Retail News

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 19:11

Operation Spring Cleaning 2019

Last year, the Georgia Retail Association Organized Retail Crime Alliance (GRAORCA) underwent a re-branding to the Georgia Retailers Organized Crime Alliance (GROC). It is our pleasure to share with you some of the great work this effective boots-on-the-ground part of our organization has recently accomplished. Last week GROC began a long-term and on-going partnership with the Dunwoody Police Department by holding its first ever ORC Blitz named 'Operation Spring Cleaning'.

With 15 retailers participating the area around Perimeter Mall, the northern Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody was saturated with law enforcement, both in uniform and plain clothes, as well as plenty of our valuable loss prevention professionals. To find coverage on the event from the Atlanta Journal Constitution please click HERE. We believe the intended message was heard loud and clear: do not shoplift in Dunwoody! The Georgia Retailers & GROC look forward continuing this partnership with the Dunwoody Police Department, as well as partnering with other law enforcement entities throughout the state to stem the tide of retail crime in Georgia!

Members,

We find ourselves at the conclusion of the 2019 Georgia legislative session. As has been mentioned previously this session was marked by multiple challenges. Amongst them a totally new administration in the Governors Mansion and in the Senate, a new leadership structure in the upper chamber, public challenges to the Speaker, and extremely controversial legislative measures.

While no one got everything they wanted this session, and we were held hostage in last minute posturing between the House and Senate on “marketplace facilitator”, we consider this session a success for the Georgia Retailers. Not only did we ease the regulatory environment regarding vaccines, lower the sales tax collection threshold for out of state retailers, defend against multiple anti-retail measures, begin a discussion on comprehensive organized retail crime legislation, and assist in the push toward tort reform in Georgia, but we also raised the overall profile of the Georgia Retailers to a level not seen in many years.

We would also like to thank our allies in “Team Retail” beneath the gold dome, Kathy Kuzava with the Georgia Food Industry Association and Angela Holland with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores for their assistance and partnership.    

Below will find the summation of the measures in which we have been involved during this session, please bear in mind that any measure below which didn’t pass, and was not voted down, is still alive for the 2020 session as Georgia’s is a biennial legislative system. As we begin the interim please pay attention to our communications as we will continue to work on many of these issues as well as provide you with updates of concern to Georgia retail.  

if you have any questions I encourage you to call me at (706) 202-9308 or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at any time.

 

WINS FOR RETAIL

HB5 (Cannon-D-58) | Employment Practices, Hiring – WIN FOR RETAIL 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Industry & Labor. The bill has been heard but not acted upon. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Prohibits an employer from using previous compensation, from another company, to set compensation or benefits for a prospective hire.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers oppose this bill.

HB116 (McClain-D-100) | Employment Practices, Minimum Wage – WIN FOR RETAIL

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Industry & Labor. Bill was heard but not acted upon. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, and provides for a credit toward the minimum wage for employers of tipped workers.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers oppose this bill.

HB182 (Harrell-R-106) | E-Fairness, Threshold – WIN FOR RETAIL

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means. Bill has moved through subcommittee, the full Ways & Means Committee, and rests in the House Rules Committee. Bill passed the House and has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, where it was passed out. The bill has passed the Senate and heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

What This Bill Does: Lowers the economic nexus threshold for online retailers doing business in Georgia to collect and remit sales tax from $250,000 to $100,000.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill. The Georgia Retailers submitted testimony in support of this legislation, as well as submitted letters to each Representative in support prior to floor action.

HB214 (Stephens-R-164) | Pharmacy, Vaccine Protocol Agreements – WIN FOR RETAIL     

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Health & Human Services. Language from HB214 was attached to SB115 as a House Rules Committee Substitute, which was carried by Chairwoman Sharon Cooper successfully through the House and the bill was subsequently agreed to by the Senate. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  

What This Bill Does: Would allow all pharmacies under one company to utilize a single vaccine protocol agreement for the entire state. Bill failed to crossover.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill. The Georgia Retailers have been working with stakeholders and will amend the bill to ensure the physician entering into such agreements are located within the State of Georgia. We were asked by leadership, on crossover when this was to be heard, to hold this bill so that HB483, the annual controlled substances update bill, could advance. We are grateful to our sister organization the Georgia Food Industry Association, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, House Majority Leader Jon Burns, Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, Chairwomen Cooper and Unterman, and Chairman Ron Stephens.  

