February 2, 2018 | No. 4
House Bills Awaiting Action in the Senate
HB 61 – Internet Sales Tax Parity by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), passed out of the Senate Finance Committee this week and is now awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill seeks to require "delivery retailers" that have gross revenues in excess of $250,000 or has 200 or more retail sales in the state to collect and remit sales and use taxes. The bill also outlines the procedure for remission, and penalties for non-compliance.
 
This measure is important for leveling the playing field for Main Street merchants, who are often involved in and support the communities where they operate. Please contact your senators and ask for their support of HB 61.
 
HB 181 – Sales Tax Accountability by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans) is pending in Senate Rules.  A similar bill, SB 371 by Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown), was introduced this past week and is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. Both bills 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 both bills. 
 
HB 257 – Streamlining Reporting Dates for Local Government Authorities by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Brooklet) passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee and is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee. This bill would change current law by consolidating the date for registering local government authorities with the report of local government authority finances. The legislation clarifies that failure to do either annually would continue to prevent local government authorities, including city authorities, from being eligible for receipt of state funds or being able to issue debt unless such authority submits both reports to the Department of Community Affairs. GMA is neutral on this legislation.
 
Committee Action on Legislation
HB 679 – Restrictions on Newly Annexed Electors in Forthcoming Municipal Elections by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) passed out of the House Government Affairs Committee this week and is now pending in the House Rules Committee. GMA worked with members of the House Governmental Affairs Committee to adopt a substitute version replacing the legislation originally introduced which proposed 90 day bans on annexations prior to any municipal election. The substitute version legislation would prevent any elector who resides in an area that is annexed into a municipality from voting in a forthcoming municipal election (or run-offs to the election) if the annexation becomes effective between the period beginning on the fifth Monday prior to an election being held in such municipality and ending on the date of the election.  GMA is neutral on this legislation.
 
SB 17 – Brunch Bill by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) was recommitted to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. This bill would allow local governments to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises and retail package sales on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to midnight. This legislation would also allow Georgia farm wineries to have sales for consumption on the premises in tasting rooms on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to midnight or in closed package sales for consumption off the premises on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until midnight, to the same extent as the local government license and laws allow. GMA supports this legislation.
 
HB 493 – Video of Open Meetings by Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park) passed out the House Government Affairs Committee and is pending in the House Rules Committee. This legislation would require any municipality which video records a meeting that has been made available on its website to include video of all of the public portions of the meeting, including public comment periods, and to retain the video for two years. GMA is evaluating this legislation.
 
Broadband, Small Cell and Rights-of-Way Management
Discussions on broadband deployment and small cell technology continue in both the House and Senate. GMA expects there to be new versions of the two telecom bills, HB 533 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) and SB 232 by Sen. Steve Gooch, (R-Dahlonega), as well as possible new telecom legislation in the coming weeks. GMA continues to express concerns that these proposals give virtually unregulated access and special privileges to those seeking to put wireless service facilities in the public rights-of-way.
 
GMA key priorities include:
  • Maintaining local control and authority over rights-of-way access;
  • Maintaining local control over community aesthetics by setting reasonable size limitations for wireless antennas and new poles in the rights-of-way;
  • Efficiency in the permitting process that maintains local ability to negotiate on placement sites;
  • Obtaining information from wireless providers related to engineering and deployment plans within the jurisdiction; and
  • Receiving fair compensation from private companies placing equipment in the public rights-of way and on public property.

Senate “Compensation of Police and Sheriffs (COPS)” Bill Package Introduced
Legislation which is a result of the Senate COPS Task Force deliberations in 2017 was introduced this past week.  The following bills are part of the COPS bill package:
 
SB 366 – Law Enforcement Wage Study Act by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) would require counties and municipalities to perform wage and compensation studies for employees of their law enforcement agencies every five years. The dates for the completion of the study will be staggered between 2019 and 2021 based on the population of a city or county. The local governing authority will have to use the study to inform and provide guidance for pay scales. Local governments will not be mandated to utilize the pay scale but will have to annually submit the pay scale of each government to the Department of Community Affairs. Failure to complete the study or submit the pay scale annually will result in the loss of qualified local government status. If the initial deadline is missed, a local government will have 60 days to comply with the requirements of this proposed law or have its QLG status revoked.
 
This legislation would also create a financial need-based grant fund administered by the Department of Community Affairs subject to an appropriation by the General Assembly for local law enforcement agencies.
 
SB 367 – Law Enforcement Estates by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) would allow payments to be made to the estate of law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMT’s, emergency management specialists, state highway employees or prison guards who either die or suffer brain damage while in the line of duty.
 
SB 368 – Law Enforcement Technical Support sponsored by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) would allow the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to provide technical support and assistance to local law enforcement departments that lack access to certain resources and support. The support and assistance from the council would include grant funding, training, equipment, operations and other official needs.
 
SB 369 – POAB Supplement by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) would require local governments to submit five dollars of each fee collected from pre-trial diversion programs to the Police Officers’ Annuity Benefit Fund.
 
Other Legislation
HB 693 –Preemption of Solid Waste Liens Authority 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.
 
HB 751 – 9-1-1 Authority by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would establish the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority (GECA), which would be housed within the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. GECA would include within its membership all local governments which operate or contract for the operation of a 9-1-1 system. The board of directors of GECA would consist of 15 members, 2 of which would be guaranteed to be city officials, 2 others which will be county officials, 3 others which will be 9-1-1 directors, 1 sheriff, 1 police chief, and 1 fire chief. All combined, this means that at least 10 of the members of the board of GECA will be local officials. GMA supports this legislation.
 
HB 332 – The Outdoor Stewardship Act by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) would allow for 75% of state sales tax applied to outdoor recreation equipment 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 supports this legislation.
Ocilla Mayor Matt Seale, left, visited with Sen. Tyler Harper at the Capitol recently. GMA encourages city officials to visit the Capitol during the session.
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