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  • ACEC Georgia Capitol Update 2020: June 29, 2020
  • The General Assembly finally concluded its 2020 legislative session, adjourning Sine Die on Friday, June 26. Certainly, this was much later than anyone would have predicted it would end when it started back in January, but as Charlie Harper, Publisher of GeorgiaPol.com, pointed out, they still "reached Sine Die in time for The Masters, as is tradition" (The Masters will be held in November this year for the first time in its history).  

     

    Private Plan Review and Inspection for Previously Exempted Structures:

    On Wednesday, June 17, we amended SB 377 by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), which initially dealt with elevator inspections by the Insurance Commissioner's Office, to make the Governor's Executive Order allowing private plan review and inspections for all building types permanent, by deleting subsection 8-2-26(g)(17) of the Georgia Code in its entirety. The amended bill passed the House on June 18, and the Senate agreed to the amended version on June 24. The amended bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. 

     

    If signed into law by the Governor, this would allow owners and developers to use licensed engineers or architects for private plan review and inspections for all types of vertical construction.
     
     
    Hate Crimes bill
    The Senate passed the Hate Crimes bill, HB 426 By Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), on June 23 by a vote of 47-6, and the House followed suit shortly after that, passing the Senate's amended version by a vote of 127-38 later the same day. The Governor signed the Hate Crimes bill into law on Friday, June 26. 
     
    HB 426 will increase penalties during the sentencing phase for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony who intentionally targeted the victim because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability. 
     
    The bill will also institute hate crimes data tracking to be housed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which will be published annually in the Georgia Uniform Crime Report. 
     
    ACEC Georgia was proud to stand with the many Chambers of Commerce, business organizations, Georgia companies, and citizens calling for swift passage of a Hate Crimes bill in this legislative session.
     
    Joint Senate and House Transportation meeting on Friday, June 26
    The Joint Senate & House Transportation Committees met on Friday, June 26 and confirmed Janine Miller, Governor Kemp's nominee to be the new GDOT State Planning Director, replacing Jay Roberts, who resigned last year.  
     
    FY 21 Budget
    The House and Senate passed HB 793, the FY21 Budget, which includes $130 million in additional bonding capacity for roads and bridges. While most agencies' budgets took an 11% cut, GDOT's budget took a 16% cut. As the economy continues to improve and motor fuel tax receipts increase, we expect those cut to lessen, as Georgia motor fuel excise taxes (which make up the lion's share of GDOT's budget) are required by the Georgia Constitution to be spent only on "roads and bridges" and cannot be spent on other purposes. 
     
    Business Immunity Bill
    On Thursday, June 25, the Senate passed HB 167 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and led in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), a comprehensive pro-business bill intended to aid in Georgia's economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Sen. Kennedy's bill would have provided businesses with legal assurance that when giving their best efforts to protect employees, customers, and vendors, they, in turn, would be protected from frivolous lawsuits. 
    On Friday, June 26, the House passed SB 359, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), the House version of a business immunity bill, which includes business protections similar to HB 167, but unfortunately also creates a new cause of action against businesses by employees and customers for COVID-19 related liability. Ultimately the House refused to take up the Senate bill and adjourned. This left the Senate with no choice but to adopt the House version to provide at least some protection for businesses until the General Assembly can reconvene next year. 
     
    Additional Legislation ACEC Georgia Followed:
     HB 105 – By Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) started as a tax break bill for farmers who were impacted by Hurricane Michael. This bill was amended in the Senate Finance Committee to include a new rideshare flat fee of $.50 per ride or $.25 per shared ride for taxis, Uber & Lyft. Without the flat fee carve-out to the previously passed Marketplace Facilitators bill, ride shares would be subject to state and local sales taxes, which would significantly increase the cost of ride-sharing services to consumers. Under the House's amendment, the revenue generated by the new rideshare flat fee would be used to fund transit projects. There will also be a new 10% carve-out for transit from the revenue collected from existing heavy vehicle impact fees and $5 per night hotel/motel fees that were created by the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170). STATUS: Passed Senate 51-2 on Wednesday, March 4. House amended the Senate Substitute, and it passed the House 150-7. Passed the Senate on June 18, and the Senate changes were agreed to by the House on June 25. The amended bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.
     
    HB 448 – By Rep. Matt Dollar (R-East Cobb) would expand the $5 per night hotel/motel fee established in The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170) to include Airbnb rentals that generate $100,000 or more per year in revenue. STATUS: Passed House 105-48 but failed to pass the Senate. THIS BILL DID NOT PASS.
     
