Bills facing crossover deadline

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ATLANTA --- Thursday marks the make-or-break point for pending bills in the Georgia Legislature, and several high-profile tax proposals top the list of measures that are on the line.

During what is typically one of the Legislature's most hectic days, House lawmakers are set to consider bills that would give companies a $500 credit toward the unemployment insurance tax and a $2,400 income tax credit for each new employee they hire.

It's part of a package pushed by Georgia Republicans in response to the federal stimulus.

The chamber could also debate a new scheme that would eliminate the annual car tag tax and replace it with a one-time fee of up to $2,000. The fee would apply only to newly purchased vehicles and could help fund trauma care.

Lawmakers are also set to consider a one-year "new business tax holiday," waiving a $100 state filing fee for new registrations, and a plan to eliminate a $2.5 million ad valorem tax on inventory, which critics said has forced businesses to shift their distribution centers outside the state.

The measures could all be on the debate calendar during the Legislature's chaotic crossover day, the 30th day in the 40-day session when bills must pass at least one chamber or be tossed aside until next year.

The Senate also is set to debate a bill that would restrict embryonic stem cell research in Georgia.

Championed by Georgia Right to Life, the legislation would define a fertilized embryo as a person. It sped through committee Monday, the same day President Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

But plenty of other high-profile measures seem likely to be buried.

A late push to revive the 4 percent state sales tax on groceries seems less likely to come up, after key GOP leaders have voiced concern over it. The plan would have later reimbursed residents through a tax credit.

House lawmakers have also signaled they would abandon a plan to phase out the corporate income tax, which generates more than $700 million each year, amid questions over whether the cuts would stimulate job growth.

A plan that would have made Georgia the first state in the nation to offer taxpayer funded vouchers for parents to send their children to any public or private school in the state also appeared unlikely to make the cut.

The measure's sponsor, state Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, said this week that he doesn't have enough votes. The proposal was expected to be one of the more contentious issues to arise this session.

Failure to escape crossover day can deal a devastating blow to proposals, but not always a deadly one. Lawmakers can always try to tack on their proposals as amendments later in the session.


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