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Savannah Chamber of Commerce releases its Legislative Agenda for 2016 session

Category: Chambers of Commerce

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

November 19, 2015 – The Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual ‘Eggs & Issues’ breakfast Thursday morning at the Desoto Hilton.  In the well-attended event, Savannah’s legislative delegation spoke to a number of issues that will be before the Georgia General Assembly starting in January.

But, the primary focus of the event was for the Chamber to outline its priorities on behalf of Chamber members.  They include:

• Enhance Georgia’s competitiveness to attract and retain military veterans through the adoption of a state income tax exemption for retirement pay for veterans residing in Georgia.

• Increase funding for statewide tourism marketing to make Georgia competitive with other Southeastern states.

• Support Armstrong State University’s Board of Regents’ request for $22.6 million for new construction and renovation of existing Health Professions facilities.

• Support Savannah State University’s Board of Regents’ request for $2.02 million for equipment to be used in science and technology facilities.

The Chamber also outlined what are their “Key Pro-Business Policy Positions.”  They include:

• Defend against legislative measures that would negatively impact Savannah’s business climate, appear discriminatory in nature or would harm the ability to create, attract, retain and expand jobs.

• Support initiatives, such as percentage caps or a phase-in, to limit the unanticipated, large percentage swings of annual commercial property tax increases.

• Support initiatives that enhance the growth and efficiency of Georgia’s ports.

Regarding the upcoming State Legislative Agenda, the Chamber’s ‘Policy Positions’ are:

• Support reform of the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula to ensure Savannah Chatham County Public School students are competitive in the workforce and ready for post-secondary education.

• Support initiatives to fully fund and preserve the HOPE scholarship. 

• Support the Governor’s 2017 Capital Outlay request for the Technical College System of Georgia.

• Support job-focused workforce development through existing and additional certified training programs.

• Support policies sought by Savannah area hospitals:

• Support expediting construction on U.S. 80 from Wilmington Island to Tybee Island to improve overall safety and inclement weather access.

• Support lighting improvements at I-16 and I-95 interchange for safety and to create a better sense of arrival.

• Support widening of I-16 from I-95 eastward.

• Encourage tax reform initiatives that keep Georgia the top state for doing business, while not jeopardizing its AAA bond rating that provides continued lower taxes for all citizens.

• To maintain current Certificate of Need (CON) process.

• To improve access to care.

• To fund expansion of medical education including residency positions and fellowships in the Savannah area.

• To fund a statewide trauma network.

Both Rep. Ron Stephens and Sen. Lester Jackson spoke about their support for a Constitutional Amendment that would put questions on next November’s ballot for the public to consider allowing casino gambling and horse racing in Georgia for the purpose of supporting the Hope Scholarship funds.

Bill Hubbard is President & CEO, of the Chamber, and Ansley Threlkeld is Director of Governmental Affairs.

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