2022 Legislative Update - Week 7

Posted By: Stephen Davis 2022 Legislative Updates,

Along for the Ride

Lawmakers enjoyed a four-day weekend in their districts to observe President’s Day on February 21.  Although legislators only spent two days in chamber and one day of committee meetings, it has been a very active week.  It’s analogous to riding to the top of a roller coaster; the session has been steady and disciplined during the ascent.  But all that stops next week: the roller coaster has reached the apex and we can clearly see the high-speed loops, rolls, and turns that await us.  For the next five weeks, the legislature has only two weekdays off.  The pace will be grueling as the General Assembly races downhill towards Crossover Day on March 15 and sine die on April 4.

Landlord Tenant Legislation

Exempt Evictions from Tolling Provisions (HB 1393)         
Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Peachtree City

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-22
HB 1393 exempts dispossessory proceedings from tolling provisions in the event of a judicial emergency.  There will be no tolling of appeal times or other deadlines.  The bill is expected to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Feb-28.
Property Owners in Dispossessory Proceedings (SB 439)      
Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
At issue in SB 439 is property owned by an individual during dispossessory proceedings in magistrate courts.  Reportedly, current magistrate court rules allow businesses to appoint an agent to act on their behalf in proceedings, but not individual owners.  Instead, magistrate courts require these owners to appear personally.  SB 439 would allow agent representation in these circumstances.
Several housing advocates testified during a Feb-14 Senate Judiciary meeting.  They argued that tenants should also be allowed agent representation in dispossessory proceedings to maintain parity with landlords.  This would potentially impact the timeline for taking possession of the property.  No vote was taken.

Other Property Management Legislation

“LEAF” Act (HB 1301)                                                                            
Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons

Favorably reported from the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-23
The Landscape Equipment and Agricultural Fairness (LEAF) Act prohibits local governments from banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers or other landscape maintenance equipment.
Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act (HB 1355)                           
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome

Favorably reported from the House Health and Human Services Cmte on Feb-22
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 House is reportedly providing additional funding to the Department of Public Health in anticipation of increased utilization as a result of the legislation.
Further, it expends the property owner’s responsibility to outdoor areas.  It increases, from 14 to 30 days, the time an owner or managing agent has to 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.
Credit Repair Services Organization (SB 371)                                       
Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry

Favorably reported from the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Cmte on Feb-24
Existing law does not allow for-profit credit repair services.  Reportedly, these for-profit companies often dispute all negative information on a person’s credit report, even if that information is accurate.  This diminishes the utility of credit reports for entities that use the reports when making leasing or other decisions.

Reducing Street Homelessness Act (SB 535)                            
Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele

Assigned to the Senate Government Oversight Cmte on Feb-22
SB 535 provides state funding for projects to address homelessness, including "individual unit shelters" defined as shelters that can house 1-3 individuals, provide sleeping accommodations, access to electricity, provide shower and bathroom facilities, and are limited to no more than 6 months per person.
Source of Income (HB 1458)                                                                  
Rep. Spencer Frye, D-Athens

Prefiled in the House on Feb-24
HB 1458 adds “source of income” to the classes protected by the state’s fair housing laws.  This would obligate landlords to accept voucher payments.
Criminal Gang Activity (HB 1134)                                                   
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
HB 1134 provides the attorney general with concurrent jurisdiction with prosecutors for certain criminal gang-related crimes across the state.  The attorney general may also employ peace officers for investigative purposes.

Legal Reform Legislation

Nonjudicial Foreclosure of Time-Shares (HB 1088)                      
Rep. Stan Gunter, R-Blairsville

Adopted by the House on Feb-24
HB 1088 addresses lien priority for non-judicial foreclosures on time-share estates; a substitute version prioritizes the holder that finances the lien.  Similar legislation has also been filed in the Senate (SB 493).
Apportionment of Damages (HB 961)                                          
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Scheduled for debate in the House on Feb-28
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.  The measure is eligible for a vote in the House but has been delayed for several weeks.

Property Taxation and Valuation Legislation

Appeals of Property Tax Assessments (SB 511)                      
Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown

Favorably reported from the Senate Finance Cmte on Feb-23
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.
Values in Disaster Areas (HR 594)                                                        
Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan

Favorably reported from a House Ways and Means Subcmte on Feb-23
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 January 1 despite subsequent damage or destruction.
Low Income Housing Tax Credits (HR 756)                                   
Rep. Rob Leverett, R-Elbertson

Heard in a House Ways and Means Subcmte on Feb-23
HR 756 proposes an amendment to the Constitution to provide that qualified low-income building projects may be classified as a separate class of property for ad valorem tax purposes, and different rates, methods, and assessments dates may be provided for such building projects.

