Legislative Update
Volume 9, Issue 12         
March 30, 2018
The 2018 Legislative Session has Concluded,
Counties See Many Victories
The 2018 Legislative Session concluded on Thursday, March 29. This year's session presented many victories for Georgia's counties.  Many bills were introduced that could both positively or negatively impact counties, but ACCG is pleased to report that most of the bills that passed were the ones the association supported while those that failed were the ones that we opposed. The association is appreciative of the active engagement and support of all county officials. Your contributions allowed for another successful session for the counties of Georgia.

Summaries below outline the outcome of key legislation with significant impact on counties.
9-1-1 Bill Passes
HB 751 ,this year's 9-1-1 bill and an ACCG priority, passed on the final day of the legislative session. This legislation increases the prepaid fee to $1.50, eliminates cost recovery, and reduces the administrative fee retained by the providers from 3 percent to 1 percent. It establishes the necessary coordination of 9-1-1 centers across the state, increases revenue, and will help counties implement Next Generation 9-1-1.

Wireless Industry’s Right-of-Way (ROW) Preemption Legislation Fails to Pass Muster in the House 
SB 426 was changed in the House to only authorize EMCs and rural telecommunications companies to provide broadband service.  HB 887, which the Senate had changed to incorporate the wireless industry’s ROW preemptive language, never came back up for vote in the House. Both would have significantly curtailed local government management of the public’s right-of- way (ROW), guaranteeing authorization to construct poles (50’ high), antennas (up to 6 cubic feet in volume and higher than poles); equipment boxes (up to 25 cubic feet in volume), plus up to 4 cabinets (undefined size) and other infrastructure. Local government management of the above is all but entirely preempted and the grounds by which permits can be denies are severely limited. Conveniently, the state was not applying these same prescriptions to the Georgia Department of Transportation and the state ROW.  

Thanks to all county officials who stayed involved in this legislation’s process and contacted their House members to share their concerns.  

Rural Broadband Legislation Passes 
SB 402, a collaborative effort by Sen. Steve Gooch and Rep. Jay Powell, passed. Among its numerous provisions, this bill authorizes the Georgia Department of Transportation to use or lease their right-of-way (ROW) for broadband deployment, establishes a voluntary “broadband ready community” program for local governments that have streamlined their ROW permitting process, creates a statewide broadband deployment plan and much more.  For a more thorough summary of SB 402, please click here.
TAVT Reform Bill Passes
Following significant negotiations and with input from ACCG’s Policy Council, late last night the General Assembly passed HB 329 (formerly HB 327), which makes substantial changes to the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) system. 

Under the present system, local governments receive a percentage share of TAVT proceeds that is annually adjusted and tied to a “target collection amount”. The result of this formula has been that local governments have received a significantly lower percentage of TAVT proceeds than contemplated. For 2018, local governments are receiving 51.6 percent of TAVT proceeds. Those local proceeds are then distributed first by applying toward local governments’ loss in ad valorem taxes from vehicles in 2012, and second by distributing any remainder in a manner that tracks sales tax distributions.

Under HB 329, local governments will receive 65 percent of TAVT proceeds, and there will no longer be any annual adjustment to that figure. That local share will then be distributed as follows:
1) for vehicles registered in unincorporated areas, the county will receive 51 percent and the school district will receive 49 percent; and
2) for vehicles registered in incorporated areas, the school district will receive 49 percent, the county will receive 28 percent, and the city will receive 23 percent. Local governments will also continue to receive ad valorem taxes on pre-2013 vehicles.

Other changes include reducing from 7 percent to 3 percent the TAVT paid by those moving to Georgia and registering their cars, reducing TAVT when a vehicle is re-titled as a result of a divorce, and lowering the TAVT for vehicles donated to non-profit organizations.

If signed by the governor, this bill will become effective in July 2019; until then, the current TAVT system will remain in place.

