JAMES Magazine Online: Georgia House Passes Bills Addressing CON, Statewide Exemptions and Tax Credits

Cindy Morley

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

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Georgia Representatives spent most of Tuesday in chambers — voting on bills to meet Thursday’s Crossover Day deadline. Today is a committee workday before Thursday’s deadline to move bills out of one chamber to the other. Bills passed out of the House Tuesday include a revision of the state’s certificate of need process for hospitals, a floating statewide exemption and tax incentives for data centers across the state.

House Bill 1339 by Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, sailed through by a 166-1 vote with strong bipartisan support. The bill, which the sponsor says is “the beginning of the journey,” would ease regulations that govern the construction and expansion of hospitals in counties with fewer than 50,000 people. It would also increase the pool of tax credits from $75 million to $100 million for taxpayers who donate to rural hospitals.

The bill includes a “Comprehensive Health Coverage” study commission that would review access to health care for low-income and uninsured people. But does not provide for an expansion of Medicaid.

“This is a good start,” said Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville. “I ask you to support this bill to help Georgia move forward and make sure all Georgians have access to quality healthcare.”

The bill would take a more limited approach to scaling back the regulatory system – CON– compared with a full repeal of CON regulations sought in the Georgia Senate.

The legislation would shorten the timeline for review of hospitals’ applications and strengthen penalties for failing to produce required hospital reports.

Lawmakers also voted, 96-71, for HB 1192, that would suspend issuance of any new exemption certificates for high-technology data centers, starting on July 1. Entities with ongoing contracts entered into before that date wouldn’t be affected. The exemption was adopted in 2018 to attract such facilities to the state.

State Rep. Matthew Gambill, R-Cartersville, spoke out against the bill – stating that Georgia initiated the tax credit “to say we were open for business, and now we are taking it away.”

Lawmakers passed HB 1185 (enabling legislation) and HR 1022 (constitutional amendment) by Rep. Beth Camp, R-Concord, which authorizes a statewide floating homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes when the current year assessed value exceeds the inflation rate if a local jurisdiction, including a school district, chooses to implement it. HR 1022 passed with a vote of 168-0 and HB 1185 passed with a vote 169-0.

Representatives also passed HB 1182, on a 104-61 vote mostly along party lines. The legislation by Rep. Clint Crowe, R-Jackson, revises low-income housing tax credits – reducing the credit that developers can receive for building low-income housing unless the project meets certain criteria. The bill designated five uplifts for full funding including housing for veterans, housing in rural areas and housing for seniors.

“This bill allows us to tighten up the tax credits while directing the funds to areas that need it the most,” said Crowe.

Supporters say this change saves money, but opponents said it could discourage new affordable housing builds.

All of these bills now move to the Senate for consideration.