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Jan 16 – Georgia Chamber of Commerce Updates its Legislative Priorities

SBJ Staff Report

Jan 16, 2012 – As the 2012 General Assembly kicked off las Monday with a quick start as bills and resolutions from the previous year were already in consideration, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce announced an updated list of its legislative priorities for Georgia’s businesses and the State’s economic development needs.

At the Georgia Chamber's Annual Meeting Dinner and Eggs & Issues Breakfast events last week, with tremendous crowds on hand for both events. Chamber members heard from Dr. Bill Bennett, key note speaker, speaking on educational issues.  

Included in their priorities is the creation of ‘local option convention districts’ which is considered essential to the development of a public/private hotel to be built on Hutchinson Island in Savannah.

Also included is an effort to change Georgia law to allow the pension funds of state employees to be used to fund business development.  Georgia has not been successful in attracting venture capitalists, which has held back economic development in the State, according to the Chamber.

The Chamber held a legislative preview roundtable discussion with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston where both shared their support for tax reform, education reform, the upcoming TSPLOST referenda and other priorities. 

The Georgia Chamber 2012 Legislative Agenda includes:

 1.)  ‘Georgia Competitiveness Initiative’ - Throughout 2011, the Georgia Chamber was a partner with Governor Deal and the Georgia Department of Economic Development on the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, an effort to develop a long-term economic development strategy for our state.  The Chamber will now lead this initiative for the Governor.

2.) Economic Development & Taxation - Enact regulatory reforms that streamline government and help create an environment that stimulates economic and job growth

3.) Expand access to venture and seed capital by authorizing use of state employee pension funds for alternative investments and offering other incentives to attract venture capital firms to Georgia

4.) Modernize Georgia’s revenue structure by broadening the sales tax base and reducing income tax rates

5.)  Eliminate the sales tax on energy used for manufacturing, mining and agriculture in order to encourage economic development and reduce the costs of goods produced in Georgia

6.) Create an equitable and simplified communications taxing structure through a broad-based excise tax which will incentivize broadband investment throughout Georgia

7.) Improve Georgia’s economic competitiveness by expanding state discretionary economic development resources, modifying job incentive and credit programs, reducing inventory taxes, and creating an independent review process to remedy state tax disputes

8.) Authorize a local-option convention center district program for infrastructure improvements and improve the existing tourism development incentive to encourage increased travel, retail and hospitality investment

9.) Create a voter referendum to restore state involvement in charter schools and clarify state funding and governance of local school systems

10.) Enact measures to improve teacher and school quality, including ensuring that tenure and academic degrees are not the sole factors used in hiring and retention

11.) Identify and assist students needing remediation before high school graduation and ensure both these students and more advanced learners are aware of and prepared for post-secondary options

12.) Utilizing continued input from the Regional Water Councils, implement the Statewide Water Plan by expanding Georgia’s surface water storage inventory and protecting responsible and currently authorized use of regional interbasin transfers

13.) Support a Georgia-based, free-market health insurance exchange and other reforms that provide workers with a range of affordable, private coverage options.

14.) Defend against cost shifting and the addition of costly health insurance mandates that drive up the cost of delivering care for Georgia businesses and providers.

15.) Pursue civil justice reforms to provide confidence in equitable and predictable treatment of business in the courts

16.) Remedy the current economic burden of executing garnishment orders by allowing non-lawyers to process them

17.) Support ballot language that promotes understanding of the 2012 TSPLOST vote and encourages maximum voter participation

18.) Streamline transit governance to improve connectivity and operational efficiency

Following the Governor’s ‘State of the State’ address on Tuesday night, Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber President and CEO, issued the following statement:

"We applaud Governor Deal’s vision for the future of our state and are proud of the leadership he continues to demonstrate.  Our Chamber looks forward to supporting his efforts to maintain financial stability, foster excellence in education, improve our criminal justice system and preserve our quality of life."

"There are few issues more important to economic development than Georgia’s ability to guarantee a pipeline of qualified workers, and we believe that the proposals Governor Deal has made to increase excellence at all levels of education are a strong step towards achieving that goal."

"We also agree with the Governor that Georgia’s transportation infrastructure is in need of both new investment and innovative solutions.  Through our affiliate, the Georgia Transportation Alliance, the Georgia Chamber will remain focused on passing the transportation referendum, deepening the Savannah harbor and identifying other opportunities to meet the state’s transportation needs."

"We commend the Governor on his commitment to addressing the state’s long-term water needs.  Without question, access to adequate supplies of clean, usable water will be critical to attracting future investment to our state."

"Finally, we commend the Governor’s proposals for tax reform, each of which we believe will allow Georgia to compete more effectively with our economic competitors and provide both existing and future businesses with a tax system that recognizes investment and job creation."



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