HB239 (Efstration-R-104) | Judiciary, Statewide Business Court Enabling Legislation – WIN FOR RETAIL      

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Bill has been reported favorably from the Kelley Subcommittee and full committee by substitute. Bill has passed the House and been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee where the language was stripped and replaced with language from the competing bill SB110After the meeting of the conference committee the language of HB239 has been augmented to establish the new constitutionally mandated statewide business court. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

What This Bill Does: This bill would establish a statewide business court pursuant to the successful passage of the companion constitutional amendment in 2018.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill, and at this time prefer it to the competing bill, SB110.  

HB634 (Shannon-D-84) | Employment Practices, Employee Pay – WIN FOR RETAIL

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Industry and Labor. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow for any employee to be provided compensation information for any other employee by their employer. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB46 (James-D-35) | Employment Practices, Minimum Wage – WIN FOR RETAIL  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance & Labor. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, and provides for a credit toward the minimum wage for employers of tipped workers.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers oppose this bill.

SB49 (Orrock-D-36) | Employment Practices, Hiring – WIN FOR RETAIL  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance & Labor. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Prohibits an employer from using previous compensation, from another company, to set compensation or benefits for a prospective hire.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers oppose this bill.

SR433 (Gooch-R-51) | Study Committee, Tort Reform – WIN FOR RETAIL 

Status: Bill has been filed, passed the Senate and adopted.

What This Bill Does: The bill would establish a study committee to review Georgia’s legal climate and its impact on business.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this resolution.

 

ACTIVELY WORKED BILLS

HB276 (Harrell-R-106) | Efairness, Marketplace Nexus      

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means. A committee substitute with changes from the Department of Revenue was introduced and adopted. The bill was heard in the Ways & Means Public Finance & Policy Subcommittee and reported favorably by substitute to the full committee who also reported favorably. Bill has passed the House and been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. This bill was heard in the Senate Finance Public Policy Subcommittee, and full Senate Finance Committee where it was reported favorably with amendments. The bill was amended in the Senate Rules committee to include an exemption from sales and use tax for rideshare services, taxis, and limousines. The bill as amended passed the Senate and now rests in the House to await an agree/disagree motion. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill places the burden of sales tax collection on sales made by third party vendors that meet a certain threshold to the internet marketplaces which host them.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill. The Georgia Retailers submitted testimony in support and proposed changes to tighten the marketplace facilitator definition which were accepted into the latest substitute. We also submitted letters to each Representative in support prior to floor action and have committed to assist the bill sponsor in keeping this language as clean as possible as the bill travels through the Senate. Many attempts at amendments are expected. We have worked diligently on this bill, and the bill sponsor has serious objections to including the Senate Rules amendment exempting transportation services in the measure. The bill sponsor Chairman Harrell has stripped and replaced SB128 with clean language which he prefers. This has passed the House and now awaits an agree/disagree motion in the Senate

Special Summary: This issue became one of the premier “hot potato” issues on Day 40, and found itself lodged between the will of both House and Senate leadership. The inclusion and taxation of rideshare services, which heretofore have been untaxed in Georgia, became a sticking point. A path a was agreed to placing a .50 per trip fee on all such services on HB 365, which if agreed to by the House would allow SB128 to proceed to the Governor once agreed to by the Senate. Neither chamber was willing to move on either measure first despite every angle taken by us and others. We have the commitment of all stakeholders to accomplish this in 2020.   

HB457 (Jones-R-25) | Civil Law, Seat Belt Usage as Evidence 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow whether or not a plaintiff was using their seat belt at the time of an injury to be admitted as evidence in certain civil trials. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill and have signed onto a coalition letter to express our support.

HB488 (Momtahan-R-17) | Judiciary, Organized Retail Crime 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary Non-Civil, the bill has been heard but not acted upon due to lack of quorum. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill creates record keeping and reporting requirements for purchasers of gift cards, as well as adds the element of conspiracy to shoplifting and creates the crime of retail merchandise fraud.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill and have testified in support during the subcommittee hearing. We have submitted our bill to Governor Kemps office, as well as to Attorney General Carr asking for their support. We are working with multiple interests who had questions around the language of the bill, we are fixing those issues to have the bill prepared for further action. We have continued to work on this issue and have begun building a larger coalition for the 2020 legislative session.

HB539 (Kirby-R-114) | Alcohol, Licenses  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Regulated Industries. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill increases the number of liquor licenses a single entity is allowed to hold from two to eleven. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill.

HR256 (Carpenter-R-4) | Constitutional Amendment, Limit Awards  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow for a ballot measure to amend the Georgia constitution that would give the General Assembly power to limit awards in certain civil cases.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill.

SB110 (Stone-R-23) | Judiciary, Statewide Business Court Enabling Legislation  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary where it was reported favorably by substitute. Bill passed the Senate by substitute and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This bill has been referred to a conference committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session, some of its language was included in the conference committee bill, HB239 which passed and now heads to the Governor’s desk to await his signature.

