The General Assembly was in session Monday through Wednesday this week for Legislative Days 10 through 12. But that wasn’t the original plan, which was to meet all week. However, a new Adjournment Resolution was passed by the General Assembly on Wednesday that “hit the pause button” on the session until Tuesday, February 18. This is intended to give legislators additional time to try to resolve the significant disagreements in how best to deal with competing budget priorities in a year when deep cuts will be required in order to balance the budget (as is required by the Georgia Constitution). Crossover Day (the date by which legislation must have been passed by either the House or Senate in order to still be considered for final passage) is currently scheduled to be March 12.
While technically in recess, these adjournment days will be chock full of legislative budget hearings. As such, we will still be hosting our annual Building Georgia Legislative Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 11, and encourage you to attend. Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and senior legislative leadership will be stopping by our event in the South Atrium of the Capitol from 8-10 am. Afterward, our Future Leaders class will be meeting in the Senate Chambers to learn more about the legislative process and how we represent the engineering industry politically.
On Thursday, we hosted our annual Legislative Outlook meeting featuring Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington). Both are long-time friends of our organization and our industry. Leader Burns highlighted his interest in the use of tall mass timber construction. In that regard, he has cosponsored HB 777 by John Corbett (R-Lake Park), which directs the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (which oversees Georgia’s building codes) to undertake a review of the tall mass timber provisions contained in the 2021 International Building Code, approved by the International Code Council, for the purpose of considering whether the Georgia state minimum standard codes should be amended to include provisions for tall mass timber for construction types IV-A, IV-B, and IV-C. Please reach out to me if you have an opinion on this issue so I can get back to the Majority Leader about our position on this bill.
Professional Licensure Legislation
SB 310 carried by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), which creates a new Professional Engineer, Structural Engineer (PE, SE) license passed out of Senate Regulated Industries unanimously on Tuesday, February 4. I want to thank SEAOG member Adrian Persaud and PELS Board members Taylor Wright and Darien Sykes for attending the hearing in support of our bill. I expect the House version, HB 790 carried by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) to be heard in the House Regulated Industries Committee when they reconvene on February 18.
SB 316 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) which expedites reciprocal licensure for military spouses and military personnel transitioning into the private sector upon retirement or discharge. Heard in Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday. No vote was taken as there are some concerns as to how it will impact all licensed professionals. Will be taken back up when they reconvene the week of February 18.
SB 319 by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) would allow a property owner to build an inhabitable structure below a Category II dam if an engineer of record certifies that the structure is fortified to such a degree that breach of the dam “would not create a probable loss of life” passed out of Natural Resources Committee on 2/4. We will be working with Sen. Ginn on this bill. We will work to ensure that the definition of “engineer of record” corresponds with the certification conferred by the Safe Dams Program of the Georgia EPD and contained in the Safe Dams Act.
Lien Law Fix
SB 315 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) was introduced to address a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that extinguished ALL rights (including contract rights) for failure to file an Affidavit of Non-Payment. The bill passed out of Senate Judiciary on Wednesday, February 5.
Freight & Logistics Commission
HR 935 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) reauthorizing the Freight & Logistics Commission for another year passed on the House floor unanimously on Wednesday, February 5. As a joint resolution, the bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
Rural Transit Bill
- Would allow single county transit SPLOSTs on general or primary elections.
- Would tax rideshare services (such as Uber and Lyft) at $.50 per ride to fund transit within the mobility zone where it is collected. This would still be subject to the annual appropriations process.
- Would create a Georgia Transit Link Division within Georgia DOT. The ATL would still control transit within the Metro area, but the rest of the state mobility zones would be under GDOT control.
- Would create Mobility Councils within Georgia DOT, similar to the Regional Commissions, to approve transit plans.
- Creates several pilot programs:
- Employer Tax Credit program if the employer provides transportation to someone currently unemployed. Employer can claim the credit for three years.
- Direct Voucher to an unemployed person for transportation to employment.
- Micro Transit tax credit for unemployed individuals living within the ATL zone
Constitutional Amendments to allow Motor Fuel dollars to be used for all “Transportation Purposes”
There are identical measures in the House and Senate seeking to expand the use of Georgia’s existing excise tax on motor fuel from its current Constitutional dedication to “roads and bridges” to a wider range of transportation purposes, including transit. SR 654 by Sen. Sally Harrell (D- Atlanta) and HR 910 by Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs) specifically expand the definition to include ”roads, bridges, rails, airports, buses, seaports, and all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to these public transportation facilities." The Senate Transportation Committee had a hearing only on SR 654 on Wednesday. During the hearing, Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) made clear that dog won’t hunt. “We’re already behind on funding and roads and bridges. I keep telling people, we’re going to have another 2.5 million people coming here in the next 20 years. We’re going to have to fund even more roads and bridges.”
