The General Assembly was in session last week for Legislative Days 13 through 16. They return Tuesday, February 16th for Legislative Day 17 and will be in session through Thursday, February 18th for Legislative Day 19. The new Adjournment Resolution, SR 82, was passed on Tuesday and has the schedule through March 1st, Legislative Day 25.
On Thursday, both the House and Senate passed the final version of the Amended FY 2021 Budget and sent it to the Governor for his signature. The only changes made were the addition of $1,000 bonus payments to state employees making less than $80,000 per year. You can read the budget tracking document here.
The House continued Appropriations Subcommittee hearings on the “Big Budget” for FY 2022 (HB 81), which funds the government for all of FY 2022.
Legislation ACEC Georgia is following
HB 100 – By Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City), would exempt public mass transit, campus transit, and public school system buses from paying Georgia’s motor fuel excise tax. This bill would undermine the purposes of HB 170 and ACEC Georgia will oppose. STATUS: Referred to the House Ways & Means Committee.
HB 112 – By Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), is an extension of the business COVID liability relief bill that was originally passed in 2020 as SB 359 and which is currently scheduled to sunset on July 14, 2021. HB 112 extends liability protections for an additional year until July 14, 2022. STATUS: Referred to House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System. Passed out of committee on 2/3. Passed House 99-63 on 2/11. Referred to Senate Judiciary.
HB 147 – By Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins) is a bill aimed at speeding up occupational and professional licensure for new residents of Georgia. It is identical to SB 45 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (see below). STATUS: Heard in House Regulated Industries Professional Licensing Subcommittee on 2/3 but no vote taken. Rescheduled for hearing on 2/10 but was pulled from Agenda at last minute.
HB 265 – By Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) is the annual IRS clean up bill that aligns Georgia Code with Federal IRS code. This bill makes clear that businesses eligible for PPP loan forgiveness would not be required to pay state taxes on the loans, even though they count as income. The measure also lets those business owners claim tax deduction on the loans. STATUS: Passed House unanimously on 2/9. Referred to Senate Finance.
HB 302 – By Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) involves regulatory fees charged by local governments on business, occupations and professions. His bill makes it clear that the regulatory fee must approximate the service provided by the government. The government cannot use the regulatory fee to fund the general operation of the government. We are watching this bill because it opens up the code section where the “400 Club” designation lives. Last session, there was a bill to remove the cap on the “400 Club” which would have opened up engineering firms to exorbitant fees charged by local governments. STATUS: referred to W&M.
HB 317 – By Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) is the Marketplace Facilitator Innkeeper bill. This is the same as the House passed HB 488 from last year that forces VRBO and AirBnB to remit the $5 fee/night they are collecting to the state and local jurisdictions. This is part of HB 170 hotel/motel fees that go to transportation. STATUS: Heard in W&M subcommittee 2/9.
HR 87 – By Rep. Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain) is a Resolution asking that MARTA reaffirm their commitment to providing heavy rail along I-20 from Indian Creek to Stone Crest Mall. STATUS: Referred to House Transportation.
SB 6 – By Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), is a tax credit review bill that would require the Office of Planning and Budget to determine (either themselves or through a contract with a third party) the direct and indirect effects of Georgia’s tax credits and incentives upon the request of either the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee. Each chairman may choose up to 5 tax incentives (either already in law or contained in proposed legislation) each year to be reviewed, with such reviews to be completed no later than December 1 of that year. There is general concern from the business community that the bill is overly broad and lacks any official recourse to counterclaim audit assumptions and/or findings, among other concerns. House Speaker David Ralston has indicated that he is not interested in taking up any bill that impacts tax incentives during the current economic downturn. STATUS: Passed the Senate unanimously on 2/1 and referred to House Ways & Means.
SB 45 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), is a bill aimed at speeding up occupational and professional licensure for new residents of Georgia. The bill would require the professional licensing boards to approve new occupational or professional licenses by endorsement for anyone who: (1) moves from another state and establishes residency in Georgia; (2) holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state that was acquired prior to establishing residency in Georgia for which the training, experience, and testing are substantially similar in qualifications and scope to the Georgia requirements for that license; (3) such license is in good standing in that other state; and (4) passes any examination that may only be required to demonstrate knowledge of the laws and rules and regulations of this state that are specific to the practice of the profession, business, or trade for which such license by endorsement is being sought. ACEC Georgia has obvious concerns about this bill (as well as the identical HB 147) and we will be closely monitoring its progress. STATUS: Amended in Senate Regulated Industries Committee so that it does not apply to illegal immigrants. On Senate Floor 2/16.
SB 49 – By Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford), is a clean-up bill to legislation passed by ACEC Georgia and AGC Georgia in 2019 (HB 493) that allows owners to use a licensed engineer or architect to perform private plan review and inspection services, rather than using the local government entity’s services. This bill would cement into law Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order 03-20.20.02 that allows owners to go straight to private plan review and/or inspections and pay 50% of that jurisdictions regulatory fee up front to the local government regardless of the time frame in which that local government is able to the service. If the local government determines that it did in fact have staff capable of performing the review, they can come back to the owner and request the other 50% of the regulatory fee. This Executive Order was instrumental in ensuring that projects could continue to move forward at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when many local government employees had been sent home. STATUS: Amended in Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee to allow ICC certified individuals to also provide the service at the request of the Home Builders Association and the Building Officials Association. Passed the Senate 39-13 on 2/11. Much of the Senate opposition is due to the fact that the local government can still charge 100% convenience fee even if the owner uses a third-party provider.
SB 94 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) is the remodeled Dam Bill that Senator Ginn introduced last year. This bill would allow inhabitable structures to be placed in the inundation zone below a Category II dam if an engineer of record would certify that it would not create the possibility of loss of life. If a structure currently exists in the inundation zone, the owner could hire an engineer of record to fortify the structure to prevent loss of life. Under either scenario there is an explicit prohibition forcing owners to fortify the Category II dam into a Category I dam. STATUS: Referred to Senate Natural Resources.
SB 98 – By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) is a Freight & Logistics bill that would allow SRTA to negotiate public/private partnership investments in infrastructure which provide a “public benefit”. It would also put the Commissioner of GDOT on the Georgia Ports Authority Board. STATUS: Referred to Transportation. ACEC Georgia does not believe this is the legislation that will ultimately move forward.
SB 118 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) would allow forest products trucks to apply for a heavy weights permit from GDOT on an annual basis. We anticipate that Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) to file a similar bill in the House. STATUS: Referred to Transportation.
SR 26 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow the state to issue general obligation debt (GO Bonds) to fund improvements at municipal airports (other than Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport). The funds would be used to finance the state’s federal matching portion of project finding. STATUS: Passed Senate Appropriations on 2/4. Placed on Senate Floor on 2/9 but was tabled by the sponsor.
SR 84 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) is a Joint Study Committee on Airport Infrastructure and Funding options. There are concerns that SR 26, Harper’s Constitutional Amendment, may impact the state’s credit rating. This study committee is aimed at addressing those concerns. Status: Referred to Senate Rules.
The Week Ahead
The General Assembly will be in session Tuesday through Thursday this week. We expect several Freight & Logistics bills to be dropped in both the House and the Senate. ACEC Georgia also plans to drop a bill in the House that would remove the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Board (PELS) from the Professional Licensing Board Division of the Secretary of State’s Office and establish it as an independent state agency, based on the status the Georgia Real Estate Commission has enjoyed for several decades. This would allow the PELS Board to establish their own fee structure, hire an Executive Director and dedicated staff and investigators to service the nearly 23,000 professional engineers 1,200 land surveyors in the state.