The 2018 General Assembly Session for the state of Georgia opened on January 8th.
We will be adding more information on the bills below in the coming weeks, and of course adding more bills as legislators introduce them.
Senate Bill 2: Streamlining Municipal Permitting and Licensing Procedures
This bill has been identified by the Republican leadership as a priority for the 2017 Session. Mostly it will address delays and long waiting periods that many businesses encounter in Georgia when pursuing a building or construction permit, or of a professional license.
The authors of the bill solicited feedback from AIA – how to make it better and eliminate unintended consequences. After receiving comments and feedback from a lot of our members, we focused on three things: 1) we ensured that the agencies would be able to create a diverse schedule of fees and schedules, to account for highly complex projects (like hospitals), 2) we were not comfortable with an expedited review process that allowed rich projects to buy their way to the front of the line at the expense of other projects that could not do so, and 3) we recommended that each agency be required to create a master list of required elements for a permit review on the front end of the application.
All three of these recommendations have been accepted/addressed by the authors and integrated into the current iteration of the bill.
Senator Gooch, and others.
House Bill 653: Professional Licensing Suspension
This bill is by Representative Jason Spencer. The bill makes it so that professional licensing boards are authorized but not required to suspend the license of a person upon the default of a federal education loan. This bill is in the Regulated Industries Committee.
We will keep you updated as legislation is dropped or moved that will affect AIA.
Rep. Jason Spencer (R – Woodbine, District 180)
The 2018 General Assembly Legislative Session wrapped up with a few important accomplishments, but overall it was a quiet season for the architecture profession. In Georgia our Sessions are two-year cycles, and 2018 was the 2nd year of that cycle – so any legislation that failed this year will have to start over again in 2019.
2018 will also be the year for many elections, including Governor, Secretary of State, and many seats in the House and Senate. The candidates for those seats were not looking to have a contentious Session, but to get on with the business of getting elected (or reelected).
Here are the highlights of the 2018 Session.
The legislature passed a large fiscal year budget that included $167 million for the Quality Basic Education Program, $100 million in bonding for transit, and an increase of $31 million in motor fuel funds towards other transportation infrastructure projects and improvements. Additionally, $250 million of the bond package for the state is dedicated to transportation and infrastructure funding, including the replacement and repair of bridges and the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. Please see the final advocacy report from our lobbying team at Peachtree Government Relations to see more detail on the budget.
Key General Issues
Here are some of the important issues that passed this year, and are not awaiting action in the Governor’s office.
The legislature took a hard look at the inequities of Internet connectivity between cities and rural Georgia, and passed SB 402 (Gooch and Powell), that will authorize the Georgia DOT to use or lease their right of way for broadband deployment, and streamlined their permitting process for such use.
HB 673 addresses the growing problem of distracted driving in Georgia, and will make it illegal to use a cell phone for any purpose while driving, unless its is “hands free.” The final version greatly reduced the penalties for violations, but leaves the spirit of the bill intact.
Transit saw an immense amount of attention in this Session, with bills in both the Senate and House vying for attention. The House version ultimately passed, and will establish The ATL Regional Transit Commission across the 13 county metro Atlanta area. Counties not in the original MARTA plan will must choose to put a referendum forth for additional sales tax that will go towards The ATL for funding transit. Cobb County was left out of the final bill. See the final advocacy report for more information.
HB 787 increased the amount o funding that charter schools can receive per student, at an extra cost of $10 million. This may prove to be important to AIA and the profession as Tariq Abdullah, AIA, continues his journey to provide a K-8 architecture and engineering themed charter school: The Community Academy for Architecture and Design.
Architecture Significant Legislation
Professional Licensing – Rep. Brett Harrell pushed through House Resolution 1374, which will create a Study Committee to look at professional licensing boards and funding in Georgia. Rep. Harrell has previously expressed concern that there are too many professions licensed in the state, and that some may not serve a public interest. This resolution is now moving on to the Governor’s desk. AIA supported this resolution and expects to be very involved in this study committee over the summer.
Project Bid Advertising – HB 489 is a good, common sense bill that requires local governments to advertise local design and construction opportunities with the Georgia Procurement Registry. This means that firms won’t have to visit dozens of sites to find out where business opportunities in the public sector are, but just go to one central site. This bill emerged from the CM At-Risk Study Committee that AIA was involved with in the summer of 2017. AIA strongly supported this bill, which is now on the Governor’s desk.
Historic Building Tax Credits – Rep. Ron Stephens once again came close to passing a more robust of Georgia’s already substantial historic building tax credit. This bill would have increased annual aggregate caps, as well per project limits. It did not address AIA’s concerns about allowing credits to transfer with a sale of the project, or to allow projects to stretch over multiple years. The bill looked to be successful until a late amendment was tacked on that reinstated a 2016 tax credit for electric vehicles. The bill failed in a floor vote in the House and now needs to start over again in 2019.
Permitting Streamlining – Senate Bill 2, which would penalize cities and counties that are unable to meet timelines for reviewing permit applications, failed to pass in the second year of its bumpy journey (and is now dead). AIA was very involved in this bill last year, but after resolving some concerns for the profession, chose to stay out of the fight this year.
Department of Fire Safety – SB 319 would have moved State Fire Marshall’s Office out of Department of Insurance and created its own department. Although not clear exactly how, this change of administrative organization could have impacted architects. The bill could not reach agreement between the two houses and is now dead.
Design Elements – SB 469 alarmed many AIA members when it was introduced, as it would have prohibited local governments from enacting design standards for neighborhoods or communities that differed from the state building code. Exceptions were made for historic buildings and neighborhoods, but otherwise would have kept communities from having input into their own built environment. It received a cold reception in its committee and is now dead.
Wood Construction – HB 876 prohibits local governments from banning the use of wood as a construction material as long as it conforms to all state building and fire codes. This is a national trend that AIA in Washington has been involved with, and doing research on safety concerns. Our experts in DC do not feel that there is enough evidence on either side of this issue for it to take a position yet. The bill passed and is on the way to the Governor.
CM At-Risk Delivery Methods – HB 899 amends public works bidding laws and mandates that no bidder can be disqualified from a contract because they lack previous experience with the construction delivery method being used. Currently local governments can automatically reject such bids. This bill passed and is on the Governor’s desk.