What This Bill Does: This bill would establish a statewide business court pursuant to the successful passage of the companion constitutional amendment in 2018.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill, however at this time prefer the competing bill, HB239.  

SB146 (Ginn-R-47) |Alcohol, Tastings in Liquor Stores  

Status: Bill has been filed and primarily referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development & Tourism, then withdrawn and recommitted to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries & Utilities. The bill was reported from the committee favorably by substitute. Bill passed the Senate by substitute and has been referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee where it was substantially amended and passed favorably and now rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Provides a framework under which retail liquor stores may allow in-store sampling of alcoholic beverages. Incorporates language from HB76, as well as allows for parity on Sunday retail sales for alcohol and removes the referendum requirement for the same.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill as amended.

SB148 (Robertson-R-29) | Civil Law, Seat Belt Usage as Evidence   

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary where it has been heard but no action was taken. Bill failed to crossover. Language was amended to HB171 while that bill was being heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee. The bill was heard on the Senate floor where it was amended to disable the bill, the bill subsequently failed. An attempt to reconsider the bill also fell short. Bill failed for the 2019 session.  

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow whether or not a plaintiff was using their seat belt at the time of an injury to be admitted as evidence in certain civil trials. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill and have signed onto a coalition letter to express our support.

SB155 (Cowsert-R-46) | Civil Law, Phantom Damages  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary where it has been heard but not acted upon. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: The bill would establish that in an action to recover damages from death or injury only actual amounts paid for health care services or treatment shall be recoverable.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill with a coalition of other interests and are working with the sponsor to include language that would also cover letters of protection.

 

MONITORED BILLS

HB8 (Buckner-D-137) | Taxation, Sales Tax Exemption 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means. This bill was heard this week but not acted upon. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Creates a sales tax exemption for certain feminine hygiene products.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB19 (Scott-D-76) | Employment & Business Practices, Discrimination

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Comprehensive bill to protect the civil rights of any individual from discrimination in housing, hotels, restaurants, other places of business, and employment. Creates a civil action. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB42 (Turner-R-21) | Professional Licensing  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Higher Education. The bill was reported favorably out of committee, however it was recommitted to committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Prohibits professional licensing boards from refusing to issue, suspend, or revoke the license of a person who is a borrower in default under an educational loan issued through the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation or a federal agency.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB76 (Stephens-R-164) | Alcohol, Distance Requirements

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Regulated Industries. Bill received a hearing in the Regulated Industries Alcohol & Tobacco Subcommittee and was reported favorably by substitute in the full committee. Bill has passed the House and been referred to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries & Utilities. The bill has been amended to include the original tastings language from SB146 as well as adding a referendum requirement. It rests in the Senate Rules Committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020. 

What This Bill Does: Allows cities and counties the ability to be less, but not more, restrictive regarding state mandated standoff distance requirements from certain places for an alcohol seller with an off-premise license.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB110 (Kirby-R-114) | Employment Practices, Payment  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Industry and Labor. Bill was heard but not acted upon. Bill was heard again and reported favorably by the Committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Places at employer discretion whether or not pay an employee by check.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers support this bill.  

HB112 (Lahood-R-175) | Pharmacy, Dextromethorphan   

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Juvenile Justice. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Prohibits the sale of OTC drugs containing Dextromethorphan to minors.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB129 (Stephens-R-164) | Judiciary, product sales exemption    

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The bill was heard in both the Reeves Subcommittee and full committee where it was again heard but no action was taken upon it. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Creates an exemption to the penalties for knowingly selling “brass knuckles”, which fit no more than two fingers and sold for the purpose of defense to a person under eighteen years old.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB174 (Wilkerson-D-38) | Product Seller Requirements   

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Motor Vehicles.  Bill passed committee favorably by substitute. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Requires sellers of license plate frames to provide notice to buyers, in writing, that use of such frames might violate state law.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB233 (Knight-R-130) | Pharmacy, Pharmacy Anti-Steering & Transparency Act     

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill has been reported favorably by the Committee. Bill has passed the House and referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill has passed and awaits the Governors signature. 

What This Bill Does: This bill would restrict pharmacies that share ownership with PBM’s or insurers from receiving prohibited referrals via steering and/or data mining. It does not restrict PBM owned pharmacies from being in network, only from being treated preferably.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill closely to ensure that no member is effected by this bill.

HB256 (Scoggins-R-14) | Pharmacy, Controlled Substances      

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary Non-Civil. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would codify that certain persons are allowed to possess and handle controlled substances in the usual course of their business.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill. The Georgia Retailers worked with the sponsor to remove the word “usual” from the bill to prevent unintended consequences to pharmacists. 

