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Fury of legislation dominates long day
Lawmakers approve multiple bills in make-or-break session
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The Georgia House embraced targeted tax breaks aimed at creating jobs and a proposal aimed at finally doing away with the annual tag tax Thursday during a hectic make-or-break day that legislators set as a deadline to either pass dozens of bills or toss them aside for the year.

The Senate, meanwhile, adopted a closely watched measure that would restrict embryonic stem cell research in Georgia that was rushed through the chamber after President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The measures were among dozens on the docket during Georgia’s do-or-die crossover day, the 30th day in the 40-day session when bills must pass at least one chamber or be shelved until next year. While there are rare exceptions, a failure to pass the measure usually is a devastating blow to the proposal’s future.

The Georgia House on Thursday also approved a bill by Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, that creates a legal mechanism for the adoption of embryos.

Mills proposal was approved by a vote of 96-66, mostly along party lines.

Mills said the measure would address the 20,000 or so frozen embryos in Georgia each year that are discarded.

“We don’t see any problem with giving parents this option,” said Mills. “If they don’t like it, then they don’t have to choose it.”

House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve the latest bid to erase the so-called birthday tax on cars, an annual property tax due the month of a resident’s birthday. Instead, residents would pay a one-time fee of up to $2,000 or 7 percent of the car’s value — whichever is less — when they buy a vehicle.

The House also quickly and overwhelmingly approved a package of tax breaks that Republican sponsors considered Georgia’s response to the $787 billion federal stimulus package.

The measures give companies a $500 credit toward the unemployment insurance tax and a $2,400 income tax credit for each new employee they hire and retain for at least two years. They also launch a one-year “new business tax holiday” that waives a $100 state filing fee for new registrations, and call for a referendum to eliminate the $2.5 million ad valorem tax on inventory.

Plenty of other high-profile measures were buried, including a late push to revive the 4 percent sales tax on groceries, a plan to phase out the corporate income tax and a measure that would have made Georgia the first state in the nation to offer taxpayer-funded vouchers to let children attend any public or private K-12 school.

The Senate also tabled a bill that would have expanded insurance coverage for autism, while the House swiftly rejected a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a workers’ right to vote by a secret ballot in union organizing elections.

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