    HB 511 – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) is back in a scaled-down version, which was vetted with GDOT, the ATL, Senators Gooch and Beach. The new version moves The ATL to GDOT and streamlines the elections procedures for the ATL Board. Requires all transit providers within the ATL region to use the ATL Brand within three years. It also extends the sunset on use of the CPI index on motor fuel taxes to 2025. STATUS: Passed Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, March 5, 2019, passed the full Senate on June 25 and the House agreed to the Senate changes on June 26. The amended bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.  
     
    HB 777 – By Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) directs the Department of Community Affairs to undertake a review of the tall mass timber provisions of the 2021 International Building Code, to consider whether Georgia's building codes should be amended to include provisions for tall mass timber for construction types IV-A, IV-B, and IV-C. STATUS: Passed House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on February 18, passed the full House on February 20, and passed the full Senate on June 16. The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. 
     
    HB 820 – By Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) establishes the Georgia Freight Railroad Program as a placeholder line Item in the Georgia DOT budget for possible future funding for freight rail improvements, subject to the annual appropriations process. STATUS: Passed House 162-1 on Monday, February 24. Passed the Senate on June 17.
     
    HB 914 – By Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins) is a reciprocal licensure bill for the spouses of military service members or transitioning service members. The applicable PLB Board will now grant expedited reciprocity for military spouses if the person holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state for which the training, experience, and testing are "substantially similar in qualifications and scope" to the Georgia requirements to obtain that license. Rep. Clark also removed the section that would have exempted military spouses from having to sit for a Georgia specific test. This bill has identical language to SB 316 (see below). STATUS: Passed House 165-0 on Monday, March 2. Passed Senate Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee on June 18. Passed Senate June 25. The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. 
     
    HB 1098 – By Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) is the annual GDOT "housekeeping bill." It aligns the statewide strategic plan with the federal strategic plan, resulting in cost savings for GDOT. It also includes the extension of the CPI to 2025.  STATUS: Passed House 167-0. Passed Senate Transportation Committee by substitute on June 19. Passed Senate June 23. House agreed to the substitute on June 25. The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.
     
    SB 310 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) would establish a new "PE, SE" license for structural engineers. This bill would alleviate the competitive disadvantage Georgia structural engineers face when competing for projects against individuals from states that have already established some sort of SE license. STATUS: Passed the Senate Monday, February 24 46-8. Passed House Regulated Industries Committee on June 17 and passed the House on June 20. The amended bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. 
     
    SB 315 – By Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) was introduced to address a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that extinguished ALL rights (including contract rights) for failure to file an Affidavit of Non-Payment. This bill corrects the existing lien law language to preserve contract rights in the event of failure to file the lien or affidavit of non-payment. STATUS: Passed the Senate unanimously on February 21. Passed House Regulated Industries Committee on June 17 and passed the full House on June 19. The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. 
     
    SB 316 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) is Reciprocal Licensure for Military Spouses. An amended version of the bill passed out of Committee on Friday, February 21. The amended version corrected several of the issues that we had with the bill. The applicable PLB Board will now grant expedited reciprocity for military spouses if the person holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state for which the training, experience, and testing are "substantially similar in qualifications and scope" to the requirements under this state to obtain a license. Sen. Thompson also removed the section that would have exempted military spouses from having to sit for a Georgia specific test. This bill has identical language to HB 914 (see above). STATUS: Passed Senate unanimously on February 27. Passed House Government Affairs on June 16. Passed House. The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.
     
    SB 319 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) would allow habitable structures within the inundation zone below a Category II dam if an engineer of record certifies that the structure is fortified to such a degree to prevent the significant risk of loss of life, without the dam in question being upgraded to meet the requirements for a Category I dam. STATUS: Passed Senate on Monday, February 24, 47-6. Pending in House Natural Resources Committee. Committee heard the bill on June 11 and again in subcommittee on June 16 without taking action. THIS BILL DID NOT PASS.
     
    SB 371 – By Sen. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega) is companion legislation to HB 820, creating the Georgia Freight Railroad Program within GDOT, and now includes language requested by GDOT that would allow maximum flexibility to allocate future funding. STATUS: Passed the Senate unanimously on Friday, February 28. Passed the House Transportation Committee on June 18 and the full House on June 24.
     
    SR 793 – By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would create the Joint Private Financing of Infrastructure Study Committee. This is in response to the Freight & Logistics Commission's findings last year of the need for $4 Billion per year for the next 30 years to accommodate the increase in freight coming from the Port of Savannah. STATUS: Passed Senate on March 10 and passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee on June 19. THIS RESOLUTION DID NOT PASS.
     
    SR 885 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) is a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to finance General Obligation Bonds for local community airport construction. STATUS: Passed the Senate 55-0 on March 12, 2020. Died in the House Appropriations Committee. THIS RESOLUTION DID NOT PASS.


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