HB271 (Carpenter-R-4) | Alcohol, Wine Tastings      

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Regulated Industries. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow farm wineries to conduct wine tastings off-premises.  

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB286 (Turner-R-21) | Trade Practices, Right to Repair      

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Agriculture & Consumer Affairs. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill requires a manufacturer to provide certain items necessary for diagnostic, maintenance, or repair services on digital products within certain equipment.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB323 (Knight-R-130) | Pharmacy, PBM Insurance Regulation 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Insurance. The bill was favorably reported by the Committee. The bill passed the House and had been referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill has passed and awaits the Governor’s signature.  

What This Bill Does: This bill, a companion in HB 323, makes changes to the Pharmacy Patient Protection Act by strengthening the anti-mandatory mail order provisions, extends protections to other dispensers, prevents PBM steering and delaying care for prior authorizations.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill closely to ensure no member is effected by this bill. 

HB416 (Williams-R-145) | Pharmacy, Vaccines 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill creates the State Vaccine Consumer Protection Office. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB615 (Anulewicz-D-42) | Pharmacy, Vaccines 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill authorizes certain minors to receive vaccines without parental consent.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

HB674 (Powell-R-32) | Alcohol, Licensing 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Regulated Industries. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would allow for a central licensing procedure for retail alcohol licenses at the Georgia Department of Revenue. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB121 (Walker-R-20) | Pharmacy, PDMP Access  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services where is was reported favorably by substitute. Bill has passed the Senate and the House and now awaits the Governor's signature. 

What This Bill Does: Brought by Attorney General Carr this bill increases the length of time information is held in the database from two to five years and allows the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit access to the database.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB125 (Seay-D-34) |Commercial Public Facilities, Handicapped Access  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill failed to crossover. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would require “adult changing stations” in public commercial facilities with an occupant load of over 1,000 persons. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB152 (Albers-R-56) |Alcohol, Retail Limits for Craft Brewers  

Status: Bill has been filed and primarily referred to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries & Utilities. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill adjusts amounts of malt based beverages craft brewers are permitted to sale for off-premise consumption at their breweries.  

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB195 (Hufstetler-R-52) | Pharmacy, Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Bill was favorably reported by the Committee. Bill was amended to strip all the original language and now is a bill regulating travel insurance. The bill is heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

What This Bill Does: This bill is relating to insurance, and provides for consumer protections and freedom of information regarding prescription drug benefits.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB198 (Unterman-R-45) | Alcohol, Ice Cream

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries & Utilities. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would authorize the manufacture, distribution, transportation, or sale of ice cream or frozen desserts made with alcoholic beverages without an alcoholic beverage license or permit.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB211 (Harper-R-7) | Product Seller Requirements, Grocery 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Consumer Affairs. Bill was reported favorably by the Committee and passed the Senate as amended. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would ensure that any product labeled as “meat” unless it contains 90% meat or meat byproducts from the live carcass of a slaughtered animal.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB238 (James-D-35) | Product Seller Requirements, Firearms 

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This bill would require specific secure storage requirements of firearms by a firearms dealer when they are not open for business. 

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SB272 (Robertson-R-29) | Pharmacy, Dextromethorphan  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: Prohibits the sale of OTC drugs containing Dextromethorphan to minors.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

SR84 (Beach-R-21) | Alcohol, Gaming  

Status: Bill has been filed and referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development & Tourism. Bill received a primary public hearing, and a secondary hearing where it was reported favorably. 

What This Bill Does: Constitutional amendment which would allow pari-mutuel betting on horse racing as well as allow 24/7 alcohol sales at such an establishment. Bill was amended to disallow 24/7 alcohol sales, and such sales must match the local jurisdiction of the facility location.

SR435 (Robertson-R-29) | Excise Tax, Cigarettes  

Status: Bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance where it was not heard. Bill failed for the 2019 session and is alive for consideration in 2020.

What This Bill Does: This resolution would urge the State of Georgia to increase the cigarette excise tax to offset indigent health care costs.

Our Actions: The Georgia Retailers are monitoring this bill.

 

Legislative Days 39-40

The 2018 Georgia General Assembly has run its course. Many factors including an election year with more offices up for grabs than the state has seen in over a decade, a former and well respected Governor lying in state, and fatigue on legislators of three-months of continual and hard work proved to make this final week one for the ages and the Georgia Retailers have been in the thick of it all working to protect our industry.

