2022 Legislative Update - Week 4

Posted By: Stephen Davis 2022 Legislative Updates ,

While the House and Senate were only in session three days this week, nearly two hundred bills were introduced and assigned to committee.  Most of these measures are local legislation.
 
Even as the congressional and state redistricting process makes headlines, local commission and school board districts must also be reapportioned following the census.  In post-census sessions, local legislation typically accounts for about 55% of all bills passed.
 
Thankfully, these measures are not debated and voted on individually, but rather grouped and considered each day as part of the local calendar.  “Local courtesy” typically prevails – so long as the legislative delegation from the impacted city or county agrees on the need for the measure, other members will generally defer to them and support passage.
 
The practical implication of the onslaught of local legislation is the monopolization of the lawyers who write bills and resolutions in the Legislative Counsel’s Office.  Measures that are ready to be introduced are stalled in the drafting process.  The logjam will soon clear, although the promise of more substantive legislation can be reason for its own headache.

Landlord Tenant Legislation

Property Owners in Dispossessory Proceedings (SB 439)      
Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta

Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-3
SB 439 provides that the owner of a property or tenement at issue in a dispossessory proceeding is allowed to appear during a trial of the issues individually or by an agent, attorney in fact, or attorney at law.
 
Eviction Records Restriction Act (HB 1149)                        
Rep. Rhonda Burnough, D-Riverdale

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-2
HB 1149 adds language to the demand for possession statute which states:
(c) A court of competent jurisdiction shall order the immediate sealing of all public records that are in the custody of the clerk of court making civil case records permanently  unavailable to the public in dispossessory actions when:
(1) The plaintiff does not prevail; 
(2) If a settlement agreement is effectuated; or
(3) When three years have lapsed since a resolved case of dispossessory action caused  by nonpayment; 
(d) In periods of a public health emergency, a one-time sealing of civil case records in  dispossessory actions shall be effective immediately provided that such action was due to  nonpayment caused by uncontrolled loss of income.

Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 965)                           
Rep. Mesha Mainor, D-Atlanta

Pending in the House Judiciary Cmte
Last year, Rep. Mainor introduced HB 138 to require landlords to provide crime reports to existing and prospective tenants every six months; failure to do so would be deemed a violation of fair housing laws.  While the bill was adopted by the House, it had been amended and deviated substantially from the author’s original intent.
 
This year, the author has introduced a measure much like her original bill.  HB 965 requires the landlord or manager of any residential apartment complex with more than 50 units to provide tenants and prospective tenants a summary every six months of certain crimes that occurred on or in the property.  The list of crimes that must be reported includes murder, assault, battery, rape, peeping tom, gang-related crime, burglary, theft, and felony drug crimes.  The landlord must obtain this information from local law enforcement and maintain proof of notification.  Unlike 2021’s measure, failure to comply is deemed a violation of the Fair Business Practice Act.

Right to Cure (HB 408)                                                                      
Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta

Pending in the House Judiciary Cmte
HB 408 makes changes to the procedures required to initiate a dispossession, including a demand by the owner and a tenant’s opportunity to cure.  Association members and representatives have engaged with legislators to discuss the policy.
 
Evictions During the Pandemic (HB 894)                                 
Rep. William Boddie, D-East Point

Pending in the House Judiciary Cmte
HB 894 prohibits a prospective tenant from being refused a rental or lease agreement solely based upon a previous eviction during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Other Property Management Legislation

Duty of Owner Specific to Firearms (HB 1091)                        
Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-1
HB 1091 revises the duty of an owner or occupier of land to an invitee when the owner or occupier prohibits the carrying or possession of weapons.
 
Criminal Gang Activity (HB 1134)                                                   
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Cmte on Feb-2
HB 1134 provides for the concurrent authority of prosecuting attorneys and the Attorney General to prosecute offenses involving criminal gang activity.
 
Crime Information Center (SB 257)                                             
Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia

Favorably reported from the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-1
SB 257 provides for criminal history record information restrictions for persons cited with or convicted of certain criminal offenses.  It revises the procedure for petitioning for exoneration and discharge when an individual has qualified for sentencing as a first offender.

Constitutional Carry (SB 319)                                                           
Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas

Favorably reported from the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-1
SB 319 implements “constitutional carry” whereby gun owners are allowed to lawfully carry firearms without a permit.  As is the case with existing law, the legislation preserves the right of private property owners in legal control of property through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to exclude or eject a person in possession of a weapon or firearm.
 
Credit Repair Services Organization (SB 371)                                       
Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry

Heard in the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Cmte on Feb-3
Existing Georgia law only allows credit repair services offered by lenders, banks insured by the FDIC, and nonprofit organizations.  SB 371 opens Georgia’s credit repair industry by authorizing for-profit credit repair services.  Several players in this space have recently retained counsel in the state.

Elevator Inspections (HB 994)                                                       
Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Atlanta

Pending in the House Regulated Industries Cmte
HB 994 increases the civil penalty for failure to inspect elevators from $500 to $2,500 per elevator, dumbwaiter, escalator, manlift, or moving walk not inspected.  Fine increase again, up to $5,000 per unit, if inspections are further delayed. 
 
Revise Applicability of Stalking (SB 197)                            
Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
Georgia is reportedly one of the few states where a person cannot legally be stalked by someone they share a primary residence with.  SB 197 seeks to change this by revising the definition of “place or places” relative to the stalking criminal code to include the residence.  This has implications for the victim being able to seek a temporary protective order.