Active Legislation that ACEC Georgia is Following:
HB 276 – By Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) The Marketplace Facilitator Act to collect existing state and local sales taxes from online sellers of retail products.
STATUS: Signed into law by the Governor on January 30, 2020.
HB 444 – By Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) Changes the Dual Enrollment program so that students may only take core classes, with a cap of 30 credit hours, and limited to 11
STATUS: Passed Senate 34-18 on January 28, 2020. Pending action by the House.
HB 448 – By Rep. Matt Dollar (R-East Cobb) would expand the $5 per night hotel/motel fee established in The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170) to include AirBnB rentals that generate $100,000 or more per year in revenue.
STATUS: Passed House Ways & Means Committee on February 4, 2020. Pending in House Rules Committee.
HB 511 – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) this is an amended version of last year’s Rural Transit Bill that stalled in the Senate late last session. Would allow single county transit SPLOSTs on general or primary elections; Would create a $0.50 per ride fee for rideshare services (Uber/Lyft) to fund rural transit within the mobility zone it is collected (subject to the appropriation process); would create a Georgia Transit Link Division within GDOT (The ATL would still control transit within the Metro area); would create Mobility Councils, similar to the Regional Commissions to approve transit plans; creates several pilot programs.
STATUS: pending in Senate Transportation Committee.
HB 773 – By Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) a reciprocal licensure bill aimed at military service members and their spouses (similar in intent to SB 285 below), but this bill allows licensure boards to have oversight of who is issued a professional license by comity in Georgia.
STATUS: Assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
HB 777 – By Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) directs DCA to undertake a review of the tall mass timber provisions of the 2021 International Building Code, for the purpose of considering whether Georgia’s building codes should be amended to include provisions for tall mass timber for construction types IV-A, IV-B, and IV-C.
STATUS: Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 790 – By Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) would establish a new “PE, SE” license for structural engineers. This bill would alleviate the competitive disadvantage Georgia structural engineers face when competing for bids against individuals from states that have already established some sort of SE license.
STATUS: Assigned to House Regulated Industries Committee, which will hear this bill during the week of February 18.
HB 820 – By Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) would establish the Georgia Freight Railroad Program as a placeholder line Item in the Georgia DOT budget for possible future funding for freight rail improvements, subject to the appropriations process.
STATUS: Passed out of the House Transportation Committee on January 30, 2020. Pending in House Rules Committee and eligible for a floor vote the week of February 18.
HR 910 – By Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs) would allow Georgia’s existing motor fuels tax to be used for all transportation purposes (including transit), rather than its current Constitutional restriction to “roads and bridges.”
STATUS: Assigned to the House Transportation Committee.
HR 935 – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) would continue the Georgia Freight & Logistics Commission for an additional year (through December 2020).
STATUS: Passed the House Transportation Committee on January 30, 2020 and passed the full House on February 5. Pending in the Senate.
SB 309 – By Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) creates a Local Government Infrastructure Bank Authority to provide low-interest loans to local governments for equipment, land, construction projects and other needs.
STATUS: Pending in the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.
SB 310 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocillia) would establish a new “PE, SE” license for structural engineers. This bill would alleviate the competitive disadvantage Georgia structural engineers face when competing for bids against individuals from states that have already established some sort of SE license.
STATUS: Introduced on January 27, 2020. Passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on February 4, 2020. Pending in Senate Rules Committee.
SB 315 – By Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) was introduced to address a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that extinguished ALL rights (including contract rights) for failure to file an Affidavit of Non-Payment.
STATUS: Passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 5, 2020. Pending in Senate Rules Committee.
SB 316 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) Reciprocal licensure for Military Spouses. While better than the prefiled version, we still have some concerns regarding this legislation. Reciprocity under current law allows a licensed individual to apply for a Georgia license upon presenting credentials to the corresponding PLB Board. The applicable Board will review and grant a license if all criteria are met, including any Georgia specific exams. This legislation changes “individual shall apply for reciprocity” to “the PLB shall issue to an individual” and removes the Georgia specific requirement for military spouses.
STATUS: Hearing only in Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee on February 4, 2020.
SB 319 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) would allow habitable structures within the innundation zone below a Category II dam if an engineer of record certifies that the structure is fortified to such a degree to prevent significant risk of loss of life.
STATUS: Passed the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee February 4, 2020. Pending in Senate Rules Committee.