Two particular pharmacy issues to note is that our push for a singular state-wide vaccine protocol agreement for pharmacies was stymied by a legislature-wide lockdown on healthcare issues for most of the day on day 40. We expect, and have pressed for, Rep. Sharon Cooper’s Health and Human Services committee to meet in the interim to discuss further opioid measures the state can take going into 2019, with e-prescribing being explicitly part of that conversation.

Bills and resolutions which have either been adopted, signed by Governor Deal or that are awaiting Governor Deal's signature are highlighted in green, bills which did not pass are highlighted in yellow. Action seen on any bills in the final week are in red type.

HB 61 | E-Fairness
Status Update – Passed out of the House during the 2017 Session. This week the bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill passed the Senate and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
What This Bill Does –This bill would require sellers without a physical nexus in Georgia to record and send notice to buyers regarding the sales tax they owe in Georgia.

HB 675 | Employer Income Tax Credit
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the Ways & Means Committee but not heard. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – This bill would provide employers with an income tax credit for up to three years for each Medicaid eligible employee who participates in an employer's health benefit plan.

HB 720 | Employment Practices
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the House Industry & Labor Committee but not heard. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does –This bill would make it illegal to fire or discriminate against employees for discussing wages, or too make such a provision part of a contract. It increases the penalty for doing so from $100 to $1000 dollars.

HB 731 | Sales and Use Tax
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the Ways & Means Tax Reform Subcommittee, heard but not voted on. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – This legislation would exempt feminine hygiene products from sales and use tax.

HB 782 | PDMP Information Disclosure
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed the House Health and Human Services Committee, has passed the House as well as the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The amended bill has passed the Senate and now returns to the House for agree/disagree. The bill failed to pass before Sine Die and therefore died.
What This Bill Does – This bill restrict disclosure of PDMP information to certain persons, and allow for the information disclosure to PDMP programs in other states and certain EMR services and healthcare systems. The bill was amended to also include regulations around "patient brokering".

HB 796 | Sales Tax Holiday for Education
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the Ways & Means Tax Reform subcommittee, the bill has been heard and the Georgia Retailers testified in support, the bill was not voted on. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – This bill renews the sales tax holiday for purchases related to education, one in August and another in September.

HB 811 | Authorizes Dept. of Revenue to Share Tax Info with Third Parties
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the Ways & Means committee, three hearings were held with the bill finally passing Ways & Means. The bill has passed the House. The bill favorably passed the Senate Finance Committee and rests in the Senate Rules Committee prior to any floor action. The Georgia Retailers testified in opposition to the bill. We are worked to eliminate or severely modify the contingency fee aspect of this bill but were ultimately unsuccessful. This bill passed the Senate and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
What This Bill Does – This bill would allow the Dept. of Revenue to contract and share tax information with third party auditors to mine for tax reporting discrepancies on a contingency fee basis. The bill has been modified to ensure the third party auditor never has direct contact with the sales and use tax collector and any audits must be performed on every sales and use tax collector in the same NAICS code at the same time.

HB 842 | Voluntary Pre-Trial Diversion for Shoplifting
Status Update – Bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee but not heard. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – This bill would allow a merchant to offer persons suspected of theft an opportunity to complete a theft education program in lieu of prosecution. Merchants are not compelled or mandated to provide such opportunity.

HB 876 | Preempt Municipalities from Restricting Building Materials
Status Update – Bill has been referred to and passed the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, as well as being passed by the House. The bill favorably passed the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, as well as the entire Senate and now rests on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
What This Bill Does – This bill would prohibit a political subdivision from passing any ordinance shall prohibiting the use of wood as a construction material so long as such use conforms to all applicable state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code.

HB 886 | GATE Card Program
Status Update – Bill has been referred to and passed out of the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. This bill has passed the House. The bill favorably passed the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, as well as the entire Senate and now rests on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
What This Bill Does – This bill modifies the existing GATE Card Program, it requires a participating retailer upon the first use of a new or renewed tax exemption certificate to verify that such certificate is valid by reviewing the producer's certificate and that a seller shall be authorized to continue to honor the tax exemption certificate unless the seller receives actual notice of a suspension or revocation or discovers a suspension or revocation when verifying the validity of the tax exemption certificate upon its first use in any calendar year.

HB 890 | Penalizing Use of Emergency Exit Doors While Shoplifting
Status Update – Bill has passed out of the Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil, full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. This bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and as well as the Senate and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
What This Bill Does – Makes the utilization of emergency exit doors during the commission of shoplifting a misdemeanor in Georgia.

HB 895 | Requiring Consumer ID for Drug Containing Dextromethorphan
Status Update – Bill has passed out of the House Health & Human Services Committee and rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – This bill requires customers prove to be over the age of 18 to purchase OTC drugs containing dextromethorphan. The Georgia retailers worked to adjust the language to place no onus on the retailer regarding record retention or product placement.

