GMA Legislative Alert

Important information pulled from the Georgia Municipal Association website at

Builders: Local Governments Hindrance to Housing Recovery
It’s only the first week of the Legislative Session and local government rules and regulations are already being targeted. Speaking before a meeting of the Joint Economic Development Committee, Georgia’s homebuilders expressed concern that burdensome local government rules and regulations are holding back the housing recovery in Georgia. They advocated for a housing “stimulus” package that would take action on the following:

  • Impact fees. They say impact fees are too high, unfair and should be project specific and limited in distance.
  • Building and constructions codes. They feel these requirements are too burdensome and with hundreds of different versions in place, difficult to follow.
  • Building moratoria. They would like to eliminate the ability for local governments to impose building moratoriums.
  • Building inspections. They would like to be able to use private building inspectors if the local government cannot do an inspection within a specific time frame. They would also like local fees returned in those instances.
  • Open Meetings Act updates. They would like state law to require that local governments post their local ordinances and other decisions on the Internet.
  • Tree ordinances. They articulated a desire for “relief” from the burdens placed on them from local tree ordinances.
  • Stream buffer and solid erosion requirements. They believe these ordinances are inconsistent across the state.

Georgia’s homebuilders are using the tough economic climate as cover for their long-term agenda to reduce local government regulation and oversight.  While no legislation has yet to be introduced on these issues, their frustration with your rights to create the type of communities you want is clearly evident.

Transportation Funding
The House Transportation Committee met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to pay for the state’s transportation needs. Chairman Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) presented an outline of a funding concept which he hopes to introduce soon. His concept is focused on a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would create a one-cent statewide sales tax for transportation. It would sunset after 10 years.

Enabling legislation would:

  1. outline various transportation projects around the state to be funded
  2. direct funding to certain cities and counties for transportation needs, and
  3. list other transportation modes like aviation and transit which could be funded from tax revenues.

The governance issue for how the funds will be spent remains undecided. Also, sustainable funding for transit, which, according to transit advocates, requires a minimum 20 year guaranteed funding match in order to secure federal “new-starts” funds, is also a discussion point in Rep. Smith’s concept.

On the Senate side of the debate, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) plans to introduce “place-holder” legislation which would do three things:

  1. allow for a one-cent sales tax to be levied in a defined metro-Atlanta region,
  2. allow for self-selected regions of counties and cities to form outside metro-Atlanta, and
  3. allow for an additional one-cent “T-SPLOST” within the boundaries of a single county.

GMA will keep you up-to-date as the debate continues on this issue.

Property Tax Assessment Cap

House Resolution 1, Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta)

GMA Position: Oppose

Contact: Gwin Hall, or (678) 686-6212

Status: Pending in the House Ways & Means Committee. GMA expects the committee to begin work on this bill the week of January 26.

HR 1 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would cap annual assessment increases on residential and non-residential property at 3 percent or the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less, beginning in 2011.

  • Improvements to the property would be assessed at fair market value and added to the capped value.
  • In the event that the property was sold or transferred, the property would be assessed for tax purposes at no more than the fair market value, which is defined as no more than the sales price of the property in an arm’s length transaction.

If passed by the General Assembly, HR 1 would be on the ballot in November 2010.

MOST for Water & Sewer

House Bill 66, Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose)

GMA Position: Support

Contact: Gwin Hall, or (678) 686-6212

Status: Pending in the House Ways & Means Committee

HB 66 would authorize cities to impose a 1 percent sales tax, subject to a local referendum, for water and sewer purposes. If general obligation (GO) debt is issued in conjunction with the sales tax, the tax would expire with the repayment of the bonds. If no GO debt is issued, the tax can levied for a maximum of five years. The tax may be re-imposed if approved by the voters.

GMA asks that you contact your House member and ask them to sign-on to or otherwise support this legislation.

Sales Tax to Reduce Property Tax

Senate Resolution 2, Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg)

GMA Position: Support

Contact: Gwin Hall, or (678) 686-6212

Status: Pending in the Senate Finance Committee

SR 2 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would authorize cities, counties and schools to levy a sales tax for property tax reduction purposes. The sales tax would be subject to voter referendum.

  • Any city, county or school district levying this sales tax would be required to establish a maximum net millage rate for the duration of the sales tax.
  • A city could levy this sales tax at the rate of 0.5%, but if a city and county jointly levied the sales tax, they could levy it at a rate of 1%.

Franchise Fees: Convert to Tax

House Bill 48, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs)

GMA Position: Oppose

Contact: Gwin Hall, or (678) 686-6212

Status: Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

HB 48 would convert the municipal franchise fee into a tax, thereby invalidating all municipal franchise agreements in the state. It would also prohibit the charging of a franchise tax onto manufacturing businesses, thereby impacting the amount of revenue generated.

HB 48 would also prohibit this new tax from being included in a utility’s base rate, thereby exempting unincorporated residents from being charged for the utility’s use of the municipal rights-of-way. The bill does not include similar protections for city residents who would still be required to pay for the following items that would still be in the utility’s base rate:

  • the acquisition of property by utilities in the unincorporated area to serve customers there,
  • county property taxes to counties in which electric generating facilities are located, and
  • the cost to provide electricity to more rural areas of the state.

Red Light Cameras: Repeal

House Bill 31, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville)

GMA Position: Oppose

Contact: Ted Baggett, or (678) 686-6210

Status: Pending committee assignment

HB 31 would repeal the highly successfully red light camera program that has demonstrably improved safety at numerous intersections in various cities throughout Georgia.