Georgia General Assembly Wraps Up Giving Us All A Break

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

With Holy Week and the 2024 session of the Georgia General Assembly behind us, thoughts are turning to Spring Break for many, and The Masters for fans of golf and all things “pure Georgia”.  I too am among those preparing to leave the state for a bit and enjoy a brief break to take in some salt air and quiet time.  Between laundry duty and packing, I’ve compiled a few notes on unfinished business and other items on my mind this week. 

A lot of the headlines coming out of the last days of the legislative session are about bills that didn’t happen.  Either the House and Senate couldn’t agree on language during the 40th day to get a bill to the Governor’s desk, or the votes just weren’t there to vote on a controversial expansion of laws.  

The former is true of a plan to scale back a list of tax credits given to many Georgia industries in order to locate, maintain, or expand operations here.  The headlines have focused on Georgia’s ever growing film industry and the equally growing amount of income tax credits given to production companies for the portion of their work completed in Georgia.  There were quite a few other industries who faced changes to their incentive structure in versions of the proposed bills. 

These revisions have been a goal of quite a few legislators for some time.  The bills should not be considered to be dead, but it will take more than three days to revive them.  Expect to see new versions of the bills again next year.  Companies receiving or wanting tax credits should revise and update their summer and 2025 lobbying budgets accordingly. 

A bill that would have legalized online sports betting failed to receive a vote in the Georgia House after passing the Senate. Many other states have already passed legislation allowing this – and have taken advantage of the windfall of state revenue from an industry that has been well established outside the purview of legality since organized sport has been a thing.  Sometimes it’s easier to pretend something isn’t there than to see it, tax it, and regulate it.  Expect this bill to be back as well in 2025. 

A related bill did pass that expands “coin operated amusements” from machines frequently found in corner gas stations. The bill increases the take for the regulating Georgia Lottery Corporation from 10% to 13% in exchange for vendors’ ability to provide gift cards as “non-cash” prizes.  

The bill failed in its first vote in the Senate, but passed on reconsideration with the minimum 29 votes.  The margin for passing in the Georgia House was much more favorable. 

Some of the critics are concerned that expanding play for monetary if not cash prizes at a 13% payout for the state will cannibalize the sale of lottery tickets sold in the same outlets, which return approximately 25% of revenues to the state.  Left unsaid is that the continued expansion of a regulatory framework for mechanized gambling codifies a potential future state role to operate casinos that feature video-only games with no live dealers. 

A transformative piece of legislation that did make it to the Governor’s desk is that allowing for “Promise Scholarships”.  Critics deride the newly created “vouchers” as a full on attack on education, public schools, the teaching profession, decency, America, and apple pie.  Beyond the histrionics are students and families who are trapped in schools based on the zip code in which they live – schools that have been on the underperforming/failing lists for years if not decades. 

Those critics continue to demand “more”, without ever being willing to quantify how more going equally to all schools – those performing well and those with significant challenges – will raise the student performance of the schools in question.  Instead, they choose to demonize those who would offer a choice to families from others who would accept the challenges and provide alternatives.  This deserves and will get a piece on its own in the near future.

 In the interim, it’s time for a break.  A fortunate few will enjoy the best pimento cheese sandwiches on the prettiest stretches of grass in all the land.  I myself am going in search of the best cheeseburger in paradise.  I’ll be back next week with perhaps more random thoughts, but with a better view and the hope that changes in latitude have brought about changes in attitude.