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Legislative Report #4
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2015 Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) Legislative Monitor Report #4 (February 16, 2015)

The 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly reconvened Monday, February 9, 2015, for Day 12 of the session. The House and Senate completed Day 15 on Thursday, February 12, 2015, and adjourned until Tuesday, February 17, 2015; Day 16. The General Assembly set the calendar for the remainder of the session. Legislative Day 30 (the day bills have to pass from one chamber to the other to be considered for passage during the current session) will be Friday, March 13, and Day 40 will be Thursday, April 2, 2015.

Budget

Following passage of a committee substitute for HB 75, the FY-2015 Supplemental Budget was assigned to Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. HB 75 was passed by the Senate on 2/11/15 as a committee substitute. Conference Committees of the House and Senate will convene to resolve differences in the bill before submission to the Governor. The FY-2016 budget will be passed later in the session.

Bills

One hundred sixteen bills were introduced in the House during the four days of week four of the session for a total of three hundred sixty House bills. The Senate introduced an additional twenty-three bills for a total of one hundred seven Senate bills. GEDA will focus on tracking bills that directly affect the membership’s ability to create jobs and investment. Please contact Kevin Shea, GEDA President, if you identify a bill(s) that you feel GEDA should track.

HB 4 – Representatives Geisinger of the 48th, McCall of the 33rd, Powell of the 32nd, Dudgeon of the 25th, and Tarvin of the 2nd

Amends Code Section 12-5-584 of the OCGA, relating to water supply and water conservation management plan and interbasin transfers relative to the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, so as to provide an exemption to the prohibition on interbasin transfers of certain rivers; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to amend the restriction on interbasin transfer of water so as to allow the transfer of water from a river with an annual average flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point and which is approved by the county in which the withdrawal point is located.

Assigned to the Committee on Natural Resources and Environment

Read for the second time on 2/11/15

HB 8 - Representatives Brooks of the 55th, McClain of the 100th, Dawkins-Haigler of the 91st, and Thomas of the 56th

Amends Chapter 4 of Title 34 of the OCGA, relating to the minimum wage, so as to provide for a substantive and comprehensive reform of provisions regarding the minimum wage law; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to raise the minimum wage from the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour to $6.20 per hour.  Upon the effective date of this Code section, the minimum shall be not less than $15.00 per hour.  Beginning January 1, 2016, and each successive January thereafter the minimum wage will be adjusted for increases in the cost of living.  The bill also provides that employees that work for tips can receive a credit toward satisfaction of up to 50 percent of the minimum wage requirements.  The bill list certain employers and individuals that the minimum wage requirements do not apply.

Assigned to the Committee on Industry and Labor

The bill was read for the first time 1/14/15.  No further action has been taken.

HB 57 - Representatives Dudgeon of the 25th, Drenner of the 85th, Brockway of the 102nd, Geisinger of the 48th, Setzler of the 35th, and others

Amends Article 1 of Chapter 3 of Title 46 of the OCGA, relating to the generation and distribution of electricity generally, so as to provide for financing solar technology by retail electric customers for the generation of electric energy to be used on and by property owned or occupied by such customers or to be fed back to the electric service provider; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to create the ‘Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015’ to allow individuals and certain commercial applications to utilize solar energy procurement agreements to finance the upfront costs of construction and installation of solar technologies.  ‘Solar technology’ is defined as a system that: (1) generates electric energy that is fueled solely by ambient sunlight; (2) is installed upon property owned or occupied by a retail electric customer; and (3) is connected to the service provider’s distribution system on either side of the electric services provider’s meter.  The capacity limit for a residential application is ten kilowatts, and one hundred and twenty-five percent of the actual or expected maximum annual peak demand of the premises the solar technology serves for a commercial application.

Assigned to the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications

Passed the House 2/9/15.  The bill was assigned to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities and read for the first time on 2/10/15.

