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.