2022 Legislative Update - Week 12

Posted By: Stephen Davis 2022 Legislative Updates,
Push to the Finish
The House and Senate have two legislative days left in the 2022 session.  Barring any derailments with the budget or leadership’s priority legislation, the General Assembly will conclude its business in the waning hours of Monday, April 4.
The primary threats this time of year are amendments and committee substitutes.  Often, entire bills are stripped and language from another measure inserted, leaving only the original bill number.  As the second in a two-year legislative cycle, measures leftover from 2021 that have not been active this year find new life.  Bills that were defeated before Crossover attempt a revival.  It takes constant vigilance to ensure amendments do not sneak through unnoticed.
The procedural quirks of each chamber are also on full display.  The Senate, for example, held a three-hour Rules Committee meeting on Thursday to set a single debate calendar to govern the final two days.  While it would be unusual for the committee to reconvene, a recent change to procedural policies makes it possible.  The House Rules Committee, on the other hand, will meet multiple times during each of the remaining days, setting short supplemental debate calendars each time.  Both chambers have their own way of muscling through key language as they make their final push toward the finish line.

Priority Legislation

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

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-30; Eligible for Enactment by the Governor
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.

Property Management Legislation

Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act (HB 1355)                                                                                  
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome
Scheduled for Debate in the Senate on Apr-1 or Apr-4
Based on recommendations made by a 2021 House Study Committee, HB 1355 addresses lead exposure and remediation, particularly in children.  It updates the state’s definition of “confirmed lead poisoning” to comport with nationally recognized guidelines; this lower threshold is likely to result in more properties requiring lead hazard abatement.  The legislature is providing additional funding to the Department of Public Health in anticipation of increased utilization as a result of the legislation.  The Senate amended the bill to retain current law on the definition of “lead abatement,” which provides parameters on the Department’s regulatory authority.
Specific to property owners, it extends responsibility to outdoor areas.  It increases, from 14 to 30 days, the time an owner or managing agent must submit an abatement plan.  In lieu of abatement, it allows the owner to attest that the property will be not used as a dwelling in the future. The National Apartment Association has reviewed the bill for concerns, indicating that this version is largely consistent with federal law. 
Secondary Metals Recyclers (SB 591)                                                 
Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia

Scheduled for Debate in the House on Apr-1
A decade ago, Georgia passed legislation that significantly curtailed metal theft by prohibiting cash payouts.  This year’s effort makes it illegal to purchase, possess, obtain, or sell a used detached catalytic converter.  While the bill allows for small cash payouts for other recyclable materials, detached catalytic converters remain on the no-cash list.
Unsheltered Homelessness (HR 1042)                                              
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome

Pending in the House Rules Cmte
After legislation (SB 535) related to encampment areas for homeless persons drew fierce criticism, proponents have pivoted and are now promoting study committees.  HR 1042 creates a House study committee; SR 659 creates a Senate study committee.  Assuming both are authorized, they will likely function as a joint study committee.  The resolutions are exempt from Crossover Day restrictions.
Regulation, Affordability, and Access to Housing (HR 1149)   
Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon

Favorably reported from the House Small Business Development Cmte on Mar-30
HR 1149 creates the House Study Committee on Regulation, Affordability, and Access to Housing.  According to the resolution, there is “an alarming and increasing shortage in both owner-occupied and rental housing” causing “an unprecedented rise in the cost of purchasing or renting a home.”  Rep. Washburn championed unsuccessful legislation on behalf of build-to-rent developers (HB 1093).
DeKalb County Eviction Fees (HB 1577)                               
Rep. Viola Davis, D-Stone Mountain

Tabled in the Senate on Mar-29
A majority of members of the DeKalb County delegation have signed onto legislation that allows the State Court clerk to collect a fee of up to $150 for the removal of personal property and other unremunerated costs incurred by DeKalb County after an eviction.  The bill passed the House on Mar-23 and was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Mar-29.  Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) removed the bill from the local consent calendar before a vote was taken.  It remains eligible; however, no additional action is expected this year.

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Values in Disaster Areas (HR 594)                                                        
Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan

Scheduled for Debate in the Senate on Apr-1 or Apr-4
HB 978 allows the county board of tax assessors to provide temporary property tax relief to properties located in a declared federal disaster area.  The sponsor is from Newnan, which is still recovering from a March 2021 tornado.  According to her, this will allow tax relief for the balance of the taxable year of the natural disaster.  Without this change, property owners would be responsible for paying taxes on the property as it was valued on January 1 despite subsequent damage or destruction.
Rehabilitation of Historic Structures (HB 469)                          
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah

Scheduled for Debate in the Senate on Apr-1 or Apr-4
HB 469 revises state income tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic structures.  For calendar years 2023 and 2024, historic homes are allowed $5 million in aggregate per year.  For certified structures other than homes, the credit is $30 million in aggregate per year.  It sunsets the income tax credit after 2024.