HB 60 - Representative Setzler of the 35th

Amends Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to revenue and taxation, so as to exempt motor fuels from state sales and use taxes; to provide for increases in the second motor fuel tax and excise tax on motor fuel; to provide for the reduction of personal income taxes; to provide for a flat rate income tax structure; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes an annual incremental reduction of the state income tax to a rate of 5.5 percent for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.  The bill proposes to impose an excise tax on distributors who sell or use motor fuel within the state.  The excise tax would increase incrementally to a rate of 221/2 cents per gallon by 2022.

Assigned to the Committee on Transportation

The bill was read for the second time on 1/26/15. No further action has been taken. This bill is NOT the transportation bill introduced by the House Transportation Committee.

HB 63 – Representatives Tanner of the 9th, England of the 116th, Dickson of the 3rd, Coleman of the 97th, Evans of the 42nd, and others

Amends Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to the imposition, computation, and rate of and exemptions from state income taxes, so as to revise the adult basic skills education program tax credit, to provide for a sunset date; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to allow employers to receive a tax credit of $400.00 for each employee who passes the basic skills education test that was paid for by the employer; and $1,200 for each employee who completes an approved adult basic education program consisting of at least 40 hours of training while the employee is being compensated at his or her normal rate of pay, and passes the basic skills education test that was paid for by the employer.  Employer tax credits must be preapproved by the Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.  The amount of preapproved tax credits cannot exceed two million dollars per calendar year.  No single employer can receive credits in excess of $100,000 per calendar year.  The tax credit authorization will be repealed on January 1, 2020.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

The bill received a ‘do pass’ from the full Ways and Means Committee on 2/12/15.

HB 75 - Representatives Ralston of the 47th, O’Neal of the 146th, and England of the 116th

The bill creates the FY-2015 Supplemental Budget.

Passed the House as a Committee Substitute on 1/29/2015. Passed the Senate as a Committee Substitute on 2/11/2015.  Conference Committees will resolve differences in the bill.

HB 97 Representatives Turner of the 21st, Caldwell of the 20th, and Cantrell of the 22nd

Amends Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 of the OCGA, relating to inspection of public records, so as to provide that all public bodies shall disclose certain communications, terms and conditions of agreements, and incentives and offers made regarding certain matters; and for other purposes.

The bill would create the ‘Open Agreements Act”.  It proposes to prohibit any agency from entering into a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits two or more parties from disclosing any communications, terms, conditions, interactions, or agreements between or among the parties to such contract or instrument.  Unless exempted from this article, all agencies would have to fully disclose without delay any communications regarding and any terms and conditions of any agreement, incentive, or offer made or entered into by the agency.  Any individual who, on behalf of an agency, enters into a nondisclosure agreement would be subject to sanctions.  The Attorney General is designated to enforce the provisions of the bill.  Any citizen of this state would be authorized to initiate civil action to enforce and compel the disclosure of those matters covered under a nondisclosure agreement entered into in violation of this code section.

Assigned to the Committee on Governmental Affairs

The bill was withdrawn from consideration by unanimous consent by the author on 2/9/15.

HB 120 - Representatives Rutledge of the 109th, Welch of the 110th, Powell of the 171st, Knight of the 130th, Strickland of the 111th, and others

Amends Code Section 48-8-111 of the OCGA, relating to the procedure for implementing a special purpose local option sales tax, so as to provide for an additional purpose for the tax; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to add ‘a capital outlay project or projects that are owned, operated, or administered by the state and located, in part or in whole, within the special district’ to the list of authorized SPLOST projects.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

The bill was read for the second time 1/29/15.  No further action has been taken.

HB 122 - Representatives Martin of the 49th, Ramsey of the 72nd, Hamilton of the 24th, England of the 116th, Jones of the 47th, and others

Amends Code Section 48-7-40.16 of the OCGA, relating to state income tax credits for low-emission vehicles, so as to reduce to zero the amount of such credit; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to remove the tax credit for the purchase of a new low-emission or new zero emission vehicles purchased on or after July 1, 2015.  The bill states that the amount of the credit shall be $0.00.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

The bill was read for the second time on 1/29/15.  No further action has been taken.

