Veni, Vidi, Vici

(Credit: Georgia Senate Press Office)
The Georgia General Assembly has again gone home after the legislative Session ended on March 20th. Many of you are asking the same question:  What happened?

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.

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.

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 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.
Additionally, the House failed to pass a simple resolution,Senate Resolution 735 that urged metro Atlanta transportation authorities to come together and provide a, with the goal of simplifying the way riders in the Metro Region plan their trips by allowing the planning and paying of a trip on one website, versus the current jumbled system that is currently in place.  This legislation was the result of Senator Beach and his Senate Study Committee on Transportation in the Metro Atlanta Region, testing out the current system, that resulted in a  four hour trip from Kennesaw State University to the Gwinnett Center.  You can see the reason this legislation was needed by watching the video below:
Senate Study Committee on Metro-Atlanta Transit
Senate Study Committee on Metro-Atlanta Transit

 The Council for Quality Growth encourages members of the General Assembly to reform the regional transportation offerings in order to ensure they are user-friendly and allow for utilization for those in and outside the Metro Region.

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.

It is the Council’s belief that this idea should be given real consideration in a transportation study committee this summer and fall, created by House Resolution 1573. This study will take a comprehensive and hard look at the critical transportation and infrastructure needs in Georgia and will propose new methods to and sources to fund what is quickly becoming Georgia’s biggest inhibitor in a state that ranks “#1 to do business.”

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.  We would like to thank our CID Alliance partners for their participation and Rep. Harrell for working with the Council on his legislation.  To see what CID’s are doing for the Metro Region, see the video below, created by the Council for Quality Growth and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

CQG 4th Annual CID Recognition Program
CQG Annual CID Recognition Program 2013

 Overall, the Session was a mixture of success and failure for those in the development industry. The Council will play a an active role this summer and fall in the transportation study committee and in education members of the General Assembly on Community Improvement Districts and the benefits they provide the taxpayers of Georgia.

Thank you to Council Members who participated in the Council’s 2nd Annual Legislative Lunch on March 12th at the State Capitol this year and to State Senator Brandon Beach for his Senate Resolution honoring the Council, which can be found HERE.

We look forward to playing an active and larger role during the 2015 Session and thank the members of the General Assembly for their service and commitment to the citizens of Georgia and their support of the Council for Quality Growth.