Cindy Morley, Middle Georgia CEO
Monday, August 5th, 2019
Three years ago Georgia set out on a mission — to become the most military friendly state in the nation. And at least one state lawmaker believes Georgia has accomplished that goal, thanks in part to the creation of the Georgia House Military Affairs Working Group by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).
“In three years, we have passed 34 new laws and allocated over $101 million to Georgia’s 750,000 veterans and 108,000 service members who work on the state’s nine military bases,” said Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), a 20-year military veteran himself. “A lot of boxes requested by the military have been checked off, and Georgia has moved into one of the top spots for the nation’s most military friendly states.”
Georgia currently has the fifth largest military population in America with an economic impact of over $28 billion yearly. The top five are California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. Also, Georgia ranks as the second highest state in the nation in military recruits (doubling the national average), following only Florida.
While all 34 new laws have had a major impact on the state, Belton points to several that played key roles on Georgia earning the title of Most Military Friendly.
One of those was HB 26, sponsored by Belton and approved during the 2019 session, which enters Georgia into a new compact that allows all Psychologists to practice via telecommunications within the Compact States if they attain an E-Passport. It also allows for in-person practices across state lines for a maximum of 30 days. According to Belton, the military requested this flexibility because of PTSD and other issues.
Another bill, HB 39, enters Georgia into a new compact that allows all Physical Therapists to practice in-person across state lines until the PT gets a Georgia address. The flexibility was needed, Belton said, because the military utilizes more PTs that anyone — due to the dangerous and physical nature of their work.
HB 59 addresses school choice for children of service members, and SB 395 creates the Georgia Joint Defense Commission, whose goals are to advise the Governor and the General Assembly on defense and military issues within the state and nation.
Belton said he hopes state lawmakers will address another issue in the upcoming session — eliminating taxes on military retirement income. Georgia is one of only nine states that fully tax military retirements.
“Because of this, we are losing a lot of military retirees to nearby states,” said Belton. “And when you consider that most of these service members retire between the ages of 40 and 45, we are losing a lot of skilled workers. Governor Kemp has said he plans to look into this.”