The General Assembly gaveled out at midnight on Wednesday for the first half of their biennial session. Bills that did not pass by midnight remain alive for next year’s session and will begin in the committee of jurisdiction in the respective chamber where they were last heard.
While our HB 476, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act, did not make it across the finish line, we will be working with the Governor’s Office during the off season so that we will be ready to go in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee in January 2022. With billions of federal dollars potentially flowing into GDOT for design projects, a dedicated administrative and investigative staff for engineers and land surveyors is needed now more than ever.
On Wednesday, March 31, the Joint Budget Conference Committee agreed upon the General Assembly’s final version of the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan which was subsequently adopted by a vote of 148-21 in the House and 52-0 in the Senate, respectively.
To view the final version of HB 81 (FY 2022), click here.
Legislation going to the Governor’s desk
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. ACEC Georgia supports this legislation. STATUS: Passed out of the House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System on February 3rd. Passed the full House on February 11th by a vote of 99 to 63. Passed Senate Judiciary Committee on March 11. Passed the Senate 36-17. Heads to the Governor.
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: Fast tracked legislation that passed the House unanimously on February 9th and passed the Senate unanimously on February 24th. Signed by the Governor.
HB 317 – By Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) is the Marketplace Facilitator Innkeeper bill. This is the same as HB 488 that the House passed last year that would require VRBO and to charge its customers and remit to the government the $5 per night room fee that was created by HB 170 in 2015 to fund transportation. All other types of hotels, motels and lodging facilities already pay this fee, so HB 317 would create a level playing field for all types of businesses selling lodging room nights. ACEC Georgia supports this legislation. STATUS: Passed out of the House Ways & Means Committee on February 18th. Passed the House on March 8th on 147-22 vote. Heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Passed by Committee Substitute. Passed the Senate 31-5. House agreed to Senate substitute. Heads to the Governor
HB 452 – By Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) would extend the sunset date for an existing tax credit for expenditures the maintenance of railroad track owned or leased by Class III railroads to December 30, 2028 (currently set to expire in 2023). STATUS: Assigned the House Transportation Committee but the language of HB 452 was included in HB 587 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). HB 587 passed the House on March 3rd by a vote of 157 to 14. HB 587 is assigned to the Senate Finance Committee. HB 586 is now carrying this language. Pending in Senate Rules. Was included in the Omnibus tax package SB 6. Heads to the Governor.
HB 511 – By Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) would Constitutionally dedicate revenue from several existing Trust Funds, pursuant to the Constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by Georgia voters last November. The protected trust funds include Transportation (including the hotel/motel, heavy truck and alternative fuel vehicle fees created by House Bill 170), Transit, Solid Waste, Scrap Tire, Trauma Care and others. ACEC Georgia supports this legislation. STATUS: Passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on February 26th. Passed the House by a unanimous vote (168-0) on March 3rd. Passed the Senate 51-0. Heads to the Governor.
HB 588 – By Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) would enable the Georgia Department of Transportation to make investments in private freight and logistics infrastructure provided that the projects serve a “public benefit” including, but not limited to, enhanced public safety, enhanced mobility of people or goods, congestion mitigation, and enhanced trade and economic development. STATUS: Passed out of the House Transportation Committee on February 26th and passed the full House by a unanimous vote (166-0) on March 3rd. Passed Senate Finance Committee. Passed Senate 49-0. House agreed to Senate Substitute. Heads to Governor.
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 five 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. This bill became the Christmas tree bill for all tax credits including short line rail. STATUS: Passed the Senate by a unanimous vote (51-0) on February 1st. Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee. Amended in Committee to add all pending tax credit exemption bills. Bill went to conference committee on Wednesday. Senate approved the conference report 52-0, House approved the report 146-25. You can view the report here
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 provide 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. ACEC Georgia supports this legislation. 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 full Senate on February 11th by a vote of 39 to 13. Much of the Senate opposition was due to the fact that the local government can still charge a 100% “convenience fee” even if the owner uses a third-party provider. Passed out of House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee. Passed House 148-15. Heads to Governor.
SB 169 – By Sen. Larry Walker, III would allow public procurement officers to accept electronic signatures and corporate seals on bonds relating to contracts for public works. STATUS: Passed out of the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee on February 25th. Passed the full Senate by a unanimous vote (51-0) on March 3rd. Passed House Judiciary Committee. Passed House on March 19 162-0.
SR 84 – By Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) would create a Joint Study Committee on Airport Infrastructure and Funding options. There are concerns that issuance of general obligation (GO Bonds), might have a negative impact the state’s credit rating and this Study Committee would look into those concerns and explore available options. STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Rules Committee. Passed the full Senate by a vote of 41 to 8 on March 5th. Passed House Transportation Committee on March 17. Passed House by substitute 156-8. Senate agreed 51-0.
SR 102 – By Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) would create the Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding to continue the work of the Georgia Freight & Logistics Commission, specifically to explore how the dramatic expansion of e-commerce will impact Georgia’s freight & logistics network as well as studying potential funding options for freight & logistics infrastructure investments. STATUS: Passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on February 26th. Passed the Senate on March 8th. Passed House Transportation on March 17. Passed House by substitute 168-0. Senate agreed 45-0.
Still alive for next year:
HB 302 – By Rep. Martin (R-Dallas) involves regulatory fees charged by local governments on business, occupations and professions. The bill would require local government regulatory fees to approximate the cost of the service provided and prohibit the use of regulatory fee revenue to fund the general operation of the government. ACEC Georgia fully supports the intent of this legislation as drafted, but will also be watching this bill because it opens up the code section regulating occupation fees charged by local governments, potentially serving as a vehicle for changes that could open up engineering firms to exorbitant fees charged by local governments (similar to legislation ACEC Georgia and others fought last year). STATUS: Passed the House on March 5th by a razor thin vote of 91 to 65 (bills need at least 91 votes to pass the House). Awaiting a hearing in Senate Finance.
HB 476 – By Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) "The Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors Act of 2021” was introduced at the request of ACEC Georgia to make the PELS Board an independent state agency, with its own separate budget, its own executive director and staff and its own attorney and investigators to investigate and enforce violations. This legislation was modeled on the existing arrangements for the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia State Board of Accountancy. STATUS: Passed out of the House Regulated Industries Committee on February 23rd. Passed House on March 1st by a vote of 163-2. Passed Senate Regulated Industries unanimously on March 11th. Pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
SB 45 – By Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), is a bill aimed at speeding up occupational and professional licensure by comity 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: Passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with an amendment making it not apply to illegal immigrants. Passed the full Senate of February 16th by a vote of 37 to 15. Assigned to the House Regulated Industries Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins) attempted to put this language into HB 68 and pass it on day 40. It failed spectacularly in a 129-31 vote.
SB 94 – By Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) is a modified version of the dam bill that Senator Ginn introduced in the 2020 session. Like that bill, it would allow habitable structures to be placed in the inundation zone below a Category II dam if an engineer of record were willing to certify that it would not create the possibility of loss of life. If a structure currently exists in the inundation zone of a Category II dam, 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 on requiring the dam owner to fortify the Category II dam into a Category I dam (which is the actual point of the bill). STATUS: Assigned to the Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee. Did not crossover (dead for this year’s session).