Vol # 4, Issue 3 - February 1, 2013

Legislation Begins to Move

 

While the storms that swept through Georgia captured the focus of much media attention this week, several significant legislative issues began working their way through committees. ACCG has highlighted several of the key bills in the following overview; however, county officials should pay close attention to legislation listed in the “What’s New” section of this week’s update for a glimpse of issues to come.

 

The 2013 ACCG Capitol Connection Conference is scheduled for next week, February 4 -5, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston will share their perspectives with county officials on Tuesday during breakfast and lunch. In addition, the ACCG policy staff will provide legislative briefings and answer questions on key bills. Be sure to review the full conference agenda so that you don’t miss any of these important sessions.

 

House Speaker David Ralston Introduces Ethics Legislation


The pressure has been building on legislators to address the issue of ethics.
This week, House Speaker David Ralston introduced two bills that covered issues ranging from gifts from lobbyists to the filing of campaign disclosures.
HB 142 and HB 143 both were discussed in the House Rules Subcommittee on Thursday. Some of the key items in HB 142 include a complete ban on expenditures on individuals by those who are registered as lobbyists (including but not limited to meals, beverages, tickets to events,etc.), an expansion of the definition of lobbyist and the re-establishment of rule making authority for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly names the Ethics Commission). HB 143 changes the requirements for filing campaign disclosure reports and reduces filing requirements for candidates who raise less than $5,000. These bills are likely to see significant change before they are considered on the House floor. Legislators and Governor Nathan Deal appear to agree, however, that the legislation should apply to both state and local elected officials.

 

Rep. Jay Powell Pushes Legislation to Stop the Redirection of Dedicated Fees

 

During the 2012 legislative session, Rep. Jay Powell introduced legislation to address the redirection of dedicated fees for programs such as the cleaning up of hazardous waste sites, providing indigent defense, training law HB 127enforcement officers and teaching driver’s education programs. While the legislation passed with widespread support in the House, it was met with resistance in the Senate. This week, Rep. Jay Powell introduced similar legislation that has the bi-partisan backing of over 40 co-sponsors in the House. Through HB 127, if the fees are not appropriated for their statutorily-dedicated purposes, then the fees will be reduced or eliminated, proportionate to the amount that is redirected. To minimize impact on the state budget, the new appropriation requirements would be phased in over four years. ACCG issued a statewide press release earlier this week to draw attention to the legislation. This legislation is expected to be difficult to move in the Senate once again, so county officials are encouraged to start talking to state senators from your local delegation about it now.

 

ACCG Evaluating Uniform Forfeiture Legislation
 
The newHB 1 is drawing the attention of district attorneys and law enforcement officials from across the state. This legislation rewrites Georgia law regarding how forfeitures and "drug" money are seized, allocated and utilized. Under current law, property, money and other things of value linked to certain crimes (i.e., those related to drugs and organized crime) may be seized and a forfeiture action may be commenced by the district attorney. Depending upon the amount of assets, the court may order that the property be sold and distributed or the district attorney may institute a non-judicial proceeding. This legislation reduces the use of non-judicial forfeiture from $25,000 to $5,000, eliminates the cap on the amount of forfeiture money state agencies can receive and requires law enforcement agencies to file an annual report on the forfeiture funds received and their use and addresses other issues.  ACCG has developed a summary of the proposed changes and is currently evaluating this legislation.

Cell Tower / Equipment Preemption Legislation Introduced

 

Rep. Don Parsons has introduced the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act.  HB 176 preempts local governments in reviewing and approving applications for both the modification of existing cell towers and structures (collation) and the construction of new cell towers and structures in several key areas.  Please pay close attention to this legislation and let your legislators know whether it impacts your local zoning, land use or application review processes.
  
Get More of "The County Scoop"

Be sure to watch the County Scoop videos which provide additional details about legislation that is working its way through the Capitol. To view the videos, click on the arrows in the boxes above.  For a link to all of this week's videos (including information on several tax-related bills), click here.   
 
 

Policy
   
Clint Mueller
   Todd Edwards
   Debra Nesbit
   Shaun Adams 
   Ines Owens

Legal
   
Jim Grubiak
   Kelly Pridgen
   Joe Scheuer

Research
  
Michele NeSmith

Communications
  
Beth Brown



HB 0055
Support
Wiretapping by Law Enforcement - Statewide Application
This legislation clarifies the existing statute regarding wiretapping and trace devices to specify that warrants issued to district attorneys or the Attorney General to use trace devices or intercept communications shall have statewide application and shall be permitted in any location of the state.

