July 1 bringing a mix of new state laws | Local News

ATLANTA – The controversial election bill that the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed in March has received by far the greatest publicity of anything lawmakers have done in this year’s session.

But the legislature approved a host of other bills for 40 days under the Gold Dome covering a variety of issues that, like the election measure, come into effect Thursday.

July 1 will see the implementation of a state tax cut and a series of new tax breaks for Georgian businesses. Local law enforcement agencies will get new protections against budget cuts, and a new crime applicable to a type of theft popularized during the pandemic will be on the books.

The tax cut will increase the standard deduction for married couples who file joint income tax returns by $ 1,100. Single taxpayers can deduct an additional $ 800, while Georgians aged 65 and over can deduct an additional $ 1,300. Married couples who deposit separately will be able to deduct an additional $ 550.

Bill 593 follows legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2019 lowering Georgia’s income tax rate from 6% to 5.75%.

Most low- and middle-income families will benefit from the higher standard deduction, said Georgia House President David Ralston.

“Today marks another chapter in Georgia’s continued commitment to provide lasting and meaningful tax relief to Georgians to allow them to keep more of their hard-earned money,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge , after the vote in mid-March adopting the bill.

Separate legislation that also comes into effect on Thursday offers an assortment of new tax breaks aimed at boosting business investment in Georgia. It offers tax credits to manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, aerospace defense projects, performance venues, shortline railways and corporate “mega-sites” developers.

While most of the bill grants more largesse in the form of tax credits, Senate Bill 6 also seeks to curb tax breaks that are not getting enough bang for their buck. It requires independent audits of up to five tax credit programs each year to determine whether their economic impact justifies the loss of state tax revenue.

“This is a big bill,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, as the multifaceted measure was debated in the Senate on the last day of the 2021 legislative session. counterweight. It allows us to measure ROI and it keeps Georgia at the forefront of doing business. “

Northwestern Georgia lawmakers, Senator Chuck Hufstetler of Rome and Senator Jeff Mullis of Chickmauga, co-sponsored Albers’ bill.

Republican legislative leaders have focused much of their attention this year on crafting favorable tax policies to help Georgian and Georgian businesses cope with the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

But another common thread that ran through the 2021 session stems from the murder last year of George Floyd, a black man, by a white policeman in Minneapolis, who sent protesters to the streets of America to protest racism. and police brutality.

One offshoot of these protests was the “defund the police” movement, as some on the left called for cutting police budgets and redirecting those funds to social programs targeting the causes of a nationwide increase in violent crime.

Georgian lawmakers responded by passing legislation limiting local government to cut funds for the police by more than 5% over a 10-year period.

“This legislation sends a strong message that we support our law enforcement officers and we will never fund the police here in Georgia,” said Representative Houston Gaines, R-Athens, main sponsor of Bill 286.

Local Republican officials Trey Kelley of Cedartown and Katie Dempsey of Rome were the cosponsors.

The Legislative Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the bill as a state takeover of local governments. Critics have also argued that it will slow efforts to fund other areas like mental health, housing and education that aim to keep people from landing in jail.

Lawmakers were also divided over a bill criminalizing “porch hacking,” a form of theft that hadn’t been given much thought before the pandemic prompted shoppers squatting in their homes to make most of their purchases in the dark. line.

House Bill 94 makes it a crime to be caught in possession of at least 10 different pieces of stolen mail that are addressed to three or more separate recipients, even though it is not clear who exactly stole the mail.

The bill also makes it a felony to steal three or more envelopes, bags, parcels or other items posted on the porch, front or back entrance of a residence.

“It was a problem before the pandemic,” Representative Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, lead sponsor of the measure, said at a committee hearing on the bill. “It’s become even more of a problem now.”

While the legislation has received some support from Democrats, others have questioned the severity of the bill’s penalties, noting that porch hijackers could face more jail terms and a worse criminal record than those who commit theft in a retail store.

Other bills that the General Assembly passed this year that come into effect on July 1 include:

♦ House Bill 112 – Extends COVID-19 liability protections for businesses and hospitals in Georgia until summer 2022. It was sponsored by Kelley.

♦ House Bill 317 – extends state tax on hotel and motel rooms to “market enablers,” including Airbnb and Vrbo.

♦ House Bill 511 – prohibits spending money deposited in nine state trust funds for any other purpose.

♦ House Bill 617 – allows college, university and technical college student-athletes in Georgia to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness.

♦ Senate Bill 34 – allows victims of human trafficking to request a name change without public disclosure.

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