Gold Dome Update: Special Session
On Saturday, November 17, 2018, the Senate adjourned Sine Die for the second time this year. The Special Session convened on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, as called for by the governor, to provide immediate financial and emergency aid to southwest Georgia where a Category 3 hurricane left a path of devastation and destruction. Hurricane Michael made landfall in Georgia on October 10, 2018, and caused an estimated $2.5 billion loss to our state’s agriculture and timber industries.
With leadership from our governor, lieutenant governor, speaker and Georgia General Assembly members, we were able to efficiently pass a package of legislation that will provide much needed assistance to our friends in southwest Georgia. It is estimated that the area’s landowners suffered $1.6 billion in commodity losses to agriculture, $63 million in equipment loss and $763 million in commodity losses for forest products.
House Bill 1EX, which passed the Senate with unanimous support, amends the Fiscal Year 2019 budget to include $270.8 million in additional appropriations for Hurricane Michael disaster relief.
Below is a breakdown of some of the funding:
- $69.3 million will be appropriated to pay the state match for federal disaster assistance approved by the President’s Administration. This funding will be distributed through the Governor’s Emergency Fund (GEF).
- $55 million for assistance to Georgia farmers in the 28 counties devastated by the storm.
- $7.4 million to replace firefighting equipment used in clearing timberland impacted by the storm.
- $25 million for local communities devastated by the storm for economic development projects that have an impact on the entire state. This funding will be distributed through the OneGeorgia Authority.
- $69.3 million to assist with clean up and recovery efforts. This funding will be distributed by the Department of Transportation through state general and motor fuel funds resulting from HB 170. The department will also have some costs offset by federal reimbursement.
In addition to appropriating funding, we unanimously passed House Bill 4EX which will allow timberland owners whose land was damaged by Hurricane Michael to apply for an income tax credit. This will assist the landowners whose land suffered catastrophic or severe damage, but would not be applicable until the land owner has started the process of replanting trees. The tax credit is capped at $400 per acre damaged and $200 million overall. The Department of Revenue will approve and issue preapproval certificates certifying the amount of credits a taxpayer is eligible to claim by June 30, 2019.
Along with legislative work, I was honored to recognize and commend one of my closest and dearest friends at the Capitol – Senator Fran Millar – for his life of service with Senate Resolution 7EX. His service to others is truly extraordinary and there are not too many people more accomplished as him who have served in both chambers. Georgians, not just those living in DeKalb County, are better off because Fran Millar served this great state. It was an honor to thank him for his service on behalf of the Senate.
Finally, I want to extend a ‘thank you’ to citizens from Senate District 56 and across the state who have reached out to help our neighbors in southwest Georgia and our friends in Florida impacted by the storm. Also, I would be remiss not to commend the efforts of our first responders for all they have done to keep our citizens safe while pushing forward to rebuild and cleanup areas devastated by the storm. As we head into the holiday season, it is important to remember that your acts of kindness and helping out those in need can have a lasting impact. Although citizens of southwest Georgia have a long road to recovery, I am confident that Georgians can overcome any storm and that our citizens will prevail. I look forward to working with my colleagues in 2019 on additional aid for this region and other legislation that will continue our state’s reputation as the best place to work, live and raise a family.
Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of North Fulton and Cherokee counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.