The annual 40-day session of the Georgia General Assembly has come to a close – and now Governor Deal has the same number of days to sign or veto the bills that were passed. Like the members of the legislature, he will decide what action he will take based on what he believes is in the best interest of the people he serves. We are confident he, as a governor who has pledged to do all he can to make Georgia the best possible place for business, will make those decisions based on what he believes is best for our economy.
Fortunately, among the bills passed and sent to the governor this year are a number of measures that will help get Georgians back to work, improve our schools and continue to encourage job creation and investment in our state. The Georgia Chamber tracked hundreds of bills throughout the legislative process and was proud to work with not only the governor, but also Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Speaker David Ralston and members of the General Assembly from throughout the state both to pass key bills and to prevent the passage of those that could have had a detrimental impact on our economy.
We know that to existing and future employers alike there are few things more important than the availability of qualified, skilled workers. Measures passed to address this vital need include one that allows technically-proficient military veterans to obtain an expedited professional license or certification, making them available for private sector jobs, as well as legislation returning the requirements for a HOPE Grant to attend technical colleges to a level that will allow many more Georgians to qualify for education assistance.
Workforce development starts in the earliest grades — which is why it was so important that the General Assembly agreed to new teacher evaluation measures based, in part, on student performance. This will not only help our students by encouraging higher performance but also our teachers by rewarding them for their success.
Measures that will have a direct impact on Georgia’s business climate include reforms to the current worker’s compensation system and right-to-work laws, streamlining of the process for complying with state immigration laws, the extension of certain tax incentives for some of the state’s most significant industries, and legal process reforms that help ensure fairness.
And, to help us keep from losing so many of our high-tech entrepreneurs and start-up companies — and the jobs that go with them — to other states, members of the General Assembly passed bills to preserve tax credits for angel investors and to create a new public-private source of venture capital.
These bills, along with a number of others passed this year and still more that will be back for debate in 2014, build upon the great work our leaders have done in recent years to ensure Georgia’s position as a globally-competitive leader for business.
We commend Governor Deal and all of our state’s elected leaders for their commitment to our economic recovery and for their understanding of the role that business plays in the overall quality of life of all Georgians. Like you, we look forward to experiencing the positive impact many of these measures will have on our state.
Chris Clark is the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.