Land Use & Development Legislation

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

Favorably reported from a House Governmental Affairs Subcmte on Feb-22
HR 666 asks voters to amend the constitution to allow for development impact fees for education in “high growth” school systems.  The Association testified in opposition to the measure.
Agricultural Facilities as a Nuisance (HB 1150)                             
Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella

Favorably reported from the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Cmte on Feb-24
HB 1150 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.
Zoning Procedures Law (HB 1405)                                         
Rep. Shea Roberts, D-Sandy Springs

Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-22
HB 1405 revises provisions related to the judicial review of zoning decisions.
Multifamily Zoning (HB 1406)                                                       
Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta

Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-22
HB 1406 requires additional notices and hearing provisions for changes to zoning ordinances that revise single-family residential to multifamily residential.

Eminent Domain for Blighted Properties (SB 531)                  
Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah

Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-22
SB 531 provides an alternative process for a county, municipality, or consolidated government to identify and subsequently condemn certain blighted properties.  It is identical to a measure (SB 444) filed in 2020.
C-PACER Program (HB 1413)                                                         
Rep. Trey Rhodes, R-Greensboro

Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Feb-24
HB 1413 authorizes local governments to establish and adopt commercial property assessed clean energy and storm resiliency (C-PACER) programs.  There are concerns related to lien priority status and the bill may be amended.
Annexation Dispute Resolution (HB 1461)                               
Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia

Prefiled in the House on Feb-24
HB 1461 allows school systems to participate in the dispute resolution process.  It extends the period of a zoning freeze following an arbitration and revises notices municipalities must provide counties regarding annexation applications.  It requires arbitration findings be sent to the Department of Community Affairs.
Municipal Incorporations.  There are several active bills to incorporate new cities.  On February 14 the Governor signed HB 841 to incorporate the City of East Cobb into law.  Measures to create the City of Lost Mountain (HB 826) and the City of Vinings (HB 840) are also eligible for the Governor’s signature.  In the House, HB 839 to incorporate the City of Mableton is eligible for consideration by the full chamber.  The bills do not create new cities automatically but rather allow voters to make that decision later this year.

Pending Legislation

These measures have not been active this week

Eviction Records Restriction Act (HB 1149).  Seals eviction records (a) from nonpayment during a public health emergency, and (b) when the plaintiff does not prevail, when the parties reach a settlement, or when three years have lapsed since dispossession caused by nonpayment.
Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 965).  Requires the landlord 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.  Failure to comply is a violation of the Fair Business Practice Act.
Right to Cure (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.
Evictions During the Pandemic (HB 894).  Prohibits a prospective tenant from being refused a rental agreement based upon a previous eviction during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Crime Information Center (SB 257).  Provides for criminal history record information restrictions for persons cited with or convicted of certain criminal offenses.
Duty of Owner Specific to Firearms (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.
Constitutional Carry (SB 319).  Implements “constitutional carry” and preserves the right of private property owners to exclude or eject a person in possession of a weapon or firearm.  Other legislation to expand weapons carrying includes HB 1358 and SB 478.

Revise Applicability of Stalking (SB 197).  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.
Elevator Inspections (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.
Income Tax Deduction for Rental Charges (HB 1305).  Creates a state income tax deduction of 20% of primary resident rental charges.  This is similar to HB 979, which creates a tax credit for low-income individuals who lease certain dwellings.
Condemnation of Real Property (HB 137).  Clarifies that if a property owner is compensated for the governmental condemnation of their real property, the funds received as compensation are not subject to state income tax.
Residential Homesteaded Property (HB 887 / HR 571).  Allows for a cap on property taxes used for education for homesteaded property owned by senior citizens.
Electronic Filings (HB 974).  Requires deeds, mortgages, liens, maps or plats, and state tax executions to be filed electronically with the clerk of the superior court.
Restrictions on Residential Dwellings (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).  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.
Policy Discount for Resistant Structures (HB 1297).  Requires insurers to offer a premium discount or reduction for home or commercial property owners who build a new home or commercial property that better resists tornado or other catastrophic windstorm events.
Annexation and Residential Tenants (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).  Makes several changes to the annexation process, including allowing local school systems, counties, and municipal governing authorities to become parties to bond validation hearings.
Prohibit Deannexation (SB 348).  Prohibits the deannexation of territory from an existing municipal corporation to a newly incorporated municipality.

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