Internet Sales Tax Bill Gains Final Approval
Among ACCG’s 2018 Legislative Priorities was expanding the collection of sales and use taxes on Internet and other “remote” sales from out-of-state vendors. Under present law as pronounced by the Supreme Court more than 25 years ago, a state cannot force an out-of-state vendor to collect sales taxes unless that vendor has a physical presence within that state. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to overrule the physical-presence requirement. If it does, HB 61 would increase obligations on those out-of-state vendors that either
1) generate at least $250,000 annually from sales to Georgia customers or 2) conduct 200 or more retail sales to Georgia customers. Those vendors would be required to either 1) collect and remit all Georgia sales taxes or 2) send an annual sales tax statement to its Georgia customers who purchased from that vendor at least $500 in property, showing the total paid and notifying the customer that it may owe Georgia sales tax; a copy of that statement would also be filed with the state. 

HB 61 does not create a new tax. Under present law, sales and use taxes are owed by the purchaser regardless of where the purchase is made; however, purchasers rarely (if ever) voluntarily pay such taxes, and the state has no effective mechanism to enforce that obligation. HB 61 will benefit Georgia-based businesses that already collect sales taxes, by eliminating the advantage enjoyed by out-of-state vendors that do not collect Georgia sales taxes.
Criminal Justice Reform
SB 407, the Criminal Justice Reform bill, was amended to include HB 15 which requires attorneys to electronically file all civil cases by January 2019. The filing fee charged by the vendors will be $30.00 for each side. The bill requires that the $2.00 of that fee be retained by the county governing authority to offset costs associated with equipment, for a total of $4.00 for each civil case filed.
Transit Governance and Funding
One of the last pieces of legislation to be agreed upon during Sine Die was the transit conference report - HB 930. This bill creates the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority. The ATL Authority will serve as the regional governing board that will lead the planning and coordination of transit in Metro Atlanta as well as control state and federal transit funding. 

Counties in the Metro Atlanta area (as well as counties outside of Metro Atlanta who partner with a neighboring county) have the option to levy a Transit SPLOST up to 1 percent ( may be in .05 percent increments) for up to 30 years. In addition, Gov. Deal has included $100 million in bonds for transit funding in an amendment to the 2019 budget. 

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act
HB 332 creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship program. Forty percent of the proceeds of all state sales tax from outdoor recreation items could be appropriated for the protection and preservation of conservation land. The intent of this legislation is to provide dedicated funding for state parks and state wildlife management areas as well as support to local parks and trails. Counties would be eligible to apply for grants and loans from this newly created trust fund. 

The bill is contingent upon a proposed constitutional amendment, found in HR 238, which would be placed on the ballot for the November 2018 statewide general election.
Appropriations and Legislation that will have a positive impact on county budgets:
  •   $60 million to make the state current on their FLPA Grant reimbursements (the checks went out this week)
  • HB 329 – Increase the local share of TAVT from 51.58 percent to 65 percent. This could increase the local share by as much as $300 million.
  •  HB 332 – Outdoor Stewardship Act – new funding for state parks, state lands, and wildlife 30 management areas; support local parks and trails; and protect critical conservation land
  • HB 886 – Reforms to the GATE exemption that will reduce fraud and abuse saving local sales tax
  •   HB 930 – Provides counties with new options for funding transit and $100 million added to the state budget to help counties pay for transit
  • HB 792 – Increases the private landfill host fee from $1.00 to $2.50
  •  $25 million to expand the length of 11 runways at local airports
  • $5 million in grant funds to offset the costs to the sheriff’s office for services they provide to Accountability courts.
  • Nine additional state paid juvenile public defenders and juvenile prosecutors positions, which brings the total new state paid positions to 49, one for each circuit. These positions were funded as a result of the Juvenile Justice Reform.
Other Bills that will give counties more tools or local control:
HB 381 – Will help clean up derelict and abandoned mobile homes
HB 419 – more local control over fireworks
Access the Legislative Tracking Database for a compilation of all bills ACCG is following. 
Other Legislation that Passed and Awaits the Governor's Signature:

Legislation that Failed to Pass
Attend a Policy Session During this Year's Annual Conference
There are plenty of opportunities for county officials to get updated on the various policy issues impacting local government during this year’s Annual Conference. Here’s a list of the various policy continuing education sessions. Be sure to mark your calendar and make plans to attend one of these insightful sessions! Click here for more information.
Register for the 2018 ACCG Annual Conference!

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 2018 Legislative Toolkit when conversing with your state legislators!