2022 Capitol Update – Week 4
2022 Capitol Update – Week 4
February 7, 2022
This past week the legislature met Tuesday through Thursday for Legislative days 9 through 11. As of February 3rd, nearly 2,900 bills and resolutions have been introduced over the course of this two-year session!
Of those 2,900 bills and resolutions, House Bill 961 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) and Senate Bill 329 by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) are high on ACEC Georgia’s priority list. HB 961 and SB 329 are both intended to address a 2021 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court that eliminated the apportionment of damages to non-parties in single defendant cases. In simpler terms, if a lawsuit only names a single defendant (or if previously named additional defendants have been dismissed from the suit before a judgement), then no liability can be apportioned to the other responsible parties that are not parties to the suit, leaving the defendant to pay 100% of the damages (unless the plaintiff is attributed some percentage of fault). This has major implications on any business in Georgia and ACEC Georgia is part of a broad coalition that is supporting this effort, with specific interest on the rapidly moving HB 961, which is up for a vote in the House today. SB 329 is still awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last week, we mentioned the House’s omnibus Mental Healthcare Bill, sponsored by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). House Bill 1013 aims to increase client access to care, ensure mental health parity for providers and clients (i.e. depression and anxiety would be covered just as any physical health issue is covered by insurance), strengthen workforce development initiatives, expand transparency and accountability for consumers, and enhance resources and tools for frontline responders and communities. These issues are the top priority of Speaker Ralston, and his sponsoring of this bipartisan effort is significant, given that he almost exclusively sponsors only two bills every year—the budget bills. It’s a clear sign that this is priority #1 of the House of Representatives this year.
Our readers may also recall from last week’s newsletter that we mentioned “Crossover Day” is March 15th. That is the deadline for legislation to pass the chamber where it was introduced. In other words, a House bill must pass the House by the crossover deadline in order to be eligible for consideration in the Senate and vice versa. As a result, it is uncommon for one chamber to consider another chamber’s bills before this date, focusing instead on getting their own chamber’s bills “crossed over.” Our HB 476, which would allow the PELS board to operate autonomously with its own budget and dedicated staff crossed over from the House to the Senate last year, and as such, it may not be taken up by the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee (where it is currently pending) until after March 15.
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 496 – By Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) is this session’s version of the perennial “truck weight bill,” and would allow trucks hauling timber products to apply for an annual “forest product permit” that would allow them to exceed maximum truck weight limits. This is the House version of SB 118 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) (see below). STATUS: Assigned to the House Transportation Committee.
HB 934 – By Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) allows a Single County Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) to be collected for the full amount of time approved by voters (five years), rather than ending collection of the tax once the total estimated amount has been collected. STATUS: Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.
HB 1039 – By Rep. Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville) would extend the income tax credit for expenditures on the maintenance of railroad track owned or leased by Class III railroads. STATUS: Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee
HR 203 – By Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Atlanta) is a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution which 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 any diversion of existing revenue that is constitutionally dedicated to funding roads and bridges, we are also 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.
HR 623 – By Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City) would create a House Study Committee on the Nancy Hanks Passenger Rail Line from Savannah to Atlanta. 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 118 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) this year’s version of the perennial “truck weights bill” would allow trucks hauling timber products to apply for an annual “forest product permit” that would allow them to exceed maximum truck weight limits. This is the Senate version of HB 496 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross). STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Industry & Professions
HB 389 – By Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) proposes to change the classification of certain independent contractors by changing the definition of employment to encompass services performed for wages. The Department of Labor is authorized to make a contrary determination on a case-by-case basis. STATUS: Passed out of the House Insurance and Labor Committee on January 27th but was recommitted (sent back) to the committee on February 1.
HB 884 – by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) would expand existing law that created expedited licensure by endorsement for the spouses of military personnel relocating to Georgia. HB 884, however, would require a licensing board to issue a license within 30 days of receipt of application and eliminates all requirements that would ensure the license is similar to the Georgia license the applicant is applying for and waives all educational and examination requirements. ACEC Georgia remains committed to ensuring that the standards for licensed professionals which licensing boards approve are upheld and, as such, has serious concerns with any carveouts that diminish or circumvent these standards. STATUS: Assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
HR 627 – By Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester) would create a House Study Committee on Bureaucratic Hindrances to Businesses. This study committee would focus primarily on the relationship between governmental entities that regulate, oversee, or otherwise engage with businesses in the state. The broad scope of this study committee appears to include local governments as well as state agencies. STATUS: Assigned to the House Small Business Development Committee.
SB 45 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), is aimed at speeding up occupational and professional licensure through licensure by endorsement for new residents of Georgia who have licenses in good standing in other states that have requirements that are “substantially similar” to license for which they are applying for in Georgia. STATUS: Passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. Passed the full Senate of February 16th of last year by a vote of 37 to 15. Assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee. This legislation is identical to HB 147 by Rep. Heath Clark, which was also assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee but failed to ever receive a hearing.