HB 170 - Representatives Roberts of the 155th, Burns of the 159th, Hamilton of the 24th, England of the 116th, Stover of the 71st, and others

Amends various provisions of the OCGA, so as to provide for additional revenue necessary for funding transportation purposes in this state, and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to create the Transportation Funding Act of 2015.  The bill states that all revenue obtained from fees assessed on alternative fueled vehicles shall be dedicated to funding public transit in this state.  Any sales and use tax levied by a county, municipality, consolidated government, or other political subdivision of this state on the sales of motor fuels would be discontinued when the most recent authorization expires.  When current sales and use tax authorizations expire, a county, municipality, consolidated government, or other political subdivision of this state may each levy an excise tax of up to 3 cents per gallon on motor fuels by adoption of an ordinance.  A county, municipality, consolidated government, or other political subdivision of this state may increase the excise tax up to an additional 3 cents per gallon if the increase is authorized by passage of a local referendum.  6 cents per gallon is the maximum excise tax authorized.  The bill would also prohibit current joint county and municipal sales and use tax on the sale of motor fuels. 

An excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon is authorized on distributors who sell or use motor fuel within the state, and a rate of 33 cents per gallon on distributors who sell diesel fuel within the state.  The definition of ‘transportation purposes’ is changed through an amendment to Code Section 48-1-2 to include roads, bridges, public transit, rails, airports, buses, seaports, and all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to transportation facilities. Code Section 48-8-3.1 is amended to provide that sales of motor fuels would be exempt from state sales and use taxes levied. Sales of motor fuel, other than gasoline, purchased for purposes other than propelling motor vehicles will be fully subject to state sales and use taxes unless specifically exempted.  The bill also repeals Code Section 48-9-14 relating to the second motor fuel tax.  The bill amends the ‘Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank Act’ and authorizes the Board of the Department of Community Affairs to provide preference to eligible projects in tier 1 and tier 2 counties.  The Board is also authorized to make every effort to balance any loans or other financial assistance among all regions of the State.

The bill was assigned to the Committee on Transportation.

The bill was read for the second time 2/3/15.  The bill was presented to the full House Transportation Committee on 2/12/15.  No vote was taken.  Due to expected amendments, the description of the bill will be updated if it is passed out of committee.

HB 174 – Representatives Jones of the 62nd, Bruce of the 61st, Gravley of the 67th, Hightower of the 68th, and Alexander of the 66th

Amends Chapter 61 of Title 36 of the OCGA, the ‘Urban Redevelopment Law’, so as to include blighted areas; to provide for the use of surface transportation projects in urban redevelopment areas; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to remove the term ‘slum’ and substitute the word ‘blight’.  It also proposes to add surface transportation projects as eligible projects.

Assigned to the Committee on Transportation

Read for the second on 2/3/15.  No further action has been taken.

HB 175 – Representatives Ehrhart of the 36th, Maxwell of the 17th, Atwood of the 179th, Welch of the 110th, Gravely of the 67th, and others

Amends Part 1 of Article 1 of Chapter 8 of Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to general provisions regarding state sales and use taxes, so as to change the exemption from such taxes for certain jet fuel; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to restrict the approval of sales and use taxes on certain jet fuels to a ‘qualifying airline’ to those airlines that had an aggregate state sales and use tax liability for the immediately preceding taxable year of $15 million or less.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

Read for the second time on 2/3/15.  No further action has been taken.

