2020 Capitol Update Week 1 – State of the State, Online Sales

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the Georgia House of Representatives convened for the second regular session of the 155th Georgia General Assembly.

On Thursday, January 16th, the House and Senate held a joint session to hear Gov. Kemp’s State of the State address. Gov. Kemp reminded us of the great successes that we have experienced in Georgia recently, including reaching the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history at 3.3 percent, creating 64,000 new private sector jobs and being named the number one state to do business for the seventh straight year. Despite these successes, we have much work to do to make our state even stronger.

In his address, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia’s schools. Gov. Kemp vowed to fully fund our public school education again, while also accounting for enrollment growth and additional resources needed to properly educate Georgia students. Finally, Gov. Kemp announced that his budget includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for all public school teachers. By investing in our educators, this proposed pay increase would allow the state to boost retention rates, improve recruitment efforts and ensure better educational outcomes for students across the state.

Gov. Kemp went on to urge the General Assembly to focus our legislative efforts on improving access to quality health care across Georgia and promoting better health outcomes for Georgians. After passing the Patients First Act in 2019, Gov. Kemp worked to introduce two innovative programs, Georgia Access and Georgia Pathways, to help lower health care costs and expand access to health insurance. Additionally, Gov. Kemp shared his plans to implement legislative reforms to address surprise medical billing.

Before Gov. Kemp took office, the General Assembly and former Governor Nathan Deal made tremendous strides in updating Georgia’s adoption laws. In his remarks, Gov. Kemp shared his goals to build upon that work to help encourage and increase adoption in Georgia. This year, Gov. Kemp will launch the Families First Commission to overhaul our state’s foster care system, which serves Georgia’s most vulnerable population. Creating the Families First Commission, while offsetting the costs of adoption and making more people eligible to adopt, will help more children find their forever home.

Brett with Johnny Isakson

Finally, Gov. Kemp commended former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who was in attendance at the State of the State address, on his recent retirement after serving as one of our state’s boldest advocates in Washington D.C. for the last 15 years. In Senator Isakson’s honor, the governor announced that the University of Georgia will create the Johnny Isakson Professorship for Parkinson’s Research, which will use technology and innovation to break new ground on treatments and medicine for patients. More than 20,000 Georgians are living with Parkinson’s disease, and with this new research opportunity, our state will be able to create a better quality of life for patients like Senator Isakson.

After Gov. Kemp’s State of the State address, we cast the first vote of the session in the House chamber.

Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell (Dist. 106 – Snellville) prepares to present the Conference Committee Report on House Bill 276

The House passed the Conference Committee Report on House Bill 276 that I authored, which requires online retailers that facilitate online sales in excess of $100,000 annually to collect sales tax. This bill provides a more effective method of collecting sales taxes from retailers outside Georgia and provides revenue for state and local governments as well as our school systems. The Senate passed the CCR on HB 276 the same day and the bill is now on its’ way to the Governor’s desk for his signature with an effective date of April 1, 2020.

My colleagues and I will return to the Gold Dome on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, to begin the state budgeting process. This is an important week during the legislative session as the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget each year.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me about any legislative topics that may interest you during this legislative session. And, if you ever find yourself in the metro Atlanta area, I encourage you to plan a visit to the State Capitol. My Capitol office is located on the first floor of the Capitol, Room 133, my office phone number is 404-656-5103, and I can be reached via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov.

Thank you for allowing me to serve at your representative.