Legislative Session Report Week 9

March 12, 2021




State News and Updates


The General Assembly reconvened Monday for Crossover Day—the 28th day of session. While many anticipated the crossover hurdle last week, the extra few days allowed for some late addition bills to make it into the running for passage. There were a number of bills related to agriculture that passed their respective chamber on Monday, which means they will have the chance to now make their way through the other chamber and to the Governor’s desk this year.

Lawmakers continued to meet through Thursday this week, which brings us to day 31 of the 40-day session. In addition to the Senate beginning appropriations hearings to evaluate the FY22 budget that the House passed out last week, the House and Senate Ag Committees and others met to take up legislation that crossed over. This includes bills such as HB 150 – Fuel Choice, SB 119 – Burning Permits, and HB 336 – Hemp Program Update. Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) staff will now focus their efforts on bills that crossed over and work to help push legislation that benefits Georgia’s number one industry across the finish line.

To read about the bills affecting Georgia agriculture that will remain active this legislative session, as well as those that will no longer be under consideration until the 2022 Legislative Session, please see the corresponding sections below.

Georgia Congress Photo
Speaker David Ralston presides over the House on Crossover Day. (Photo Credit: Georgia House Photo)


Legislators packed in a full day on Monday, working well into the night, with the Senate adjourning around 7:30 pm and the House continuing on until 11:30 pm. Hours were spent debating controversial bills focused on election reform, however several priorities for agriculture earned their time on the calendar and received passing votes.

The House approved HB 676 by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville), which would establish an authority structure to oversee the state’s farmers markets, allowing more flexibility in operational changes and to be run like the Ag Expo’s Fairgrounds. This is one component to a larger discussion from the past two years, seeking to revive these struggling markets.

Rep. Steven Meeks (R-Screven) was able to introduce and pass a late addition, but important, piece of legislation, HB 693, on Monday as well. This bill seeks to give the right-of-way to farm equipment traveling on state roadways when encountering other vehicles.

Another important House bill, HB 498 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), was sent to the Senate on crossover day. This is an adjustment to ad valorem tax exemptions granted by the constitution to clarify the definition of “farm entities” to mirror the current CUVA definition, so the merger of two individually-qualifying family farms qualify for ad valorem tax exemption of farm equipment and supplies. Because this is an amendment to the constitution, it requires a 2/3 majority approval by the legislature in order to be put on the next state-wide ballot (in 2022).

In the Senate on Monday, SB 247 passed unanimously. GFB worked closely with the Department of Agriculture and Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) on this bill which had bi-partisan co-signers. The legislation modernizes the Commodity Promotions Act to allow Commissions to more efficiently utilize producer money, streamlines the voting process for new and amended marketing orders, and improves the procedure for providing notices.



The House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee heard this week from the Executive Director of Georgia Milk Producers (GMP), Farrah Newberry, who discussed the recently changed position of GMP on the legalization of raw milk sales in Georgia. Currently raw milk is only available for sale in Georgia as “pet milk” and cannot legally be produced for human consumption. Georgia Milk Producers recently voted to support the legalization of raw milk in Georgia to increase market opportunities for smaller dairy farms and the need for more direct-to-consumer options. 

The committee also heard testimony from the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division Director, Natalie Adan. Her testimony included details concerning current inspection practices for the production of milk. She addressed questions from the committee regarding the safety standards milk is held to today in Georgia. At the end of the hearing, Committee Chairman Robert Dickey (R-Musella) announced the formation of a subcommittee to look into the topic of raw milk over the course of the next year.

Georgia Farm Bureau currently has policy that stands opposed to the legalization of raw milk sales for human consumption in our state. Our Public Policy staff will continue to monitor the issue and the findings of the subcommittee going forward. To view testimony surrounding raw milk given during this week’s committee meeting please click here. (Begins at 29:07).

Video Raw Milk
Georgia Milk Producers Executive Director Farrah Newberry testifies before the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee earlier this week.



Each year, James Magazine releases a list of their most influential Georgians. Spanning the business, political, and media realms, the list is stacked with elected officials, CEOs, and University leadership, among others. This year, Georgia Farm Bureau is proud to recognize one of our own, President Tom McCall, as one of James Magazine's 2021 Most Influential Georgians. Below, you will see his write-up in the magazine. If you would like to see more of James' influential Georgians, click here.

Tom McCall in James Magazine



On Wednesday, Governor Brian Kemp announced expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations. Beginning March 15, vaccination criteria will expand to include Georgians aged 55 and older and individuals with disabilities and certain medical conditions.