Sponsor: Golick, Rich 40th
Bill Status: 2/13/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0080
Neutral
Changes to Vehicle Tax Reform
This legislation is a substantial revision of the new state and local title ad valorem tax (TAVT) system. Among other things, the bill changes how fair market value is determined; exempts commercial trucks (IRP vehicles) used for moving products interstate from the new system and continues them under the apportioned ad valorem tax; changes registration procedures; changes numerous items regarding dealers who directly finance sales; changes numerous items regarding leases; and provides for new criminal penalties. 
 
Please have your finance officials and tax commissioner review the proposed changes and provide feedback to Clint Mueller at ACCG. Click here for a summary of the proposed changes.

Sponsor: Rice, Tom 95th
Bill Status: 2/14/2013 - Senate - Senate Read and Referred
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



SB 0014
Support
Creation of Georgia Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force
This legislation creates a Georgia Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force to assess the impact of Alzheimer's on Georgia and to create a state plan.  The task force would be abolished on March 31, 2014.  Upon its abolishment, a Georgia Alzheimer's and Related Dementias Advisory would be created to annually review progress made on the state plan.

Sponsor: Unterman, Renee 45th
Bill Status: 5/6/2013 - Senate - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



SB 0024
Support
Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act
This legislation delegates the authority to levy the medicaid assessment fee on hospitals to the Department of Community Health.  The assessment of the fee on hospitals allows the state to draw down twice the amount collected in additional Medicaid funds resulting in a higher Medicaid reimbursement rate paid to the hospitals.  The legislation dedicates the fees to Medicaid and the act will sunset in 2016.
 

 

Sponsor: Bethel, Charlie 54th
Bill Status: 2/13/2013 - Senate - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0001
Neutral
Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act
This legislation is a restructuring of the Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act which impacts drug forfeitures and seizures.  This statute is one of law enforcement's most effective tools in bringing down criminal enterprises. The district attorney, through a judicial process, can seize cars, cash and property of drug dealers and other criminals.  Many county commissioners refer to this forfeited property as drug fund money. The funds and property are used for law enforcement training, equipment and investigative expenses. The revised HB 1 standardizes the reporting requirements for law enforcement, and creates a new process for district attorney forfeiture funds.

Sponsor: Wendell Willard
Bill Status: 2/7/2014 - House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0071
Support
ACCG and GMA Retirement; Increase Authorized Investment in Real Estate
Currently, retirement programs such as those offered by ACCG and GMA may only invest 5 percent of their holdings in real estate investments. This legislation increases the amount of permissible investment to 10 percent.

Sponsor: Riley, Lynne 50th
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0088
Neutral
Free Class E and Class F Driver's License to Qualified Volunteer Firefighters
This legislation allows volunteer firefighters to receive a Class E or Class F driver's license free of charge if they bring in a copy of their firefighter certification and a letter from the chief executive officer of the county (or city) stating that they are a volunteer firefighter for the county (or city).

Sponsor: Shaw, Jason 176th
Bill Status: 3/10/2014 - Senate Read Second Time
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0091
Negotiating
Local Governments Restricted in Moving Monuments
This legislation protects "monuments", which include plaques, statues, markers, flags, banners, displays and memorials, dedicated to a historical entity, event, nation or government and that honors military service to the United States, Confederacy or several states therein.  No publicly-owned  monument, meant to be perminent, located on county property may be relocated, removed, concealed, obscured in any way by the county other than as necessary to preserve or protect the monument.  Counties may relocate such a monument when necessary to build or expand edifices, buildings, roads and other transportation construction projects; however, the monument must be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability and access within the county.  The monument may not be relocated to a museum, cemetery or mausoleum unless it was originally placed there.

Sponsor: Benton, Tommy 31st
Bill Status: 2/19/2014 - House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



HB 0100
Neutral
Guns - No Changing Laws During States of Emergency
This legislation prohibits county officials and employees from changing the requirements regarding guns during a state of emergency. Those found guilty of violating this law will have to pay the prevailing party's reasonable attorney fees.    

