring a valid license.

Senate Bill 441 is a comprehensive bill tackling issues with Georgia's "GCIC" criminal record database. The bill creates a new advisory board with the aim of improving the speed and accuracy of data transmission to the state database, ensuring all criminal records in Georgia are complete and accessible. In addition to assisting in statewide crime mitigation, this bill will help ensure that employee background checks are complete and accurate with respect to criminal records.

House Bill 1437 is a comprehensive change to Georgia's personal income tax. This legislation lowers the standard rate from 5.75% to 5.25%. Additionally, it eliminates most deductions but raises the standard deduction to $12,000 per year for single filers and $24,000 for those filing jointly. The Georgia Chamber is confident this bill would further level the talent playing field with neighboring states that do not charge state income tax.

House Bill 1064 allows for Georgians receiving military retirement income to have most, or all income exempt from state taxes. This bill also incentivizes military veterans in prime working age to seek other employment opportunities. As Georgia is home to nearly 630,000 veterans, it is imperative to remain competitive in retaining these individuals. This is especially true when many of our military communities directly border neighboring states.

We also believe that several tax-centered bills would increase our competitiveness and attractiveness as a global talent hub. House Bill 1034 would facilities efforts to bring the World Cup to Georgia. House Bill 1053 extends the film post-production tax credit. The post-production industry is thriving in our state and this extension provides predictability for employees allowing for increased growth for the film and creative industries. House Bill 1187 is a 10-year extension of the high-tech data center sales and use tax exemption. This incentive has been successful in recruiting data centers and employment opportunities statewide for support industries.

Additionally, Georgia should seek to reform state and federal VISA, DACA and refugee regulations to help more legal immigrants enter the workforce. We should bring more disabled Georgians into the workforce, promote more streamlined data-driven job search and career development efforts, expand programs that promote the skilled trades, entrepreneurial education and access to capital.

Finally, Governor Kemp's 2023 budget proposal would fund numerous education and workforce development efforts vitally needed around the state. This includes $85 million to fully fund enrollment growth in our higher education programs and an additional $79 million to fund growth in scholarship and grant needs which will grow our state's talent base. In addition, funding was included in the budget to complement the proposal to expand state apprenticeship programs. We strongly support the passage of this budget to ensure we have the workforce to meet our current needs and our growing economy.

Simply put, talent–or education–is key to Winning the Battle For Talent. It is incumbent upon our state and federal leaders to consider strategic policy options like these that decrease the regulatory barriers and maximize the potential of our state to fully recover. Georgia's next decade of economic growth depends on implementing creative, bold, and nontraditional workforce solutions, now.

With this plan passed and in place, our economic prosperity and future quality job growth will be secured and help all Georgians thrive in the New Georgia Economy.