February 21, 2020
Volume 11, Issue 6
House Passes Amended FY 2020 Budget
Version Restores Some Funds to Many Programs Critical to Counties
The General Assembly was back in full swing this week after being in adjournment to focus on the budget. With the budget as the primary focus, the House passed its version of the Amended FY 2020 Budget after a very in depth review during the budget break. Its version of the Amended FY 2020 Budget restores some funds to many programs critical to counties. 

The Amended FY 2020 Budget now moves to the Senate for review and adoption as the House begins work on the FY 2021 Budget.

Click here to review a summary of the changes made by the House. 
Revised Special Elections Bill Adds New Round of Elections, and Costs, for County Taxpayers

House Bill 757 has received much attention this legislative session. The bill addresses election dates and formats related to vacated elected seats at the federal, state, and county levels. Among its several provisions, the bill authorizes, in statute, conditions for the Georgia Secretary of State to designate the filing periods for those running in special elections for state and federal office, and the local election superintendents to do so for those running for a county office.

ACCG's concern is that HB 757 now requires "special primaries" for special elections to fill vacated state legislative seats. This adds another round of elections that counties must fund in the special elections process and the extended process will leave that seat empty for a longer period. 

ACCG believes that another round of elections, particularly for state legislative seats, should be funded with state dollars. Since 2010, there have been 64 special elections for vacated legislative seats alone, and this cost adds up for local taxpayers, particularly in Georgia’s rural counties.     

Please direct any questions, concerns, or comments on HB 757 to Todd Edwards ( t edwards@accg.org ).
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. 
More from the Gold Dome
Design Standards Preemption - Round Two

House Bill 937 was introduced by Rep. Vance Smith this week. This new preemption legislation, following on the heels of HB 302 and SB 172, prohibits cities and counties from regulating any building material, product, or construction practice for single-family homes if these are approved in the state minimum standard codes - unless permission from a board at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is granted. Residential building design standards for aesthetic purposes would not be allowed (even with the DCA board's permission) since the only local building code amendments allowed under current law must be based solely on local climatic, geologic, topographic, or public safety factors. As a result, this bill prohibits local government regulations and ordinances, just as HB 302 and SB 172 do, on the following:

  • Exterior building color;
  • Type or style of exterior cladding material; 
  • Style or materials of roof structures or porches; 
  • Exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation;
  • Location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors;
  • The number and types of rooms;  
  • Types of foundation structures approved under state minimum standard codes; and
  • Any other type of aesthetic requirement not dealing with climatic, geologic, topographic or public safety factors.  
     
ACCG opposes state preemption of local land use decisions, to include design standards, believing these decisions are best made at the local level by county commissioners elected by, and accountable to, the communities they serve.   
Bill Seeks to Modify Legal Organ Advertisement Requirements

Senate Bill 406 , an ACCG agenda item for the 2020 legislative session, authorizes counties to post legal advertisements on their county website, the legal organ’s website, or a common statewide website in addition to the required paid post in the county’s legal organ. The legal organ would still get paid to run the advertisement and all other current conditions in law would apply. However, should the legal organ delay or fail to post the notice in print, any of the aforementioned outlets would serve as adequate notice to the public. The county’s business could continue even though, through no fault of their own, the legal organ delays or fails to run the advertisement as planned. Current state law allows for no other recourse if a legal organ fails to run a legal advertisement. 

ACCG asks county officials to contact their Senators and urge them to support SB 406 .    
Weapons Carry License - Counties Must Send License Holders a Renewal License

House Bill 917 requires counties (probate judges) to send a notice to weapons carry license holders prior to their license expiration date. The notice can be sent via mail or e-mail and must be sent no more than 90 days, but no fewer than 30 says, before the expiration date of a person's license. While several of Georgia’s counties, particularly smaller ones, already provide this service to license holders, larger counties may not have the capacity to do so in an efficient manner. 

ACCG asks county officials to contact their probate judge to gauge if this requirement is feasible and, if so, at what cost to the county.  Please send any feedback to Todd Edwards ( tedwards@accg.org ).  
House Committee Passes Bill Changing Tax Interest and Refund Rules

The House Ways & Means Committee passed House Bill 846 , which makes several administrative changes in the tax arena. First, it would change the interest rate payable on past-due property taxes, as well as on sales tax refunds, from the current prime rate-plus 3% to simply the prime rate. While this would lower the interest received on past-due property tax bills, it would also lower the interest paid out of local government funds when the Department of Revenue (DOR) refunds sales taxes – thus, lowering the amount deducted from counties’ future sales tax receipts from the state.

A very positive provision of this bill would allow local governments to have DOR pay out sales tax refunds to taxpayers over the same period the over-payment occurred. At present, a taxpayer may submit a sales-tax refund claim to the state for taxes they paid over several years. If that refund claim is approved, however, the full amount of that refund gets deducted from county, city, and school sales tax payments right away. For large refunds, that can have a big impact on local budgets, particularly since local governments usually have no information that refund requests are pending. By allowing local governments to have refunds paid out over time, that may dramatically help with local government cash flow issues that are currently caused by large refunds hitting at one time.

Please contact Larry Ramsey ( lramsey@accg.org) with any questions.
Significant Changes to Occupation Tax Proposed

House Bill 715 makes significant changes to the occupation tax on businesses. Current law allows counties and cities to use several different methods in levying a tax on businesses in their jurisdictions. HB 715 would eliminate one of those methods: the ability to calculate the tax on a business’s gross receipts.

Approximately 17 counties currently use the gross-receipts method. Under HB 715 , those counties would have to use one of the other taxation methods, such as a per-employee tax, as many other counties currently do. The bill also eliminates the preferential treatment that 18 different professions (such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers) have under current law, which allows them to pay a flat $400 per professional tax. This change would mean these professions would be treated the same as other businesses under whatever occupation tax formula the county uses. Both of these changes would not become effective until 2025 in order to give local governments and the professions time to adjust.

HB 715 was passed by the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday. Please contact Larry Ramsey at lramsey@accg.org with any questions.
Local Government Finance Authority Bill Progresses

Senate Bill 309 passed the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee this week. This bill creates two authorities – one administered by the Georgia Municipal Association and one by ACCG – that will have the power to provide financing for local government capital projects (facilities and equipment). This legislation allows the authorities to pool purchases for multiple local governments, with the goal of lowering borrowing costs and saving taxpayer dollars. For more information on this bill, view the talking points compiled by ACCG and GMA.

ACCG encourages county officials to contact their Senators to let them know county officials support SB 309 . For questions about this bill, please contact Larry Ramsey ( lramsey@accg.org ). 
Lodging Facilitator Bill Moves Forward

The House Ways & Means Committee passed House Bill 448 , which requires online platforms like Airbnb/VRBO to collect and remit local hotel/motel taxes on short-term rentals. This bill allows for more efficient collection of these taxes, which at present are not collected by most short-term rental owners.

ACCG encourages county officials to contact their House members to let them know they support HB 448 . Please contact Larry Ramsey ( lramsey@accg.org ) with any questions.
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ACCG News
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.


Georgia Recorder - February 21, 2020

WABE - February 19, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - February 19, 2020

Tifton Gazette - February 19, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - February 18, 2020

Georgia Recorder- February 18, 2020

Patch (Snellville) - February 15, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - February 14, 2020
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ACCG Legislative team:

ACCG is YOUR county association. We are 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  2020 Legislative Toolkit and your Legislative Updates when conversing with your state legislators!