Recs for House Rural Development Council passed

Published 3:35 pm Friday, April 6, 2018

During the 2018 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Senate passed several key pieces of legislation aimed at boosting economies in rural Georgia. House Bills 876, 735, 769, 951 and Senate Bill 402 are all rural development-related measures that received final passage during this legislative session.

These legislative priorities were recommended by the House Rural Development Council, which met throughout 2017 in rural communities discussing ways to encourage private businesses to create jobs and stimulate growth in rural Georgia. The council will continue its work through the remainder of 2018, and the council’s next meeting will be held in Blue Ridge, Ga., on May 15 & 16, 2018.

“I don’t think rural Georgia has had a better session than it had this year,” said Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “We will continue to work with local governments, private businesses and civic leaders to find more ways we can support Georgia’s rural communities as we look forward to the 2019 legislative session.”

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House Bill 876, sponsored by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), would prohibit counties or municipalities from banning the use of wood as a construction material as long as its use conforms to all applicable state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code. This measure would support Georgia’s forestry and wood products industry – one of the largest sectors of Georgia’s agriculture industry.    

House Bill 735, sponsored by Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler), would establish an income tax credit for maintenance expenditures on Class III (also known as “short-line”) railroads. The credit of 50 percent of the maintenance expenditures would be capped at $3,500 per mile of track.

“As we look at our tax policies, it is important that we prioritize investments that will pay off for generations to come,” said Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), who serves as Co-Chairman of the House Rural Development Council. “By partnering with the private sector, we can bring about greater investments to ensure the continued success of our freight network, which connects most areas of Georgia to our Georgia ports and customers around the globe.”

House Bill 769, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), would implement recommendations from the House Rural Development Council relating to health care issues. The bill revises provisions relative to pharmacy practices, as well as provisions relative to credentialing and billing. This legislation provides for the establishment of the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability and the establishment of micro-hospitals. Also, HB 769 provides for a grant program for insurance premium assistance for physicians practicing in medically underserved rural areas of the state. Finally, HB 769 would increase the value of the tax credit to 100 percent related to contributions to rural hospital organizations.

“Healthcare makes up the second largest sector of our state budget,” said Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), who also serves as Co-Chairman of the House Rural Development Council. “By instituting common-sense reforms like those recommended by the Rural Development Council, we can make access to healthcare more affordable for Georgians in rural communities and save taxpayers money in the process.”

House Bill 951, sponsored by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), would create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation to serve as a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices. The center would be located within an institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development. The bill would also designate a deputy commissioner for Rural Georgia under the Department of Economic Development.

These bills are now awaiting Governor Nathan Deal’s approval.