Government Affairs
2016 HBAG Legislative Review
by Austin Hackney,
Government Affairs Director

The 2016 Legislative Session adjourned “sine die” late in the night on March 24, ending the two-year legislative biennium and kicking off the 2016 election season. The Georgia General Assembly met for 40 days and approved a comprehensive budget for the state –the only actions they’re constitutionally required to take. The Office of Legislative Counsel says over 11,000 bills and resolutions were prepared by their office for consideration.

Some of the biggest issues to come up were “religious liberty” and “campus carry”. The religious liberty bills changed as they passed from one chamber to another and were debated and amended in each. According to supporters of the legislation –the goal was to protect the “religious liberty” of Georgia citizens from government intervention. Opponents claimed a consequence of the bill –unintended or not –would be legalized discrimination. Big business weighed in from all across the country threatening an economic boycott of the state unless Governor Deal vetoed the bill –HB 757 –which he did on Monday March 28. The other big issue still to be addressed by Governor Deal is HB 859 –which would allow anyone age 21 and up with a concealed carry permit to legally carry a gun on all of Georgia’s public college campuses. The governor has already expressed a concern with this bill, as has every president of public colleges in Georgia. Governor Deal has until May 3 to veto any bill that passed the legislature this year, or the bill becomes a law without his signature. Any bill he signs (or chooses not to) becomes effective on the date of his signature or on July 1, 2016.

GAC took an official position on 65 bills and resolutions this year. These bills were added to our Tracking Sheet and actively worked on by the Government Affairs Director and the rest of the lobbying team. These bills were determined to have an effect –positive or negative –on the residential construction industry and covered issues ranging from property taxes to professional licensing and from workers comp insurance to new uses for development impact fees.

The following legislation was entered but ultimately DID NOT PASS. These specific bills are not eligible to become

law this year, but the issue may be revisited in future legislative sessions. • HB 471: Ron Stephens (R–Savannah) –

OPPOSE –This bill would have allowed construction equipment rental companies to add a new line item charge on invoices for a “property tax recovery fee” of 1.5% to cover the cost of the property tax on their inventory.

• HB 785/HR 1051: Mike Dudgeon

(R–Johns Creek) and SB 272/SR 724: William Ligon Jr. (R–Brunswick) –OPPOSE

–These bills and their accompanying constitutional amendment resolutions would have created a new way for local governments to incorporate: townships. These townships would not provide any municipal services, but would give local citizens the ability to enact zoning and land use regulations without input from the county. GAC viewed this as an attempt to add another layer of government bureaucracy which would stifle development.

• HB 894/HR 1017: Mike Dudgeon

(R–Johns Creek) and SB 344/SR 624: Michael Williams (R–Cumming) –OPPOSE

–These bills and their accompanying constitutional amendment resolutions would have created a new use for development impact fees and a new structure for their calculation. Supporters of the legislation pointed to a need for new school buildings in high growth schools systems to be built and paid for by the new residents who caused the need. GAC’s opposition to these new regulatory costs to housing became a marquee issue for the Home Builders under the Gold Dome this

year. The bills as written would have created a blank check for local school boards to tax developers and home builders. They would have also created a new structure for calculating these impact fees without representation from the development community. HBAG members who participated in the February 16 Legislative Rally were able to describe to their elected officials how this legislation would have negatively impacted their small business and the bills were ultimately held in committee and did not receive a vote.

• HB 921: Penny Houston (R–Nashville) –

SUPPORT –This bill would have created state tax credit incentives to promote the revitalization of vacant rural Georgia downtowns by encouraging investment, job creation, and economic growth in long-established business districts.

• HB 966: Johnnie Caldwell Jr. (R–Thomaston)

–OPPOSE –This bill would have changed the state law dictating the measuring point used to determine the 25 foot stream buffer on state waters. HBAG joined voices from the agriculture and forestry industries to oppose this bill. GAC has created an internal study committee, chaired by Tim Thornton of the Middle Georgia HBA, to look at developing a simple and effective definition for stream buffers to be offered in next year’s legislative session.

• HB 996: Dominic LaRiccia (R–Douglas)

–OPPOSE –This bill would have allowed secondary metals recyclers to make cash payments of up to $20 per transaction to individuals bringing in metal to sell. The legislation reverses