The Council for Quality Growth had direct involvement or a vested interested in the below legislation during 2015 and previous Legislative Sessions. Read the full analysis of legislation that the Council tracked throughout the 2015 Session.
2015 Session Highlights
- The 2015 Session was a banner year for the Council at the State Capitol. Following our involvement with the Joint Transportation Funding Study Committee in the fall of 2014, the Council went right to work, along with a coalition of the Georgia Chamber and Metro Chamber, led by the Georgia Transportation Alliance (of which the Council is a dues-paying Board Member), on the Transportation Funding Bill, House Bill 170.
- Almost daily, the Council was active at the Capitol, participating in Coalition meetings or Committee Hearings, working the ropes on the House and Senate side, and meeting with individual legislators, encouraging them to support legislation to keep Georgia moving forward with House Bill 170. In addition to offering Committee Testimony before the House Transportation Committee in support of House Bill 170 (see below), Council Chairman Tim Lowe and Michael published Op-Ed in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Marietta Daily Journal, as well as newspapers in the southern Region of this state, supporting House Bill 170 and encouraging the General Assembly to do the same, as well as sending out “Call to Action” email updates to our state-wide network of 10,000 business and community leaders, encouraging members and others to call and email their elected officials to support House Bill 170.
- We also hosted a successful “3rd Annual Council Day at the Capitol,” during which the Council was recognized with a Senate Resolution and hosted a lunch that was attended by over 85 state legislators, Secretary Brian Kemp, DNR Commissioner Mark Williams, and many Council Board Members.
- The 2015 Session will likely be remembered for the two issues that successfully passed: transportation and education. The highs of the transportation legislation, including MARTA restrictions lifted and Senate Bill 4, “The BeltLine Bill,” the Governor’s Opportunity School Districts and the Lt. Governor’s Career Opportunity and Early Graduation legislation; medical reforms for children with serious illnesses with the “cannabis oil” legislation and a beginning of autism insurance coverage for children and families challenged with this neurodevelopmental disorder.
- We saw the passage of city-hood legislation for Lavista Hills and Tucker, the failure of South Fulton to receive final passage, UBER and LYFT dodging what could have been a much more severe bullet, and finally the passage of Senate Bill 59, the “P3” legislation.
- While much will be said about this Session, positive and negative alike, the reality is we would call this Session a success. We took a first leap to fund transportation and again showed why Georgia is a place to do business and educate our future leaders, with passage of much needed education legislation. The working-man, the business-man, and the every-man all won this Session due to the hard work of many elected officials whose name you may or may not see in the local paper. Despite the natural disposition of many to dismiss the passionate issues or work of members of the General Assembly and staff you never see, we can assure you, when history writes the book of this Session, the chapter will display leadership and passion for legislation on issues for all Georgians.
Archived Session Highlights
2014 Session Highlights
HR 264 to amend the “Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act of 1965” was signed by Governor Nathan Deal on April 24, 2014. The measure limited the reappointments of board members; removed restrictions on the operations of private enterprises; required the board to approve certain contracts; and revised procedures in the collective bargaining process. The Council supported this bill.
- The Council actively supported Senate Bill 299, the watershed protection standards bill, authored by Senator Steve Gooch. The passage of this bill now allows local governments flexibility in their watershed protection plan (with EPD approval) in order to balance environmental protections with landowner’s private property rights. This is a big win for those who believe accountability and decision-making is fundamental at the local level.
- MARTA, with the passage of House Bill 264 and House Bill 265, in 2017 will see a new Board of Directors, with a reduction from the current 18 to 11 (with an additional 2 nonvoting members). This new structure gives the Mayors in Fulton and DeKalb the power of appointing Board Members (through a majority caucus vote of the Mayor’s in each county). Additionally, MARTA will now be required to enter into contracts with private service providers and allows Clayton and Gwinnett counties to allow the voters in their counties to approve or deny a rapid transit contract with MARTA. One victory for MARTA is the suspension for three years of the 50/50 rule, which will allow MARTA to use more than 50% of the proceeds from its sales and use tax for operation costs. This is a huge boost to MARTA GM Keith Parker as he seeks to overhaul the system and create a more user-friendly environment.