SB 352 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) would expand the licensure by endorsement regime in place for spouses of military personnel to the spouses of first responders and healthcare workers. The legislation states that the existing license from the other state must be substantially similar in scope to the Georgia license an applicant is applying for, that the licensee must be in good standing, and that the licensee must not have had any disciplinary actions taken against them. STATUS: Passed the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee; currently pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
SB 438 – By Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) revises contract retainage in construction contracts to bring Georgia in line with the 5% maximum contract retainage practices of most other states. STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
SR 327 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) would create a Senate Study Committee on Occupational Licensing. ACEC Georgia has a keen interest in any licensing reforms that might benefit the business of engineering, land surveying and architecture and, as such, will be closely monitoring this study committee’s progress. STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 302 – By Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) involves regulatory fees charged by local governments on business, occupations, and professions. The bill would require local government regulatory fees to approximate the cost of the service provided and prohibit the use of regulatory fee revenue to fund the general operations of the government. ACEC Georgia supports the effort to ensure that regulatory fees should only fund the purpose for which the fees are levied. STATUS: Passed the House on March 5, 2021, 91 to 65. The Senate Finance Committee met to hear the legislation on January 26, but no action was taken on the bill.
HB 328 – By Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) would establish a one-time right of way permit fee and reduce annual right of way use fees for telephone companies that is paid as due compensation for municipalities. STATUS: This legislation has passed both the House and the Senate; however, the Senate amended the bill during debate on the floor last year. The House must agree to the Senate substitute before the legislation can be considered by the Governor. This past week, a special subcommittee on Right of Way Governance in the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee met to discuss the changes in the Senate; however, no action can be taken by the committee. The Speaker must call the bill during session for a motion to agree or disagree to the bill as amended by the Senate.
HB 844 – By Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) would prohibit local governments from restricting the long-term rental (over 12 months) of single-family detached dwellings on any property where such dwellings are authorized under the local zoning code or are not otherwise prohibited by the local land use plan. STATUS: Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 1130 – By Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) proposes to create “educational development impact fees” to pay for a share of the cost of additional educational facilities. Currently, only municipalities and counties are allowed to establish development impacts fees and this legislation would allow school systems to also impose impact development fees. This legislation, however, is enabling legislation that must be triggered by a constitutional amendment (see HR 666 below). STATUS: Assigned to House Government Affairs Committee.
HB 1180 – By John Corbett (R-Lake Park) proposes to expand the make-up of regional commission councils to allow one non-public resident of each county in the region to be appointed to the commission for a two-year term. It also proposes the creation of an executive committee to oversee the commissions. STATUS: Assigned to the House Government Affairs committee.
HB 1181 – By Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) would prohibit the directors of development authorities to also serve as the chairperson or chief executive officer of such development authorities. STATUS: Assigned to House Government Affairs committee.
HR 666 – By Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) is the accompanying constitutional amendment to HB 1130 which would revise the constitution to allow local boards of education to impose development impact fees and use the proceeds to pay for the costs of additional educational facilities. STATUS: Assigned to the House Government Affairs Committee.
Water & Environmental
HR 579 – By Don Parsons (R-Marietta) would create a Georgia Commission on Sustainability and Economic Opportunity. This commission would be focused primarily on ensuring the business community is educated and incentivized to prioritize employee wellness and environmental responsibility. STATUS: Passed out of the House Small Business Development Committee but was recommitted (sent back) to the committee on February 3rd).
SB 94 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) would allow habitable structures to be placed in the inundation zone below a Category II dam if an engineer of record were willing to certify that it would not create the possibility of loss of life. If a structure currently exists in the inundation zone of a Category II dam, the owner could hire an engineer of record to fortify the structure to prevent loss of life. Under either scenario there is an explicit prohibition on requiring the dam owner to fortify the Category II dam into a Category I dam. This year, Senator Ginn has also filed SB 440 (see below) which similarly deals with dams. STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee.
SB 440 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) proposes to modify the definition of dams relating to impounding capacity by increasing the maximum water storage elevation threshold from “100 acre-feet or more” to “150 acre-feet or more.” STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.
HB 826 – By Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) proposes the creation of the city of Lost Mountain in Cobb County. If passed, voters located within the geographic area will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum before cityhood can become official. STATUS: Assigned to the House Government Affairs Committee; passed the Special Subcommittee: Cityhood and will move to the full committee for a hearing there.
HB 840 – By Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) proposes the creation of the city of Vinings in Cobb County. If passed, voters located within the geographic area will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum before cityhood can become official. STATUS: Assigned to the House Government Affairs Committee; passed the Special Subcommittee: Cityhood and will move to the full committee for a hearing there.
HB 841 – By Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) proposes the creation of the city of East Cobb in Cobb County. If passed, voters located within the geographic area will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum before cityhood can become official. STATUS: Passed the House 98-63. This past week the bill was assigned to Senate State and Local Government Affairs, which it passed out of on February 3rd. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee for consideration for a floor vote.
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.
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. STATUS: Assigned to Senate Urban Affairs Committee.