Georgia Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation Wednesday calling for the most thorough review of the state’s tax laws in more than a decade.

The 2021 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians would be modeled after an advisory council of the same name the General Assembly created in 2010.

That iteration of the council led to tax reforms that eliminated Georgia’s “birthday” tax on motor vehicles, phased out the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing and expanded an income tax exemption for married couples filing jointly.

“Georgia did something that worked really well back in 2010,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, told his Senate colleagues Wednesday. “It’s time to do that again.”

Under Hufstetler’s bill, the council would include Gov. Brian Kemp, three economists, a fiscal expert chosen by minority Democrats, the 2021 chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the 2021 director of the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, two members appointed by the lieutenant governor and two members appointed by the speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.

The council will study Georgia’s tax structure during the course of this year and report its findings and recommendations to the speaker and lieutenant governor no later than Jan. 10, 2022.

The Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure, a panel Hufstetler’s bill also would create, would then develop the council’s recommendations into one or more bills to be introduced into the House during next year’s legislative session.

Anything that emerges from the joint committee would move directly to the floor of the House for an up-or-down vote with no amendments. The same process then would be followed in the Senate.

The 2010 council expressed interest in a similar up-or-down voting process as a way to prevent its tax reform recommendations from being watered down, but the General Assembly wouldn’t go along. As a result, the final legislation that came out of the council’s work was not as far-reaching as council members intended.

Like the council, the joint committee would guarantee representation to legislative Democrats, including the minority leaders of the House and Senate. Unlike the council, the joint committee would be limited to members of the General Assembly.

Hufstetler said Georgia was ranked as the sixth-best state in the nation in which to do business by Site Selection magazine at the time lawmakers created the council. Since then, Georgia has improved to the point that the state’s business climate has been No.-1 on the magazine’s list for eight years running.

“This is an attempt to replicate what we did 11 years ago,” Hufstetler said. “Are we going to stand still and let others pass us, or are we going to be more economically competitive?”

Senate Bill 148 now heads to the House of Representative.