2022 Legislative Update - Week 9

Posted By: Stephen Davis 2022 Legislative Updates ,

Critical Crossover Day Approaches

 

Next Tuesday is Crossover Day, a critical procedural milestone in Georgia’s forty-day legislative session.  March 15 is the last day for Senate bills to pass the Senate and House bills to pass the House if they are to have a chance at making it to the Governor’s desk this year.  Session typically stretches well into the evening to pass as many bills as possible.
 
As a result, this has been an exceptionally busy week as committees work to move bills into position for consideration by the full chambers before the deadline.  Legislation that does not crossover is technically dead as a standalone measure, although contents of entire bills are often added to other germane legislation in an effort to keep an issue alive.

 

Priority Legislation

 

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

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
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.
 
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.  There has been a spate of activity on the issue this week.  The Association has met with several legislators with influence on the bill’s future and will continue to engage as the crossover deadline looms.

 

Other Property Management Legislation

 

Criminal Case Data Exchange Board (SB 441)                           
Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Clarkesville)

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-8
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.
 
Secondary Metals Recyclers (SB 591)                                                 
Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia

Favorably reported from the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Cmte on Mar-8
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, utility wire, or communication copper.  While the bill allows for small cash payouts for other recyclable materials, these specific items remain on the no-cash list.  The House is considering related legislation (HB 1528) that only pertains to catalytic converters.
 
Reducing Street Homelessness Act (SB 535)                            
Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele

Favorably reported from the Senate Government Oversight Cmte on Mar-8
SB 535 allows municipalities to create sanctioned encampment areas for homeless persons, subject to approval by the Department of Community Affairs.  It allows the Attorney General to bring an action against municipalities that do not address unauthorized homeless encampments and denies state grant funding.  Opponents say the measure criminalizes homelessness.  The author has also introduced SR 659 to create a study committee to further investigate homelessness.

 
Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act (HB 1355)                           
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome

Pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Cmte
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 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.
 
Exempt Evictions from Tolling Provisions (HB 1393)         
Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Peachtree City

Pending in a House Judiciary Subcmte
HB 1393 exempts dispossessory proceedings from tolling provisions in the event of a judicial emergency.  There would be no tolling of appeal times or other deadlines.  During the Feb-28 hearing, members questioned why evictions should be the only matter exempt from judicial emergencies.

 

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

 

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

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-1
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

Pending in the House Rules Cmte
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.

 

Land Use & Development Legislation

 

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

Adopted by the House Mar-9
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 be contacted if an excavator damages a gas or hazardous liquid pipeline.  Similar legislation (HB 1307) is also active.
 
Multifamily Zoning (HB 1406)                                                       
Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta

Adopted by the House Mar-9
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.
 
Annexation Dispute Resolution (HB 1461)                               
Rep. Victor Anderson, R-Cornelia

Favorably reported from the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Mar-9
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.  A substitute version removed language that would grant school systems standing in such disputes and passed out of committee on Mar-9.
 
Eminent Domain for Blighted Properties (SB 227)                     
Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur

Favorably reported from the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Mar-8
SB 531 provides 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.
 
Zoning Procedures Law (HB 1405)                                         
Rep. Shea Roberts, D-Sandy Springs

Pending in the House Rules Cmte
HB 1405 revises provisions related to the judicial review of zoning decisions.
 
Restrictions on Residential Dwellings (SB 494)                          
Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega

Pending in the Senate State and Local Governmental Affairs Cmte
SB 494 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.  Similar legislation (HB 1093) is also pending in the House.
 
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 scheduled for a vote in the House on Mar-11.

 

Qualifying and Election Update

 

More than 570 individuals qualified for federal, statewide, and legislative seats this week.  Hundreds more have thrown their name in the hat for local offices.  As is always the case, vacancies at the top of the ticket create an upswell.  At least fifteen lawmakers have left the comforts of incumbency to seek higher office, many of them running for the open Lt. Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, or Labor Commissioner posts.

 

Other lawmakers have decided it’s time to call it quits and have announced they will not seek reelection.  At least 17 incumbents will return to their life as full-time citizens at the end of this term.  The General Assembly is losing more than 200 years of institutional knowledge and experience with these departures, highlighted by the retirement of Senator Jeff Mullis, chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, and Representative Terry England, longtime chair of the House Appropriations Committee.  Rep. Calvin Smyre will not seek reelection, having been appointed ambassador to the Dominican Republic by President Joe Biden; he has served in the House since 1975.

 

For those seeking reelection, opponents are plentiful.  Given the impact of new legislative maps, most districts are drawn to heavily favor one party or the other.  The practical implication is that the critical vote happens in the Primary election; the victor will often cruise to victory in the General, if they have an opponent at all.  At least 13 senators and 41 representatives will face a challenger in the May 24 Primary.

 

Other Legislation of Interest

 

Property Owners in Dispossessory Proceedings (SB 439).  Allows agent representation in dispossessory proceedings before a magistrate court when the property is owned by an individual.
 
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.
 
Revise Applicability of Stalking (SB 197).  Allows a person to seek a temporary proactive order against someone they share a primary residence with.
 
Source of Income (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.
 
“LEAF” Act (HB 1301).  Prohibits local governments from banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers or other landscape maintenance equipment.
 
Credit Repair Services Organization (SB 371).  Allows for-profit credit repair services.
 
Criminal Gang Activity (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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
Low Income Housing Tax Credits (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. Legislation likely stalled for the year.
 
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.
 
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.
 
Board of Education Impact Fees (HR 666).  Asks voters to amend the constitution to allow for development impact fees for education in “high growth” school systems.
 
C-PACER Program (HB 1413).  Authorizes local governments to establish and adopt commercial property assessed clean energy and storm resiliency (C-PACER) programs.
 
Prohibit Deannexation (SB 348).  Prohibits the deannexation of territory from an existing municipal corporation to a newly incorporated municipality.

 

 

The Georgia Apartment Association
Representing an industry that provides homes to more than a million Georgians, our members directly employ more than 5,000 Georgians, and the businesses that support the industry provide more than 100,000 jobs. Our members contribute more than $1.45 billion in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and every 100 new apartment homes developed generates an additional $384,000 in taxes and an additional 47 local jobs. Our commitment to the community produces one of the largest food drives in the nation, contributing more than 8 million meals in Georgia last year alone.

For more information on the multifamily housing industry in Georgia, please visit www.ga-apt.org