It is official. The 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly is over. Forty working days have come and gone, and over 500 pieces of legislation are on their way to Governor Deal for him to sign or veto. Those who follow these things will spend the next several weeks analyzing what passed, what didn’t, and what the impact will be on our state’s future.
There is one result that is resoundingly clear — this was a legislative session that was very good for business. From day one, the Governor and other leaders made it clear that they were focused on competitiveness, and that is what they delivered. Numerous bills were passed that will help existing companies, enhance the recruitment of new investment to our state, and stimulate the creation of much-needed jobs.
Guided by the input received through the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, an effort co-chaired by the Georgia Chamber last year, the legislature passed tax and regulatory reforms, identified new sources of investment capital, created opportunities for improving education, and continued to enhance our water supply. These measures will all play a key role in strengthening not only our pro-business environment but also our quality of life.
Phasing out the sales tax used in manufacturing, mining and agriculture will immediately put our state on an even playing field with our neighbors throughout the Southeast who already provide this important incentive. Similarly, having the ability to grant sales tax exemptions for regionally significant construction projects gives our leaders another attractive tool to use as they work to convince companies to expand or locate in our state.
Doing business in Georgia will be made easier as regulatory reforms begin to streamline government and ensure that the permitting process no longer hinders qualified projects. And the creation of a new tax tribunal will help businesses large and small by providing a forum where knowledgeable experts will address disputes and help to resolve them in a timely manner.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will continue to make improvements in education that will allow us to build the kind of workforce that companies need today and will rely on in the future. Legislation that gives voters the opportunity to support state authorized charter schools through a referendum this November was an important step forward. So were bills allowing teacher employment decisions to be made on ability — not just seniority, and creating a scoring system for our elementary, middle and high schools so that communities know how their schools are doing and leaders know where to focus stronger improvement efforts.
Our leaders deserve our thanks and recognition. They told us they were focused on competitiveness — and they delivered on that promise. As a result, our state’s economy will be stronger, our future brighter, and we can all be more optimistic about what lies ahead.
By any account, that is a job well done.
Chris Clark is the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.