HB 917 | Digital Piracy/Shopping Cart Fine Preemption
Status UpdateBill has been heard and passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil and Senate Judiciary Committees. Bill has been heard, amended and passed by the Senate, agreed to and amended by the House. The bill failed to pass before Sine Die and therefore died.
What This Bill Does – This furthers Georgia’s digital piracy criminal statute. The Georgia Retailers had been positioning for weeks, and accomplished, amending this bill to make it illegal for political subdivision to fine retailers for having their shopping carts stolen.

HB 918 | Alignment with Federal Tax Changes
Status Update – Bill has been heard and passed out of the Ways & Means Committee, as well as the House. The bill has been heard and passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate as well as being concurred with by the House. The bill was signed into law by Governor Deal.
What This Bill Does – This bill incorporates recent changes to the Federal tax code into Georgia law. By substitute is now Governor Deal’s tax package including a reduction of the corporate tax rate which has seen no change since 1969.

HB 919 | Sales Tax Holiday for Energy Star Items
Status Update – Bill has been introduced and heard in the Ways & Means Tax Reform Sub-Committee. The Georgia Retailers testified in support of this measure. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does – Creates a sales tax holiday for energy star appliances between 5-7 October 2018.

HB 948 | USDA, FDA, and Dept. of Agriculture Preemption
Status Update – Bill was introduced and referred to the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee where it was passed favorably, the bill now rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. This bill failed to crossover, therefore this bill is dead.
What This Bill Does –This bill would prohibit any political subdivision in Georgia from regulating any good for sale in a retail establishment that is already regulated by the USDA, FDA, or Georgia Department of Agriculture.

HR 993 | Business Court
Status Update – Bills have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee but has not been heard. The constitutional amendment resolution has been heard, amended and passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now rests in the Senate Rules Committee. The constitutional amendment bill has passed the Senate and now heads to the Governor for his signature. New enabling legislation will be crafted during the 2019 session.
What This Bill Does –Constitutional amendment and enabling legislation that establishes a state-wide business court.

HR 1089 | Urging Congress to Pass the Marketplace Fairness Act
Status Update – Bill has been referred to and passed the Ways & Means Committee. The resolution has been adopted by the House.
What This Bill Does – This resolution urges the United States Congress to pass the federal "Marketplace Fairness Act" in support of equity and sales tax fairness.

SB 17 | Extending Sunday Alcohol Hours “Brunch Bill”
Status Update – Bill was passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries, was then re-committed for further consideration, passed out again as a committee substitute. The bill has passed out of the Senate. The bill has favorably passed the House Regulated Industries Committee and has successfully passed the House. The bill now rests on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.
What This Bill Does –This bill would allow restaurants, upon successful passage of a local referendum, to begin serving alcohol at 11:00 am instead of 12:30 pm. The ability for retailers to sell alcohol under the same circumstances was removed from the bill.

SB 328 | Repeal Certain Income Tax Credits/GILTI Change
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed the Senate Finance Committee, it was voted out of the Senate. The bill has been heard, amended, and passed by the Income Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means. The bill was passed by the House, agreed to by the Senate and rests on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
What This Bill Does –This bill eliminates three non-retail specific income tax credits, as well as being amended to exclude global subsidiaries of Georgia companies from paying state tax on earning of those subsidiaries.

SB 352 | Senate Opioid Bill
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, it was voted out of the Senate and now heads to the House Health & Human Services Committee. Portions of this bill were amended to HB 782 above. The bill failed to pass before Sine Die and therefore died.
What This Bill Does –This bill prohibits patient brokering and establishes the Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery.

SB 407 | Governor Deal's Criminal Justice Reform
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It now rests in the Senate Rules Committee Prior to any floor action. This bill has passed out of the Senate and as well as the House Judiciary (non-civil) Committee where the bill was amended. The bill now rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. The bill was passed by the House and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
What This Bill Does –This bill is Governor Deal's criminal justice reform package for 2018, of note is creating the ability to "arrest by citation" for certain non-violent misdemeanors.

SB 418 | USDA, FDA, and Dept. of Agriculture Preemption
Status Update – Bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee where it was passed favorably. This bill failed on the Senate floor, therefore the bill is dead.
What This Bill Does –This bill would prohibit any political subdivision in Georgia from regulating any good for sale in a retail establishment that is already regulated by the USDA, FDA, or Georgia Department of Agriculture.

