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2/26/2018 - The House got back to work for a very busy seventh week of the 2018 legislative session. As we get closer and closer to “Cross Over Day,” our agendas continue to get fuller, our committees work diligently to hear important legislation, and our days get longer. Cross Over Day is a big day for us. It is the last day a bill may pass out of its original legislative chamber and remain eligible for consideration this legislative session.

TAX CUT. After being vetted in the Ways and Means Committee, HB 918 made its way to the House floor on Thursday, Feb. 22, where it passed overwhelmingly. This legislation makes necessary changes to our state’s outdated tax code, which has not been updated in decades, and seeks to decrease the tax burden on our citizens by cutting individual and corporate state income taxes. This has not been done in our state since the 1940’s. HB 918 would double the State standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018, and would reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent beginning on Jan. 1, 2019. The legislation would further reduce the tax rate to 5.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2020, but would require approval of the General Assembly and signature of the Governor in order to take effect. This revenue-neutral tax proposal would also take into account the State revenue projections resulting from the recent Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Furthermore, the bill would eliminate the sales tax on jet fuel to help our state be more competitive and to encourage airlines to fly additional direct flights from Georgia to global destinations. This historic tax update would benefit all of Georgia’s citizens by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. Hooray!

This week, the House passed several bills that came from the House Rural Development Council’s (RDC) legislative recommendations. This is a subject I have personally been working on for a long time. I think we all know how complex the health care system is and how hard making a change is. Well I can testify to that first-hand. Due to my and a lot of people’s hard work, the House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 769 (Sponsored my me) in an effort to improve access to quality health care in the rural parts of our state.
Under HB 769, To help rural hospital pharmacists, we expanded the ability to use remote pharmacy technology. So now a Georgia licensed pharmacist located within the United States can remotely place pharmacy drug orders for rural hospital patients. The bill would also direct the Department of Community Health to study various ways to streamline and expedite the credentialing and billing process for state medical plans. Additionally, HB 769 would establish a Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability through the existing Office of Rural Health. This center would provide leadership training and health data analysis for rural hospitals and would be located at a Georgia postsecondary institution with a health program or college that focuses on rural and underserved areas of Georgia. The center would educate and train rural hospital leaders on best practices and hospital operating standards. Furthermore, the legislation would allow for the creation of micro-hospitals, a hospital in a rural county that has two to seven inpatient beds and provides 24/7 emergency services, without requiring a new certificate of need when a hospital is closing or has recently closed and is purchased by a hospital in a neighboring county. Finally, the bill would create a grant program within the Georgia Board of Physician Workforce to provide financial assistance for some rural physicians who establish or operate a practice in an underserved area of Georgia. This measure was the first RDC-related bill to pass the House this session, and the bill’s wide-ranging health care provisions would allow this critical sector to thrive in rural Georgia.

This week, the House overwhelmingly passed another bill that would also greatly benefit our rural communities, House Bill 735. We all know transportation is a very important part of economic development in Georgia. The Rural Development Council recognizes that short line rails serve as a virtual lifeline to our rural communities across the State. This bill would create an income tax credit for track maintenance expenditures on owned or leased short line railroads. This one is important to the folks who operate the tracks that run from Marietta through Jasper to Blue Ridge and beyond. The tax credit would be 50 percent of the maintenance expenditures during the taxable year and would be capped at $3,500 per mile of railroad track.. This measure would incentivize investment in rail infrastructure, boost reinvestment, create jobs, and keep rural Georgia connected to the rest of the State.

So with next Wednesday being Cross Over Day you can be assured we will be hard at it. I didn't get my tomato seeds planted or the grape vines pruned this past Saturday, but after being in Atlanta, I really enjoy coming back home, this time seeing daffodils in full bloom!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding any legislation up for consideration in the House, or any input on how I may better serve our community, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at my Capitol office at 404-656-7857, or via email at rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov. Also, if you ever find yourself in Atlanta during the legislative session, please feel free to stop by my Capitol office, which is located in the Capitol, room 401.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.

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