Week 5

A quiet Capitol the day before “Snowpocalypse Part 2”
For the second time in two weeks, the General Assembly saw its schedule interrupted, but this time the legislators were ready and stopped the clock at Day 21 and passed an Adjournment Resolution that has set SINE DIE  for March 20th.  (For perspective on the pace of Session, the Legislature adjourned on March 28th last year.)
The General Assembly is set to resume on Monday, February 17th for Day 22 until Friday, February 26th that brings us to Day 27. February 24-26th brings us to Day 29 with Crossover day set for March 3rd.
While the pace was slow this week, some legislation made waves as they appear to increase government regulation unnecessarily.

House Bill 921, introduced in the Georgia House by Representative Matt Dollar (R – Marietta), aims to stifle the ability of local Development Authorities around the State to promote economic growth. Introduced as a bill to increase transparency, the bill will impose new reporting requirements for how authorities may make decisions and will force authorities to comply with increased regulations.

Development Authorities were established to “develop and promote trade, commerce, industry, and employment opportunities.”

Independence from the political process allows Development Authorities to remain sheltered from unfriendly campaign expenditures and gives them the ability to seek investment based solely on the criteria of what would be best for their municipality or city. The General Assembly promoted this by mandating that only one member of any Development Authority could be someone that was also elected to the local government. This independence has ensured that political support does not play a central role in the allocation of development opportunities throughout the state.

This legislation will irreparably disrupt Development Authority independence, by requiring Development Authorities to provide quarterly reports to local governing bodies. The reports will have to discuss new projects being considered, progress on existing projects, and will have to provide any information that could “assist” with the needs of the county. This legislation will result in local governing bodies exerting direct influence on the decision making process of Development Authorities. The disclosures required by this bill will give local governing bodies four opportunities during every year to undercut any progress made by a local Development Authority and will force Development Authorities to be constantly conscious of the opinion of the local governing body. Additionally, the disclosures proposed by the bill will make it nearly impossible for Development Authorities to maintain any confidentiality in their discussions with developers. Both results will hinder the ability of Development Authorities to promote and develop trade, commerce, and industry.

Local Development Authorities have played strong roles in the growth of cities and municipalities across the state and the Council for Quality Growth will continue to partner with local Development Authorities in this pursuit. A bill that will stifle the ability of Development Authorities across Georgia to engage businesses will hurt the growth of cities and municipalities around the state.

One piece of legislation that has made the news the last 2 weeks is House bill 907, introduced by Representative Powell (R – Hartwell), which aims to create a “level playing field” for taxi drivers in the city of Atlanta by imposing new limitations on ride sharing.

Popular ride share services such as Uber and Lyft have recently reshaped the contours of the taxicab industry by allowing individuals with a car, a license, and liability insurance to give rides to anyone that has the free phone app necessary to submit a request. Ride-sharing often costs much less than hailing a traditional taxi, money is exchanged through a credit card over the phone so drivers do not have to carry cash, and every driver is rated by the riders so that riders only choose trustworthy drivers. Costs are much less for ride share rides because the ride share services are not required to pay for expensive medallions, train their drivers to drive taxis, or deal with a lot of the overhead that comes with running a traditional taxi service.

House Bill 907 would require ride-share services and ride referral services to comply with the same restrictions that the state currently requires the taxicab industry to comply with. It would impose on them the same medallion, training, taxing, and insurance requirements imposed on the taxicab industry, which would undoubtedly increase the cost of ride sharing.

Cloaking itself in the guise of safety, the bill could establish a roadblock in Atlanta’s path to becoming a city that supports innovation. The birthplace of many start-ups including Scoutmob, MailChimp, and AirWatch, Atlanta has began to establish itself as the tech capital of the Southeast. While Uber and Lyft are San Francisco companies, they are both considered to be on the cutting edge of ride-share technology.

Bills that create burdensome regulations for innovative companies trying to break into the Atlanta market may stifles the cities momentum as a leader of innovation in the Southeast. For these reasons, the Council will closely monitor the status of HB 907 and keep you updated on any substantial changes.

We are entering the homestretch of the Session and this is when the real action begins to take place.  As the days begin to grow longer, bills will find themselves resurrected on other pieces of driving legislation. The Council will continue to monitor legislation and report back on updates of importance to our members.