HB 208 – Representatives Kirby of the 114th, Caldwell of the20th, Turner of the 21st, Battles of the 15th, Cantrell of the 22nd, and others

Amends Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to revenue and taxation, so as to eliminate the state income tax; to increase the rate of tax on the retail purchase, retail sale, rental, storage, use, or consumption of certain tangible property and on certain services; to provide for a sales tax rebate; to provide for conforming changes with respect to certain tax ceilings, imposition of taxes, collection from dealers, disposition of certain taxes, compensation of dealers for reporting taxes, and payment of taxes by certain contractors; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to amend Title 48 (33.1)(B) of Code Section 48-8-3, relating to exemptions from state sales and use tax on the sale or use of jet fuel to or by a qualifying airline at a qualifying airport will be exempt from 1 percent of the state sales and use tax of 7.5 percent (the bill increases the state sales and use tax from 4 percent to 7.5 percent).  The aggregate amount of all excise taxes imposed under paragraph (5) of subsection (a) of Code Section 48-13-51will increase from 14 percent to 17.5 percent. There are provisions for tax credits for persons or dealers under certain circumstances.  The bill proposes to have the Department of Revenue provide monthly sales tax rebates to duly registered ‘qualified families’. The bill would also amend three paragraphs of Code Section 48-13-51 (the Hotel Motel Tax Code) by increasing the aggregate amount of all excise taxes imposed, and all sales and use taxes, and other taxes imposed by a county or a municipality, or both.  For paragraph (3.1) the maximum taxes allowed would be 16.5 percent (currently 13 percent), for paragraph (4.1) the maximum taxes would be 15.5 percent (currently 12 percent), and for paragraph (5.1) the maximum taxes would be 16.5 percent (currently 13 percent).

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

Read for the second time on 2/9/15.

HB 213 – Representatives Jacobs of the 80th, Roberts of the 155th, Smyre of the 135th, Geisinger of the 48th, Mitchell of the 88th, and others

Amends the ‘Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority Act of 1965’so as to provide for a permanent suspension of restrictions on the use of sales and use tax proceeds upon the submission of an independent management audit to certain officials; and for other purposes.

The proposed amendment removes current restrictions on the MARTA Board to use more than fifty percent of the current MARTA tax for subsidizing the operating costs of the system.  Failure by the Board to submit an independent management audit to the Governor, State Auditor, and chairperson of the MARTA overview committee every four years will continue the 50 percent cap on subsidizing operating costs.

Assigned to the Committee on Transportation

Read for the second time on 2/9/15

HB 237 – Representatives Williamson of the 115th, Dudgeon of the 25th, Hamilton of the 24th, Martin of the 49th and Ramsey of the 72nd

Amends Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to the imposition, rate, and computation of and exemptions from state income tax, so as to extend the angel investor tax credit; and for other purposes.

The bill defines a qualified business as one that employs 20 or fewer people in this state, has gross annual revenue of $500,000 or less on a consolidated basis, is primarily engaged in manufacturing, processing online and digital warehousing, wholesaling, software development, information technology services, or research development.  The qualified business does not include businesses substantially engaged in retail sales, real estate or construction, professional services, gambling, natural resource extraction, financial, brokerage, or investment activities or insurance, or entertainment for which an admission or membership is charged.  Any individuals or any pass-through entity making a qualified investment directly in a qualified business through the 2020 calendar year will be allowed a tax credit of 35% of the amount invested against the tax imposed commencing on January 1 of the second year following the year in which the qualified investment was made. The total aggregate of all tax credits allowed qualified investors will not exceed $5 million in a year.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

Read for the second time on 2/10/15.

HB 261 – Representatives Harrell of the 106th, Powell of the 32nd, Douglas of the 78th, and Waites of the 60th

Amends Article 1 of Chapter 3 of Title 3 of the OCGA, relating to general provisions regarding regulation of alcoholic beverages generally, so as to provide for the sale of alcoholic beverages during certain times on Sunday in commercial service airports owned or operated by a municipal governing authority; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to allow a municipal governing authority that owns or operates a commercial service airport to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption in eating establishments located in a sterile area of such commercial service airport on Sundays between the hours of 5:00 AM and 12:00 Midnight.

