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Small business scores big wins in General Assembly
David Raynor
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Georgia's General Assembly did an impressive job in the session that ended a couple weeks ago.

Despite the tight budget and weak economy, the House and Senate worked with small business on a few bills that are going to help create jobs and pull Georgia out of the worst recession we've seen in decades.

Probably the greatest victory small business enjoyed this session was a bill called the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success (JOBS) Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger.

The JOBS Act is going to get people working again, help businesses hurt by the drop in spending and save state government-meaning the state's taxpaying businesses -millions of dollars a year in unemployment benefits.

How? By giving businesses a $2,400-a-year income tax credit for hiring someone who receives unemployment benefits and stays on the job at least two years. It also gives them a maximum $500-a-year credit toward their employers' unemployment insurance tax.

The more people a business hires from the unemployment rolls, the greater the credit.

There were other victories, too.

For example, lawmakers approved a bill calling for a special election to let voters decide whether to eliminate the state inventory tax. That's a tax on businesses pay on unsold merchandise.

It's an incredibly unfair tax, because it punishes businesses for having merchandise to sell. Georgia is one of only six states that still has an inventory tax, and we're hopeful that voters will agree we need to nix it.
Lawmakers agreed to a two-year freeze on property tax increases, so our commercial and residential property tax bills won't climb during this recession.
They avoided a $226 million tax increase on businesses by agreeing to accept federal dollars to shore up Georgia's unemployment trust fund.

And they defended the right of workers to cast secret ballots in union representation votes.

The Senate passed a resolution urging Georgia's congressional delegation to vote against the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of federal legislation designed to make it easier for unions to organize.

Under this federal bill, unions could bypass secret ballots in favor of a very public, very intimidating process called card check. Once a majority of workers sign union authorization cards, their workplace would be unionized.

Of course, Georgia's small businesses still face challenges.

Legislation calling for an increase in the state minimum wage and for employers to give workers an extra 24 hours of leave didn't make it out of committee, but they'll come up again in 2010.

And small businesses still need the General Assembly to allow a vote on a constitutional amendment that would cap residential and commercial property tax increases at 3 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
But those are challenges that can wait until next year's legislative session.
Georgia's General Assembly truly rose to the occasion this spring, passing a raft of bills that will go a long way to helping small business lead the state out of recession.

David Raynor is Georgia state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. He lives in Atlanta and can be reached at