News from under the Gold Dome – Capitol update from Georgia Rep. Brett Harrell

Week 6 on the House floor
We have just completed Week 6 and we are officially over half-way through this year’s session. “Cross Over Day” is Tuesday, February 27 – just a few legislative days away.
In an effort to increase transparency and eradicate surprise hospital billing for scheduled procedures, the House passed HB 678 this week. Authored by Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, this bill would provide several consumer protections regarding health insurance and would prevent patients from receiving “surprise” bills, which may be 10 times higher than in-network charges, when an out-of-network doctor participates as part of their treatment team during an elective procedure. Under HB 678, hospitals, health care providers and insurers are required to disclose to patients all participants on their treatment team and identify those outside their insurance network.
Taxes and Transportation
The Governor’s team presented HB 918, a proposal to reduce the state windfall resulting from the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to the House Ways and Means Committee this week. I serve as a Subcommittee Chair on Ways and Means and have twice co-authored legislation to reduce income tax rates on Georgians (HB 435 and HB 329); so, I joined with my fellow committee members (as reported in this AJC article) offering further modifications to HB 918 to better reflect the full impact of federal tax law changes.
I am encouraged that our Governor continues to listen to input from our citizens and has shown time and again his willingness to modify initial proposals to best achieve positive outcomes for all Georgians. I expect to consider a revised proposal in the coming weeks that may reduce the top marginal income tax rate from the current 6% and increase substantially Georgia’s standard deduction from the current paltry $2,300 for single filers and $3,000 for joint filers.
House Transportation Chairman Kevin Tanner introduced HB 930 this week seeking reform of our various transit agencies to gain better coordination, planning, and access for citizens traveling throughout metro Atlanta. Chairman Tanner subsequently appointed me to serve on a Special Subcommittee to consider the bill. Many of the aspects are detailed in this AJC article.

Key takeaways from our first hearing on the bill include:
  • The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is reconstituted as the “Atlanta-region Transit Link” or the ATL with the responsibility of coordination, planning, and funding future transit (not just rail) projects.
  • The entire bill is a “May” and not a “Shall” meaning that participants will voluntarily, via referendum, choose to join the ATL. Communities wishing to remain outside the ATL governance model will be able to do so.
  • New funding sources may include creation of Transit CIDs, imposition of a new 1 cent sales tax for up to 30-years, an additional 1 cent sales tax at the Atlanta Airport, and replacement of an existing sales tax on for-hire transportation services (taxis, ride-share) with a 0.50 cent per ride excise tax.
I continue to express a cautious approach to this measure. I sincerely appreciate that Chairman Tanner has already responded to my previous concerns regarding Transit CIDs by removing any possibility of taxation on residentially used properties. The proposal also includes other items I have advocated including parity with regard to taxation of for-hire transportation services – i.e. Uber and Lyft on parity with taxi and limo services. Finally, any implementation of the newly proposed 1 cent sales tax will require a detailed project list and voter approval. Quite frankly, should HB 930 become law, managed lanes and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are the most likely transit projects to advance rather than heavy rail – I believe that positive as well.
Lastly, the Senate, after three years, finally sent the “Better Brunch Bill” to the House!
SB 17 authored by Gwinnett’s Renee Unterman will be championed in the House this year by Rep. Meagan HansonCheers!
Let me hear from you
Last week many of you responded to several questions I posed in the newsletter. Thank You!
Your responses were very helpful. Don’t hesitate to share any thoughts, concerns, ideas.
Should you find yourself in Atlanta during the Session, please stop by and visit me at my Capitol office, and please call or email if you have any question or concerns regarding any state issue. My capitol office, phone, and email are listed below.
613-D Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, GA 30334

Thanks again for allowing me to serve,
 Brett Harrell

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