Georgia Legislation Update

March 1, 2016

Day 30 of the Georgia Legislative Session, Crossover Day, was held on Monday, February 29th. Bills that do not pass through one of the two houses of the legislature by the end of Crossover Day do not move forward in the 2015-2016 legislative session. However, bills may still be amended over the last 10 days of the session, so legislators still have an opportunity to revive stalled initiatives between now and the end of the session.

While there have been few planning-related bills that have had much momentum in this legislative session, several are still under consideration. Below is a summary of bills we are watching related to the environment and zoning as well as a listing of other planning-related bills that did not make it through Day 30. 

Thank you to our partners at the Council for Quality Growth, ARC, ACEC, and other professional organizations who have been active participants in the legislative process and who contributed in part to some of the summary information below.

Active Legislation:

SB 346 – A bill to amend the “Environmental Policy Act,” so as to exempt public road or airport projects under $100 Million that do not utilize federal funds from the GEPA process. The bill passed the Senate on February 29. The legislation now moves to the House. While supporters of the bill seek to reduce the time necessary to complete public roadway and airport projects, there is cause for concern that the environmental process would no longer apply to a significant number of projects, many potentially large in scope.

SB 326 would shorten the time period for erosion and sediment control permits (from 45 to 14 days) and provide qualification standards for erosion and sediment control plan designers and reviewers. The bill passed the Senate on February 23 and is not in the House Intragovernmental Coordination Committee.

HB 734 – A bill that would prohibit local governments from attempting to regulate noise or other nuisances relating to space flight operations. This legislation is designed to facilitate the Camden County Spaceport initiative in southeast Georgia and passed the House on February 29th, moving it to the Senate. 

HB 779 restricts the use of images captured by drones and was passed by the House on February 29th. 

Other legislation of note:

SB 330 would have amended the MARTA Act of 1965 to allow a voter referendum for an additional ½ penny sales tax. The increased sales tax would have provided funding to expand MARTA’s North Line to Alpharetta, extend the East Line to Stonecrest, and provide a Northeast route to Emory and the CDC. The measure passed committee, but did not make it to the Senate floor for a full vote. 

SB 272 would call for a state referendum to amend the Constitution and allow “townships” to have zoning powers and limited taxing authority. The township model would allow an alternative to new municipalities and limit the scope and authority of townships, while counties must continue to provide all services and infrastructure to the area. The bill did not move out of the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.

HB 774 would allow the use of fireworks on January 1, July 3 and 4, and December 31 between certain hours. The bill would refine and reduce the hours that fireworks could be used by the general public after last year’s widening of the code. The bill did not pass through the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. 

HB 966 addresses a 2015 Georgia Supreme Court decision holding that the 25 foot buffer requirement in the Erosion and Sediment Control Act only applies to waters with “wrested vegetation” along their banks. This bill seeks to expand the definition of these buffers to apply the EPD 25-foot buffer to all state waters. The bill did not move out of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.