Week 6: MARTA Legislation Passes Senate Transportation Committee: Summary Below
This is the Legislative Week 6, 2016 Edition of the Council's "Under the Gold Dome," a weekly publication covering the 2016 Georgia General Assembly Session.  

The General Assembly completed Day 24 on Friday, February 19th, with 16 working days left in Session.   The Session will likely see a March 24th SINE DIE, as the General Assembly passed their current 2016 Adjournment Resolution, which you can view HERE.

The House voted today to pass the "big" budget, HB751 which proposes a record $23.7 billion dollars, including pay raises for teachers.  To track the Budget in its current form, click HERE.  The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.   If you want to learn more about the Georgia budget process, Click HERE from POLICYBEST on how to become a Georgia budget expert.

The MARTA expansion legislation, Senate Bill 330, received a do-pass by Committee Substitute in the Senate Transportation Committee.  This is a critical piece of legislation sponsored by Council Board Member and State Senator Brandon Beach (R) and Council for Quality Growth Executive Committee Members Scott Selig, VP of Selig Enterprises and Ann Hanlon,  Executive Director of the North Fulton CID testified before the Committee.  

(Scott Selig Testifies before  Senate Transportation Committee)

Selig used real data on projects Selig Enterprises has developed and hit home that higher rents for his properties, which transit has proven to increase the premiums, lead to additional revenue for local governments  in property tax revenue collected.  


(Ann Hanlon testifies before Senate Transportation Committee)

Ann Hanlon presented data from the Council's White Paper on transit and economic development (Read White Paper Below) to emphasize that nearly every corporate relocation to the Atlanta region since the great recession has cited access to public transit as top priority in their site selection process and that transit oriented development (TOD) can spur property value increases in the surrounding area upwards of 150 percent.

Many members of the Board of AdvanceAtlanta were also in attendance and testified in support of SB 330.

What does Senate Bill 330 propose?

Senate Bill 330 (Click HERE to view the Committee Substitute) allows any local government that has a contract for rapid transit with MARTA and is currently at a 1% MARTA sales tax (Clayton, Fulton, DeKalb, City of Atlanta) to impose an additional tax up to a half-penny, as long as approved by voters in a local referendum (either November 2016 general election or November 2017 municipal election) with the adoption of an ordinance by June 30th, 2016.  In order to hold a November 2017 referendum, the local jurisdiction must adopt a resolution by June 30, 2017.

MARTA must submit a preliminary list of rapid transit projects no later than May 31st of the referendum year to the participating local government within or serving the geographical boundaries, with the final list submitted by July 31st.  If approved by the voters, a contract between MARTA and the local government that incorporates the final list of rapid transit projects will be executed.  

In Fulton and DeKalb Counties (but not including the City of Atlanta), a planning  committee is created , that will consist of professional staff from the Counties who will work with MARTA and work with the counties and cities on a preliminary list of transit projects. The committee must ensure that the list is consistent with local economic development considerations, local transportation plans, local zoning considerations, workforce accessibility, and such other matters that may be relevant to the list.

MARTA is required to meet with each local government (both the County and Cities) to discuss a possible tax rate and possible transit projects, at least 30 days before the preliminary list is submitted and at least 20 days before the final list is submitted.

The referendum must be advertised for four weeks in a newspaper having general circulation throughout the local government and approved by a majority of the voters.

NOTE: The City of Atlanta is not included in any referendum called by Fulton or DeKalb County and any referendum called by the City of Atlanta will be funded by the City. 

The bill also provides a means by which the City of Atlanta and the remainder of Fulton County can have different tax rates for TSPLOST and MARTA.  These differing rates still are subject to the 1% cap when combined together.

If a referendum fails in the November 2016 general election, a local government can resubmit for a new referendum to be held in the November 2017 municipal general election, with the adoption of a resolution or ordinance by the local governing body before June 30, 2017.

NOTE: This additional tax will not count against any local sales tax cap implemented by Georgia law.

The monies collected from the additional tax will first go to the cost of the rapid transit projects in the contract until their completion, including any escrow requirements that apply to Clayton County.  The amount collected that is greater than the projects cost must be used only within and for the benefit of the approving local government, unless the half-penny was approved by all eligible local governments, which would then allow the extra money collected to be used on rapid transit projects for all local governments.

MARTA is required to maintain a record of the incurred and projected cost of each rapid transit project funded by the tax and must annually provide a record to each local government.  Each local government will be notified by MARTA when a project is completed, including costs and once all projects are completed and paid off, the local government can pass an ordinance or resolution to abolish the half-penny or decrease it in increments of 1/10th percent, in order to pay for the operation and maintenance of the projects.
 
