February 16, 2018 | No. 6
The General Assembly is in recess until Tuesday, February 20th.  The General Assembly is planning to be in session Tuesday through Friday next week and in session Monday the 25th for Day 27 and Wednesday the 27th for Day 28, “crossover day.”
 
Action Needed
Restrictions on Local Control of Rights-of-Way: Small Cell Antennas and New Poles
 
Senate Bill 426 was introduced Tuesday by the Senate leadership to grant nearly unregulated access and special privileges to those seeking to put wireless service facilities in public spaces. Local governments are prohibited from imposing on wireless service providers the same franchise fees charged to other users of the rights-of-way, such as gas and electric companies, for many decades and including wireless antenna and service companies in covering the costs for right-of way-management. These are well-known non-discriminatory costs of doing business in the public rights-of-way and are in place to prevent government subsidies to private for profit companies.  Similar wireless industry legislation, House Bill 533, is likely to be scheduled for a hearing in the House in the coming six days prior to crossover.  
 
GMA is requesting help from members to share municipal perspectives on the deployment of small cell antennas and your communities’ experiences working with telecommunication providers in the public rights-of-way.
 
Please reach out to your legislators and to members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee to oppose SB 426, communicate about municipal concerns as expressed above and the importance of maintaining local control of the rights-of-way.
 
Pending in the House Rules Committee:   
SB 2 – Local Governments: Business Licensing & Permitting Fee Schedules
by Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) mandates cities and counties to establish and publish a time frame and fee schedule related to the processing and issuance of occupational licenses and permits for businesses, professions or occupations.  Additionally, the local government would have to require the applicant to pay 50 percent of the fee up front.  After payment of half of the fee, the local government would be required to verify with each applicant that an application is complete. If a local government does not meet its published deadline, the fee owed would be reduced by 10 percent for each ten days that the published deadline is not met. SB 2 passed out of the House Small Business Committee without GMA or ACCG being allowed to testify.  City officials should contact House members to express concerns over the need for this unnecessary mandate on local government permitting processes. GMA is opposed to this legislation.
 
HB 826 – Alarm Verification Exemptions by Rep. Geoff Cauble (R-McDonough) would require law enforcement to be dispatched to a location immediately upon the triggering of an alarm in cases where the alarm site or alarm user is a banking institution, firearms wholesaler or retailer, or a pharmaceuticals retailer, and has contracted with an alarm monitoring company for no alarm verification. GMA is working with the author on this legislation.         
                                                          
HB 876 – Preemption of Local Building Codes by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) preempts cities from regulating wood as a construction material if state minimum standards are met. GMA is opposed to this legislation.
 
Pending on the House Floor Tuesday:
HB 327 – TAVT Changes by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) changes the language on used car sales, by adding a section to apply to unlicensed dealers of used cars and addressing the taxable base of leased vehicles. The bill also changes the state/local split by removing the current formula and replacing it with a local government guarantee. GMA supports this legislation.
                                                         
HB 693 – Repeal of Solid Waste Liens by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) would remove the authorization for cities, counties and authorities to use liens as a method of collecting unpaid solid waste assessments. GMA opposes this legislation.
 
Pending in House Ways & Means Committee
HB 887 Communications Services Tax by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) creates a voluntary certification program to recognize local governments as ‘Broadband Ready Communities’ upon enacting ordinances promoting jurisdiction-wide broadband deployment and streamlined processes to grant quicker access for broadband service providers to the public rights-of-way It also restructures the way that communications can be taxed in Georgia. Firstly, the legislation removes the ability for local governments to charge franchise fees on cable and telecommunication providers. The local franchise fee is replaced by a structure that would allow the Department of Revenue to impose a Communications Services Tax on all satellite, telephone, cable, video, and audio transmission services. The state would retain four (4%) percent of satellite services, and a two (2%) percent of other communications services. The local governments would retain two (2%) of all communications services other than satellite service. GMA is evaluating this legislation.
 
HB 858 – Occupational Tax Gross Receipts Exemption by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) would give any profession that is licensed by the Secretary of State and who receives additional supervision from local governments to have the choice of paying $400 per practitioner to local governments for occupational tax instead paying gross receipts. GMA is working with the author on this legislation.
 
Passed Senate, Pending in the House:
SB 366 – Law Enforcement Wage Study Act by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) would require cities and counties to respond to the Department of Community Affairs’ annual Wage and Salary Survey at least once every three years. The local governing authority will have to use the data from the survey to inform and provide guidance for a pay scale. Local governments will not be mandated to utilize the pay scale. Failure to complete the summary will result in the loss of qualified local government status. GMA supports this legislation.
 
SB 17 - Sunday Sales of Alcoholic Beverages Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would allow a municipal governing authority, through separate referenda questions, to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Sundays from 11 a.m. to midnight. GMA supports this legislation.
 
Pending on the Senate Floor Tuesday:
SB 371 – Sales Tax Accountability by Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) would allow local governments to request information included on the vendor's sales tax certificate for all vendors that filed a report for that period with the Department of Revenue to be used by designated finance officer in the discharge of their duties. GMA supports this legislation.
 
Pending in Senate Rules Committee:
SB 385 – Increase Solid Waste Surcharge by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would increase the tipping fees at municipal solid waste disposal facilities from $1.00 per ton to $3.00 per ton effective July 1, 2018. GMA is opposed to this legislation.
 
SB 397 -- Municipal Use of Real Estate Brokers by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) would allow cities to contract with licensed real estate brokers for the sale of surplus property. GMA supports this legislation.
 
SB 402 – Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) enables the Georgia Department of Transportation in consultation with Georgia Technology Authority to implement a long-term policy approach to broadband deployment in interstate highways and state roads' rights-of-way through various approaches including public-private partnerships. It also enables the Department of Community Affairs to recognize local governments as ‘Broadband Ready Communities’ through a voluntary certification program if the local government adopted ordinances or policies promoting jurisdiction-wide broadband deployment and streamlined processes to grant quicker access to the public rights-of-way. GMA supports this legislation.
 
SB 418 – Preemption of Local Ordinances on Tobacco, Pet Sales and Other Retail Sales by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) prohibits cities from placing restrictions or bans on the sale of goods or products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture. This legislation would remove local authority to regulate sales on retail items, including the retail sales of cats and dogs. GMA is opposed to this legislation.                 
 
Pending in the Respective Senate and House Transportation Committees:
SB 386 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and HB 930 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) – to create a Transit SPLOST and provide for regional transit governance have been introduced. These bills would create an Atlanta-Region Transit Link (ATL) board to operate, plan and provide transit services in the 13 county metro Atlanta region. The ATL Board would be comprised of 14 members, with 10 chosen from districts by a caucus of legislators, county chairpersons in each district, and a mayor selected from a caucus of mayors in each district. The legislation authorizes a county-level transit special purpose local option sales tax which could be levied for up to 30 years upon approval of the voters in the county. The House bill also allows transit tax options for counties and cities which adjoin to provide transit services. GMA is evaluating these bills.
 
New City Proposed
Legislation calling for a referendum on creating the City of Skidaway Island was sent to Gov. Nathan Deal this week. The legislation calls for a referendum on the issue of cityhood in the November general election, with a special election to elect the mayor and council in March 2019 if the referendum is approved.
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