By the time the 2021 regular session of the General Assembly gaveled to a close on Wednesday, March 31, lawmakers had passed a slew of bills that are going to have a big impact on Georgia’s small businesses.
“I appreciate all of our members who filled out NFIB surveys, sent in their state ballots, and contacted their legislators in response to our action alerts this session,” NFIB State Director Nathan Humphrey said. “Together, we ensured that small business had a seat at the table.”
If you have any questions or wish to comment on the bills, contact NFIB State Director Nathan Humphrey.
Good bills that passed
PPP Deductibility and Tax Code Conformity, HB 265 by Rep. David Knight, signed into law by Governor Kemp. This bill brings the Georgia tax code into conformity with federal law and ensures that small businesses that received PPP funds will not receive a surprise tax this year on forgivable expenses. While some states are taxing both the PPP funds and expenses to raise revenue to fill budget shortfalls, the Georgia legislature made sure that small businesses are protected.
Covid Liability Protection Sunset Extension. In 2020, the Georgia legislature passed liability protections to ensure small businesses have protections from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19 as they grapple with reopening and operating their business. Those protections are set to sunset on July 1. HB112 extendz that sunset an extra year to ensure small businesses will continue to have those protections.
Sub S/Partnership Taxation, HB 149 by Rep. Bruce Williamson, amends the Georgia tax code to provide S corporations and partnerships an election to pay their Georgia state business income taxes at the entity level, thereby restoring the full federal tax deduction for Georgia business income taxes as described in IRS Notice 2020-75.
State Income Tax Cut, HB 593, authored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, amends Title 48 to increase the standard deduction for state taxable incomes. By reducing the amount of income taxed, House Bill 593 would cut what’s owed by millions of Georgians who use the standard deduction when they fill out their returns.
Taxpayer Fairness, SB 185, authored by Sen. Bo Hatchett, amends Title 48 to provide that sub-regulatory guidance, interpretation, or decisions of the Department of Revenue are not afforded deference by the Georgia Tax Tribunal or a court of law. The bill benefits all taxpayers engaged in disputes with the Georgia DOR by guaranteeing their ability to present their case before the Tax Tribunal with the knowledge that the judge will exercise his or her own independent judgment.
Fuel and Energy Sources, House Bill 150, stops any local government from adopting an ordinance or other regulation preventing the connection to a particular type of energy or fuel. HB 150 would ensure that we have a state-wide energy policy to maintain the same choices for Georgia’s homeowners and businesses alike.
Good bills that didn’t pass
Business Protection Act, SB200 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte and HB468 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter. Both bills were top priorities for NFIB and would have ensured that small businesses could remain open during states of emergency if they are able to adhere to health guidelines and Governor’s executive orders. While other states such as Michigan, New York and California have forced businesses to close with excessive shutdown orders, Georgia allowed businesses to continue to operate as long as they can modify their operations to follow the health guidelines thanks to Governor Kemp’s executive order. This has saved countless small businesses in Georgia that would not have survived if they were located in a state with these regressive business shutdowns.
Legislative and Business Council on Tax Reform, SB 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, would have created a special council made up of business leaders, economists and others to recommend changes to the state’s tax structure.
Liability Reform Legislation, SB 203 would have allowed evidence of seat belt use for children to be admissible in civil actions. Currently in Georgia, when there is a lawsuit involving a vehicle accident, juries are not allowed to know whether or not a person was wearing a seatbelt. This prevents juries from having all of the facts when determining the apportionment of damages.
Accuracy in Damages, SB 190, would have eliminated “phantom damages” in Georgia. Currently, plaintiffs may recover economic damages in excess of their actual expenses because juries are only able to see only what was billed for medical services rather than what was actually paid. This artificially drives up the cost of litigation in Georgia.
Bad bills that didn’t pass
- HB 183, by Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross), would have allowed claims of violations of the Fair Businesses Practices Act to be brought in a representative capacity. This bill would open businesses up to additional liability exposure and class-action lawsuits.
- SB215, which contained extreme restrictions on retail contracts that would favor larger businesses at the expense of smaller businesses by restricting contracts to either one or seven years.
- HB 116, a proposed increase in the state minimum wage.
- HB 592, by Rep. Matthew Wilson, would have made it easier for people to file COVID-19-related lawsuits against small businesses.
- HB 197, by Rep. Regina Lewis-Ward, would have changed certain provisions related to the use of sick leave for the care of immediate family members.