Any MARTA property that is not a part of the transportation system, including transit oriented development, rapid transit system or transportation projects, is subject to the local governments planning and zoning laws where the property is located. 

The Council fully supports this legislation as we believe Fulton and DeKalb voters deserve to decide whether to expand transit within their counties.

The Council recently published a White Paper on Transit and its Impact on Property Values and Economic Development.



Click HERE to Read the White Paper

The Council asks everyone in the Metro Atlanta Region who support Senate Bill 330  to sign this petition, provided by AdvanceAtlanta HERE.  In signing this petition, you are urging the members of the Georgia General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 330 in the 2016 General Assembly and ask that Governor Deal sign the bill into law.
 
The Coalition to Advance Atlanta is a citizen-driven grassroots coalition dedicated to building support for expanded regional transit and championing existing transit resources. Advance Atlanta brings together businesses, residents and other community partners to advocate for transit solutions that will improve Atlanta's ability to remain economically competitive. Learn more at AdvanceAtlanta.com 

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Selected Legislation for Council Members to Watch: 

All  Legislation and Bill Summaries Listed at the Bottom of the Email



TOWNSHIPS
Senate Bill 272, introduced by Senator William Ligon (R) and House Bill 785,  introduced by Representative Mike Dudgeon, call for the statewide referendum to amend the constitution allowing townships to have zoning powers. Townships could levy up to a .5 mill property tax, annex and transition to cityhood. Counties would have no say in the above decisions and counties must continue to provide all services and infrastructure to the area as they would any unincorporated area. Counties would have an opportunity to comment on township decisions, but there is nothing in law required that would give their comments the force of law.  

The Council has concerns about both pieces of legislation as a direct  attempt to prevent development and keep Georgia from moving forward. 

PROFESSIONAL LICENSES
House Bill 592, introduced by Represenative Brett Harrell,  allows for a professional license for structural engineers.  The Council supports this legislation.


TRANSIT CID'S
House Resolution 830, introduced by Representative Buzz Brockway, provides for an amendment to the State Constitution that would allow for the creation of Transit Community Improvement Districts. 

A constitutional amendment was proposed by State Representative Buzz Brockway providing for the creation of Transit Community Improvement Districts (TCID). The proposal states that TCIDs would be administered by the Georgia Regional Transit Authority (GRTA) for the purpose of funding the extension of existing rail infrastructure, including rail lines, stations or terminals, cars and other associated capital expenditures. In order to create a TCID, the governing authority of the City or County or existing Community Improvement District in which the district is located must adopt a consenting resolution. 

The TCID would be able to levy taxes, fees and assessments on nonresidential property, with the consent of the property owner, within the district to fund transit expansion and improvements through a cooperation agreement jointly executed by the TCID governing Board and the MARTA Board of Directors.

The Council will evaluate this legislation with our Government Affairs Task Force and will form a position once this bill has been fully vetted.

REPEAL OF HOTEL/MOTEL TAX
Senate Bill 252, introduced by Senator Josh McKoon (R), would repeal the $5 hotel/motel tax that was levied in 2015 with the passing of HB170.  The Council opposes this legislation.

EDUCATION IMPACT FEES
Senate Resolution 624, by Senator Michael Williams (R) from Forsyth County, currently in the Senate Education and Youth Committee, proposes a Constitutional Amendment  to allow for the collection of impact fees by a local school board. The fees could be imposed if the local jurisdiction has seen a 15% enrollment growth in its school system in the preceding 5 years. We have been tols that a hearing is scheduled for Monday, February 22nd, in the Senate Finance Committee.

Legislation was dropped by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R), who also represents Forsyth County, House Resolution 1017 and House Resolution 864 from Forsyth on Thursday that would allow for the same.

HB894, also sponsored by Rep. Mike Dudgeon,  is the enabling legislation for HR864, the Constitutional Amendment to allow for education impact fees.  The legislation allows school boards to impose impact fees if there has been enrollment growth by at least 15% over the preceeding five-year persion by adoption of a resolution and creation of an impact fee advisory committee, comments from local governments and adoption of an impact fee schedule. The fee shal be valid for three years and can be extended for additional three year periods as long as the system meets the conditions to levy.

The Council understands that impact fees are a viable and effective way for local governments to fund the expansion of government services needed as a community grows. However the Council has concerns with the proposed legislation and the unintended consequences that it would have on the development community.  

