Legislative Update
Volume 9 , Issue 7     
February 23, 2018

Wireless Industry’s Public Right-of-Way Preemption Legislation Passes Out of Committee
On February 22, SB 426, sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch, passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. Several revisions were made to the bill to meet some of ACCG’s requests. However, the bill still contains numerous provisions that will likely be of concern to Georgia's counties, particularly in metropolitan areas. The bill provides near unfettered access to county and municipal rights-of-way (ROW) for wireless providers to construct new utility poles (50 feet high, or 10 feet taller than any existing pole within 500 feet), antennas (up to 6 cubic feet), equipment boxes (up to 28 cubic feet) and other infrastructure cabinets in order to roll out 5G service. The bill prohibits, restricts or dictates a broad range of county decisions regarding the permitting and management of the public ROW. State roads have now been exempted from the bill’s breadth, as have collocation requirements on EMC poles. Local governments now stand alone in the bill’s scope.   

Action Needed: Please have your county staff review SB 426 and share any concerns you may have with your Senator(s) immediately.   
Senate Committee Passes 5 Percent Pay Raise Mandate for Constitutional Officers and Magistrates 

Also on February 22, SB 430 by Sen. Matt Brass passed the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee. This bill automatically increases constitutional officers' (probate judges, tax commissioners, clerks of court and sheriffs) and magistrates’ salaries by 5 percent in 2021. 

Please share any concerns about this bill with your senators. Please click here for a county-by-county analysis of constitutional officers' salaries.
Transit Bills Progress

On Thursday, February 22, the Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 386 (authored by Sen. Brandon Beach) and on the same day, the House Transportation Committee passed HB 930 (authored by Rep. Kevin Tanner). Both of these bills address transit governance and funding for the Metro Atlanta region. 
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. 
Forest Land Protection Act Changes Progress in the Senate

This week, the Senate Finance Committee passed two companion pieces of legislation regarding the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) and other commercial timberland. HR 51 is a constitutional amendment, while HB 85 is the bill that would implement the changes allowed by the constitutional amendment (if HR 51 is ratified by the voters in November). Both of these bills passed the House in 2017. 

Regarding FLPA, these bills would uncouple FLPA grants from 2008 land values, changing to a current-year valuation. Depending on how values in 2019 (the first year this change would apply) compare to 2008 values, the FLPA grants for the various counties/school districts would be higher or lower. Generally, if the 2008 values were higher than 2019, then the grant amounts would be lower, and vice versa. However, a significant difference in the current versions of these bills is that it allows additional FLPA grants for those governments that would be negatively impacted by uncoupling from 2008 values: in 2019, 80 percent of the loss from this change would be available as an additional grant; in 2020, 60 percent; and so on until that additional grant (but not the base grant) is phased out by 2023.

The other significant part of this legislation is the creation of another class of property: "qualified timberland property.” This category would be non-FLPA commercial timberland. Property meeting the standards of this classification would not be subject to preferential (lower) tax assessment. Rather, this property would have to be valued at fair market value using normal appraisal methods. The changes for such property, as compared to other real property,are:

1) the valuation of such property would be conducted by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and
2) appeals of DOR's values, which could be appealed by a board of assessors as well as the taxpayer, would go to the Georgia Tax Tribunal rather than the normal appeal process.

Boards of assessors and taxpayers would also have the right to appeal the annual valuations set out in DOR's appraisal manual for qualified timberland property. Under HB 85, 3 percent of FLPA grants could be withheld by DOR for administrative costs of this new, non-FLPA program. 

Please discuss with your tax assessors how these potential changes would affect your county. For more information, please contact Larry Ramsey at lramsey@accg.org .
Bill to Change CUVA Procedures Progresses in House

On February 22, the House Ways & Means Committee passed HB 373, which makes several changes to the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) application process. Among those changes, this bill will lessen the paperwork requirements for application and renewal of CUVA status for preferential tax assessment purposes and expand the categories of tax-exempt entities that may apply for CUVA status. In addition, an applicant may recover attorneys fees and expenses if they are successful in court litigation regarding:
1) denial of an application for CUVA status or
2) a breach of CUVA requirements if alleged by a board of tax assessors.

Please have your county’s assessors review this bill and provide any comments to Deputy General Counsel Larry Ramsey ( lramsey@accg.org) or the Georgia Association of Assessing Officials.
Catch Today's Facebook Live Legislative Update on accg.tv

Weren't able to catch today's Facebook Live Legislative Update? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Head to accg.tv to view today's Update.

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 - February 23, 2018
County Days at the Capitol Begin Next Week

County Days at the Capitol begin next week! ACCG is looking forward to hosting Georgia's county officials at the capitol. Please click here for more information.
To learn the latest about what's happening at the Capitol, register for an upcoming County Day:

February 28
March 7
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!