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The 11th and last full week of the 2021 legislative session officially came to a close, Friday, Mar. 25. Monday, we begin our race to the finish line as our “Sine Die” deadline looms. All legislation must pass by midnight on legislative day 40. Last week brought passage to several measures in support of educational opportunities, human trafficking victims and economic growth.

HOPE Scholarship Expansion

To ensure our Georgia students with disabilities do not miss out on HOPE Scholarship opportunities, we passed Senate Bill 187. This bill will allow the Georgia Student Finance Commission to waive certain eligibility requirements for the HOPE Scholarship for students with disabilities. Currently, Georgia law only allows students with disabilities to use the HOPE Scholarship within a certain timeframe, dependent on when the student graduated high school. This time constraint requirement has created obstacles for some students with disabilities in recent years, including Grace, a UGA student who suffered a significant disability after an accident and was unable to finish school before her HOPE Scholarship eligibility ran out.

We continued our support in expanding educational opportunities in our state through the passage of Senate Bill 153. This bill focuses on the study of alternative methods to curtail dropout rates. Stipulations of the legislation are as follows:

• Allows the Georgia General Assembly to study alternative education models focused on dropout prevention, high school credit recovery and other education services of adult and incarcerated students.

• Requires system-collaborative state charter schools to transition to alternative charter schools, which specialize in dropout prevention and high school credit recovery programs, in order for the schools to continue to receive the state charter supplement funding.

• Allows the House and Senate to work with these crucial programs to create a sustainable, expandable model that would ensure that these programs can continue for years to come and provide pathways to academic success for Georgians.

Tax Credits / Economic Development

Maintaining the health of our state’s economy while ensuring that we spend hard earned tax dollars responsibly is priority. To continue these efforts, we successfully passed Senate Bill 6, or the “Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2021.” This bill will allow the examination of our state’s tax revenue structure, as well as expand tax incentives to restore our economy. The bill also includes the “Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021” which lends incentives to certain businesses. SB 6 would allow the following:

• House Ways and Means Committee/ Senate Finance Committee may request up to five economic analyses on existing or proposed tax incentives from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts to determine the estimated fiscal impact of these incentives.

• Creates a bipartisan group of state leaders and area experts to conduct a study of the state’s current revenue structure ahead of the 2022 legislative session.

• Establishes and changes several tax credits to support renewal and recovery efforts for Georgia’s economy.

• Creates tax credit for jobs created by a medical equipment and supplies manufacturer or a pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturer.

• Improves a tax credit to incentivize high-impact aerospace defense projects throughout the state and

• Adds $100 million in funding for the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act.

• Creates a temporary state and local sales tax exemption for admission sales to fine art organizations and museums of cultural significance that advance the arts in Georgia.

We are confident this measure will allow Georgia industries to fully recover from pandemic shortfalls, while ensuring our state revenue streams remain strong and stable for years to come.

End Human Trafficking

Our commitment to end human trafficking continued through the passage Senate Bill 33. This bill will allow victims of human trafficking to seek much deserved justice. This bill does the following:

• Establishes a civil cause of action for victims of human trafficking against a perpetrator, such as a person and/or entity that knowingly benefited financially or gained anything of value from exploiting these individuals.

• Allows victims to sue their perpetrator to recover damages and attorney’s fees within 10 years after the cause of action or within 10 years after the victim reaches the age of 18 if the victim was a minor at the time of the alleged violation.

• Allows the attorney general to seek a cause of action against human traffickers on behalf of the state under certain circumstances.

Healthcare

The responsibilities of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will increase through the passage of Senate Bill 195. This legislation, which will allow the commission to review new treatment and delivery methods of low THC oil, will also do the following:

• Requires the commission to provide information and documents to the Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee, as well as clarify the duties of that committee.

• Allows local jurisdictions the power to determine the need for additional dispensary locations and allow licenses to be issued.

• Allows licensed low THC oil producers to partner with universities and colleges to engage in joint medical research.

• Creates an exemption for disciplinary actions by a licensing board or civil penalties for those who are transporting low THC oil on behalf of a licensed company.

This week brings us to our final two legislative days before we adjourn “Sine Die.” Days 39 and 40 are always long, but rewarding as they will bring to conclusion another successful session under the Gold Dome. As always, please feel free to contact me anytime regarding your legislative concerns. Thank you for allowing me the great honor of serving our home within the Georgia General Assembly.

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