Cherokee, Fulton and Forsyth, if the legislation were to pass the General Assembly as a constitutional amendment in November would be eligible to impart education impact fees. The Council will work with members of the General Assembly as this legislation works it way through the Session.

To learn more about Impact Fees in Georgia, Click HERE
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The Council sends to its members "Under the Gold Dome" weekly on Friday during the Georgia General Assembly Session and Council Members are encouraged to contact James Touchton, Director of Policy & Government Affairs with any questions.
 
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James Touchton
Director, Government Affairs & Policy
JT@CouncilforQualityGrowth.org
770-823-0781 (Cell)
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Council for Quality Growth's 2016 Legislative Priorities


To View a PDF of the Council's Legislative Priorities 


Georgia Senate Press Office: Senate in a Minute

During Session, the Georgia Senate Press Office films a daily recap of the Georgia Senate's actions.  


 

CLICK HERE to view the daily recaps for the 2016 Session.

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House of Representatives Floor Notes


 

Each Session day the Georgia House publishes a recap of the legislative day that occurred in the House.  

 

CLICK HERE to view the daily recaps for the 2016 Session.

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Council's Legislative Bill Tracking
Below is a listing of filed bills, including their sponsor, location, and bill analysis.  This represents legislation the Council is actively involved with or that remains of interest to Council Members.  

If you have a specific question about a piece of legislation, email  Director of Government Affairs and Policy at JT@CouncilforQualityGrowth.org

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House Bills
 
House Bill 4: Inter-basin Transfers
Sponsor: Rep. Harry Geisinger (R) 
House Committee: Natural Resources and Environment
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill removes the restriction in Georgia law for inter-basin water transfers from all rivers with an annual average flow of 15 billion gallons of water a day,  if the county where the river flows agrees to the water withdrawal.
Council Position: Support
 
House Bill 14: Acceptance of Federal Funds with General Assembly Approval
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Turner (R)
House Committee: Appropriations
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would prohibit any local government or agency or state agency, bureau, board or commission, public entity, department or office from accepting federal funds without the expressed approval of the General Assembly.  This could be interpreted to include Community Improvement Districts.
Council Position: Oppose
 
House Bill 21: Transit Authority
Sponsor: Rep. John Carson (R)
House Committee: Transportation
Senate Committee: Transportation
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill removes the population threshold for a local government to form a transit authority, changes the definition of "metropolitan area" to include an unincorporated city and the area "suburban to such city," and requires a new transit authority in a municipality to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with an existing transit authority before its formation.
Council Position: Support
 
House Bill 27: Creation of City of South Fulton
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Bruce (D)
House Committee: No Committee Assignment
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill creates a charter for the proposed City of South Fulton, which would be subject to voter approval in a local election.
Council Position: Neutral
 
House Bill 33: Code Enforcement Officers
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Taylor (R)
House Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill makes it a misdemeanor to hinder or obstruct a code enforcement officer in the discharge of their duties.
Council Position: Oppose
 
House Bill 60: Motor Fuel Tax and State Income Tax
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Setzler (R)
House Committee: Transportation
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would eliminate the "4th" penny on gas and shift it to the motor fuel tax, currently at 3%, while gradually raising the fuel excise tax from 7.5 cents to 22.5 cents by 2022 and a gradual decrease of the state's income tax rate to a flat 5.5% by 2022, down from the current rate of  6%.
Council Position: Support
 
House Bill 97: Prohibits Non-Disclosure for Local Agencies
Sponsor: Rep. Scot Turner (R)
House Committee: Governmental Affairs
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill prohibits local agencies from entering into non-disclosure agreements. According to the bill, all agencies shall fully disclose without delay, any communications regarding any terms and conditions of any agreement, incentive or offer made or entered into by the agency, directing the Attorney General to sanction any individual, on behalf of an agency, who enters into a non-disclosure agreement in violation of this proposed law. Furthermore, it allows any citizen, in addition to the Attorney General, to initiate civil action to compel the disclosure of any matters covered in a non-disclosure. 
Council Position: Oppose
 
 
House Bill 116: Underground Water Supply Protection Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Alex Atwood (R)
House Committee: Natural Resources
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would prohibit the use of water aquifers in 11 coastal counties. While this has a local impact as of now, the Council has concerns this could have state-wide implications.
Council Position: Oppose
 
