Legislative Update - Week 3

Posted By: Stephen Davis Past Legislative Updates,

Committees Begin Moving Legislation

The pace of session hit its stride this week.  Committees – where the bulk of substantive legislative work happens – have been active this week, adopting internal rules, organizing into subcommittees, and acting on legislation. 
Standing committees have the option to report legislation back to the full House favorably, with or without amendments; report it back unfavorably; or hold it.  Most measures do not receive a hearing and instead languish in committee until the session expires.
The General Assembly will return to Atlanta on Monday.

Landlord-Tenant Legislation

Lease Termination for Stalking Victims (SB 75)         
Sen. Jackson, D-Stone Mtn
Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-3
SB 75 provides for lease termination for victims of stalking.  Members of the Association met with the sponsor to discuss her initiative on February 4. 
“Family Violence” Expansion (HB 231)                              
Rep. Gaines, R-Athens
Assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Cmte on Feb-2
HB 231 expands the applicability of protective orders involving victims of stalking to include certain acts between persons who have or are dating or conceived a child.  This would impact the circumstances under which a tenant can terminate their lease were SB 75 to pass.
Eviction Notices to Tenants (HB 301)                         
Rep. Park, D-Lawrenceville
Prefiled in the House on Feb-5
HB 301 adds additional notice requirements for the termination of tenancies.  



Other Property Management Legislation

COVID Liability Extension (HB 112)                             
Rep. Kelley, R-Cedartown
Favorably reported from the Civil Justice Cmte on Feb-3
HB 112 extends last year's legislation to provide certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 by one year, until July 14, 2022.
Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 138)                
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta
Scheduled for a Judiciary Subcmte Hearing on Feb-9
HB 138 requires landlords to obtain and provide notice to existing and prospective tenants regarding crimes occurring on the premises.  

Hairstyle Discrimination (SB 61)                                   
Sen. Anderson, D-Lithonia
Assigned to the Senate Insurance & Labor Cmte on Feb-2
Similar to legislation pursued last year, SB 61 prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race, color, or national origin.  This would extend to housing discrimination.
Credit Reporting Moratorium (HR 72)                           
Rep. Schofield, D-Atlanta
Assigned to the House Banks & Banking Cmte on Feb-1
HR 72 urges the US Congress to enact legislation placing a moratorium on negative credit reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Military Fair Housing Act (HB 299)                                              
Rep. Scott, D-Rex
Prefiled in the House on Feb-5
HB 299 enacts the "Military Fair Housing Act" to prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income,  disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information.
Description of Rental Property (HB 184)                              
Rep. Lim, D-Norcross
Pending in the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Cmte
HB 184 prohibits the false representation of a residential rental dwelling as having certain characteristics, meeting certain standards, or being in a certain state of repair or condition.  Misrepresentation constitutes an unfair trade practice, OCGA 10-1-393.
Local Government Funding Database (HB 180)                  
Rep. Lim, D-Norcross
Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Cmte
HB 180 requires state and local governments to maintain databases of sources of funding available to members of the public and prescribes minimum requirements for the updating and publication of the databases.  While the Association is still reviewing the specifics of the legislation, it may encompass rental assistance and other housing-related programs.
Childhood Lead Exposure Study Committee (HR 52)    
Rep. Dempsey, R-Rome
Pending in the House Health & Human Services Cmte
HR 52 creates the Joint Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure, noting that a leading source of exposure is older residences.



Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Continuing Ed for Board of Equalization (HB 292)      
Rep. Williams, R-Cordele
Prefiled in the House on Feb-5
HB 292 removes continuing education requirements for members of county boards of equalization following their initial training for their first term.
Excise Tax on AirBNB (HB 317)                                   
Rep. Stephens, R-Savannah
Prefiled in the House on Feb-5
HB 317 expands the state levy of a nightly $5 excise tax to all rooms, lodgings, and accommodations, including those furnished by "marketplace facilitators" like AirBNB.

Taxation of Condemned Property (HB 137)                     
Rep. Scoggins, R-Rydal
Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HB 137 clarifies that otherwise taxable income resulting from compensation to a taxpayer for the governmental condemnation of the taxpayer's real property is not subject to state income tax.
Terminate Exemption for Public Property (HB 151)               
Rep. Burnough, D-Riverdale
Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HB 151 terminates an exemption from ad valorem taxation for public property owned by a political subdivision outside of its territorial limits that is developed by grading or other improvements to the extent of at least 25 percent of the total land area and has facilities actively used for a public or governmental purpose.



Code Enforcement, Land Use & Development Legislation

Environmental Impact Reports (HB 279)         
Rep. Lewis-Ward, D-McDonough
Assigned to the House Natural Resources & Environment Cmte on Feb-4
HB 279 requires local governments to post contents of environmental effects reports on their official websites.  This would include zoning and development decisions.
Education Members to Planning Commission (HB 221)              
Rep. Benton, R-Jefferson
Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-2
HB 221 allows for local boards of education to appoint members to local planning commissions.
Housing Tax Credits (HB 311)                                              
Rep. Davis, Stone Mtn
Prefiled in the House on Feb-5
HB 311 amends the state’s housing tax credit to no more than 50% of the federal housing tax credit allowed.
Alternative Plan Review (SB 49)                                            
Sen. Dixon, R-Buford
Pending in the Senate State & Local Government Cmte
SB 49 allows for alternative plan review, permitting, and inspection by private professional providers, allowing applicants to elect this option at the onset of the process, rather than waiting 30 days for the local government.  The applicant is still required to pay the local government 50% of their regulatory fee if they opt for a private provider.
Zoning Procedures Clearinghouse (HB 186)                        
Rep. Lim, D-Norcross
Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Cmte
HB 186 requires local governments to compile all notice of hearings on actions resulting in zoning decisions and post them on the local government's website.
Local Ordinances and Codes Clearinghouse (HB 187)       
Rep. Lim, D-Norcross
Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Cmte
HB 187 requires county and municipal governing authorities to provide a compilation of all local ordinances, property maintenance codes, codes of technical regulations, and associated fines and penalties.

