The General Assembly was in session this week for Legislative Days 17 through 21 and will be in for four days next week. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the Amended FY20 Budget on Monday with a vote of the full Senate possibly as early as Tuesday. While House Appropriation Subcommittees have been having hearings on the FY21 Budget, there is no hearing scheduled at this time for a full Appropriations Committee. The session is more than halfway through, and quickly approaching Crossover Day, which will be March 12. The current adjournment resolution only goes through Crossover Day, but it is anticipated that a final adjournment resolution (which would give us the schedule for all remaining legislative days) will be seen sometime next week.    
 
GDOT Budget FY21:

Monday House Appropriators heard from GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry on the FY21 Budget. Commissioner McMurry pointed out that the Governor’s proposed $1,000 raise for all state government employees making less than $40,000 a year would impact 1,865 people employed by GDOT. The budget impact to GDOT would be $7.4 million, which would have to come out of construction and maintenance projects, as GDOT was not given a plus-up in its budget to fund the raises. 

Newly Introduced Legislation:

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 an additional $4 Billion per year for the next 30 years to accommodate the increase in freight traffic coming through the Port of Savannah. The Senate Rules Committee passed the Resolution on Wednesday, and it is now waiting for a vote by the full Senate.

Bills on the Move:

HB 715, the Occupational Tax bill, was scheduled for a House floor vote on Tuesday but was pulled from the House calendar. On Wednesday, the House voted to recommit the bill back to the House Ways & Means Committee. As currently written, this bill would remove the $400 occupational tax cap on 18 different licensed professions, including engineers. ACEC Georgia is working with the bill’s author to make changes. Please let your CFOs know that this bill is out there and that without a cap, it will increase your tax liability to your local government.  

The House passed HB 820 on Monday, February 24, by a vote of 162-1. HB 820 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 annual appropriations process. The companion Senate bill is SB 371 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). SB 371 was amended in committee and now includes language requested by GDOT that would allow maximum flexibility to allocate funding. The full Senate voted unanimously to pass SB 371 on Friday, February 28. 

The Senate passed the PE, SE licensure designation bill (SB 310) on Monday February 24, by a vote of 46-8. ACEC Georgia appreciates all the hard work by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) to move the bill swiftly and without amendments. The bill is now pending in the House Regulated Industries Committee. It will be the Senate version that moves through the rest of the process going forward – a process that will be led in the House by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain), who passed the PE, SE bill in last year’s session. 
The Dam Bill, SB 319, also passed the Senate Monday with a vote of 47-6 and awaits action in the House Natural Resources Committee. 

The new rideshare flat fee of $.50 per ride or $.25 per shared ride (for taxis, Uber & Lyft) was attached to HB 105 during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on February 27. HB 105 deals with a tax break for farmers hit by Hurricane Michael that receive federal disaster funds.

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 Finance on Thursday, February 27, pending in Senate 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 30, 2020, and will go into effect on April 1, 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 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 20, 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. It 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 715 – By 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 a 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 pay 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 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. 

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 18, Passed House on February 20, 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 but will not be moving further, as the bill’s author, Rep. Vance Smith, will instead be leading the effort to pass SB310, which has already passed out of the Senate.

HB 792 – By Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the Amended FY20 budget. STATUS: Passed House February 19. Senate Appropriations hearing on March 2.

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 House 162-1 on Monday, February 24, pending in the Senate Transportation Committee.

HB 914 – By 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 Government Affairs Committee. On House floor Monday, March 2.

HB 937 – By 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 26, by a vote of 13-10.

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, 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, 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. Assigned to House Regulated Industries.

SB 316 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) Reciprocal Licensure for Military Spouses. An amended version of the bill passed out of the committee on Friday, February 21. 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 27.

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 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, 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.

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 28.

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: Hearing in Senate Insurance Committee on Friday, February 28.
 
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.

SR 793 - Sen. Brandon Beach 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 26.

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 to even receive a hearing. STATUS: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee (the 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 (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 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 (the 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 (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 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 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 (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.

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. 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 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.