Assigned to the Committee on Regulated Industries

Read for the second time on 2/11/15.

HB 285 – Representatives Stephens of the 164th and England of the 116th

Amends Code Section 48-7-40.26 of the OCGA, relating an income tax credit for film, video, or digital production in Georgia, so as to change certain qualifications for such credit; and for other purposes.

The bill defines ‘qualified production activities’ and allows production or qualified interactive entertainment production companies that invest in a state certified production approved by DEcD to receive an income tax credit if the base investment equals or exceeds $250,000 (currently $500,000) for qualified production activities.  The tax credit for qualifying companies is 20 percent of the base Georgia investment, and an additional 10 percent if the qualified production activity includes a qualified Georgia promotion.

Assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means

Read for the second time on 2/2/15.

SB 4 – Senators Gooch of the 51st, Williams of the 19th, Mullis of the 53rd, Orrock of the 36th, Ginn of the 47th

Amends Chapter 61 of Title 36 of the OCGA, relating to urban redevelopment for counties and municipal corporations, so as to provide for the use of surface transportation projects in urban redevelopment areas; to provide for definitions; to provide for public contracts with private enterprises for the completion of surface transportation projects; to provide for methods of procurement for surface transportation projects in urban redevelopment areas; to provide for limitations on former public employees when negotiating contracts for surface transportation projects; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to add surface transportation projects to the types of rehabilitation projects and included in the urban redevelopment plan. ‘Surface transportation project’ is defined as a project for public improvement and any related public facilities which is planned to impact 10,000 or more acres and at least ten transit miles within the area of operation of the sponsoring local government , including any related facilities, systems, parks, trails, streets, greenspace, and any other integrated public or private development features included within any adopted infrastructure or transportation plan, urban redevelopment plan, strategic implementation plan, redevelopment plan, workable programs, or comprehensive plans.  Surface transportation projects may be undertaken under this chapter in areas proximate to, but lying outside of, a designated urban redevelopment area, without regard to any requirement that the area be a slum or blighted area, but only within the territorial limits of the sponsoring local government.

Local governments are encouraged to use private enterprise for the rehabilitation or redevelopment of an urban redevelopment area. Unsolicited proposals are not permitted. 

Assigned to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

The bill was read for the second time as a substitute on 2/12/15.

SB 5 – Senators Cowsert of the 46th, Watson of the 1st, and Ligon, Jr. of the 3rd

Amends Code Section of 52-2-9 of the OCGA, relating to general powers of the Georgia Ports Authority, so as to provide for powers of the authority with respect to acceptance of loans or grants from the United States upon certain terms and conditions; and for other purposes.

The bill clarifies that the Georgia Ports Authority has the power to provide indemnification on behalf of the authority or any other agency or instrumentality of the state if such agency or instrumentality is an equal participant with the authority as a non-federal sponsor of a congressionally authorized civil works project for the benefit of the United States of America or any agency which power has existed since the creation of the authority.

Assigned to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

Passed the Senate as a substitute on 2/10/15.  Assigned to the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism.  Read for the second time on 2/12/15.

SB 16 - Senators Butler of the 55th, Tate of the 38th, Henson of the 41st, Fort of the 39th, Sims of the 12th and others

Amends Article 1 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the OCGA, relating to general provisions regarding income taxes, so as to require corporations that receive development subsidies to create new full-time jobs that provide livable wages and benefits; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to create the ‘Job Creation Standards of 2015’.  The Act would require recipient corporations that receive a development subsidy to comply with the following standards in order to qualify for development subsidy:

(1)   The recipient corporation would have to create at least one new full-time job in this state for each $35,000 of development subsidies it receives from the granting body;

(2)   The recipient corporation’s obligation to maintain such newly created jobs in this state shall remain in effect for either the duration of the subsidy or five years, whichever is longer; and

(3)   The recipient corporation shall be allowed to count a job as a new if the same job previously existed outside Georgia in another facility controlled by the recipient corporation in the United States.  If the job is not filled by hiring a Georgia resident, the job will only count as one-half of a job for purposes of meeting job creation standards.