Sponsor: Dutton, Delvis 157th
Bill Status: 3/28/2013 - House - House Withdrawn, Recommitted
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



HB 0101
Neutral
Food Sales and Service Establishment Standards - Local Festivals, etc.
Under current law, festivals, fairs and events held by nonprofit organizations are not considered "food service establishments" subject to regulation by the department of health when the county issues a temporary permit to the nonprofit for food sales and service. This legislation allows the county to delegate the authority to issue such permits to the county board of health.

Sponsor: Epps, Bubber 144th
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0124
Neutral
Sunday Sales Enhancements
Under this legislation, if the voters do not approve a ballot measure for Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor by the package, it will not impact a previous vote to approve a ballot measure for Sunday sales of beer and wine only.

Sponsor: Harrell, Brett 106th
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



HB 0125
Support
Immigration Reform Enhancements to Create Regulatory Efficiencies
The underlying language for this bill was stripped in the Senate Non-Civil Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and was substituted with the language in SB 160. Both bills address one of ACCG's top priorities this session, which is to reduce paperwork and bureaucratic morass in complying with Georgia's illegal immigration reform mandates. 
 

Sponsor: Hightower, Dustin 68th
Bill Status: 1/13/2014 - Senate Recommitted
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



HB 0127
Support
Redirected Fees - Having Fees Appropriated for Designated Purposes
This legislation, one of ACCG's top priorities, seeks to halt the now-common state practice of redirecting fees from their designated purposes to the state's general fund for other uses.  If fees for the Solid Waste Trust Fund, Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, Indigent Defense, Peace Officers and Prosecutors Training Fund and teen driver's education are not appropriated for their intended use, the fees will be reduced or eliminated, proportionate to the amount that is redirected. 
 
While the Senate once again halted this legislation, HB 276 did pass both chambers, applying the above fee-reduction mechanism to the Hazardous and Solid Waste Trust Funds.    
 
Click here for ACCG's HB 127 Press Release
 
Click here for ACCG's sectional summary of HB 127
 
Click here for ACCG's implementation timeline for HB 127        

Sponsor: Powell, Jay 171st
Bill Status: 3/5/2013 - Senate - Senate Read and Referred
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



HB 0135
Watch
Change in Ante Litem Notice for Municipal Corporations
This legislation changes the type of ante litem notice (i.e., a notice that someone intends to sue the city) that is required to be provided to a city before it can be sued.

Sponsor: Welch, Andrew 110th
Bill Status: 7/1/2014 - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0141
Neutral
Requirement to Post Notice Regarding Human Trafficking - Mandated Notices
This legislation requires bars, massage parlors, truck stops, rest areas, airports, hotels, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, job recruitment centers, farm labor contractors and day haulers to post notices on a form developed by the Department of Safety regarding a hot line for victims of kidnapping, slavery and human trafficking. Law enforcement is required to notify any of the businesses who fail to post the required sign in writing that failure to correct the deficiency within 30 days is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. The legislation purports to exempt the costs of prosecution from taxes and additional penalties, fees or surcharges.

Sponsor: Lindsey, Edward 54th
Bill Status: 5/6/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0142
Neutral
Expand Lobbyist Definition
This legislation provides for changes relating to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly known as the Ethics Commission) as well as the definition of a lobbyist and expenditures.
 
A more detailed summary can be found here.

Sponsor: Ralston, David 7th
Bill Status: 1/1/2014 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Shaun Adams



HB 0143
Neutral
Changes and Eliminates Certain Filing Requirements for County Offices
This legislation changes the manner in which candidates for local office file their campaign and finance disclosure statements.  
 
For a detailed summary of the changes, click here
 
For a comparison of HB 143 to the filing requirements prior to 2011, click here.

Sponsor: Ralston, David 7th
Bill Status: 1/1/2014 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Shaun Adams



HB 0146
Support
Issuance of Arrest and Search Warrants by Video Conference
This legislation allows a judge to participate in a hearing for an arrest or search warrant by video conference, regardless of the judge's location at the time of the conference.

Sponsor: Weldon, Tom 3rd
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - House - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



HB 0148
Support
Tax Accountability Act
This legislation requires a tax exemption bill to be introduced in the first year of the biennial legislative session and eligible for passage in the second year after the bill has been studied and a fiscal analysis conducted.

