January 31, 2017 - 2017 General Assembly Convenes

The 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly convened on Monday January 9, 2017.  On Wednesday, January 11, Governor Deal shared his spending priorities first in a speech to the annual meeting of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and later in his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly.  

After a week long break in recognition of the MLK Holiday and the Presidential Inauguration, the legislators returned to Atlanta last Monday, January 23, for the 9th of 40 legislative days.

Thank you to all of our members who represented the tourism industry last week at Tourism, Hospitality and the Arts Day at the Capitol.  The series of events was designed to celebrate tourism's economic impact and share our story with our legislators.  It was great to see all of our association partners, our members and our attractions working together to make our story heard. Here is a link to photographs taken at the Capitol - please use code 2017THAD to access the photos.

Legislation we're watching:
HB 141 - Permited Expenditures for Revenues on Lodging - Richmond Hill recently purchased a building from the Ford Foundation that they are interested in converting into a visitor center.
SB 79 and HB 158 - Two Destination Resort (casino) bills.  Read Georgia Travel Association's summary of SB 79 here.  As of this morning, SB 79 was has been sent back to legislative council after the county population approach was deemed unconstitutional.
SB 17 -  Sunday Sales: Hours for Consumption on the Premises (Brunch Bill)  by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), is pending in the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee. SB 17 would allow a local government to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to midnight. Current law does not allow such sales until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays. This bill would also allow Georgia farm wineries to have sales for consumption on the premises in tasting rooms on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to midnight, or closed package sales for consumption off the premises on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until midnight, to the same extent as the local government license and laws allow.
Our partners at the Georgia Restaurant Association have updated the Brunch Bill Toolkit with sample social media posts and newsletter content. Please help spread the word with the hashtag #GABrunchBill.
HB 60 - Distilleries: Retail Package Sales , by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), is pending in the House Regulated Industries Committee. HB 60 would allow licensed distillers to apply to the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue for a retail package liquor store license. Any license granted to the distiller would have various limitations on how much could be sold and where the sales could take place. Any sales pursuant to this legislation would be subject to alcohol excise taxes. This bill would also allow a distiller to have a food service establishment on the licensed premises or on a contiguous property.
SB 85 - Breweries: Retail Package Sales, by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), is awaiting committee assignment in the Senate. SB 85 would allow breweries to sell a limited amount of their product (3000 barrels annually) directly to customers on site. This bill would also remove the restrictions and requirements of brewery tours, which was previously the only way for a consumer to taste the product on-site. SB 85 would allow brewpubs and breweries to sell packaged products for off-site consumption, limited to 1 case (288 ounces or 24 12-ounce bottles) per customer, per day. All sales would be dependent on local law and all applicable local and state taxes would be due by the brewery. The Department of Revenue would be required to regulate and promulgate any necessary rules.
Federal Government News:

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08) welcomed yesterday's passage of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act (H.R. 538) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was approved by the full House of Representatives by vote of 396 to 8. It now awaits further action in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would expand the Ocmulgee National Monument into Georgia's first national historical park.  Read the press release here. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) have introduced Senate companion legislation for the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act (S. 135). The Senate legislation is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.