- The House failed to give passage to legislation that was brought by Council Board Member and State Senator Brandon Beach. The first, Senate Resolution 1027 sought to establish a joint reform study committee to examine the current SPLOST structure. This bill would have examined the benefits and effects of reforming SPLOST and allowing schools to use proceeds for more than capital construction the allowance of regional governments to come together with a SPLOST and the benefit of a fractional SPLOST.
- The Council also applauds the efforts State Representative John Carson on his work for House Bill 153, the ‘fractional SPLOST” legislation that saw its chance of passage doomed when it was brought up at 11:57 p.m. on Sine Die, ensuring its failure. The legislation was supported by the Council, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cobb and Cherokee Board of Commissioners, the Regional Business Coalition and others who actively worked to see passage of a bill that would have allowed another tool in the toolbox for local governments when looking at the landscape of their transportation and infrastructure needs.
- Legislation that the Council, along with many partner organizations supported, Senate Bill 255, the “P3” bill, failed to pass. The bill would have allowed a public entity (from the state level to a local town) to partner (through solicited or unsolicited proposals) with a private entity. The private entity would assume much of the financing, design, operation or maintenance that is normally assumed by the public side and would have been subject to guidelines and oversight established by a Guidelines Committee and Legislative Oversight Committee. It should be noted, while Georgia currently allows “P3” through the Department of Transportation, this legislation would have greatly expanded the role “P3” could play in the construction of new infrastructure, such as schools and prisons, as well as mass transit and rail, highways, convention centers, etc. We will continue to support legislation that encourages public-private partnerships and that seeks to address Georgia’s critical infrastructure needs.
- The Council was successful in stopping legislation that would have potentially opened up the original Community Improvement District legislation and caused concerns for many Council Members. By working with State Representative Brett Harrell, who listened to the Council and our CID Alliance partners, a website was created that addressed the will of the legislation and places all audits and annual reports of CID’s in one comprehensive location and eliminated the need for additional regulations.
2013 Session Highlights
- Due to an upcoming election on November 2014, legislative activity during this Session was slower than others. Despite this over 150 bills were passed into law. HR 264 and its companion bill HR 265 were delayed to allow newly appointed MARTA CEO, Keith Parker, the opportunity to implement changes prior to state involvement in the transit agency’s affairs.
- HB 604 to amend the determination of millage rates by governing authorities in Fulton County, by providing dates on which the governing authority of Fulton County may make or fix certain levies of ad valorem taxes was signed by Governor Deal on May 2013. The Council supported this bill.
- HB 347 which revised how the members of the board of elections and registration of Fulton County, Georgia could be appointed was signed by Governor Deal in May 7, 2013. The Council supported this measure.
- The passage of laws capping lobbyist’s spending at $75 per legislator’s gift or meal with other conditions passed the General Assembly. It is hoped this bill will help facilitate citizen trust in their elected officials. The Council monitored but took no stance on this measure.
- HR 4 which settles the boundary dispute between Georgia and Tennessee by exchanging 66 miles of land in Georgia in exchange for 1.5 miles of land in Tennessee that are better suited for a pipeline was signed by Governor Deal in April 2013. The Council supported this law.
2012 Session Highlights
- Much of the Session was dominated by issues such as abortion, charter schools, education reform, criminal justice reform and a failed attempt to overhaul the regulation of licensed professionals in Georgia. MARTA reform legislation failed to pass, along with interbasin transfer measures, an attempt to repeal the Transportation Investment Act, legislation aimed at strengthening Georgia’s ethics laws, and a bill to allow for competition in the providing of broadband services.
- HB 386, the tax reform package that was a product of over two years work and combined multiple pieces of legislation aimed at creating jobs in Georgia and relieving the tax burden on our citizens, passed the last days of Session. It eliminates the “birthday tax” and instead institutes a one-time state and local 6.5% title fee that gradually increases up to 7% in 2015. Additionally, married couples may now file a joint return for a deduction of $7,400, up from $5,400. Tax credits given to individuals who make “qualified donations” of conservation easements are limited to $500,000, down from the current $1 million limit.
- SB 371 which allows local governments to acquire, construct, maintain, and control airports and landing fields, so as to provide for local government’s ability to accept community improvement district funds to use for improvements to airports and landing fields within the district was signed by the Governor on May 2012. The Council supported this position.
- SB 427 requires the director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to develop and implement procedures that will ensure the timely processing of various permits and provide for an expedited review. In addition, permit applicants will now be able to review in real-time the status of their applications.
- Legislation that deals with brown fields and water supply, HB 1102, was passed on Sine Die. The bill allows a buyer of a hazardous site reuse property a 30 day grace period when seeking a limitation liability. Currently, the limitation must be sought before the property can be purchased.
- SB 521 was attached to HB 1102 and includes provisions that allow public water suppliers to transmit water usage data of customers to the local government or authority if the customer is using a waste-water sewer system that is owned by the local government. If a customer fails to pay for any water used, the public water supplier is to immediately suspend water supply to the customer and will charge a fee for the suspension of re-activation of the service.
2011 Session Highlights
- SB 122 passed both the House and Senate. This bill creates a funding mechanism by which local governments can partner with private entities to finance water supply projects. The Council supported this bill and appreciates the leadership shown by Governor Deal, Lieutenant Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston and Senator Tolleson throughout the Session on this bill.
- SR 15 passed both the House and the Senate. This resolution creates a joint Committee on Water Supply. The committee would study and analyze the current status of the state’s reservoir system and conduct a comprehensive analysis of the state’s strategic needs for additional water supply.
- SB 86 passed both the House and the Senate. This bill requires all local governments to adopt a basic local plan and modifies the developments of regional impact (DRI) process. The Council was concerned about the original intent of the bill to make local comprehensive planning optional. Council leadership testified in committee and advocated for continued planning at the local level and a Senate study committee resolution was introduced to look closely at comprehensive planning, developments of regional impact and solid waste reporting requirements for local governments.
- Other legislation addressed this Session includes House Bill 87. This bill affects immigration enforcement and requires private businesses to use a federal program called E-Verify which seeks to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This bill passed both chambers and Governor Deal has indicated he will sign it. The Council has serious concerns about the economic implications of this bill.
- HB 110 (Vacant Property Registry) did not pass both chambers, it did pass the House and came close to consideration in the Senate. The Council commends legislation that would create uniform criteria for how a municipality or county establishes a vacant property registration ordinance.
- $46 million was allocated into this year’s budget to fund reservoir creation and expansion projects along with other water supply projects. Governor Deal has called for $300 million over four years for this undertaking to strengthen Georgia’s water supply. Also, the State allocated $32 million in bond funds to deepen the Port of Savannah. This appropriation will help Savannah accommodate larger container ships once the Panama Canal is open in 2014.
2010 Session Highlights
- On April 29th, the General Assembly adjourned Sine Die, and closed out the 2010 session. While the work started out slow, the final results turned out to be an extremely successful session for the Council for Quality Growth. After years of work advocating for new investments in infrastructure, the legislature passed several important measures that will keep Georgia’s economy competitive and help speed up recovery.
- In transportation, the Senate and House agreed to a new transportation funding bill. HB 277 was agreed to by the Conference Committee on April 21st, and was passed by the Senate and the House by overwhelming margins later that night. The passage is the culmination of more than three years of negotiations and proposals on how to bring about new funding.
- Regarding water, several bills were passed by the Legislature. SB 370, The Water Stewardship Act, has passed both the House and Senate earlier in the session. Additionally, several bills affecting water are making their way through the process. SB 321, SB 442, and SB 380 were all proposed to help Georgia prepare for a potentially harmful scenario regarding Judge Magnuson’s decision on Lake Lanier.
- SB 380, was passed by both chambers and will provide for the expansion of existing reservoirs using GEFA funds, and will also direct an RFP to study interconnectivity within the MNGWPD. SB 321, a change in State law to allow private reservoirs to be constructed for public use, did not pass the House, and will likely be studied again in a future session.
- The most harmful language proposed this year, the Interbasin Transfer legislation, was defeated and never made it to the House floor. This language was amended onto several other bills, but through the leadership of Senate Natural Resources Chair Ross Tolleson and House Natural Resources Chair Lynn Smith, the language was stopped. IBTs will likely be a hot topic next year, as a study committee will be held this Summer and Fall to study if new provisions should be adopted.
- With the budget being such a major challenge this year, it is a testament to the leadership in the General Assembly that major infrastructure improvement bills concerning water and transportation were able to move forward. These measures will undoubtedly help the State for many years to come.
2009 Session Highlights
- The 2009 General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on April 3rd. While hundreds of bills were debated, and a handful passed, the State’s top leaders walked away failing to have addressed transportation funding. Around 11:00 PM on Day 40, the House Senate Conference Committee broke without reaching consensus.
- Despite making progress towards compromise throughout the final two days, the conferees were unable to agree to the same legislation. The final Conference Committee meeting concluded when the House conferees rejected the Senate proposal to pass the identical bill that failed at the last minute in 2008. After Senate conferees proposed SR 845 and HB 1035, House Transportation Chairman Vance Smith stated that “the House has moved on from that bill to a better Statewide Bill”. The result of this is that transportation funding will not be addressed for at least another year. The Legislature has one more chance in 2010 to place a Constitutional Amendment on the 2010 ballot.
- While funding did not pass, SB 200, the GDOT Governance Bill did. The changes that came out of the House include: a Director of Planning appointed by the Governor to oversee planning and spending, Legislative authority to appropriate 20% of local projects, a Commissioner elected by the Board to oversee maintenance and operations. Because the Bill was altered so late in the session, there are still many lingering questions about how the changes will come down.
- SB 155 or the Stream Buffers on Ephemeral Streams bill defines and exempts ephemeral streams from State 25 foot buffers. It is unclear how local buffer ordinances would be impacted but the State buffer would no longer be required on these streams. This was signed by Governor.
- All bills that failed to pass both chambers will be recommitted to their committees for the 2010 General Assembly. This means that all bills will be eligible to be heard again next year. Additionally, there may be language within other bills that passed in the final hours that may impact growth and development. If any major issues become apparent, the list will be updated.
2008 Session Highlights
- The House of Representatives attempted to address tax reform by eliminating different Ad Valorem Taxes, including property taxes and car taxes. The Senate attempted to reduce the State Income Tax Rate with a phased-in approach. Within both of these proposals, there was a measure to limit annual assessment increases on residential and commercial property at 2% and 3%, respectively. In the end, the House and Senate were unable to work out these differences, and the measure failed for 2008.
- Transportation became a serious priority during the 2008 Session. The House and Senate had competing proposals that moved through each chamber through thoughtful debate. The Conference Committee on SR 845 eventually came to a consensus on an approach, and placed the proposal on the desks. When SR 845 was called for a vote, the House approved the measure. The Senate was 3 votes short of the 2/3 majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment. As presented, SR 845 would have allowed a State-wide referendum to allow the creation of regional transportation districts.
- In a separate referendum, citizens of counties who chose to participate in the region would vote to enact a 1% sales and use tax that could only be used for the designated projects within the region. While the failure to act in 2008 was extremely disappointing, the Council for Quality Growth will continue to advocate for new and innovative sources of funding to address our transportation infrastructure crisis.
- Water issues were also very noteworthy during the 2008 General Assembly. In the first week of the Session, the House and Senate adopted HR 1022, the State’s first ever Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Plan. Over the next three years, this Plan will guide our policy makers in the development of long-term water planning.
- Also passed in the final hours of Day 40, was SB 342. SB 342 was merged with HB 1226 to address existing difficulties in expanding our current water supply. As adopted, SB 342 would provide an authority within GEFA who will have the role of assisting local governments in developing new reservoirs. The authority will provide bonds and matching funds for expanding water supply capacity. Additionally, SB 342 will streamline the EPD permitting process, and will provide assistance to local governments in obtaining their US Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permits.
- Tax Allocation Districts were addressed in the form of SR 996. TADs had been essentially made ineffective after a State Supreme Court decision ruled them to be unconstitutional. SR 996, passed on Day 40, authorizes a Constitutional Amendment to allow voters to decide whether or not TADs will have a role in the redevelopment efforts in our State. The measure must be passed on the ballot in November, and the Redevelopment Powers Law will be revisited in the 2009 General Assembly.
2007 Session Highlights
- The Council has been actively involved in numerous legislative initiatives that affect the growth and development industry. Below is the status of these bills as of the end of the Session. The STATUS is as of 4/20/07, the 40th, and last day. There will be a Special Session to work out the 07’ Supplemental Budget and perhaps other issues.
- SR 365 to establish a Joint Study Committee on Transportation Funding was passed.
- SB 89, also called the Georgia Townships Act, which provides for creation of townships with planning and zoning powers, minimal taxing power, no public services was approved in the Senate but did not proceed in House.
- SB 200, SR 309 jointly called the Georgia Smart Infrastructure Growth Act, which provides for creation of Infrastructure Development Districts was passed and signed by the Governor.