Sponsor: Alexander, Kimberly 66th
Bill Status: 2/1/2013 - House - House Second Readers
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0153
Neutral
Authorization to Impose a Fractional SPLOST
This legislation authorizes a county to request a fractional percentage Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). There must be an intergovernmental agreement with the cities making up at least 50 percent of the municipal population to request the fractional SPLOST in a referendum. Counties could have multiple fractional SPLOSTs collected at the same time as long as the combined fractions do not exceed 1 percent.

Sponsor: Carson, John 46th
Bill Status: 3/13/2014 - House Disagrees Senate Amend/Sub
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0159
Oppose
Prohibit All Fees and Assessments on the Property Tax Bill
This legislation would prohibit counties from placing any fees or assessments on the property tax bill.  This would include fees for solid waste, storm water, street lights, speed bumps and fire services.  It would also require partial payments to be applied to ad valorem taxes before any fees.

Sponsor: Harrell, Brett 106th
Bill Status: 3/28/2013 - House - House Withdrawn, Recommitted
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0160
Neutral
Revises Vacant and Foreclosed Real Property Registry Requirements

This legislation revises the vacant and foreclosed property law enacted in 2012 by removing the limitation that only properties that have received a land use disturbance permit can be included on the foreclosed real property registry.  It also clarifies that certain foreclosed properties are not subject to registration if the deed is filed with the clerk of superior court within 60 days of the foreclosure sale or transfer of the deed in lieu of foreclosure.


Sponsor: Jacobs, Mike 80th
Bill Status: 5/6/2013 - House Date Signed by Governor
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0173
Support
Maintenance and Repair Eligible for SPLOST
This legislation authorizes a county to spend up to 15 percent of the revenues from a future SPLOST on maintenance and repair activities.  The authorized percentage would have to be approved in a SPLOST referendum and could only be used to fund maintenance and repair on capital projects acquired through SPLOST. 

Sponsor: Tankersley, Jan 160th
Bill Status: 2/4/2013 - House - House Second Readers
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



HB 0176
Neutral
Cell Towers/Equipment - Conditions on Local Government Approval Process
This substitute bill is significantly scaled back from last year's cell tower bill, resulting from a compromise between ACCG, GMA and wireless providers. Addressed among its provisions are a shot clock on new tower permit application and conditions on the forced removal of an existing tower, wireless equipment on public property and local government application fees.  It does not affect a county's current ability to deny an application for a new tower, manage wireless infrastructure on its right of way, or contain an "automatically approved" provision if an application shot clock expires.
 
For a summary of this compromise bill, please click here.

Sponsor: Parsons, Don 44th
Bill Status: 7/1/2014 - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



SB 0066
Support
Increase Penalties for Contempt of Court in Superior and State Courts
This legislation increases the fine for contempt of courtin State and Superior Court from $500 to $1,000 and/or 20 days of imprisonment. This bill also changes the requirements for filing a claim and answer in magistrate court.

Sponsor: Stone, Jesse 23rd
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - Senate - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Debra Nesbit



SB 0072
Neutral
Reduce Interest on Tax Refunds and Past Due Taxes
This legislation reduces from 1 percent per month to 7 percent per annum the rate of interest owed by the government to a taxpayer on refunds and the rate of interest owed by the taxpayer to the government on past due taxes.

Sponsor: Stone, Jesse 23rd
Bill Status: 2/27/2013 - House - House Second Readers
ACCG Staff Contact: Clint Mueller



SB 0073
Neutral
Removes T-SPLOST Match Penalty
This legislation reduces the 30 percent match requirement for regions that did not pass TSPLOST to 10 percent.

Sponsor: Albers, John 56th
Bill Status: 1/30/2013 - Senate - Senate Read and Referred
ACCG Staff Contact: Shaun Adams



SB 0083
Support
Authorizes the Use of Cremation for County Funded Burials of Paupers
Under current law, counties are required to provide for the decent interment of indigents who pass away within their jurisdiction, as is the Department of Corrections for inmates in their care. This legislation simply clarifies that decent interment allows for cremation. 

Sponsor: Gooch, Steve 51st
Bill Status: 7/1/2013 - Senate - Effective Date
ACCG Staff Contact: Todd Edwards



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