 
House Bill 214: MARTA/GDOT Commissioner
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Jacobs (R)
House Committee: Transportation
Senate Committee: Transportation
Status: Combined with House Bill 213
This legislation restores voting privileges on the MARTA Board to the GDOT Commissioner until at least 2017.  Further, the latest version of the bill caps fines at $300 for violations of MARTA's Code of Conduct.
Council Position: Support
 
 
House Bill 369: Distribution of Sales and Use Tax
Sponsor: Rep. Randy Nix (R)
House Committee: Ways & Means
Senate Committee: Finance
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session

This legislation concerns conflicts that may emerge between cities and counties that do not reach an agreement on ESPLOST funding.  Currently, a city may refuse to reach an agreement with a county.  If this happens, the city can petition the county from getting its ESPLOST dollars.  In this bill, unless there is an agreement between the county and city, money may be disbursed based on the FTE formula.  This bill is still being worked on, and Rep. Nix is working with the Department of Revenue to work out some of the details.
Council Position: Neutral

 
House Bill 445: More Take Home Pay Act
Sponsor: Rep. John Carson (R)
House Committee: Ways & Means
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
 
Currently the bill:
*    Cuts the income tax burden on Georgia families by over $2.5 billion
*    Households making $29,500 or more will see an increase in take home pay
*    Households bringing in $48,000 (the median Georgia household income) will keep $400 extra annually
*    Reduces income tax rate to 4% over a period of three years (2016: 4.5%, 2017: 4.25%, 2018: 4.0%)
*    Keeps itemized deductions and personal tax exemptions
*    Raises general state sales tax by 1% on January 1, 2017, which will raise the current tax of 4% to 5%
*    Phases in a grocery state sales tax over a four year period (2016: 0%, 2017: 3%, 2018: 4%, 2019: 5%) with each 1% contributing $130 million to the state budget.  Food stamp purchases will be exempt from the grocery tax.
*    Implements a flat communications service tax beginning on January 1, 2016: state telecom: 5%, state cable: 5%, state direct broadcast satellite (DBS): 7%, local telecom: 1.25%, school telecom: 0.75%, local cable: 2%
*    Increase the current cigarette excise tax over three years (2017: $0.45, 2018: $0.55, 2019: $0.65)
Council Position: Support
 
 
House Bill 514: Creation of City of South Fulton
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Bruce (D)
House Committee: Governmental Affairs
Senate Committee: State and Local Governmental Operations
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill creates a charter for the proposed City of South Fulton, which would be subject to voter approval in a local election.
Council Position: Neutral 
 
 
House Bill 521: Fulton County Homestead Exemption
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R)
House Committee: Intragovernmental Coordination
Senate Committee: State and Local Governmental Operations
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would allow voters to double Fulton County's basic property tax homestead exemption to $60,000.  Aimed at putting money back in homeowners' pockets, this bill would a $353 property tax break for the owner of a $275,000 house, whereas the owner of a $150,000 house would pay no county general fund property taxes.  If passed, residents would vote on the measure during the 2016 presidential primary.

Council Position: Evaluating
 
House Bill 522: Fulton County Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R)
House Committee: Intragovernmental Coordination
Senate Committee: State and Local Governmental Operations
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would provide an additional $30,000 homestead exemption for senior citizens age 70 or older who have lived in their homes for more than 10 years.  If passed, residents would vote on the measure during the 2016 presidential primary.
Council Position: Neutral

House Bill 785: Creation of Townships
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R)
House Committee: Government Affairs
Status: In Committee
This bill calls for the statewide referendum to amend the constitution allowing townships to have zoning powers. Townships could levy up to a .5 mill property tax, annex and transition to cityhood. Counties would have no say in the above decisions and counties must continue to provide all services and infrastructure to the area as they would any unincorporated area. Counties would have an opportunity to comment on township decisions, but there is nothing in law required that would give their comments the force of law.  
 
House Bill 894: Education Impact Fees
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R)
House Committee: Ways & Means
Status: In Committee
This is enabling legislation for HR864, the Constitutional Amendment to allow for education impact fees.  The legislation allows school boards to impose impact fees if there has been enrollment growth by at least 15% over the preceding five-year period by adoption of a resolution and creation of an impact fee advisory committee, comments from local governments and adoption of an impact fee schedule. The fee shall be valid for three years and can be extended for additional three year periods as long as the system meets the conditions to levy.
Council Position: Oppose

 
 
