Georgia’s legislature will go into special session Tuesday to appropriate funding to help southern Georgia communities recover from the ravages of Hurricane Michael.
The Georgia General Assembly will also be called on to ratify an executive order from Gov. Nathan Deal that provided a sales tax exemption for jet fuel.
Deal officially issued the call for the special session on Friday. He had announced plans for the session in late October. In addition to amending the Fiscal Year 2019 budget to provide for hurricane relief, the legislature can also consider tax changes related to hurricane relief.
Under state law, when the legislature is called into special session, only those issues specially included in the “call” can be taken up.
"South Georgia desperately needs relief from the major hurricane that destroyed houses, businesses and large sections of our agricultural community,” State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, said after the initial announcement. "I expect the session will relieve much of the financial pressure that the people of our state in the affected areas are currently facing."
"I applaud Governor Deal’s call for a special session to address the devastation in South Georgia,” said State Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Peachtree City. "The impact on the communities hit by Hurricane Michael is not only felt by Georgia, but resonates across our country. As elected officials, we owe it to our citizens to do whatever possible to help recover, rebuild and re-establish normalcy as soon as possible."
"Hurricane Michael had a devastating impact on Southwest Georgia, and the cleanup and recovery costs are substantial,” said State Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, the House minority leader. "Giving the legislature a chance to approve and authorize the funds to assist is a prudent course of action and one that shouldn't wait till January."
The session is expected to last five days. State Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan, said she has heard that the legislature might meet next Saturday for the final day, instead of taking the weekend off and finishing up the session the Monday before Thanksgiving.
The amendment to the budget will have to go through the same process as any other bill in the legislature. It will be “dropped” and first read, then taken up by the House Appropriations Committee and the House Rules Committee, then go to the House floor. After passage by the House, it will head over to the Senate for the same process.
The jet fuel exemption was rejected by the Senate in the 2018 General Assembly session. It had been included in a tax bill that was passed by the House. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, at the time a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, threatened to kill the tax exemption after Delta Airlines, which would have been the greatest beneficiary of the exemption, cut ties with the National Rifle Association. After the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., Delta ended a discount program for NRA members. In retribution for that action, Cagle, as head of the Senate, blocked the exemption, which was stripped out of the bill in the Senate.The bill was eventually approved by both chambers and signed by the governor without the exemption.
Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order July 30 suspending the jet fuel tax.
“In order to remain the No. 1 state in which to do business, attract more companies to our communities and provide more jobs for our growing population, it is crucial to maintain and preserve a pro-business climate,” Deal said in a press release announcing the executive order. "Providing tax relief to job creators will help us maintain our competitive advantage as a global hub for commerce now and in the future.”
Executive orders can only stand until the next meeting of the general assembly, which must decide whether or not to agree with the order.