Legislative Update
Volume 10 , Issue 9     
March 15, 2019
IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED
TAVT BILL TO BE HEARD IN SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE MONDAY

On Monday, it is likely that the Senate Finance Committee will hear HB 365, which makes substantial changes to the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) system. ACCG fully supports the bill’s changes to how used vehicles are treated for TAVT purposes. Under existing law, TAVT on new vehicle sales is based on the retail sales price. However, TAVT on used vehicle sales is based on the “book value” of that vehicle – the average of retail and wholesale value, which is almost always lower than the actual retail sales price. Recognizing that there is no logical basis for this differing treatment, HB 365 would treat used vehicle sales by most dealers on the same basis as new vehicles: by basing the TAVT on the retail sales price.

However, HB 365 would also lower the TAVT rate from its current 7 percent to 6.6 percent, through 2023, with the goal of offsetting any state and local revenue increases from the used-vehicle change. ACCG is opposed to this change for several reasons:

  • Changes to the TAVT law last year do not go into effect until July 1st of this year. While the association expects last year’s changes to increase the overall TAVT dollars that local governments will receive, those prior changes also changed the way that the local share will be divided. With the unknowns of that new formula on a county-by-county basis, a reduction in the TAVT rate may accentuate any negative impacts from the new local formula. Simply put, local governments do not have current data to estimate how each will be impacted by a rate reduction to 6.6 percent.

  • From the time that the TAVT system was created in 2012 to present, many counties and other local governments have seen significant decreases in overall revenues from vehicle sales, while the state saw a doubling of its revenues from this source. Now that local governments are finally expecting to receive some relief from that multi-year imbalance, now is not the time to lower the TAVT rate.

  • While the 6.6 percent rate would, on paper, only last until 2023, it is highly likely that the General Assembly would then act to make that rate permanent to avoid the appearance of a “tax increase”. As county officials know, while it is politically easy to lower tax rates, it is much harder to raise them again.

ACCG believes that an acceptable compromise would be a rate of approximately 6.8 percent. This would allow the General Assembly to still provide a “tax cut” while providing local governments with some level of increased revenues from the long-overdue used vehicle fix. 

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO LET THEM KNOW THAT YOU SUPPORT AMENDING HB 365 TO PROVIDE FOR A TAVT RATE OF 6.8 PERCENT RATHER THAN THE CURRENTLY PROPOSED 6.6 PERCENT. A list of those Senators who serve on the Finance Committee can be found here.
Your Feedback is Appreciated 

ACCG Continues Negotiations on HB 493

HB 493 requires local governments which impose regulatory fees or requirements to establish and make available a list of such fees/requirements and all of the documentation required of an applicant.  The local government has five business days to notify the applicant whether an application is complete. Once the application is complete, the city or county must inform the applicant whether the regulatory function can be completed within 30 days (that includes the 5 days above) for plan review, or within two business days for inspection of receiving a valid written request for inspection. If the city or county determines they cannot provide said actions within the above time frames, the applicant may then retain, at its own expense, a private professional provider to perform the plan review or inspection to ensure that the construction meets state minimum building standard codes as well as any local amendments. If that option is selected by the applicant, the local government’s regulatory fees will be reduced by 50 percent. Even if the local government determines that it can perform the plan review or inspection within the above time frames, the applicant may nonetheless select a private professional to conduct the services, but will pay the city or county 100 percent of its fees.  

The bill was amended to include HB 422 which provides that an independent licensed professional engineer can now review and approve an erosion and sediment control plan. Local governments that currently are a local issuing authority (LIA) would still maintain their review authority. The review process remains the same for the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. 
 
This legislation is expected to pass.  Accordingly, please carefully review the bill and let Todd Edwards (tedwards@accg.org) know of any specific recommendations (as well as their justification) you may have to make needed improvements. ACCG will continue to work with the author and other stakeholders involved.  

Please click here for the most recently proposed bill language.  
After Passing Both Chambers, Voting Machine Legislation Now on Governor’s Desk

After three hours of debate on Wednesday, the Senate passed HB 316. On Thursday, the House agreed to the Senate changes to the bill. Accordingly, HB 316 cleared both chambers and now awaits action by the Governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Among many other provisions, this omnibus election legislation requires the state to provide new uniform voting machines for every Georgia county. Equipment will consist of touchscreen voting machines that produce readable paper ballots that will then be scanned into a recording device that records and tabulates votes. For a more thorough summary of HB 316, please click here.
Constitutional Officer Pay Raise Legislation Passes House Committee

On Wednesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee passed SB 171 which increases the salaries of most local constitutional officers (sheriff, clerk of superior court, tax commissioner and probate judge) by 5 percent. This is on top of the proposed 2 percent pay increase scheduled in the Governor's proposed FY 2020 budget for state employees which automatically applies to constitutional officers; all cost of living adjustments given since 2006; their 5 percent pay increase for every term served; any state and local salary supplements they may be receiving; and any fees they may collect and keep as personal compensation.  If your county has concerns with this mandate, and its impact on local taxpayers, please call your House members as soon as possible. To view constitutional officers' current salaries, by county, please click here.
Both Small Cell/5G Compromise Bills Advance in Opposite Chambers

This week, SB 66 was passed by the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee while the Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed HB 184. These identical bills create a streamlined, statewide process whereby the wireless industry may deploy small cell technology in local government rights-of-way. Both resulted from a two-year, negotiated compromise among ACCG, the Georgia Municipal Association, Verizon and AT&T and incorporate many of the safeguards which ACCG had called for in previous years’ legislation. It remains to be seen which of these two bills will cross the legislative finish line and be sent to the Governor.   

For a summary of the bills’ key provisions, please click here
For a detailed, section-by-section summary of the bills, please click here
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. 
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House Passes FY 2020 Budget, Now Moves to the Senate

The Senate began their deliberations on the FY 2020 budget as passed by the House this week. There a few changes from the Governor’s budget recommendations that are of interest to counties.

  • A 2 percent merit increase for all elected superior court judges. If you have other officials that are tied to the superior court judge’s pay, this will impact you.
  • Elimination of the funds for 15 additional assistant district attorneys ($1.5 million).
  • Matching funds for the HomeFirst public-private partnership to provide permanent housing for the mentally ill who are homeless ($500k).
  • A 10 percent increase in the daily per diem rate for County Correctional Institutions ($3.6 million).

ACCG will keep county officials updated on the progress of the budget in the Senate. If you have a Correctional Institution in your county, be sure to reach out to your senators for support of the increased appropriation.
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ACCG Legislative Communications Tools
As ACCG prepares for another successful session as the official voice for Georgia’s 159 counties, we want to remind our county officials of the various communications tools that will help keep them informed and engaged. Click here to read all about them!
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.

Metro Atlanta CEO - March 13, 2019

Athens Banner-Herald - March 13, 2019

Georgia Health News - March 13, 2019

The Daily Tribune News - March 12, 2019

National Association of Counties - March 5, 2019
Registration for the 2019 Annual Conference is now available!
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 2019 Legislative Toolkit when conversing with your state legislators!