2024 Legislative Updates - Week 1
The 2024 session of the Georgia General Assembly began with little fanfare on Monday, January 8. Lawmakers convened five days this week and committees began meeting in earnest to consider, amend, and pass legislation. There will be a deluge of new legislation introduced when lawmakers gavel in on January 22 following budget week.
The House and Senate agreed to a schedule for the duration of the session. The critical Crossover Day deadline is set for February 29, with final adjournment on March 28. This calendar is closely tied to the General Assembly meeting internal budget benchmarks.
Legal Reform Set Back
This week Governor Brian Kemp announced his tort reform efforts have become a multi-year project and that 2024 will be a “first step” aimed at stabilizing the market for insurers, families, and businesses. Reportedly, this will take the shape of data collection. Despite this, key leaders in the legislature may proceed with their own lawsuit reform bills. Reform related to premises liability continues to receive interest and the Association will continue to press for action.
New and Carryover Legislation
All legislation not enacted during the 2023 session remains available for consideration in 2024. Legislators will also file hundreds of new measures throughout this year’s session. While this weekly report will not include all carried-over measures of interest, rest assured your government affairs team is carefully tracking those items. Our aim is to keep this report focused on active, priority issues.
Safe at Home Act (HB 404)
Rep. Kasey Carpenter, D-Dalton
Recommitted to the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Jan-8
Introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the Safe at Home Act makes several changes throughout the landlord-tenant act including:
- Requiring leases to state explicitly that the dwelling is fit for human habitation
- Adding “cooling” to the list of utilities that the landlord must make available
- Limiting security deposits to no more than two months’ rent
- Creating a three-business day right to cure, posted on the door, and sent by terms agreed to in the lease.
While HB 404 was placed on the Senate’s final debate calendar last year, it was not called for a vote. It now returns to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it can again receive a “do pass” recommendation or undergo further revisions. Tenant advocates continue to press for changes to the legislation, which the industry deems unacceptable.
Premises Liability (SB 186)
Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Alpharetta
Recommitted to the Senate Insurance and Labor Cmte on Jan-8
SB 186 limits landowner liability regarding invitees, licensees, and trespassers and removes landowner liability due to alleged constructive notice of prior crimes or violent nature. The bill passed out of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee in 2023 but was later tabled.
Property Tax Reform (SB 349)
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome
Assigned to the Senate Finance Cmte on Jan-11
SB 349 makes several substantive changes to the state’s property taxation and appeal process. Most notably, it limits so-called 299(c) property value freezes to instances where the value is actually reduced as a result of the appeal. Current law allows a freeze even if the value is unchanged. It also aims to cap property tax increases on homesteaded property statewide to no more than 3% annually via a floating homestead exemption.
Separately, lawmakers in the House are expected to come forward with changes to the property tax appeal and appraisal process. Reportedly, ACCG will also advocate for the full elimination of the value freeze granted under section 299(c).
Rezoning Moratorium (HB 514)
Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon
Pending in Conference Committee
As introduced, HB 514 limits zoning moratoriums to no more than 180 days. The Association worked to amend the measure to protect all residential property from zoning moratoriums, not just single-family. On the final day of the 2023 session, it was amended to include language from SB 136, which allows local governments to waive development impact fees on workforce housing projects without backfilling the fee. This provision may be removed, especially since Sen. Mike Dugan, the author of SB 136, is no longer serving in the Senate. HB 514 is currently in a conference committee and Sen. Matt Brass has replaced Dugan as one of the Senate’s three conferees.
Rent Control (HB 852)
Rep. Eric Bell, D-Jonesboro
Prefiled in the House on Jan-8
HB 852 repeals the statewide ban on local government controlling rental prices for privately owned, single-family, or multi-unit residential rental property. Similar measures (HB 534, HB 627, HB 719) were filed last year but did not advance. Rent control was the focus of two heated hearings in the Senate Urban Affairs Committee in the fall of 2023. The Association testified that artificially depressing rents reduces the quantity and quality of available housing.
Lawmakers reserve the week of the MLK Jr. holiday for budget hearings. Over three days, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hear from the Governor, the state economist, and more than forty agency heads. The House will then set to work on the amended FY24 budget, which shores up spending through June 30, and the FY25 budget, which begins July 1. The state has an estimated $16 billion budget surplus.
Special Elections Set
A special election has been set for February 13 to replace two vacant legislative seats. Last week, Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) resigned to run for the open third congressional seat. Five candidates qualified for the seat, including Tim Bearden, who previously served in the House from 2005-2011 before being appointed as director of the Georgia Law Enforcement Training Center.
Governor Kemp has recently appointed Rep. Barry Fleming to a superior court judgeship in Columbia County, creating a vacancy in the House. Five candidates also qualified in that race. If no single person receives a majority of the February 13 vote, a runoff election will be held on March 12, which is also the date of Georgia’s presidential primary. Republicans are expected to retain both seats.