Tax Credits and Bonds (HB 66)                                             
Rep. Oliver, D-Atlanta
Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Cmte
HB 66 provides that local school systems, counties, and municipal governing authorities can become parties to bond validation hearings.



General Business Legislation

Tax Credit Return on Investment Act (SB 6)                      
Sen. Albers, R-Roswell
Adopted by the Senate on Feb-1
SB 6 provides for independent economic analyses to be procured by the Office of Planning and Budget for certain tax benefits upon request by the chairpersons of Ways and Means and Finance.
S-Corp Income Tax (HB 149)                                       
Rep. Williamson, R-Monroe
Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HB 149 allows registered S-Corporations to deduct state and local taxes on their federal tax return, as was allowed before recent federal tax reform.
Noticed Required by Employers (HB 181)                           
Rep. Lim, D-Norcross
Pending in the House Industry & Labor Cmte
HB 181 requires employers to provide new employees with personal copies of any notices required to be posted in the workplace.
Cybersecurity Standards (SB 52)                                     
Sen. Thompson, R-White
Pending in the Senate Science & Technology Cmte
SB 52 provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability.



Legislative Index & Additional Information

HB 138: Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants                 
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta
HB 138 requires landlords to provide notice to existing and prospective tenants regarding crimes occurring on the premises being leased.  The landlord or manager of an apartment building or complex with ten or more residential units must obtain from law enforcement a summary or listing of specific crimes “that occurred on or in such property constituting the” apartment complex.  Specific crimes include the commission or attempted commission of murder, assault, battery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, rape, peeping tom, gang-related crimes, burglary, theft, or felony drug crimes.  This applies to instances where these crimes were reported or investigated by law enforcement.
For current residents, the landlord must notify all residents every six months of the summary or listing of crimes of the preceding six-month period.  The landlord is required to maintain records of the notification.  For prospective residents, the landlord must provide a summary or listing of crimes for the preceding year.
Failure to provide notices or maintain records of notification is deemed an unlawful practice in renting dwellings under state fair housing law, OCGA 8-3-4.
HB 301: Additional Eviction Rights for Tenants        
Rep. Park, D-Lawrenceville
This measure adds additional notice requirements for the termination of tenancies. 
Section 1 of the legislation amends state law related to dispossessory proceedings to require a 14 days’ notice by a landlord for a termination due to refusal to pay rent or damage beyond normal wear and tear.  In either case, the tenant has the ability to remedy the deficiency and avoid eviction.  For other defaults in the lease agreement, the landlord is required to provide a 30-day termination notice.  If the tenant commits a violent act, engages in criminal activity, or threatens to be a real and present danger, the landlord need only provide three days’ notice.
Section 2 amends state law relating to the issuance of summons, service, time for answer, and defenses and counterclaims.  It extends the window for the tenant to answer a summons from seven to fourteen days.  Section 3 relates to when tender of payment by tenant serves as complete defense and similarly extends the window for the tenant to be allowed to pay all rents owed from seven to fourteen days.
Section 4 amends state law relating to judgment, writ of possession, landlord’s liability for wrongful conduct, distribution of funds paid into court, and personal property.  It adds the following new language:
(c)(1) Following the entry of a judgment in favor of the landlord and against the tenant for the possession of the premises and forfeiture of the tenancy due to nonpayment of rent, the court, at the time of the show cause hearing or trial or upon subsequent motion of the tenant but before the execution of the writ of possession, may stay the writ of possession upon good cause and on such terms that the court deems fair and just for both parties. In making this decision, the court shall consider evidence of the following factors:
(A) The tenant's willful or intentional default or intentional failure to pay rent;
(B) Whether nonpayment of the rent was caused by exigent circumstances that were beyond the tenant's control and that are not likely to recur;
(C) The tenant's ability to timely pay the judgment;
(D) The tenant's payment history;
(E) Whether the tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the rental agreement;
(F) Hardship on the tenant if evicted; and
(G) Conduct related to other notices served within the last six months.
(2) The burden of proof for such relief under this subsection shall be on the tenant. If the tenant seeks relief pursuant to this subsection at the time of the show cause hearing, the court shall hear the matter at the time of the show cause hearing or as expeditiously as possible so as to avoid unnecessary delay or hardship on the parties
SB 75: Lease Termination for Stalking Victims          
Sen. Jackson, D-Stone Mtn
In 2018, the Association worked with advocates and legislative leaders to enact HB 835, allowing victims of family violence to terminate their lease when a civil or criminal family violence order had been issued protecting the tenant or their minor child.
This year’s SB 75 expands the definition of “criminal family violence family order” to include stalking as defined at OCGA 16-5-90.  In keeping with the 2018 language, the tenant may terminate their residential lease agreement effective 30 days after providing the landlord with a written notice of termination when the tenant is a documented victim of stalking.  The notice to the landlord must be accompanied by a copy of the applicable civil family violence order or criminal family violence order and a copy of the police report if the order was an ex parte temporary protective order.