The General Assembly was hard at work last week for Legislative Days 5 through 8. They passed an adjournment resolution, H.R. 31, that will take them through Legislative Day 13 on Monday, February 8th. Members and staff are being regularly tested for COVID and there remain concerns that the session may have to hit a pause at some point, as it did last year at the beginning of the pandemic.
Because of the urgency to appropriately fund the government through remainder of fiscal year 2021, the chambers have moved extraordinarily quickly to pass the Amended FY 2021 Budget. The House Appropriation Subcommittees all passed their bills out of committee on Tuesday morning, the full Appropriations Committee passed the entire FY 21 Amended Budget on Wednesday morning, and the bill was on the House floor on Thursday morning, where it passed by a bipartisan 149-20 vote. It was then immediately transmitted to the Senate and Senate Appropriations Committee began its hearings on Friday.
The version passed by the House made few changes to the Governor’s budget proposal. One change of note in the Georgia DOT budget was to provide additional funds to assist the Department in retaining and hiring additional personnel to help process the additional $322M in federal funds that Georgia will receive. GDOT’s headcount has been dropping steadily over the past decade, while significantly more projects have been funded as a result of the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170). You can follow the budget tracking sheet here to see the changes the House made to the Amended FY 21 Budget.
Legislation ACEC Georgia is following
HB 10 – 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.
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. Nonetheless, SB 6 was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee unanimously this week and will be on the Senate floor today. STATUS: Referred to Senate Finance Committee. Passed out of committee January 28. Scheduled for a vote by the full Senate today (February 1).
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 and we will be closely monitoring its progress. STATUS: Referred to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
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: Referred to the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.
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: Referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Passed out of committee on January 29. Now pending in Senate Rules Committee.
The Week Ahead
The General Assembly will be in session Monday through Thursday this week, taking us through Legislative Day 12. The General Assembly will then meet on Monday, February 8th for Legislative Day 13, which is the last Legislative Day provided for in the current Adjournment Resolution (the agreement that sets out the legislative schedule).