State session concludes
State Rep. Trey Kelley and his colleagues race to the finish line as 40 days at the Gold Dome ends.
The legislative year was kind to Polk County, especially when it came to the state budget and decisions made in the gold dome to provide local governments with some additional resources.
When the gavel fell in the House at midnight on Sine Die day, State Rep. Trey Kelley finally got to take a sigh of relief. It had been a long, hard race through this year’s 40 days in Atlanta. Proposals had passed, and others went into the wastebasket until they can come back in 2019. Many measures come and go, but for this year’s legislative session, what happened locally mattered a lot.
Polk County’s love from the state came in the form of cash for several projects, from the widening and resurfacing of Cherokee Road, to the forthcoming airport runway extension project, with plenty more local leaders are still smiling about as they begin the work to make the money become real progress.
The love was enough this year to bring Governor Nathan Deal to Cornelius Moore Field to sign the amended 2018 state budget with state and local leaders in a ceremony in March.
“This session I was proud to see the Republican led legislature working with our Republican Governor Nathan Deal pass a budget that funds education at the highest level ever,” Kelley said. “Polk County directly benefited from these budgets with the inclusion of funding for our airport, repaving of Cherokee Road, and the new Career Center in the Cedartown Industrial Park. We passed this budget while also delivering the first income tax cut in our state’s history. This is a result of conservative governance under Republican leadership.”
One of the most important pieces of legislation Kelley got through the State Capitol this year had nothing to do with issues, but were all about showing love and support for locals who have been the victims of tragedy.
He sponsored House Resolution 1195, which naming the bridge on Sybil Brannon Parkway over Ga. 278 the Detective Kristen Snead Hearne Memorial Bridge. Hearne was shot to death in September while investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle.
“The state of Georgia continues to mourn the loss of one of its most distinguished citizens,” the resolution states.
Hearne, who would have turned 30 in November, graduated from Rockmart High School and served four years in Floyd County law enforcement before joining the Polk County Police Department in 2012.
“A compassionate and generous woman, Detective Hearne will long be remembered for her love of family and friendship, and this loyal wife, daugh- ter, mother, and friend will be missed by all who had the great fortune of knowing her,” the resolution states.
It later got incorporated into a Senate Resolution dedicating a DeKalb County interchange for Robert H. “Bob” Bell initially, but incorporated a number of interchanges being renamed across the state into one measure that resoundingly passed without much objection in both chambers of the State Capitol.
“We all know our community suffered a tremendous tragedy when Detective Kristen Hearn was killed while serving in the line of duty. I am honored to have passed legislation which will name the bridge on the bypass which overlooks the Polk County Police Department in her honor,” Kelley said.
Expect more news on dedication ceremonies later this year.
It was a good year for Kelley on the regular legislative side as well. He pushed through legislation in both the state House and Senate several measures he hopes will impact Georgians in the years to come. Included in that was a measure that might be an attractive enticement designed to bring big technology firms to the state.
House Bill ( HB) 696 was passed by the Senate on Sine Die Day and just awaits Gov. Deal’s signature and creates the opportunity for exemptions for those companies who want to invest in building high technology data centers in the state can do so, if they meet certain requirements and go through a bonding process, can be exempted from sales and use taxes on the equipment running those data centers starting July 1 and continuing through 2028.
A contract for that equipment has to be signed for at least 36 months before it qualifies, and the state also has a clear definition of what they’ll count as a data center and what equipment is exempt from state sales and use taxes, upward of $250 million in expenses in a county with over 50,000, and $150 million in counties with population between 30,000 and 50,000, and $100 million for a county with a population under 30,000.
The legislation not only could entice big data companies like Amazon, Google or Facebook to build new data centers in Georgia, but also act as a potential sweetener for unknown startups to consider Georgia as they become known by millions online through the next several years, or until the legislation expires in 2029. It also provides one clear way to get telecommunications companies to expand their resources into rural areas, Kelley said.
“HB696 builds on Georgia’s technology leadership by encouraging investments by data centers in our state. As we continue to address the rural broadband problem which exists in Georgia data centers and the fiber they build out will play a critical role in this effort,” he said of the measure that passed on Sine Die Day.
Long fought for hopes of reducing income taxes passed earlier this year, and just ahead of Sine Die Day also got his amendment to autonomous vehicles legislation passed as well. That will allow purchasers of autonomous vehicles who believe they got a lemon to have the same legal rights as drivers who own cars that don’t have the technology.
Additionally, Rural Hospital Tax Credits that Kelley sought to increase to 100 percent for donors to deduct off of state income or business payroll taxes for individuals and corpo- rations also made it through. His measure was incorporated into a larger senate package of rural healthcare issues and passed without issue.
“I was pleased to see the language from my rural hospital tax credit included in the comprehensive rural healthcare bill. Our community will certainly benefit from this legislation,” Kelley said.
Not all the hoped for legislation made its way through to completion at the state capitol for Kelley this year.
His Fantasy Contests Act, HB 118 that made it through the House in 2017, was tabled by the State Senate in some minor dramatics on the other side of the Capitol on Sine Die Day. Since it was pushed off before the session’s close, the bill will have to come back up during the 2019 session if Kelley seeks to do so again.
The bill sought to adjust the definition of fantasy sports from a game of chance in Georgia to one of skill, and set some guidelines and fees for online sites like DraftKings to operate legally in Georgia.
He said he’ll evaluate it during the off-season of the State Legislature.