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Capitol Update: Week 10

Capitol-Update_Header_Week10

The General Assembly was in session last week Monday through Thursday for Legislative Days 32 through 35.  There are only five Legislative Days left before the General Assembly adjourns Sine Die on Tuesday, March 31st. Sine Die is Latin for “without a day” – meaning the day they adjourn at the end of the 40-day session not to return until the following year’s session. They will be in session this week Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for Legislative Days 35 through 38.

The log jam in both chambers has hopefully broken, as both the House and Senate Rules Committees are now putting bills on the calendar for votes on the floor. These final five legislative days will be a flurry of activity, as the Senate still must pass the Big Budget (HB 81) in time for the differences between the House version and Senate version to be worked out by the Conference Committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet today, so we could see action on the budget Thursday on the Senate floor. The Conference Committee would need to be appointed and work through the weekend to have a final product ready to be voted on by both the House and Senate on Legislative Day 39 or 40.

On Monday, March 15th, Governor Kemp announced $277 million in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act 2021 (CRRSAA) funds are being allocated to the Georgia Department of Transportation to fill in projected revenue gaps caused by the impacts of COVID-19. These additional funds allow Georgia DOT flexibility to advance several strategic transportation improvements in predominantly rural areas in Jefferson, Jasper, Putnam, Upson, and Barrow Counties. Most of these investments will be on Georgia’s freight network, which are corridors that play a vital role in moving agriculture commodities, manufacturing inputs, and consumer goods between production, distribution, and retail locations in all areas of Georgia. These projects were previously further out in Georgia DOT’s outer-year delivery plans but will now begin construction a cumulative total of 13 years earlier, advancing the safety and reliability of Georgia’s freight network.

HB 476 – The Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act of 2021

HB 476 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee unanimously on Thursday, March 11th. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) made the motion to pass, which was seconded by Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Sen. Albers is the Senate Sponsor for HB 476. The bill is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 476 was introduced at ACEC Georgia’s request and is also supported by the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers (GSPE), Surveying and Mapping Society of Georgia (SAMSOG) and Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Board (PELS Board). If passed, it will make the PELS Board an independent state agency, with its own separate budget and its own, dedicated staff. This legislation was modeled on the existing arrangements in place for the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia State Board of Accountancy and will provide the financial and operational independence needed for the PELS Board to properly serve the 23,000 Professional Engineers and 1,200 Land Surveyors whose licensure is critical to protecting the health, safety and welfare of Georgia’s citizens and our built environment.

HB 81 – The FY 2022 Budget

The “Big Budget” is up for a vote in Senate Appropriations on Monday, March 22nd.  We expect the bill to be on the Senate Floor Thursday.  Once passed, a Conference Committee of three Senators and three House members will be appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Legislation ACEC Georgia is following

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 premise underlying the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170) – that all users of Georgia’s roads and bridges should contribute toward their upkeep. ACEC Georgia is opposed to this bill. STATUS: Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.

The Week Ahead

There are several bills that ACEC Georgia is working on that are stuck in the Senate Finance Committee: HB 302, HB 317, HB 587, and HB 588, due to the traditional end of session House/Senate tensions. We are hopeful that they will move forward this week.

The General Assembly will be in Session on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this week, taking us through Legislative Day 38. The final two legislative days are scheduled to occur next week on Monday, March 29 and Wednesday, March 31.