SB 422 | Exempting Pharmacists from Clinical Laboratory Standards
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, has passed the Senate and has been reported favorably by the House Health & Human Services Committee. The bill now rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. The bill has passed the House and now rests on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.
What This Bill Does –This bill allow pharmacists in their scope of practice to be exempt from clinical laboratory standards when performing tests and interpreting the results as a means to screen for or monitor disease risk factors or drug use, so long as such tests are available to and for use by the public without licensure.

SB 432 | Georgia Tax Credit Business Case Act
Status Update – Bill was referred to and passed the Senate Finance Committee. This bill has passed the Senate. The bill was stripped of original language and replaced with language providing tax credits for certain health care educators, the bill then passed the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill now rests in the House Rules Committee prior to any floor action. The bill failed to pass before Sine Die and therefor died.
What This Bill Does –This bill was introduced incorrectly to provide for the expiration of certain income tax credits, and repeal certain state sales and use tax exemptions. The corrected amended version provides merely for the examination of and recommendations on future action on many such credits and exemptions including but not limited to: non-prescription insulin syringes and glucose test strips, food donated after a natural disaster, sales involving food stamps or WIC, food for off-premise consumption, prescription drugs, prescription oxygen, hearing aids, and durable medical equipment.

SB 471 | Mandatory E-Prescribing for Controlled Substances
Status Update – Bill was introduced and will be referred to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. This bill failed to crossover, therefore the bill is dead.
What This Bill Does –This bill requires the mandatory use of e-prescribing for all schedule II & III controlled substances.

Amazon began collecting sales tax on items it sells in Georgia four years ago after a push from state lawmakers. Now, state leaders in Georgia and throughout the country are setting their sights on the mega-retailer again — this time, to collect taxes from the third-party merchants that sell through its site.

The extra tax dollars would be a boon to state governments, but would end up costing online shoppers more.

The third-party retailers, called marketplace sellers, use Amazon to sell, hold and ship their products. But Amazon doesn’t collect sales tax on behalf of those companies, and many of them don’t collect taxes themselves.

Arguing they are losing millions of dollars in tax revenue, states are starting to take action — even as some of them are also trying to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2, with tax incentives and other inducements.

Washington will start receiving more sales tax money in January after passing a law earlier this year requiring Amazon to collect those taxes itself on the sellers’ behalf. Massachusetts successfully sued for access to a list of sellers that have items warehoused in the state. And South Carolina sued Amazon this summer, saying the company was required to collect taxes for marketplace sellers and owed more than $12 million in taxes for just the first three months of 2016.

James Thomson — the former business head of Amazon Services, which recruits marketplace sellers — said Georgia “almost certainly” already has the legal authority to demand sellers that have at any point had items warehoused in the state pay taxes here.

“There’s this massive sales tax liability that most sellers are ignoring,” he said.

Most sellers that aren’t charging sales tax rely on Georgia consumers to report their tax-free purchases, as the law has long required, and to pay the taxes they still owe by filling out state forms. It’s called a “use” tax, but shoppers rarely fill out the forms or pay. Online retailers push back against collecting sales tax themselves partly in an effort to keep their prices competitive.

Legislation has already passed the Georgia House that would increase sales tax collections on online sales in the state if it becomes law, but it still must be passed by the Senate and approved by the governor. And Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said he is working on additional legislation that could force Amazon to collect taxes on behalf of its third-party sellers, instead of leaving it to those sellers to collect themselves.

“If we can pass legislation requiring (Amazon) to pay, we want to do that,” said Powell, chair of the House Ways and Means committee. “They claim it’s a bookkeeping nightmare, but that’s not true.”

Who is required to charge sales tax for online sales comes down to one concept: physical presence. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling said if a company had a physical presence in a state, like a store or a warehouse, it had to charge consumers the sales taxes levied by that state. If not, there was no requirement.

But for businesses that send their goods to Amazon to ship, having their inventory stored in a state — even for a day — could be enough to require them to collect and pay sales tax there.

Powell’s proposed legislation, which passed the House this year, calls for a new taxing requirement. Instead of requiring a physical presence, he wants to create an economic presence. The bill would require tax collections for businesses that have more than 200 transactions in Georgia, or those that made more than $250,000 in sales in the state the previous year, regardless of where they are physically located.

Sellers would be required to collect the tax, or to send Georgia buyers a notice saying that they owe it and must pay.

“The market is changing,” Powell said. “The way we tax things is not.”

In order to collect any back taxes that the state argues are owed under existing law, the Georgia Department of Revenue would have to track down Amazon’s marketplace sellers that have stored inventory in the state. Thomson warned it would have to happen quickly: Sellers that haven’t paid taxes in multiple states are likely to run out of money before they’re able to pay all that they owe, he said.

