The General Assembly was in session this week for Legislative Days 22 through 25 and will be in next week for Legislative Days 26-28. Thursday, March 12 th is Day 28, which is Crossover Day. Crossover Day is the day by which bills must have been passed out of either the House or Senate and “crossed over” to be eligible for consideration by the other chamber. With next Thursday being the “do or die” to determine which bills survive for the rest of the session, there have been many committee hearings this week to try to move bills before the deadline. 

There is still no agreement between the House and Senate beyond next Thursday as to the schedule for the remaining 12 legislative days. However, the current rumor is that Sine Die (Day 40, the final day of the legislative session) will be April 2 nd or 3 rd

Budget AFY20 and FY21:

The Senate passed HB 792, the Amended FY20 Budget, on Wednesday, March 4th. A Conference Committee of House and Senate leaders was appointed on Thursday to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the FY20 budget, with floor votes for final passage expected on Thursday, March 12th.

The House Appropriations Committee is set to adopt the FY21 Budget on Monday, March 9 th

Newly Introduced Legislation:

HB 153 – By Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) [CC1]  was introduced Tuesday in the House Ways & Means Committee. This was a “dummy bill” in Ways & Means that was stripped of its original language and replaced with the non-offending portion of the Occupational Tax Bill (HB 715, which we’ve discussed in previous CapitolU [CC2]  pdates). The inserted language is related to regulatory costs that cities may charge and requires that the resulting revenue be dedicated to the associated regulatory activity, rather than being used for the local government’s general fund. This effectively kills HB 715 for the session. We have spoken with the author and asked that members of the $400 Club be included in any off-session discussions about removing the cap for our members and eliminating the gross receipts from occupational tax calculations. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee, awaiting floor action. 

Last year’s Rural Transit Bill (HB 511) – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) is back in a significantly scaled-down version. This new substitute version has been vetted with GDOT, The ATL as well as Senators Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). The latest version moves The ATL from GRTA to GDOT and streamlines the elections procedures for ATL Board members. It also requires all transit providers within The ATL region to use The ATL Brand within three years. As a bonus, it also extends the use of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) indexing of Georgia’s motor fuel excise tax to 2025. The new version of HB 511 passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, March 5 th

HB 1089 – By Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) is the House version of Tort Reform legislation. While it initially seemed to have some positive momentum, late this week, the House created a Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System to “study” tort reform. The Special Committee is stacked with trial lawyers, which signals that tort reform is probably a dead issue for this year’s session.

HB 1098 – By Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) is the annual GDOT “housekeeping bill.” It aligns the statewide strategic plan with the federal strategic plan, resulting in cost savings for GDOT. The bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, March 5th. 

SR 885 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to finance General Obligation Bonds for local community airport construction. This passed the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday and awaits action in Senate Rules. 

Bills on the Move:

HB 105  – By Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) imposing a new flat, per-ride fee for Uber, Lift, and taxi services passed the full Senate by a vote of 51-2 on Wednesday, March 4th, and was assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.

HB 91 – By Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins a reciprocal licensure bill for military spouses and transitioning service members, passed the House on Monday, March 2 nd , and has been assigned to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. This is very similar to SB 316, which has already passed the Senate and was assigned to the House Government Affairs Committee. 

HR 164 – By former Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) is a 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. This passed the House by a vote of 169-1 in 2019, but was gutted by the Senate last year and sent back to the House. The House stripped the Senate’s language and reinserted Rep. Powell’s original language on Wednesday. The restored version passed the House by a vote of 164-4 on March 4 th , 2020 and was sent back to the Senate. Should the Senate agree (and the Constitutional Amendment be approved by Georgia voters in 2020), it would provide a tool to dedicate professional licensure fees to the licensing board that generates those fees, rather than being diverted to the General Fund and appropriated to other general government purposes.