"As we have said from the beginning of this pandemic, we will protect the most vulnerable from severe illness, hospitalization and death, and ensure that Georgians can get back to normal as soon as possible," said Governor Kemp. "With increased vaccine supply from the federal government, and significant progress made in vaccinating Georgia seniors and other high-risk individuals, this expanded vaccination eligibility will enable more people to get vaccinated over the next few weeks."

For a complete list of health conditions that qualify for vaccination effective March 15, click here.

Adding Georgians over the age of 55 and those at high risk to COVID-19 will make vaccines available to categories that account for 92% of deaths due to COVID-19 in Georgia.

Provided supply allows, vaccine eligibility is expected to open to all adults in April.

Over the past 30 days, the state has administered over one million vaccines, and on March 17, a total of nine state mass vaccination sites (see below) will be operational. To register for a vaccine at one of the sites, visit

Open now:

  • BIBB COUNTY: Macon Farmers Market, 2055 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, GA 31206
  • DOUGHERTY COUNTY: Albany, Georgia Forestry Site, 2910 Newton Road, Albany, GA 31701
  • FULTON COUNTY: Delta Air Museum, 1220 Woolman Place SW, Hapeville, GA 30354
  • HABERSHAM COUNTY: Habersham County Fairgrounds, 4235 Toccoa Highway Clarkesville, GA 30523


Opening March 17:

  • BARTOW COUNTY: LakePoint Sports Complex, 261 Stars Way, Emerson, GA 30121
  • CHATHAM COUNTY: Gulfstream Aerospace, 500 Gulfstream Rd, Savannah, GA 31408
  • MUSCOGEE COUNTY: Columbus Civic Center, 400 4th St, Columbus, GA 31901
  • WARE COUNTY: Waycross Mall, 2209 Memorial Dr, Waycross, GA 31501 
  • WASHINGTON COUNTY: Sandersville Word of Life Church, 1209 S Harris St, Sandersville, GA 31082

Mass Vaccination Sites
Georgia's state-run mass vaccination sites. (Credit: Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency)



To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 44:
Reps. Cantrell, Greene, Barr, Werkheiser, Gambill, and Williams

This bill would require Georgia to observe Daylight Savings Time year-round. This will only become effective if Congress authorizes states to observe daylight savings time year-round.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/5/2021. Assigned to Senate Government Oversight Committee on 3/8/2021.


HB 90: 
Reps. Williamson, Burns, Dickey, Hatchett, Morris, and Watson

HB 90 seeks to address an issue that the existing 1939 statute does not appropriately cover modern forestry practices with in regards to mill purchases of cut timber and the chain of liability that follows such transactions. The legislation is supported by both the Georgia Bankers Association and the Georgia Forestry Association.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/17/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted on 3/9/2021.


HB 150:
Reps. Williamson, Hatchett, Kelley, Frazier, Parsons, and Smith

In a concerning trend, some state and local authorities in the U.S. have adopted measures banning the connection of certain fuels (propane and natural gas) in new construction in an effort to reach their “carbon free” goals. HB 150 would prohibit government entities in Georgia from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. GFB supports this bill, as many agricultural producers rely on these resources.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/22/2021. Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Adopted by Substitute on 3/10/2021.


HB 265:
Reps. Knight, Williamson, and Blackmon

House Bill 265 aims to clean up the state's revenue code, a large portion of the bill relating to tax-relief measures stemming from federal Covid-19 relief legislation. Included in the bill is a measure which would make certain Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans tax exempt. Under SB 265, businesses eligible for PPP loan forgiveness would not be required to pay state taxes on the loans, even though they count as income. The measure also lets those business owners claim tax deductions on the loans.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/9/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted on 2/24/2021.


HB 282:
Reps. Meeks, England, Hatchett, Watson, and Dickey

This bill provides clarity to the ad valorem taxation of qualified timberland property by defining parameters for “contiguous” property, specifying how the appraised value of timberland property is calculated, and clarifies the required documentation landowners must submit to the Commissioner of Revenue for certification.
House Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 2/17/2021. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 2/18/2021.


HB 290:
Reps. Setzler, Newton, Hatchett, Rich, Jackson, and Bentley

House Bill 290, or the "Right to Visit" Bill, would require Georgia's hospitals and nursing home facilities to allow patients to visit with family members for a minimum of two hours per day - even during a public health emergency such as the Covid-19 pandemic - following proper safety and health protocols including as negative testing.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/8/2021. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 3/9/2021.


