Cities Succeed in Maintaining Control of Public Rights–of–Way
On Legislative Day 40, both SB 426 and HB 887 remained eligible for a vote throughout the day, but died by the close of the session. Both small cell bills would have granted wireless telecommunications providers the right to place small cell antennas and install new poles in the public rights–of–way with limited input or denial power from the local government.
The House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. John Meadows (R–Calhoun), offered a committee substitute to SB 426 that removed all small cell language and replaced it with language to statutorily authorize EMCs to be in the broadband service business. SB 426 passed the House with a vote of 143–10 but failed to get a vote on the Senate floor by the end of the night.
HB 887 was sent back to the House but was not called up for a vote. Chairman John Meadows and Chairman Jay Powell (R–Camilla) were integral in ensuring small cell legislation did not receive final passage in the House. GMA applauds their leadership on behalf of Georgia cities to preserve local control in the rights–of–way. GMA also thanks the many calls, texts, emails and letters to members of the legislature expressing concerns about limits on local control of public rights–of–way. These efforts were appreciated and ultimately successful in defeating telecom industry–driven preemption legislation.
The House leadership recognized the importance of finding a balance between the need to protect public rights–of–way and the desire of the wireless telecom providers to use the rights–of–way to provide services. GMA looks forward to working with members of the General Assembly and wireless telecom providers in the interim to find that right balance.
GMA is committed to working with both the House and the Senate to further examine the use of the public rights–of–way as recommended in HR 1698 and SR 1019. GMA also thanks all the city officials who made calls, texts and emails.
SB 402, the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere "ACE" Act by Senator Steve Gooch (R–Dahlonega), passed and will allow local governments to be recognized as “broadband ready communities” through a voluntary certification program administered by the Department of Community Affairs. The conference committee report passed the House 160–3, the Senate 50–2 and was sent to the Governor for his signature. GMA supported this legislation.
Key GMA Tax Legislation Sent to Governor Deal
Two longtime GMA platform policies were adopted by the General Assembly in the 2018 session. House Bill 61 by Chairman Jay Powell (R–Camilla) passed the Senate on Day 39, and was sent to the Governor on Day 40. GMA has been advocating for this “marketplace fairness” provision for the past decade. This measure to require collections and remittance of sales taxes by Internet corporations selling goods to Georgia consumers would not only bring in over $200 million local dollars per year, but also levels the playing field for brick and mortar retailers across Georgia.
Perhaps the only Revenue and Finance issue GMA members have pursued longer than the Internet sales tax measure is the measure of increasing transparency and accountability from the Georgia Department of Revenue. On Day 33 of the 2018 session, both chambers passed Senate Bill 371 by Sen. Lee Anderson (R–Grovetown) allows local government finance officers to request active vendor information from the Department of Revenue.
In addition to these two GMA platform pieces, GMA was also instrumental in the passage of House Bill 811, also by Rep. Jay Powell, which allows the Department of Revenue to contract with a third party data analytics firm to identify underreported sales taxes. HB 811 passed both chambers on Day 39 of the 2018 session, and is currently awaiting the signature of the Governor.
Five years after the elimination of the "birthday tax," the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) Code was reformed in a comprehensive manner with the passage of HB 329 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R–Bonaire). On Day 40 of the 2018 session Rep. Blackmon reached consensus with the Senate on the conference report for HB 329. The legislation addresses numerous technical fixes with the law ranging from the taxation on “kit cars” to a flexible way of taxing commercial leases. Most importantly the legislation contains an overhaul to the TAVT revenue distribution. Since TAVT’s introduction, local governments have not seen an aggregate increase in motor vehicle revenues, while the state has seen an increase in revenues of approximately $500 million. The changes lock local governments into a 65% local to 35% state split of the TAVT revenues, which is a marked increase from the current rate of 51% local.
Finally, GMA was happy to support House Bill 886 to reform the GATE sales tax exemption. This legislation raises the eligibility requirement on the program from $2,500 to $5,000 and add additional oversight to the program. The legislation passed both chambers on Day 37 of the 2018 session, and is currently awaiting the signature of the Governor.
Bills Sent to Governor Deal
SB 17 – Brunch Bill by Sen. Renee Unterman (R–Buford) allows local governments to hold a referendum on allowing on–site sales of alcohol on Sundays beginning at 11 a.m. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 79 – License Plate Scanner Data by Rep. John Pezold (R–Pine Mountain) allows local governments to retain license plate scanner data for 30 months. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
HB 419 – Increased Local Control of Fireworks by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R–Sandy Springs) allows local governing authorities the ability to regulate the use or ignition of consumer fireworks based on local noise ordinances. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 751 – 911 Authority by Rep. Alan Powell (R–Hartwell) establishes the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority (GECA), housed within the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. GECA includes within its membership all local governments that operate or contract for the operation of a 9–1–1 system. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 930 – ATL Transit Authority by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R–Dawsonville) creates an Atlanta–Region Transit Link (ATL) Authority to operate, plan and provide transit services in the metro Atlanta region. The ATL Board would be comprised of 16 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 also authorizes counties to call for a transit sales tax referendum to fund transit services. The sales tax is authorized at a rate of up to 1% in increments of .05 % for up to 30 years. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 703 – Public Safety Mental Health Support by Senator Greg Kirk creates the Governor's Office of Public Safety Support to provide counseling to public safety officers involved in traumatic incidents. GMA suported this legislation.