Active Legislation that ACEC Georgia is Following:  

HB 105 – By Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) is a tax break bill for farmers impacted by Hurricane Michael. This bill was amended in Senate Finance to include the rideshare flat fee of $.50 per ride or $.25 per shared ride (for taxis, Uber & Lyft). Without the flat fee carve-out to Marketplace Facilitators legislation, ride shares would be subject to state and local sales taxes, which would greatly increase the cost of ride-sharing services to consumers. The revenue generated by the new flat fee would be used to fund transportation projects. STATUS: Passed Senate 51-2 on Wednesday, March 4 th . Assigned to House Ways & Means.

HB 153 – By Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) was a dummy bill in Ways & Means and was stripped of its original language and inserted the non-offending portion of HB 715 related to regulatory costs that cities may charge. The bill simply states that the proceeds of regulatory fees shall be used to fund such regulatory activity and not general operations of the government. This effectively kills HB 715 for the session. STATUS: Passed House Ways & Means Committee, awaiting action in House Rules.

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 30th, 2020 and will go into effect on April 1st, 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 the full Senate by a vote of 34-18 on January 28th, 2020. Passed House on March 3 rd by 103-67 and sent to the Governor.

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. S TATUS: Passed House Ways & Means Committee on February 20th, 2020. Pending in House Rules Committee.

HB 511 – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) is back in a scaled-down version. This substitute has been vetted with GDOT, the ATL, Senators Gooch and Beach. The new version moves the ATL to GDOT and streamlines the elections procedures for the ATL Board. Requires all transit providers within the ATL region to use the ATL Brand within three years. It also extends the CPI on motor fuels to 2025. STATUS: Passed Senate Transportation on Thursday, March 5 th , awaiting action in Senate Rules. 

HB 715 – By Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) alters the way that cities and counties calculate and charge occupational taxes, as well as imposing a new requirement that the proceeds of occupational taxes be used solely to fund the regulatory activity related to that occupation, rather than the local government’s general operations. Under current law, local governments may opt to charge occupational taxes by the number of employees, profitability ratio, gross receipts, or a flat fee of $400 for certain professions (the so-called "$400 Club"). Engineers are part of the $400 Club that pays a flat fee of $400 per engineer, as are other professions, including architects, land surveyors, landscape architects, attorneys, doctors, accountants, and others. Blackmon's bill would eliminate the options of gross receipts and the flat fee of $400. Elimination of the gross receipts option means for example, that instead of McDonald's paying $10,000 and a food truck paying $150, they would both pay the same rate. As this would result in a significant loss of revenue to cities and counties, they would likely make up the revenue loss by charging much higher fees on the professions currently protected in the $400 Club. STATUS: Pulled from House Floor agenda and recommitted to House Ways & Means Committee on February 26 th . Bill is dead for the session. Substitute bill dealing only with regulatory fees was introduced into HB 153. 

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: Passed House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on February 18th, Passed House on February 20th, Assigned to Senate Agriculture 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: Passed House Regulated Industries Subcommittee on February 18 th but will not be moving further, as the bill’s author, Rep. Vance Smith, will instead be leading the effort to pass SB 310 which has already passed out of the Senate.

HB 792 – By Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the Amended FY20 budget. STATUS: Passed Senate on March 4th, 52-1. Conference Committee appointed on Thursday, March 5th.

HB 820 – By Rep. 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 House 162-1 on Monday, February 24 th , passed Senate Transportation Committee on March 4 th , awaiting action in Senate Rules.

HB 868 – By Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) would eliminate all taxes on rideshare companies, including taxis, Uber and Lift. STATUS: passed W&M subcommittee awaiting action in full W&M.

HB 914 – By Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins) is a reciprocal licensure bill for the spouses of military service members or transitioning service members. Expedited reciprocity for military spouses will now be granted by the applicable PLB Board if the person holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state for which the training, experience, and testing are substantially similar in qualifications and scope to the requirements under this state to obtain a license. Rep. Clark also removed the section that would have exempted military spouses from having to sit for a Georgia specific test. STATUS: Passed House 165-0 on Monday, March 2 nd , Assigned to Senate Veterans Affairs.