HB 336:
Reps. Corbett, Dickey, Pirkle, Jasperse, and Watson

Following two years of extensive legislation establishing Georgia's new hemp industry, HB 336 is a cleanup bill seeking to align Georgia's hemp laws to match federal standards.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/26/2021. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/1/2021.


HB 498:
Reps. Watson, Dickey, LaHood, England, and Pirkle

Tax programs and business models have increased the prevalence of family farm mergers. This bill modernizes the ad valorem tax exemption of farm equipment and products to these merged entities, so long as they would qualify for the exemption individually.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/8/2021. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 3/9/2021.


HR 185:
Reps. Ralston, Watson, Jasperse, England, Dickey

House Resolution 185 would reauthorize the House Rural Development Council. The Council was created to study the issues facing rural parts of Georgia and recommend any action or legislation necessary to the continued economic success of Georgia, especially in rural areas.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/3/2021.


SB 100:
Sens. Watson, Dugan, Kennedy, Miller, Au, and Burke

This bill would require Georgia to observe Standard Time year-round until Congress authorizes states to observe Daylight Savings Time, at which point Georgia would observe Daylight Savings Time year-round.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. Assigned to House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee on 2/25/2021.


SB 119:
Sens. Harper, Goodman, Burke, Mullis, Anderson, and Walker

Under Senate Bill 119, you would not have to obtain a burn permit to burn leaf piles, yard debris, or hand-piled natural vegetation, given that you meet guidelines regarding time, location, and others.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee on 2/25/2021.


SB 148:
Sens. Hufstetler, Miller, Butler, Dugan, Parent, and Mullis

Senate Bill 148 calls for the systematic study of the state's revenue structure through the creation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The committee would report its findings and make recommendations to the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor by January 10, 2022. 
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. Assigned to House Budget and Financial Oversight Committee on 2/25/2021.


SB 195:
Sen. Mullis

In another minute clarification to Georgia’s new hemp industry, this legislation states that the drying and curing of hemp plants does not qualify as “processing.”
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/3/2021. Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/5/2021.


SB 222:
Sens. Summers, Walker III, Sims, Harper, Goodman

SB 222 would designate the pecan as the official state nut of Georgia.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 3/3/2021. Assigned to House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee on 3/5/2021.


SB 247:
Sens. Anderson, Walker, Miller, Goodman, and Summers

SB 247 modernizes the Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act regarding marketing orders to allow for online publication of notices and announcements, online public comment periods, and clarity to the voting process to create new or major amendments to marketing orders.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute and Floor Amendment on 3/8/2021. Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/9/2021.



To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 139:
Reps. Mainor, Dukes, McClain, Mallow, and Thomas

This bill would prohibit trains from blocking any traffic crossing for longer than 15 minutes (with exceptions for safety reasons), and also require signage at crossings providing a telephone number to report such instances.
Assigned to House Transportation Committee on 1/28/2021.


HB 482:
Reps. Lim and Holcomb

This bill would provide a preferential tax rate program that seeks to promote urban agriculture as well as provide for urban agricultural incentive zones that would be located in areas with a 15% or greater poverty rate. The program includes restrictions for properties that enter a contract such as being at least .10 acres but not more than 5 acres and for an initial term of at least 5 years. This bill is the enabling legislation for HR 164 that would put this change on the ballot in 2022 as a constitutional amendment.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/17/2021.


HB 496:
Reps. Burchett, Burns, Rhodes, Ridley, and Williams

This bill seeks to create a $1,000 Annual Forest Product Permit, issuable by the Department of Transportation, allowing vehicles hauling timber up to a gross weight of 95,000, up to 10 feet wide, and no more than 100 feet long.
Assigned to House Transportation Committee on 2/18/2021.


HB 500:
Reps. Burchett, Blackmon, Dickey, Rhodes, and Watson

The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, established in 2017, provides a system of non-traditional loans for rural businesses to encourage economic growth and jobs. This legislation would provide the second round of funding, in the amount of $100 million, to replenish the program.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/18/2021.


HB 504:
Reps. Williamson, Reeves, Burns, Knight, Blackmon, and Lott

Similar to HB 500, this legislation provides a second round of funding for the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act in the amount of $100 million. However, the bill goes on to create a new NAICS code and tax program for medical equipment and supplies manufacturers. Additionally, this bill goes on to address other tax credit programs dealing with high-impact aerospace defense projects, Georgia ports, and railroads.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/18/2021.