 
Senate Bills
 

Senate Bill 36: Prohibits Aquifers in Certain Coastal Counties
Sponsor: Senator William Ligon (R)
Senate Committee: Natural Resources and the Environment
House Committee: Natural Resources & Environment
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill would prohibit the use of water aquifers in 11 coastal counties. While this has a local impact as of now, the Council has concerns this could have state-wide implications.  Further, the latest version of the bill requires that the Board of Natural Resources adopt regulations that provide for the protection and preservation of only the Floridan aquifer, no longer including any aquifer that provides high-quality drinking water. 
Council Position: Neutral
 
 
Senate Bill 85: Development Authorities
Sponsor: Senator Brandon Beach (R)
Senate Committee: Economic Development & Tourism
House Committee: Governmental Affairs
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill is intended to rectify an internal inconsistency within the definition of "Project" in the Development Authorities Law (the "Law").  This definition in the current version of the Law contains both a lengthy listing of categories of allowable projects, as well as a broad discretionary provision, which was included as a subsequent addition to the law in order for this definition to mirror the comparable provision in the Downtown Development Authorities Law.  
 
By deleting the older, specific, definitional provisions, while retaining the general discretionary provision already in the law, this bill would eliminate unnecessary confusion and debate, without seeking to change past practices or expand or reduce any development authority powers.  
Council Position: Support
 
 
Senate Bill 140:  City of South Fulton
Sponsor: Senator Donzella James (D)
Senate Committee: State and Local Governmental Operations
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill creates a charter for the proposed City of South Fulton, which would be subject to voter approval in a local election.
Council Position: Neutral
 
Senate Bill 142: Permits for Infrastructure
Sponsor: Senator Brandon Beach (R)
Senate Committee: Regulated Industries and Utilities
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill regulates procedures governing applications for zoning and permits for critical infrastructure projects. This addresses local governments and specifically states that "no local government shall provide for a moratorium with respect to any critical infrastructure projects."  The latest version of the bill defines "critical infrastructure projects" as:
 
(A) Electrical power transmission lines;
(B) Electrical power substations;
(C) Water and sewage treatment facilities;
(D) Water reservoirs, water storage facilities, and sewer lines;
(E) Cellular telephone towers and emergency 9-1-1 system facilities; 
(F) Natural gas transmission pipelines and power stations; or
(G) In-ground fiber optics systems.
 
Further, the latest version of the bill made some concessions, now allowing for moratoria of 90 days or less for items (C), (D), and (G) in the event a court or other applicable law declares such a moratoria invalid.
Council Position: Support
 
Senate Bill 170: Procedures for Disposition of Property
Sponsor: Senator Brandon Beach (R)
Senate Committee: Transportation
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
When property is acquired for public road purposes but later abandoned, the current law requires that private property owners sharing a common boundary must be notified.  Under the proposed bill, however, if the acquired property is located within a subdivision with a duly formed property owner's association, notice of abandonment of the property may be provided to the property owner's association in lieu of notice to the individual owner.
Council Position: Support
 
Senate Bill 191: Prohibiting Local Governing Authorities from Adopting Ordinances
Sponsor: Senator Lindsey Tippins (R)
Senate Committee: Transportation
House Committee: Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill prohibits local government authorities from adopting or enforcing ordinances which mandate marking requirements or standards which are different from those contained in state law or the rules and regulations of certain departments of this state.  Instead of passing state marking requirements or standards for how to illustrate the presence of underground utility lines and allowing local governments to use the state standards or come up with their own, this bill requires local governments to comply with state standards.
 
The bill would amend Chapter 9 of Title 25 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the same Code Section amended in last year's "Call Before You Dig" bill relating to blasting or excavating near utility facilities.
 
To view a summary of the legislation by the Senate Research Office, Click HERE.
Council Position: Support

Senate Bill 272: Creation of Townships
Sponsor: Senator William Ligon (R)
Senate Committee: SLGO
Status: In Committee 
This bill calls for the statewide referendum to amend the constitution allowing townships to have zoning powers. Townships could levy up to a .5 mill property tax, annex and transition to cityhood. Counties would have no say in the above decisions and counties must continue to provide all services and infrastructure to the area as they would any unincorporated area. Counties would have an opportunity to comment on township decisions, but there is nothing in law required that would give their comments the force of law.  
Council Position: Oppose
 
Senate Resolution 43: Senate Special Tax Exemption Study Committee
Sponsor:  Senator John Albers (R)
Senate Committee: Finance
Status: Did not pass 2015; eligible for 2016 session
This bill creates a Study Committee to examine the current state tax exemptions and the impact on the Georgia economy, in order to understand the value and assess which exemptions help stimulate the state's economy and benefit all Georgians through job creation.
Council Position: Support
February 19, 2016

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