HB 792 – Hazardous Waste Trust Fund & Host Fees by Rep. Terry Rogers (R–Clarksville) raises the host fees for municipal solid waste from $1 per ton to $2.50 per ton effective July 1, 2019. Construction or demolition waste or inert waste will remain at $1 per ton. Coal ash residuals host fees will remain at $1 until June 30, 2025, when it will increase to $2. The legislation also extends the sunset on fees collected for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund to July 1, 2019. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
HB 876 – Wood Frame Construction Preemption by Rep. John Corbett (R–Lake Park) preempts local governments from regulating wood as a construction material if state minimum standards are met. GMA was opposed to this legislation.
HB 735 – Rural Development Council Short Line Railroads by Rep. Patty Bentley (D–Butler) creates an income tax credit on 50% of all qualified rail maintenance for Class III (Short Line) railroad carriers with a maximum of $3,500 per owned/leased rail mile. The second section of the legislation would exempt a specific state owned rail line from locally imposed stormwater fees. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
HB 332 – The Outdoor Stewardship Act by Rep. Sam Watson (R–Moultrie) allows for 75% of state sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment sold in the prior year to be dedicated to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund (GOSF). The GOSF would make grants and loans to state agencies and local governments for the following purposes: the protection of clean water, game, wildlife, fisheries, for military installation buffering, or natural–resource–based outdoor recreation; to support local parks and trails; and, the stewardship of conservation land. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 257 – Annual Registering with DCA by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R–Brooklet) consolidates the date for registering local government authorities with the report of local government authority finances. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
SB 395 – Georgia Joint Defense Commission by Sen. Ben Watson (R–Savannah). GMA supported this legislation.
HB 332 – Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act by Rep. Sam Watson (R–Moultrie). GMA supported this legislation.
HB 381 – Abandoned and Derelict Mobile Homes by Representative John Corbett (R–Lake Park) creates a process for landowners to remove abandoned and derelict mobile homes from their property with the help of their local government. The legislation does not mandate that local governments make assessments but permits them to do so and sets forth a process for the landowner to remove such mobile homes. GMA supported the legislation.
HR 238 – Outdoor Stewardship Funding Constitutional Amendment by Rep. Sam Watson. GMA supported this legislation.
SB 397 – Municipal Use of Real Estate Brokers by Senator Ben Watson (R–Savannah). GMA supported this legislation.
SB 404 – Base Water Rates Allowed on Fire Sprinkler Systems by Sen. Matt Brass (R–Newnan). GMA was neutral on this legislation.
Bills That Did Not Pass:
HB 791 – Waiver of Sovereign Immunity by Representative Chuck Efstration (R –Dacula) would have waived the defense of sovereign immunity for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief to the state and would provide a right to direct appeal any rulings that deny or refuse immunity. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
SB 452 – Immigration Detainers by Senator Jesse Stone (R – Waynesboro) would have allowed municipal police officers to notify and transfer information to prosecuting attorneys when such information relates to immigration status. It also would have required judges, when sentencing persons on felony convictions, to determine whether a convict is an illegal alien. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
The House insisted on its version of SB 2, Local Government Licensing and Permitting Fee Schedule, by Sen. Mike Dugan (R–Carrollton), which would have created a voluntary “Ready for Partnership” Georgia. GMA supported a voluntary program.
SB 366 – Law Enforcement Wage Study Act by Senator Steve Gooch (R–Dahlonega) would have required local governments to conduct a study of law enforcement salaries every three years. GMA supported this legislation.
HB 693 – Repeal of Solid Waste Liens by Rep. Brett Harrell (R–Snellville) passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee. GMA was opposed to this legislation.
SB 418 – Retail Sales Regulation Preemption by Sen. John Wilkinson (R–Toccoa) failed on the Senate Floor. GMA was opposed to this legislation.
SB 453 – Incorporation Standards by Senator Blake Tillery (R–Vidalia). GMA was opposed to this legislation.
HB 948 – Retail Sales Regulation Preemption by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R–Jasper). GMA was opposed to this bill.
HB 650, Confederate Monuments by Rep. Mary Oliver (D–Decatur), and SB 302 by Sen. Elena Parent (D–42) would have allowed local governments to alter, conceal or remove any Confederate monument or memorial. GMA supported this legislation.
New Cities Proposed
If signed by Governor Deal, legislation calling for three referendums on creating the cities of Skidaway Island in Chatham County, Sharon Springs in Forsyth County, and Eagles Landing in Henry County will be held this year.
Study Committee Created
HR 1398 Study Committee on Short Term Vacation Rentals by Rep. Matt Dollar (R–Marietta) creates a House study committee on short term vacation rentals. The Speaker of the House would nominate 7 members and chose one to be the chairperson. GMA was neutral on this legislation.
NOTE: Governor Deal has 40 days in which to sign into law or veto the measures sent to his desk. GMA will communicate any vetoes after this time period has expired.
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