The General Assembly was out of session for Budget Week Round 2 this week. The House canceled all committee meetings except Appropriations in order to work on the Amended FY2020 Budget (which is the budget they passed last year for the current fiscal year, ending June 30). They will reconvene for Legislative Days 13-16 starting on Tuesday, February 18, and are expected to pass the Amended Budget out of committee on Tuesday morning. 

The House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee passed the Amended FY2020 on Thursday afternoon. They left the Governor’s budget largely intact with two exceptions: they added $3 million for the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and decreased the capitol construction budget by $11 million. I have spoken with the Chair of the subcommittee about our grave concerns about motor fuel tax money being used for anything other than its Constitutional dedication for “roads and bridges” and about the lack of sufficient bond funds for bridges. On the Senate side, senators Steve Gooch and Brandon Beach have been staunchly advocating on behalf of both these positions, and we appreciate their strong leadership on these issues. I anticipate that there will be significant changes to the FY21 budget that will correct these issues. 

Thank you to all of the members of the ACEC Georgia Future Leaders class, as well as our other faithful members who braved the terrible weather on Tuesday to attend the annual Building Georgia Legislative Day at the Capitol. We were honored to have had Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, Senators P.K Martin, Renee Unterman, Blake Tillery, and House members Jodi Lott, Dominic LaRiccia, Vance Smith, John Corbett, Jasmine Clark and others speak to the group. One common theme was how important it is to get to know your elected officials! If you don’t know who your elected officials are, you can click here for a link to the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page. 

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 th & 12 th -grade students. 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 on 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. Hearing on February 18.

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 inundation 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.