Recent Political Advocacy Wins
PRESERVING THE $400 OCCUPATIONAL TAX CAP FOR ENGINEERS, ARCHITECTS & LAND SURVEYORS: Introduced in 2020, House Bill 715 would have removed the longstanding $400 cap on occupational taxes charged by local governments on engineers, architects, land surveyors and other licensed professions (the so-called $400 Club”). The bill would have changed the way that cities and counties calculate and charge occupational taxes by eliminating the options of using gross receipts as well as the $400 flat fee, and would have resulted in significant local occupational tax increases on engineering firms. ACEC Georgia led the successful effort to stop this bill from moving forward after it had initially passed out of the House Ways & Means Committee.
EXPANDING PRIVATE PLAN REVIEW AND INSPECTIONS BY ENGINEERS & ARCHITECTS: Passed into law in 2019, House Bill 493 now allows developers, builders, and contractors to go straight to licensed private-sector engineers and architects (rather than local government reviewers/inspectors) for inspections and plan review. ACEC Georgia and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC) worked together with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) for over a year on this legislation. The new law streamlines prior provisions for private plan review and inspection by shortening the time within which the governing authority has to perform plan review and inspections and, most importantly, by allowing owners to elect to go immediately to using private engineers or architects regardless of whether the governing authority can provide the service within the stated time frame. Previously, an owner could only use private plan review or inspections if the local government could not complete the review/inspection within a specified time frame.
TRANSIT GOVERNANCE AND FUNDING COMMISSION: This state legislation (HB 930) created a new transit governance named the "ATL" administratively attached to GRTA. The ATL consists of 13 counties divided into 10 districts with an elected Board (similar to the State Transportation Board). The law allows for a 1 percent transit-only T-SPLOST for up to 30 years for all districts that pass the required local referendum for the tax, and also allows CIDs to create special districts for transit projects. ACEC Georgia helped in the effort to pass this historic legislation.
SIGNIFICANT TAX REFORM BENEFITS FOR ENGINEERING FIRMS: Among other things, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, and creates a 20 percent tax deduction for passthrough firms, including S corporations, partnerships, and LLCs. Engineering firms were originally excluded from this deduction, but as a result of extensive advocacy by ACEC National in Washington, Congressional leaders modified the final version to provide engineering firms with full use of the new 20 percent passthrough deduction. The final version of the bill also preserves the ability of engineering firms to continue to use the cash method of accounting - as opposed to forcing firms to undergo the expensive process of switching to accrual accounting - which was a critical ACEC priority going into this process. The bill also preserves ESOPs and other retirement savings mechanisms, as well as private activity bonds and renewable energy incentives.
PROHIBITING THE USE OF BROAD FORM INDEMNIFICATION AND DUTY TO DEFEND CLAUSES IN GEORGIA: House Bill 943 (HB 943) is a bill prohibiting the use of broad form indemnification and/or duty to defend clauses in contracts for engineering, architectural and/or land surveying services. The bill was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on April 26, 2016. ACEC Georgia led the effort (writing and lobbying for the bill) that resulted in its successful passage.
PASSING THE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ACT OF 2015: ACEC Georgia helped lead the effort to pass The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170), which created approximately $945 million per year in new, dedicated funding for GDOT - and this amount will increase over time due to indexing mechanisms in the legislation. The bill was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on May 4, 2015.
STOPPING ANTI-QBS LEGISLATION: Introduced during the 2016 session, Senate Bill 366 (SB 366) would have allowed GDOT to use low bid as an alternative method of procuring engineering services, eroding long-standing nationally accepted best practices and Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) law. ACEC Georgia actively led the effort to stop this legislation.
CREATING THE PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE ACT: The Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act, or the so-called "vertical P3 bill," facilitates the use of public-private partnerships as a means of financing, constructing and/or operating vertical public infrastructure (such as educational facilities, dorms, parking structures, offices, and water/waste water facilities, just to name a few). ACEC Georgia was actively engaged in the effort to pass this legislation for three consecutive sessions and ultimately succeeded in 2015.
REPEALING THE 3 PERCENT WITHHOLDING MANDATE: This national legislation would have affected all firms working on contracts with federal agencies, as well as contracts with state agencies and larger local governments in Georgia. ACEC led the lobbying coalition to end this withholding initiative at the federal level.
EXPANDING THE USE OF QBS AND CONTRACTING OUT BY STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES: Through a provision in the federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), local communities in Georgia are required to use Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) for waste water projects funded through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. WRRDA also created a new WIFIA funding mechanism for local water and waste water infrastructure. Both WRRDA and the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) contain provisions supporting more private sector engagement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state DOTs. ACEC fought to include each of these provisions in these bills.