State legislative session a winner for Georgia buisnesses (Brenda Hamstead)

May 2, 2010
Brenda Hamstead, North Atlanta Office, REALTOR®

Brenda Hamstead, North Atlanta Office, REALTOR®

Taken from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For business interests, this year’s state legislative session was a smashing success, delivering on three high-profile issues targeted by leaders: Transportation, water and education. 
But there were other gains, too, including the creation of a special council to study tax reform, and tax credits for investors in startup companies. Big and small business groups both hailed the session, which concludes Thursday.

Suzanne Sitherwood, chairwoman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, cited better communication among business groups, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Council for Quality Growth.

“It all came together,” said Sitherwood, president of Atlanta Gas Light. “We spoke with one voice.”

Renay Blumenthal, senior vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, called business legislative priorities “major quality-of-life issues.”

“These are things we talk to corporate prospects about” regarding relocations or expansions, she said. “If we don’t keep our house in order, those are the things that might keep us off the short list.”

A regional transportation bill had been a top priority each of the past four sessions. The school board governance bill that passed tightens ethics and training requirements for local school board members and gives the state the power to step in when a school system risks losing accreditation.

Business leaders said the legislation is just the beginning of work to be done, but they hope momentum from passage of the bills will continue.

“The future issue will be the tax structure in our state,” Sitherwood said.

The special council on tax reform will be charged with updating and improving the tax code in ways that business leaders hope will spur the state’s long-term economic prospects.

David Raynor, the Georgia state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said, “Georgia’s small business community will be pleased that, in a year where budget woes have dominated the legislative session, some very pro-business legislation was able to make it through the process with very little negatively impacting our members.”

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