SB 353 – By Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) would eliminate the alternative fuel tax on electric vehicles, which was intended to mirror the amount that the average Georgia driver of a gas-fueled vehicle pays in motor fuel taxes, since alternative fuel vehicles also use and have the same impact on our roads and bridges.
STATUS: Pending in the Senate Finance Committee.
SR 654 – By Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Dunwoody) would allow Georgia’s existing motor fuels tax to be used for all transportation purposes (including transit), rather than its current Constitutional restriction to “roads and bridges.”
STATUS: Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing (but no vote) on February 4, 2020.
Legislation Introduced in Last Year’s Session that
ACEC Georgia is Following:
HB 1 - By Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) would rename Georgia’s existing Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act the “Senator Eric Johnson Scholarship Act.” Eric Johnson is a former state senator from Savannah who served as President Pro Tem of the Senate and is President of ACEC Georgia Member Firm, Hussey Gay Bell. A well-deserved honor for a great Georgian.
STATUS: Assigned to House Education Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 3 – By Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger) would repeal the $5 per night hotel/motel room fee for transportation that makes up a significant part of the revenue generated by the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170). While ACEC Georgia will oppose this bill, it is unlikely to even receive a hearing.
STATUS: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 36 – Rep. Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville) HOPE Grant for students enrolled at Georgia technical colleges.
STATUS: Assigned to Higher Education Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 184 - By Rep. Bret Harrell (R-Snellville) would allow 5G to be collocated on poles located in the city/county right of way.
STATUS: Passed House. Passed Senate Regulated Industries. Companion Legislation SB 66 was passed by both House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor last year. Senate recommitted HB 184 to Senate Regulated Industries Committee on January 13, 2020.
HB 200 – By Rep. Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island) exempts hotels operated by a 501(c)3 charitable tax-exempt organization (such as a religious denomination from charging the $5 per night hotel/motel fee, which is a significant component of the revenue generated by The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170).
STATUS: Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 294 – By Bonnie Rich (R- Suwanee) would protect competitively awarded bids that were entered into prior to a Special District Sales and Use Tax vote from the burden of an additional sales tax that was approved by voters after the bid was signed.
STATUS: Heard in House Ways & Means Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 422 - By Rep. Tim Barr (R-Lawrenceville) Amended Version would allow non-Local Issuing Authorities (LIA) two new options for soil and erosion plan review. Currently, a non-LIA government must use EPD for soil and erosion plan review. This bill would allow a non-LIA government to contract with an LIA government within their water district for plan review or allow a non-LIA to employ or contract with an individual with Level 2 Design status for in house plan review.
STATUS: Attached to HB 493 in Regulated Industries last year and passed the House 142-20. HB 422 language was stripped out of the version of HB 493 that was signed into law by the Governor. Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HB 428 – By Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville) the “Georgia Communications Tax Act” originally proposed a tax on streaming services (the so-called “Netflix tax”) to create a revenue stream to support broadband expansion in rural Georgia.
STATUS: Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee.
HB 447 - By Rep. Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas) merged with SB 131, the Hartsfield Jackson Airport Takeover bill in Senate Finance. This amended bill also increased the excise tax from $.005 to $.01. The Governor's floor leader objected to the amendment but the bill passed out of Senate Finance 5-4.
STATUS: Recommitted to Senate Finance Committee on January 13, 2020.
HB 508 – By Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) would establish a direct nexus between fees generated by the Professional Licensing Boards Division (PLBD) and expenditures back to the PLBD.
STATUS: Assigned to House Regulated Industries Committee (bill did not crossover last year).
HR 38 – By Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) would create a House Study Committee on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields. STATUS: Recommitted to House Special Rules Committee.
HR 164 - By Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) Constitutional Amendment that would allow revenues derived from fees or taxes to be dedicated to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were imposed. The House passed an identical bill last year by a vote of 166-1 and now Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan was a cosponsor of the bill. It did not receive a hearing in the Senate last year. STATUS: Passed House 169-1. A substitute version that gutted the original intent of the bill passed the Senate 52-0. Awaiting action by the House.
SB 131 - By Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) "Georgia Major Airport Act" would allow the State to create an Authority to run Hartsfield Jackson Airport. Amended in House Rules to create an oversight committee instead of a State take-over. House Rules also attached HB 511 and HB 447.
STATUS: Passed Senate Transportation Committee. Passed Senate 34-22. Amended in House Rules. Passed House (creating only an oversight committee) and is awaiting further action by the Senate.
SB 200 - By Sen. Steve Gooch would require GDOT to establish an appeals process for bid rejection.
STATUS: Passed Transportation. Passed Senate 54-0. Passed House Transportation Committee. Bill was assigned to Conference Committee