HB 937 – By Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) would prevent cities and counties from banning certain materials in the construction of single-family dwellings. STATUS: Passed Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 26th, by a vote of 13-10.

HB 1089 - By Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) is the House version of Tort Reform. Unfortunately, the House created a Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System to "study" tort reform. The Committee is stacked with trial lawyers who will effectively kill tort reform this year.  Please contact the Speakers office and let them know that the business community wants tort reform this session. STATUS: Pending in Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System.  

HB 1098 – By Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) is GDOT's housekeeping bill. The bill aligns the statewide strategic plan with the federal strategic plan to save GDOT money. STATUS: Passed out of House Transportation on Thursday, March 4th, pending in House Rules. 

HR 164 - By former Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) is a 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. This passed the House 169-1 in 2019 but was gutted by the Senate. The House stripped the Senate language and reinserted their original language on Wednesday. It passed the House 164-4 on March 4 th 2020 and was sent back to the Senate. Should the Senate agree, this could solve our professional licensure fee issue as our fees would come back to the PELS Board. STATUS: Pending Action on Senate Floor.

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 Senate Transportation Committee. Pending in Senate Rules Committee.

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: Passed Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee February 18 th , Pending in Senate Rules.

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: Passed the Senate Monday, February 24 th 46-8, pending in House Regulated Industries.

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 the Senate unanimously on February 21 st . It was assigned to House Regulated Industries.

SB 316 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) is Reciprocal Licensure for Military Spouses. An amended version of the bill passed out of Committee on Friday, February 21 st . The amended version corrected several of the issues that we had with the bill. Expedited reciprocity for military spouses will now be granted by the applicable PLB Board if the person holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state for which the training, experience, and testing are substantially similar in qualifications and scope to the requirements under this state to obtain a license. Sen. Thompson also removed the section that would have exempted military spouses from having to sit for a Georgia specific test. STATUS: Passed Senate unanimously on February 27th, assigned to House Government Affairs.

SB 319 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) will 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 the significant risk of loss of life, without the dam in question becoming classified as a Category I dam. STATUS: Passed Senate on Monday, February 24 th , 47-6, pending in House Natural Resources 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, Hearing Only on March 4 th with no action taken.
SB 371 – By Sen. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega) is companion legislation to HB 820, creating the Georgia Freight Railroad Program within GDOT, and now includes language requested by GDOT that would allow maximum flexibility to allocate funding. STATUS: Passed unanimously on Friday, February 28th, pending in House Transportation.

SB 415 – By Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) is the Senate Tort Reform Package. Eliminates "phantom damages," Includes landowner liability protections, requires disclosure of third party agreements and medical funding agreements, provides immunity for municipal corporations who are part of a joint airport authority with a county, prohibits direct action against insurers in trucking cases, allows seat belt nonuse to be introduced as evidence, extends the $250,000 cap on punitive damages to include manufacturers, and creates transparency around asbestos bankruptcy trust claims. STATUS: Passed Senate Insurance Committee on March 3 rd , pending in Senate Rules.
 
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 4th, 2020.

SR 793 – By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would create the Joint Private Financing of Infrastructure Study Committee. This is in response to the Freight & Logistics Commission's findings last year of the need for $4 Billion per year for the next 30 years to accommodate the increase in freight coming from the Port of Savannah.  STATUS: Senate Rules passed the Resolution on February 26th.

SR 885 - By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to finance GO Bonds for local community airport construction. STATUS: Passed Senate Transportation on Thursday, March 5th, awaits action in Senate Rules.  
 
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 (the 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 even to receive a hearing. STATUS: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee (the bill did not crossover last year).

HB 36 – By Rep. Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville) HOPE Grant for students enrolled at Georgia technical colleges. STATUS: Assigned to the Higher Education Committee (the 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 13th, 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 (the bill did not crossover last year).

HB 294 – By Rep. Bonnie Rich (R- Suwanee) would protect competitively awarded bids that were entered into before 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 (the 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 a 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 the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee (the 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 13th, 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 (the 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.

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. It was 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 (R-Dahlonega) 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 the Conference Committee.