Tax Credit for Low-Income Renters (HB 979)                           
Rep. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah

Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HB 979 creates a tax credit for low-income individuals who lease certain dwellings.  Beginning January 1, 2023, taxpayers can claim a $60 income tax credit if they pay at least $800 per month for rental housing and meet the bill’s definition of “low-income” (for example: $27,000 annually for an individual).

Legal Reform Legislation

Apportionment of Damages (HB 961)                                          
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Scheduled for debate in the House on Feb-7
In August 2021, the Georgia Supreme Court upended Georgia’s longstanding apportionment statute.  In the opinion, the court ruled that only named defendants could be apportioned fault.  This increases exposure and liability for “deep pocket” defendants.  HB 961 restores the statute by allowing apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits.  The law would become effective for all cases filed after the signature of the Governor.
 
Nonjudicial Foreclosure of Time-Shares (HB 1088)                      
Rep. Stan Gunter, R-Blairsville

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-1
HB 1088 authorizes the nonjudicial foreclosure for time-share estates.  In a subcommittee hearing on Feb-2, legislators expressed concern regarding title insurance availability after the nonjudicial foreclosure.

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Electronic Filings (HB 974)                                                                     
Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas

Heard in a House Judiciary Subcmte on Feb-2
HB 974 requires deeds, mortgages, liens, maps or plats, and state tax executions to be filed electronically with the clerk of the superior court.
 
Values in Disaster Areas (HB 978 / HR 594)                                       
Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan

Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
These bills require the county board of tax assessors to conduct a full appraisal of all properties located in any declared federal disaster area to determine if the appraised value still reflects the fair market value after the disaster.  The sponsor represents Newnan, which is still recovering from an EF-4 tornado in March 2021.
 
Residential Homesteaded Property (HB 887 / HR 571)          
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah

Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HR 571 asks voters to amend the Georgia Constitution to allow for a cap on property taxes used for education for homesteaded property owned by senior citizens.  Specifically, it would allow voters, via local referendum, to limit assessments to 20 percent of fair market value regarding local school district taxes for educational purposes.  HB 887 is the enabling legislation that must accompany the Constitutional Amendment.

Land Use & Development Legislation

Board of Education Impact Fees (HB 1130 / HR 666)             
Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson

Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-2
HB 1130 provides for development impact fees for education.  Specifically, local boards of education of “high growth” school systems may impose, levy, and collect educational development impact fees within any area of its school system.  HR 666 proposes an amendment to the Constitution to allow for local boards of education to impose these impact fees.
 
Agricultural Facilities as a Nuisance (HB 1150)                             
Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella

Assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Cmte on Feb-2
Limits the circumstances under which agricultural facilities and operations may be sued for a nuisance.  A similar effort failed to gain final approval in 2020.
 
Restrictions on Residential Dwellings (HB 1093)                        
Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-1
HB 1093 prohibits local governments from enacting or enforcing any restrictions on land or dwellings that will be subject to a long-term residential rental agreement.  The legislation comes at the request of build-to-rent developers.
 
Local Regulatory Fees (HB 302)                                                    
Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas

Pending in the Senate Finance Cmte
HB 302 requires local governments to approximate the actual cost of regulatory services they provide.  The measure then mandates the local government use those fees exclusively for that regulatory activity and not general operations.
 
Annexation and Residential Tenants (SB 354)                            
Sen. Michael Rhett, D-Marietta

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
SB 354 requires all residential tenants occupying the to-be-annexed property to be notified of impending annexation.  The notification requirement is the responsibility of the property owner and must be sent via certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.  The owner must retain proof of notification.

Annexation Reform (HB 924)                                             
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur

Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Committee
HB 924 makes several changes to the annexation process:

  • Allows local governments financially impacted by financial incentives offered or granted in connection with an annexation to participate in the annexation dispute resolution process,
  • Provides additional grounds to object to proposed annexations,
  • Provides additional remedies in the dispute resolution process,
  • Requires development authorities and local governments to provide notice of proposed financial incentives to other affected local governments, and
  • Allows local school systems, counties, and municipal governing authorities to become parties to bond validation hearings.

Prohibit Deannexation (SB 348)                                                               
Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta

Pending in the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Cmte
SB 348 prohibits the deannexation of territory from an existing municipal corporation to a newly incorporated municipality.  Current state law is moot on this issue.  The legislation is aimed at the Buckhead City movement.
 
Municipal Incorporations.  There are several active bills to incorporate new cities:

  • HB 826 to incorporate the City of Lost Mountain in Cobb County – favorably reported on Feb-2
  • HB 840 to incorporate the City of Vinings in Cobb County – favorably reported on Feb-2
  • HB 841 to incorporate the City of East Cobb in Cobb County – adopted by the House on Jan-27

Court & Legal Fees

Bryan Co. Technology Fee (HB 1117)                                           
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah

Assigned to the House Intragovernmental Coordination Cmte on Feb-2
HB 1117 authorizes the assessment and collection of a technology fee by the State Court of Bryan County.  The fee may be up to $5 of each civil action and up to $5 as a surcharge on each fine assessed by the court.  The fee terminates July 1, 2030.
 
Bremen Municipal Court Technology Fee (HB 1191)              
Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen

Assigned to the House Intragovernmental Coordination Cmte on Feb-3
HB 1191 authorizes the Municipal Court of the City of Bremen to charge a technology fee of up to $10 on each criminal and quasi-criminal fine paid.