The GMA Governmental Relations team has been very busy this summer with workshops on topics from small cells to peace officer compensation to creating guideance for cities with regard to newly enacted laws.
Small Cell/Telecom Workshops
During the week of August 14 – 18, GMA conducted a series of five workshops to address the deployment of small cell technology in Georgia’s cities. Approximately 300 mayors, council members, city managers, clerks, attorneys, and public works staff members attended sessions in Lavonia, Hinesville, Centerville, Acworth, and Duluth. Participants received an update on state and federal legislative and regulatory proposals that could preempt local authority to regulate rights of way (ROW). GMA staff also reported on efforts to work with state legislators, industry representatives, and the FCC to develop balanced solutions that will facilitate deployment of broadband technology while maintaining local control over the use of the public right of way.
Greg Fender, GMA’s principal consultant with the GMA Telecommunications and Right of Way Management Program (TRM), discussed key points to consider when negotiating with small cell companies, including providing an overview of GMA’s model Master Right of Way (ROW) agreement. Greg also presented information about compensation for water tank towers, land leases, and fiber in the ROW. Attendees also learned how GMA’s TRM program helps cities on a variety of telecom issues ranging from negotiations with small cell companies to audits of providers in the municipal ROW.
COPS Task Force
The Senate Compensation of Police and Sheriffs (COPS) Task Force met for the 2nd
time on Monday August 21 at the Capitol. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government presented information on law enforcement salaries in comparison to the national average. It was reported that Georgia was below the national average in law enforcement salary as well as salaries in many other industries. GMA’s three task force appointees have been effective and forceful advocates of the need for municipal oversight of police officer compensation. The GMA appointees educated the task force members on the delicate balance of increased benefits, which could help the challenges cities face in retention of police officers, and the strain on municipal budgets. Public safety expenditures on average are the highest of all municipal budget appropriations.
GMA and ACCG were assigned the responsibility of proving the task force with comprehensive information on insurance benefits provided to law enforcement. The task force will meet again on September 18th
Committee on Coal Ash Meeting
The House Natural Resources and Environment Committee’s Ad Hoc Committee on Coal Ash met on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 in Atlanta for an update on coal ash pond closures. Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and Georgia Power representatives gave an update on the process and progress of coal ash pond closure and environmental monitoring. Georgia Power has 11 power plants, 5 of which still burn coal. All of the company’s 29 coal ash ponds will eventually be permanently closed. Dewatering and closure plans have been submitted to EPD and coal ash has been removed from 3 ponds to-date with an additional 8 ponds scheduled for closure in 2018. Plants that continue to burn coal will convert to dry handling of ash instead of wet handling.
Proposed New City Using Part of An Existing City
This past legislative session General Assembly members of the Henry County Delegation introduced two local bills that proposed the new city of Eagles Landing. The proposed Eagles Landing parcels are comprised of nearly half of existing land from the city of Stockbridge. The city of Stockbridge voiced their concerns about this proposed legislation at GMA’s Convention in June, and in result the Legislative Policy Committee amended the policy position on municipal incorporation. The new policy calls for the establishment of a process for this type of unprecedented proposal which would create a general law requirement for consent from either the electors or the governing body of the existing city before such action would be able to occur. GMA staff has drafted legislation that reflects the new policy and are exploring possible bill sponsors during the 2018 Legislative Session.