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Sen. Ben Watson: New bills mean lower taxes for Georgia
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson


Your General Assembly completed its business at the end of March, and we passed several pieces of significant legislation important to many of us in the Coastal Empire and throughout the state.

A piece of legislation that I introduced passed the General Assembly, Senate Bill 433, gives local governments more authority to hold promoters of unpermitted events accountable for resulting costs. Last week, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed S.B. 433 into law.

This legislation empowers local governments to pursue legal action against promoters or organizers of unpermitted events that cause public nuisances impeding the travel of law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, or other government personnel acting officially.

Local governments can seek reimbursement for costs associated with public safety, traffic management, and sanitation services on behalf of the public.

The General Assembly passed several new election security laws.

Senate Bill 189 takes several problem areas and makes corrective changes, including making it easier to file mass voter challenges, eliminating QR codes from paper ballots, and easing requirements for third-party presidential candidates to get on Georgia’s ballot. House Bill 1207 permits fewer voting machines on election days, requires poll workers to be U.S. citizens, and allows closer access to voting processes for poll watchers.

Senate Bill 368 prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals. House Bill 974 requires the secretary of state to set up a statewide system to scan and post paper ballots at a minimum resolution and requires more audits of statewide election results.

Working with many in the business community, we passed S.B. 426, which aims to end direct-action lawsuits against trucking insurers, potentially reducing premiums and encouraging more insurance carriers to write policies for trucking businesses. We also passed H.B. 206 establishing Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) programs in Georgia to promote energy efficiency and conservation improvements in construction and renovation projects through low-interest rate financing.

We also passed H.B 880 to assist military families relocating into the state and communities, allowing them and their family members licensure portability and occupational licensing reform. This legislation helps ensure licenses are issued within 30 days after official military orders are received.

The General Assembly also passed H.B. 1078 which creates a new healthcare initiative, the “Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly” (PACE) program, which provides comprehensive care for individuals receiving Medicare and Medicaid. Savannah is being considered for a pilot program concerning these healthcare initiatives. After much effort, we passed meaningful school choice legislation by expanding current laws, empowering parents and students with more educational options.

S.B. 233 starts that process by giving children in failing schools the opportunity to attend a different school to help them succeed.

We also included major tax cuts for the residents of Georgia. We have put more money back in the pockets of homeowners with an increase in the statewide homestead exemption, an acceleration of the income tax cuts, and a raise in the dependent exemption tax from $3,000 to $4,000 under H.B. 1021.

In response to some local governments’ refusal to follow Georgia law on handling criminal illegal immigration, the General Assembly passed H.B. 1105 mandating that law enforcement officials in counties and cities cooperate with federal law enforcement and the detention of illegal immigrants after committing a crime, ensuring that our immigration laws are enforced.

With the legislative session over, I will continue to work on the issues that you believe are important. Thank you for your continued interest in the work of our General Assembly.

As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325A, Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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