(Henrik Fisker)

Yacht, fantasy sports, investment bills hitch rides in Georgia House

The hitchhiking has begun in earnest in the Georgia House’s tax committee.

Every year, as the legislative session nears its close, House and Senate leaders hitch bills to legislation that has already passed the other chamber. It’s especially common for tax bills. With three working days left in the 2017 session, that effort is accelerating.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday attached a bill to give owners of giant yachts a tax break if they get their boats repaired or retrofitted on Georgia’s coast (House Bill 125) and another measure to regulate and tax daily online fantasy sports leagues (House Bill 118) onto legislation that would allow DeKalb County voters to decide whether to adopt a 1-cent sales tax for roads, bridges and other transportation improvements (Senate Bill 156).

Both the yacht and the fantasy sports bills passed the House, as well as Senate committees, and they are awaiting action by the full chamber.

“The Senate overlooked two very good bills we sent over to them earlier,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla.

Message delivered.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, sponsor of SB 156, said Thursday that he’d now support the fantasy sports and yacht bills if the House lets his bill move forward in the final days of the session.

Earlier Thursday, the committee attached a rural investment tax credit bill, House Bill 314, onto relatively minor legislation, Senate Bill 133, exempting some small businesses from paying the state corporate net worth tax.

The rural investment tax credit bill — named the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act — would make $60 million in state tax credits available to investors. The Senate Finance Committee had voted to table it Wednesday, making its chances of getting through the chamber iffy.

“This is about creating jobs in rural Georgia by increasing access to capital,” said state Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland.

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a proposal that offered $110 million worth of tax investment credits in 2015.

Critics of the new bill, and the 2015 one, called them rewritten variations of investment tax credit programs used across the country that wound up making huge profits for a few large capital firms, or CAPCOs, that handled the investments. They said the programs create a windfall for banks and out-of-state capital investment firms, but supporters say this year’s version is seriously needed because some rural businesses badly require access to capital to grow.

Some of the same high-profile lobbyists working for the national investment companies have been working to pass legislation in Georgia since 2011.

House Speaker David Ralston’s son, Matthew, represents one of them, Advantage Capital Partners.

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