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2022 Capitol Update – Week 1

2022 Capitol Update – Week 1

January 18, 2022

Last week, UGA’s complicated relationship with Hope turned into full-blown commitment and the excitement was palpable at the Capitol. In fact, before the Georgia General Assembly even met to convene the second year of the 156th General Assembly on Monday, January 10th, they preemptively decided to take Tuesday off to recover from the Monday evening championship game (before UGA had even won!).

The House of Representatives and Senate’s first day of business included adopting the Adjournment Resolution—the joint resolution both chambers must approve to set the legislative calendar for however many days the chambers can jointly agree on—and adjourning early to cheer on the Dawgs!

The legislative calendar is as follows:

Legislative Day 1: Monday, January 10

Legislative Day 2: Wednesday, January 12

Legislative Day 3: Thursday, January 13

Legislative Day 4: Friday, January 14

Budget Hearings: January 18 through 20 – the second week of session is referred to as “Budget Week”. These hearings include presentations from agency heads to discuss the Governor’s proposed budget for their respective departments in detail and to take questions from members of the Joint House & Senate Appropriations Committees.

Legislative Day 5: Monday, January 24

Legislative Day 6: Tuesday, January 25

Legislative Day 7: Wednesday, January 26th

The State of the State

In addition to the excitement of UGA’s win, this past week the Governor delivered his annual State of the State address where he outlined the following priorities:

  • A $5,000 raise for every state employee
  • A $2,000 raise for teachers
    • Some may recall that Gov. Kemp made a campaign promise in 2018 to give a $5,000 raise to all teachers. In 2019, Governor Kemp was able to deliver a $3,000 raise and this proposal would provide the remaining $2,000 to allow the Governor to complete that promise to Georgia’s teachers
  • $1.6 billion allocated to the Department of Revenue for the purpose of providing every Georgia taxpayer with a tax credit on their 2021 state return: $250 for single filers and $500 for joint filers
  • An increase in overall funding for the HOPE Scholarship to ensure 90% of all fees and tuition are covered by the Scholarship
    • Currently, only roughly 80-83% of these expenses are covered
  • New funding to reduce the GBI crime lab backlog
  • Restore full state funding to the K-12 public school system  
    • Lawmakers reduced state funding in mid-2020 due to the financial uncertainty of the pandemic
  • “Ensure fairness in school sports”
    • While the Governor did not delve into details on this point, some have opined that this could mean supporting legislation “to ban transgender women and girls from playing on female teams,” according to the AJC
  • The Governor also stated his support for Critical Race Theory reform in schools  

The state of Georgia will see a record-breaking surplus of $3.7 billion as the result of higher than expected tax revenues and federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funding. This surplus has been the driving force behind the 11% increase in state spending proposed by Governor Kemp this year, intended to restore many of the cuts made to the budget during the pandemic.

Looking ahead

2022 is a significant election year in Georgia, as all statewide constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly are up for election or re-election this year. As a result, we can expect a great number of bills to be introduced that are intended to “energize the base” in hopes that the bill sponsors will be able to gain greater support within their party’s primary. This will be exacerbated by new legislative districts and several incumbents who already have announced primary challengers.  

Fortunately for Georgia, all statewide constitutional officers and legislators are prohibited by law from raising or accepting campaign funds during a legislative session, so a majority of these bills will fall prey to the ticking clock of the 40-day legislative session and the powerful desire to gavel out as soon as possible in order to get back to campaigning and raising money.

ACEC Georgia’s Watchlist

Since last year’s session, the Georgia Commission on E-Commerce & Freight Infrastructure Funding, chaired by House Transportation Chair Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) and Senate Transportation Vice-Chair Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), met and adopted 25 recommendations. The full report can be found here. In summary, the report’s recommendations include the following priorities, among others:

  • Encourage the development of designated truck lanes, which GDOT has previously proposed that require funding
  • Create “freight clusters” that include warehousing, parking, and easy access to major corridors
  • Consider allowing the trucking industry to self-tax to raise funds for compliance, safety, and promotion of careers in the industry

HB 476, by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon), the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act, is still in play! The bill proposes to remove the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (PELS) Board from the jurisdiction of the Professional Licensing Board Division within the Secretary of State’s office. Further, it would allow the newly independent PELS Board to have its own dedicated, trained and specialized staff, paid for by the licensure fees paid by professional engineers and land surveyors. The board would continue to be administratively attached to the Secretary of State’s office but would have its own separate budget.

Last year, HB 476 sailed easily to passage by the full House of Representatives and had also been unanimously approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, before last-minute concerns were raised. ACEC Georgia’s team has worked hard since last year’s session to address those concerns and will continue to work to move HB 476 to final passage by the State Senate.

Other Legislation ACEC Georgia is following 

HB 100 – By Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City), would exempt public mass transit, campus transit, and public school system buses from paying Georgia’s motor fuel excise tax. This bill would undermine the premise underlying the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170) – that all users of Georgia’s roads and bridges should contribute toward their upkeep. ACEC Georgia is opposed to this bill. STATUS: Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee. 

HB 854 – By Rep. Todd Jones (R-Cumming) proposes the creation of “Buckhead City” by de-annexing Buckhead from the City of Atlanta and making it its own separate city. STATUS: Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

HR 203 – By Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Atlanta) is a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would expand the current Constitutional dedication of all motor fuel excise taxes for “roads and bridges” and instead allow those funds to be used for all public transportation purposes, including “roads, bridges, rails, airports, buses, seaports, and all accompanying infrastructure and services.” While ACEC Georgia is opposed to the diversion of existing revenue that is constitutionally dedicated to funding roads and bridges, we are also strongly supportive of the goal of finding additional funding mechanisms for the transportation purposes this proposal ultimately seeks to fund. STATUS: Assigned to the House Transportation Committee.   

SB 98 – By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) is a Freight & Logistics bill that would allow SRTA to negotiate public/private partnership investments in infrastructure that would provide a “substantial public benefit.” STATUS:  Passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on March 3rd. Passed the full Senate on March 8 on a 53-1 vote.  Referred to the House Rules Committee.

SB 324 – By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) proposes the creation of “Buckhead City.” It has been assigned to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee, which consists of only Democratic Senators. Democrats have been outspoken in their opposition to the proposal and Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta) stated in response to the move that the Senate version of this proposal will not be moving forward. While the House version of this proposal is still alive (HB 854, above), the Lt. Governor’s move is a sign that the Senate will likely deal the House proposal a similar fate if that measure passes the House and crosses over to the Senate. STATUS: Assigned to Senate Urban Affairs Committee.

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