Land Use & Development Legislation

Utility Facility Protection Act (HB 1372)                              
Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain

Eligible for Enactment by the Governor
HB 1372 makes changes to the Georgia Utility Protection Act; reportedly the statute has not been updated since 1990.  An effort to update the Act failed last year over concerns about how underground traffic signal facilities are treated.  Specific to development, it adds a new obligation that requires emergency services to be contacted if an excavator damages a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline.  Similar legislation (HB 1307) is also active.
Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act (HB 476)        
Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-29; Eligible for Enactment by the Governor
HB 476 makes the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Board an independent state agency with a separate budget and dedicated staff.  The legislation was modeled on the Georgia Real Estate Commission.
Annexation Dispute Resolution (HB 1461)                               
Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-28; Needs Agreement in the House
HB 1461 revises provisions relating to dispute resolution.  It extends the period of a zoning freeze following arbitration and revises notices municipalities must provide counties regarding annexation applications.  It requires arbitration findings to be sent to the Department of Community Affairs.  The original version gave impacted school systems standing in the dispute resolution process, but that language has been removed.  The substitute version passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee now contains language from SB 354dealing with written notice to property owners in an area subject to annexation.
Local Regulatory Fees (HB 302)                                                    
Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-30; Needs Agreement in the House
HB 302 requires local governments to approximate the actual cost of regulatory services they provide.  The measure then mandates that the local government use those fees exclusively for that regulatory activity and not general operations.  Local government advocates oppose the measure.  It was tabled in the Senate on Mar-29 and ultimately adopted on Mar-30.  The House must agree to changes.
Discount for Tornado-Resistant Property (HB 1297)      
Rep. Matthew Gambill, R-Cartersville

Scheduled for Debate in the Senate on Apr-1 or Apr-4
HB 1297 requires insurers to offer a premium discount or reduction for home or commercial property owners who build or retrofit a home or commercial property that better resists tornado, hurricane, or other catastrophic windstorm events.  The standard for “fortified” buildings is maintained by Insurance Institution for Business and Home Safety. 
Zoning Procedures Law (HB 1405)                                         
Rep. Shea Roberts, D-Sandy Springs

Scheduled for Debate in the Senate on Apr-1 or Apr-4
HB 1405 revises provisions related to the judicial review of zoning decisions.  The Senate Judiciary Committee added language to clarify components of the de novo review by the superior court.
Municipal Incorporations.  There are several active bills to incorporate new cities, including these already signed into law by the Governor: HB 826 (City of Lost Mountain), HB 840 (City of Vinings), and HB 841 (City of East Cobb).  Enactment does not create new cities automatically but rather allows voters to make that decision later this year.  HB 839 to incorporate the City of Mableton is also eligible for the Governor’s signature.

General Business Legislation

Remote Online Notarizations (HB 334)                                              
Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas

House and Senate Conference Committee Appointed
HB 334 makes remote online notarizations (RONs) legal, as has been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic.  During the 2021 session, there was disagreement among the chambers as to whether real estate closings should be allowed to use RONs.  The legislation has been in limbo until recently when both the House and Senate appointed members to a conference committee to negotiate a final version.  It appears there is consensus on allowing RONs for real estate closings when all parties have counsel.

Stalled Legislation

At the time of this writing, these measures are not positioned to advance.  While they appear lost, proponents may attempt procedural maneuvers to keep them active.
Criminal Case Data Exchange Board (SB 441)                             
Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Clarkesville

Pending in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
SB 441 reestablishes the Criminal Case Data Exchange Board, acknowledging that the state’s current system for sharing criminal case data is inadequate in providing interested parties – including housing providers – with criminal case data.  It has been co-signed by all 56 members of the Senate.
Other active crime-related legislation includes HB 1134, which provides the attorney general with concurrent jurisdiction with prosecutors for certain criminal gang-related crimes across the state.  It is eligible for enactment by the Governor.
Eviction Diversion Program (HR 1041)                           
Rep. Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain

Pending in the House Judiciary Cmte
HR 1041 urges the Georgia Supreme Court to establish rules and best practices for the creation of eviction diversion programs to be implemented by courts throughout the state.  The resolution finds that “rapidly rising housing costs have exacerbated the precarious housing status of renters with low or moderate incomes” and that “eviction diversion programs have proven successful and benefit” tenants, landlords, court systems, and the community.  Because the legislation is limited to the House, it is exempt from Crossover Day restrictions.
Appeals of Property Tax Assessments (SB 511)                      
Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown

Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
SB 511 reduces the time a county board of equalization must notify the taxpayer of corrections or changes to the assessment after reviewing the appeal.  Current law allows 180 days after receipt of the appeal notice; SB 511 allows 90.  Current law gives the board 15 days to set a hearing date; SB 511 requires the hearing to take place within 90 days.  If the hearing fails to take place within 180 days from the date of appeal, the taxpayer’s asserted value stands.  Similar changes are made to the timeline specific to appeals to hearing officers.
Eminent Domain for Blighted Properties (SB 227)                        
Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta

Pending in the House Governmental Affairs Cmte
In 2006, Georgia voters overwhelmingly amended the state constitution to prohibit the government from seizing private property for economic development projects.  Condemned property cannot then be converted to private use for 20 years.  This prohibits governments from seizing property for “public use” and then immediately selling it to a developer.

Then in 2017, the legislature enacted HB 434.  It allows a government to immediately transfer condemned property to a developer after it has proved to a judge that the property is blighted.  Property owners can appear in court and can appeal an unfavorable ruling.  The idea behind HB 434 was to address “urban blight.”
SB 227 builds on that 2017 legislation by providing an alternative process in superior court for a county, municipality, or consolidated government to identify and subsequently condemn certain blighted properties.  It defines a “blighted property” as one that is at least 375,000 square feet, was built prior to 2000, and has been vacant for 10 years or less than 30% occupied for 20 years.  The legislation is aimed at revitalizing “dead” malls.
Multifamily Zoning (HB 1406)                                                       
Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta

Pending in the Senate Rules Cmte
HB 1406 requires additional notices and hearing provisions for changes to zoning ordinances that revise single-family residential to multifamily residential.  This does not apply when the rezoning is initiated by the owner or authorized agent of the owner of the property.