HB 608:
Reps. Wiedower, Burns, Smyre, Parsons, and Kelley

In an effort to enhance the expansion of broadband to unserved areas, this legislation authorizes the use of OneGeorgia funds to award contracts to qualified providers under the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative.
Assigned to House Governmental Affairs Committee on 2/24/2021.


HR 164:
Reps. Lim and Holcomb

HR 164 would allow for a constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in 2022 should HB 482 pass. See above for additional information on HB 482.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/17/2021.


SB 30:
Sens. Beach and Harbison

Senate Bill 30 would provide for pari-mutuel horse racing in the state at a limited number of licensed equestrian centers, create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, and provide for the comprehensive regulation of pari-mutuel horse racing and related activities.
Referred to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on 1/28/2021.


SB 65:
Sens. Gooch, Miller, Cowsert, Tillery, Harper, and Hatchett

In a continued effort to expand broadband access to rural and un-served communities, this legislation allows the Public Service Commission and Department of Community Affairs to utilize a portion of the Universal Access Fund for such services.
Assigned to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on 2/2/2021.


SB 118:
Sens. Harper, Burke, Tillery, Goodman, Anderson, and Kennedy

SB 118 would increase truck weights for 6-axle timber haulers up to 100,000 lbs.
Assigned to Senate Transportation Committee on 2/10/2021.





A special election was held last month for Georgia State House District 90, previously held by Pam Stephenson (D-Lithonia). Stephenson resigned from her position and candidacy in September. The top two contenders - Stan Watson and Angela Moore - faced off in a runoff election on Tuesday. Moore received the majority vote and will be representing District 90 in the Georgia House.

House District 90 is based in DeKalb County and also covers parts of Henry and Rockdale Counties. 



We have received a number of questions regarding election laws within the state over the past few months, and an assortment of bills regarding the subject have been filed in both the House and the Senate during the 2021 legislative session. Below you will find a list of many of the bills of interest surrounding elections and elected officials both in Georgia and Washington, D.C. 

To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 531:
Reps. Fleming, Jones, Powell, Blackmon, Smith, and Williams

House Bill 531 is an omnibus bill that aims to provide uniformity to Georgia’s voting process. It would require all counties to hold early voting from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday for the three weeks leading up to the election in addition to the second Saturday prior to the election and it would prohibit any Sunday voting. Additionally, the bill contains photo ID requirements for absentee ballots and limits the amount of time that absentee ballots can be requested and returned. It also restricts drop boxes to early voting sites, only allowing for their usage during early voting hours.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/1/2021. Assigned to Senate Ethics Committee on 3/3/2021.


SB 67:
Sens. Walker, Miller, Mullis, Kennedy, Gooch, and Anavitarte

SB 67 would require Georgia's voters to provide a copy of a valid driver's license, voter ID card, or state ID number when requesting an absentee ballot. It would also allow the Secretary of State's office to establish a web portal in which a voter may submit a request for an absentee ballot by providing proper identification, following which the Secretary of State's office would forward the information to the voter's county of residence for issuance of an absentee ballot.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 2/23/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 2/25/2021.


SB 89:
Sens. Miller, Albers, Gooch, Kennedy, Anavitarte, and Brass

Senate Bill 89 would create within the Secretary of State's office a "Chief Elections Assistance" officer to work under the supervision of the director of the Elections Division. The Chief Elections Assistance officer shall be appointed by the State Election Board. The officer would be responsible for overseeing and training county election superintendents, establishing a list of third-party vendors to perform routine audits and evaluations of election management practices, and provide support to those lowest-performing election superintendents in need of assistance.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 2/24/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 2/25/2021.


SB 241:
Sens. Dugan, Miller, Gooch, Kennedy, Cowsert, and Anderson

Similar to HB 531, SB 241 is an omnibus bill that covers a variety of issues including requiring state-issued ID with absentee ballots, under oath submission of absentee ballots, elimination of no-excuse absentee ballots, limited usage of mobile voting units, succinct ballot-counting guidelines, and creation of a voter intimidation and illegal election activity hotline run by the Attorney General’s office, among other things.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/8/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 3/9/2021.



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Public Policy Department Staff

Jeffrey Harvey, Director
Joe McManus, Assistant Director
Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Tripp Cofield, National Policy Counsel
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Office Coordinator
Jake Matthews, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist