Under the Gold Dome – June 30, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly gaveled in “Sine Die,” the last day of session. The 2020 state legislative session was unprecedented, to say the least, after Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston suspended the session on March 13th due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state legislature reconvened its legislative session on Monday, June 15th, with 11 days remaining. Governor Kemp must sign or veto legislation within 40 days after Sine Die adjournment, or it becomes law without his signature.

In the last remaining days of the session, the top policy priority for the Georgia General Assembly was to adopt a balanced FY 2021 budget. The legislature passed House Bill 797, $26 billion spending plan, by a vote of 40-13 in the Senate and 104-62 in the House. The Metropolitan North Water Planning District (MNWPD) received $550,000 for its comprehensive plan update. Council members will recall the District is constitutionally mandated to update its five-year water management plan this year. Water management and conservation are inextricably linked to sustaining economic growth in metro Atlanta and across the entire state. The Council for Quality Growth applauds the state legislature for appropriating funds to the MNWPD for its comprehensive plan update. To review Georgia’s FY 2021 budget, click here.

Last Tuesday, the state legislature passed  House Bill 426, the Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes Act. Georgia hates crimes bill mandates enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target their victims based on race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. The Senate passed the bill on a 47-6 vote and immediately transmitted it to the House, which approved the Senate substitute changes by a 127-38 vote. Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on Friday.

On the last day of session, both chambers approved a COVID-19 liability bill, Senate Bill 359, the Georgia Pandemic Business Safety Act, which provides certain liability protections for businesses re-opening their workplaces amid COVID-19 pandemic. The House approved the measure by a 104-56 vote, and the Senate approved the new changes by a 34-16 vote.

Listed below are bill summaries for key pieces of legislation and their outcomes for the session that are important to the growth and development industry. 

Georgia Freight Logistics Commission

House Resolution 935 sponsored by Representative Kevin Tanner (Dawsonville) & Senator Brandon Beach (Alpharetta)

HR 935 reauthorizes the Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission. The Commission will take an additional year to examine funding options to enhance the state’s freight and logistics infrastructure. The Council for Quality Growth supported HR 935 and looks forward to working with the Commission on policy solutions to improve Georgia’s freight movement.

Passed House by 169-0 vote and Senate by 51-0 vote

Waive Sovereign Immunity

House Resolution 1023 sponsored by Representative Andy Welch (McDonough)

HR 1023 would put a referendum on the statewide ballot asking whether Georgia should eliminate its constitutional doctrine of sovereign immunity, prohibiting residents from suing state courts. There have been recent Georgia Supreme Court decisions that had denied petitioners to seek declaratory relief in the courts when a local government rejected a zoning request. The implication is that a local government cannot be sued in a zoning case because of sovereign immunity, which, if expanded, basically prevents property owners and developers from suing any city or county in Georgia.

Passed House by vote and Senate by vote: The resolution is awaiting Governor Kemp’s signature.

Hurricane Michael Relief & Rideshare Fee Adjustment 

House Bill 105 Sponsored by Representative Sam Watson (Moultrie)

Hb 105 provides state income tax exemptions for farmers who received federal disaster aid relief after Hurricane Michael. The bill evolved into a rideshare fee bill imposing a flat rideshare fee of $.50 per ride and $.25 per shared rise for taxis, limousine, Uber, and Lyft services. The revenue generated by the new flat fee would be used exclusively for transit projects. The Council for Quality Growth supported this bill, as it will be a mechanism for long-term funding for transit projects throughout the state.

The amended bill passed the Senate by a vote of 150-7, and the House agreed to the Senate changes by a vote of 41-3. The bill is awaiting Governor Kemp’s signature.

Transit Bill

House Bill 511 sponsored by Representative Kevin Tanner (Dawsonville).

Revised HB 511 is primarily an ATL Authority housekeeping bill. The legislation would reassign the ATL Authority from GRTA to GDOT. Also, the bill revises technical processes of the ATL Authority such as board selection, board vacancies, and board terms. All transit service providers within the ATL Authority jurisdiction will have to utilize all ATL logo and branding by January 1, 2023. The bill also extends the CPI index on motor fuels to 2025.

The amended bill passed the Senate by a vote of 48-1 and the House agreed to the Senate changes by a vote of 149-8.

Georgia Department of Transportation Freight Rail Program 

House Bill 820 sponsored by Representative Kevin Tanner (Dawsonville)

Senate Bill 371 sponsored by Senator Steve Gooch (Dahlonega)

HB 820 would create a new line item in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s budget for freight rail appropriations. The GDOT Freight Rail Program provides a mechanism for direct state investment to Georgia’s railways and railroads. Due to the expansion of the Savannah Port, the amount of freight coming in and out of Georgia is expected to double by 2040. Currently, only 27% of cargo moves by rail in Georgia. It is imperative to identify solutions to move more freight on the state’s railways to alleviate the number of goods moving through the state’s highway system. The Council for Quality Growth supports GDOT Freight Rail Program.

HB 820 passed the House by 162-1 vote and passed the Senate by 54-0 vote.

SB 371 passed the Senate by 50-0.

Both bills are awaiting Governor Brian Kemp’s signature.

Georgia Department of Transportation Legislation 

House Bill 1098 sponsored by Representative by Kasey Carpenter (Dalton) & Senator Steve Gooch (Dahlonega)

HB 1098 is an annual GDOT house-keeping bill. The legislation also extends the CPI index on motor fuels to 2025.

The amended bill passed the Senate by a vote of 51-0, and the House agreed to the Senate changes by a vote of 153-4.

Listed below are a few key pieces of legislation that did not get the final passage.

Waive Impact Fees for Affordable Housing 

Senate Bill 322  sponsored by Senator Frank Ginn (Danielsville)

SB 322 would give local governments more authority and flexibility to waive impact fees for affordable housing development projects. This legislation would prohibit local governments from raising impact fees for market-rate development projects to offset the loss of impact fee revenue for exempted affordable development projects. The Council for Quality Growth supported SB 322 as it would provide a financial incentive to create affordable housing developments. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 54-1. Unfortunately, the House Government Affairs Committee voted against the measure during its committee meeting on Tuesday, June 16th. The legislation was brought forth by the City of Atlanta. Our organization will work with the City of Atlanta to see if this bill can be re-introduced next year.

Educational Development Impact Fee

Senate Bill 404 Senate Resolution 776 sponsored by Senator Greg Dolezal (Cumming)

SB 404 would permit a local board education to impose, levy, and collect education development impact fees within any area of its school system, which has had enrollment growth of at least 15% over the preceding five-year period. SR 776 would put a referendum on the statewide ballot asking Georgians whether local boards of education should be able to impose, levy, and collect development impact fees. The Council for Quality Growth, along with the Home Builders Association and the Georgia Apartment Association, opposed both pieces of legislation. On Cross Over Day, both pieces of legislation did not support a vote on the Senate floor.

Please check out our legislative tracker to read more about the bills the Council was engaged with during the session. Thank you to the members of the Council’s Government Affairs Task Force. They provided weekly input and guidance throughout the session, with a special thanks to Council Vice-Chairman and GATF Chair Doug Jenkins for leading the GATF efforts, and Council Board Chairman Paul Corley for his leadership.

Thank you to the Council Members who provided active input and support throughout the session. We look forward to continuing our advocacy work on the local level to ensure your voice is heard on issues directly impacting the growth and development industry.