Legislative Update
Volume 9, Issue 10         
March 16, 2018
9-1-1 Bill Passes the Senate, Heads back to the House for Final Vote
The Senate passed HB 751, this year's 9-1-1 legislation and an ACCG priority, on Thursday, March 15. The bill is now headed back to the House for a final vote.

Click here for a detailed summary of the bill.
Click here for talking points.

Please contact ACCG Associate Legislative Director Debra Nesbit ( dnesbit@accg.org) if you have any questions.

Efforts Continue to Broaden Qualifications for Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) Designation

This past week, the Georgia House amended SB 458 to include the language of HB 373, which would make several changes to the CUVA program. Property that qualifies for the CUVA program receives a lower assessed value for taxation purposes, thereby shifting more of the property tax burden to non-CUVA properties. The amended SB 458 would lessen the paperwork requirements for application and renewal of CUVA status and would expand the categories of tax-exempt entities that may apply for CUVA status.

Two other provisions are of major concern: first, if the owner of a tract of less than 10 acres provides proof of any expenditure or income from the property for an agricultural or timber use (for example, selling vegetables from a garden), a board of tax assessors would not be permitted to require any additional proof in support of the CUVA application or renewal. Second, a property owner would recover attorneys’ fees and expenses from the county if the applicant is successful in court litigation regarding denial of an application for CUVA status OR a breach of CUVA requirements if alleged by a board of tax assessors. The combination of these provisions could effectively force boards of assessors to grant almost all CUVA applications, thereby further eroding the tax base.

This amended SB 458 will be voted on by the full House on Monday. Please contact your House members regarding the serious problems presented by SB 458 and, assuming it is adopted by the House, urge your Senators to disagree to the House substitute to SB 458. Please direct any questions to Larry Ramsey, lramsey@accg.org.

To view the most current fiscal impact of the CUVA program on your county, view pages 30-36 of the Department of Revenues's 2017 Property Tax Administration Annual Report.
Rural Broadband Bills Combined into SB 402
The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Jay Powell, combined all of the House and Senate rural broadband bills into SB 402 by Sen. Steve Gooch, which passed out of subcommittee on Thursday, March 15. Among its many components, the omnibus legislation authorizes EMCs and rural telephone cooperatives to provide broadband service, allows the Georgia Department of Transportation to use or lease their right-of-way (ROW) for broadband deployment, establishes a voluntary “broadband ready community” program for local governments that have streamlined their ROW permitting process, and creates a statewide broadband deployment plan. 

For a more thorough summary of SB 402, please click here .
Wireless Industry ROW Preemption Legislation Advances on Two Fronts
On Wednesday, the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee passed SB 426 without allowing individuals to testify to the bill. This wireless industry legislation, sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch, guarantees authorization for wireless providers to construct and place poles (50' high), antennas (up to 6 cubic feet in volume and 10' higher than poles), equipment boxes (up to 25 cubic feet in volume), plus up to 4 cabinets (undefined size) and other infrastructure in county and city right-of-way (ROW). Local government management of the above is all but entirely usurped; the grounds by which applications can be denied are few; denials are primed to result in litigation; and then locals are set up to lose. 

ACCG is continuing its efforts in trying to work with the wireless providers, legislators and other stakeholders in order to incorporate safeguards into the legislation; however, progress has been limited. The legislation is now in the House Rules Committee and could come up for a vote in the House at any time. Accordingly, please contact your House members to let them know any concerns you may have with SB 426.   
Furthermore, on Thursday, Sen. Gooch and the Senate Regulated Industries Committee stripped Rep. Jay Powell’s rural broadband legislation ( HB 887) and substituted it with the identical ROW preemptive language from SB 426. Again, no testimony was allowed. This legislation has passed committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.  
ACCG policy team pictured with Gov. Deal.
Senate Committee Considering Dramatic Changes to Bill Reforming TAVT

As it passed the House, HB 327 would make significant changes to the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) system, which has seen a decline in local government revenues from vehicles at the same time that the state has received a $500 million annual windfall. The major changes included in the House version of HB 327 are:
1) taxing used car sales in the same manner as new car sales (i.e., on actual sales price instead of an artificially low “book value”)
2) revising the formula for distribution of TAVT proceeds between the state and local governments. Under the House version, TAVT proceeds would first be applied to “make whole” all local governments with respect to the amount of ad valorem taxes on vehicles received in 2012. Local governments would receive an increasing share of the remaining TAVT proceeds, locking in at 70 percent after a multi-year phase-in.

This week, however, a subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee gutted those provisions, keeping the used car TAVT formula the same as at present and giving local governments only 60 percent of all TAVT proceeds. This version of HB 327 would leave local governments, and particularly school systems, worse off than if no changes are made at all.

Please contact your Senators to urge them to oppose any version of HB 327 that would continue to benefit the state and used car dealers to the detriment of local governments. For more information, please contact Larry Ramsey at lramsey@accg.org .
Click on "This Week's Bills" to review the bills included in this week's Legislative Update.

Access the Legislative Tracking Database for a compilation of all bills ACCG is following. 
NACo Board of Directors Approves 2018 Policy Resolutions

NACo's Board of Directors approved 20 interim policy resolutions at the Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann was successful in introducing a resolution related to transit. These interim policy resolutions will supplement existing NACo policy until NACo's 2018 Annual Conference. 

Click here for more information.
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News You Can Use - Articles Related to ACCG Policy Issues
The following are pertinent articles regarding some of the major policy issues that ACCG is covering. The full article can be accessed by clicking on the title.

Atlanta Business Chronicle - March 14, 2018

AJC's Politically Georgia - March 14, 2018
Register for the 2018 ACCG Annual Conference!

ACCG is YOUR county association here to advance all Georgia county governments. Please feel free to let us know when you're visiting the State Capitol this session, and a member of the policy team will gladly assist you as needed. Don't forget to use your 2018 Legislative Toolkit when conversing with your state legislators!