To qualify for a subsidy, any jobs created would have to be new, full-time jobs and comply with the following:

(1)   Wages for project sites within a MSA, as defined by the federal OMB;

(2)   Wages for project sites located outside of a MSA;

(3)   Health insurance;

(4)   Hours worked per year; and

(5)   Paid leave.

Development Subsidy includes any expenditure of state funds including grants, loans, loan guarantees, enterprise zones, empowerment zones, tax increment financing, fee waivers, land price subsidies, matching funds, tax abatements, tax exemptions, and tax credits.  There are also provisions for recapture of the subsidy.

Assigned to the Committee on Finance

The bill was read for the first time on 1/13/15.  No further action has been taken.

 SB 52 – Senators Fort of the 39th, Henson of the 41st, Jones II of the 22nd, Tate of the 38th, Seay of the 34th and others

Amends Section 50-18-72 of the OCGA, relating to disclosure of public records, so as to clarify that certain tax credits and exemptions are subject to disclosure; and for other purposes.

The bill states that records relating to tax credits or tax exemptions granted to individuals or businesses under state law shall be subject to disclosure.  Disclosure documents shall include all documents relating to tax credits or tax exemptions. 

The bill would also require the Department of Economic Development to post on its website, no later than five business days after securing a binding commitment that includes the commitment of One Georgia Authority or REBA funds, a  notice that a binding commitment has been reached.  DEcD would have to post the Department’s records documenting the bidding commitment made in connection with the project and the negotiation relating thereto and by publishing notice of the project and participating parties in the legal organ of each county in which an economic development project located.  ‘Economic Development Project’ is defined as a project that involves an expenditure of more than $25 million by the business or the hiring of more than 50 employees.

Assigned to the Committee on Finance

The bill was first read on 1/27/15.  No further action has been taken.

SB 59 – Senators Hill of the 6th, Mullis of the 53rd, Gooch of the 51st and Beach of the 21st

Amends Title 36 of the OCGA, relating to local government, and Title 50 of the OCGA to provide for a ‘Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act’; to create the Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act Guidelines Committee; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to create the Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act Guidelines Committee with members appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House for two year terms. The Committee will prepare model guidelines for public entities in the implementation of this chapter.  The bill allows for a private entity to submit an unsolicited proposal under certain conditions.

Assigned to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

The bill was read for the second time 2/12/15.

SB 85 – Senators Beach of the 21st, Ginn of the 47th, Gooch of the 51st, Mullis of the 53rd, and Albers of the 56th

Amends Chapter 62 of the OCGA, relating to development authorities, so as to revise the definition of project as applicable to said chapter; modify the tax exemption of development authorities; to correct cross references; and for other purposes.

The bill proposes to repeal Code Section 36-62-2, relating to definitions and enacts a new paragraph that defines a ‘project’.

Assigned to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

The bill was read for the first time on 2/9/15.

SR 113 – Senators Hill of the 32nd, Shafer of the 48th, Cowsert of the 46th, Hill of the 6th, and Harper of the 7th

The resolution proposes to create the Senate Entrepreneur in Residence Study Committee.  The entrepreneur in residence program would focus attention on ensuring that government is not an impediment to the success of entrepreneurs.  The Committee will undertake a study of the conditions, needs, issues, and problems and recommend any action or legislation which the Committee deems necessary or appropriate.

Assigned to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism

The resolution was read for the first time on 2/2/15.

SR 135 – Senators Beach of the 21st, Hill of the 6th, Jones of the 25th, Black of the 8th, and Ramsey of the 43rd

Proposes an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing; and for other purposes.

Assigned to the Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities

The bill was read for the first time on 2/3/15. 

 

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