That’s one reason, he said, Washington decided to forgo past sales tax collections in favor of simply requiring Amazon to collect in the future. But he said states that do go after back taxes have the opportunity to collect quite a bit.

The hit from unpaid taxes is “big enough that it warrants the Department of Revenue sending auditors,” Thomson said. “It doesn’t take long for it to be a couple hundred million dollars.”

A Georgia State University report said the state had lost an estimated $204 million in tax revenue in 2016 from all out-of-state online sellers. That number was expected to grow by 8 percent a year until 2022.

Jill Kerr, an Amazon spokeswoman, declined to comment on the issue of tax collection on the record.

Georgia retailers are in favor of changes that require all online sales to be taxed, Powell said. James Miller, a spokesman for Georgia Retailers, said his organization just wants “equity” among all sellers.

Two dozen states, in the hopes of getting sellers to voluntarily start paying sales tax, offered amnesty programs that would free them from having to pay some or all of the back taxes owed. Georgia wasn’t one of the participating states, but the number of sellers that signed up for the program, organized by the Multistate Tax Commission, was paltry — only 852 of more than 40,000 sellers that use Amazon for fulfillment of their orders.

Richard Cram, the director of that program, said he suspects more legislation will be written nationwide to force the issue.

He also said the company “probably wouldn’t be afraid” to use its headquarters search “as a way to discourage states from pressing them.” Thomson, though, doesn’t think the two are related. He said long-term growth and access to talent is more important to Amazon than the tax issue.

Stefanie Harper, at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the department doesn’t comment on active projects and “we’re not commenting on anything related to Amazon.”

The retail apocalypse has been well documented. Major chains have had to close stores, lay people off and even go out of businesses entirely. And small retail businesses may have it even harder.

But retail businesses aren’t completely a lost causes. There are ways to make your retail business stand out and potentially save it from extinction, if you’re willing to rethink the customer experience and get a little innovative.

Brian Solis gives an overview of the top trends that retail businesses can use to survive and thrive in today’s environment. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main points.

How to Save Your Retail Business

1. Use human perspective to shape your future. Basically, you can consider trends and technology all you want. But if you want the shopping experience at your business to appeal to your customers, you need to relate to them on a human level and put yourself in their shoes. If you can come up with some common sense changes, even if those changes integrate new technology and trends, you can make the experience better for actual customers.

2. Cater to on-demand consumers. Today’s consumers want their purchases immediately and in the most convenient way possible. So retail outlets need to discover ways to get their products to customers with the fewest barriers possible.

3. Compete for customer experience. This doesn’t just mean customer service. It means the end-to-end experience that the customer has when dealing with your business. So you need to come up with ways to stand out and make the entire process as seamless as possible.

4. Become payments agnostic. Mobile payments and other high tech options have recently gained popularity with some consumers. If you can create an environment where all forms of payment are accepted, you can eliminate some potential roadblocks for customers.

5. Understand social commerce. Social commerce is mainly centered around connecting social media and shopping. And retail stores can utilize this idea to increase business by encouraging shared experiences and reviews online.

6. Invest in the trust economy. The trust economy is all about creating transparency and trust between your business and its customers. You can create genuine interactions with customers online and otherwise through content and more. And you can even utilize user generated content and reviews or referrals from other customers to create more trust.

7. Balance webrooming and showrooming. When customers come into your store to look at products, but then look for the same products cheaper online, it’s called showrooming. But when customers research products online and then go find that product in a store so they can get it right away, it’s called webrooming. Both concepts are popular with different shoppers. So your business should be prepared for customers who want to compare information or prices from both online and retail sources.

8. Blur the lines between digital and brick and mortar shopping. Because of the ways customers interact with online businesses and content, it’s important for retail stores to utilize new technology to blur the lines between retail and online shopping to make the experience as seamless as possible. This can also provide more options for customers who simply have different shopping preferences.

9. Cater to mobile customers. Many customers are turning to their mobile phones first when shopping. And some are only using their mobile devices. But technology like beacons can help you gather data and more effectively communicate with those mobile customers to create a more seamless experience for them.

10. Discover new competition and possibilities. Because of the constantly changing technology and trends out there, retail businesses need to constantly be on the look out for new possibilities and new forms of competition. There might be a new disruptive technology tool out there that competitors are using to create a better experience. And your business needs to be open to solving that problem in a new way.

11. Reimagine your space. Instead of simply adding in new technology or methods to your existing model, it might be a better route to reimagine the journey as a whole. Start from scratch and think about how to create the best customer journey from start to finish.

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Contact Us

+1 (706) 202-9308
Thomas Beusse
Georgia Retail Association
1750 Powder Springs Rd, Ste 190
PMB 275
Marietta, GA 30064
thomas@georgiaretail.org