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The 2016 Legislative Session: A winner for economic development
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The Georgia General Assembly ended the 2016 legislative session by setting a record. We officially adjourned at 12:30 a.m., which is the latest adjournment time in history.

There has always been a rush to finish all legislative business by midnight on Day 40; however, after consultation with Legislative Counsel, it was determined that legislation could still be considered past the midnight deadline.

As it turns out, we needed every minute of that extra half-hour to finish our business for the year.

I'd like to shine a spotlight on several bills passed that encourage job creation, reduce heavy tax burdens on individual families and small businesses and support local economic initiatives.

These are some of the most important bills passed each year, but they are often overshadowed by a few bills that receive significant media attention.

The Georgia General Assembly's most important job is to keep our state among the top competitors for new business development and expansion.

Two bills will greatly contribute to rural economic development in Georgia.

The first, House Bill 936, will ensure that available job creation tax credits in rural areas are measured against the average wage for each new job that is created, and not as a total of the new jobs created.

The second, House Bill 937, will expand the Georgia Regional Economic Assistance Program (REAP). This is a program that supports counties that are economically underdeveloped by allowing a sales tax refund for new tourism attractions or a tax refund on sales created by the economic project.

House Bill 935, a bill I carried in the Senate, will expand ad valorem tax exemptions to businesses that package, ship, store or process goods sold over the phone or internet.

This is a great incentive for online businesses to open new distribution centers within our state, and it truly is a win-win situation for the business, the community and the consumer.

Opening new centers equals job creation and community investment-but it also means faster and more efficient shipping practices. Local and county governments must hold a referendum in order for the tax exemption to be enacted.

House Bill 922 will create an income tax credit for any taxpayer who creates 50 new "quality" jobs. These jobs would need to include at least a 30-hour work week and pay at least 110 percent of the county's average wage. The bill also provides an income tax credit for working a job at a disregarded entity (such as an LLC or a partnership), which the taxpayer owns or in which the taxpayer is a partner.

I understand that there may be a number of questions about legislation passed this year, especially with the number of bills passed during the legislative session's final days. Please reach out to my office at any time with these questions, or other comments and concerns.

As always, we will do our best to clarify, listen or find an answer.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.