Legislative Update - Week 10

Posted By: Stephen Davis Past Legislative Updates,

Resolution and the Race to the End

A three-day weekend was just what legislators needed after last week’s session, which ended in a stalemate between House and Senate leadership.  Both chambers resumed the harried pace typical at this point in the session with just two days remaining until sine die on Wednesday, March 31.
This morning the Senate Rules Committee met and set their final debate calendar.  They will work through this calendar over the next two legislative days.  The House, on the other hand, allows their Rules Committee to reconvene throughout the day and set additional debate calendars.
As is always the case this time of year, bills are hi-jacked, gutted, and loaded with new language to resurrect otherwise lifeless legislation.  A significant portion of legislative policy happens in this manner as the session wanes.  Because of this, the status of issues can change rapidly.

Landlord-Tenant Legislation

Lease Termination for Stalking Victims (SB 75)         
Sen. Jackson, D-Stone Mtn

Adopted by the House on Mar-25; eligible for enactment
SB 75 provides for lease termination for victims of stalking, tracking current language related to victims of domestic violence.  Members of the Association met with the sponsor to discuss her initiative on February 4.  Click here for additional information.

Other Property Management Legislation

COVID Liability Extension (HB 112)                             
Rep. Kelley, R-Cedartown

Eligible for enactment
HB 112 extends last year's legislation to provide certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 by one year, until July 14, 2022.
Wavier of Liens (SB 143)                                                    
Sen. Tippins, R-Marietta

Eligible for enactment
In a 2019 court case, the Georgia Court of Appeals[1] determined that when a contractor signs a lien waiver, it waives claims for “all purposes,” not only for the preservation of lien rights, unless the contractor files an affidavit of nonpayment or a claim of lien within 60 days. 
In 2020, the legislature adopted legislation to update the lien law and preserve the ability to pursue breach of contract claims or other rights and remedies available under the law.  SB 143 corrects a scrivener’s error in the mandated notice.
Fines to Alarm Companies (HB 465)                                     
Rep. Gullett, R-Dallas

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-25; House must concur
HB 465 prohibits local governments from fining alarm system companies for false alarms that are not the fault of the company.  The bill allows local governments to fine the end-user for false alarms.  The Association has worked to amend the bill to ensure that property owners are not fined for the actions of their residents.
Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 138)                
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta

Pending in the Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Cmte on Mar-15
As originally introduced, HB 138 required landlords to obtain and provide notice to existing and prospective tenants regarding specific crimes occurring on the premises.  On February 9, the Association testified in opposition to the measure before a House Judiciary Subcommittee.  Subcommittee members were generally concerned about the availability of crime information specific to individual properties.
In response to those concerns, the Committee amended the legislation. It now places the onus of compiling crime information specific to apartment properties on local law enforcement. There is no longer an obligation for the landlord to provide notice to existing or prospective tenants.
Given that the legislation is no longer centered around the landlord-tenant statute, it was assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.  It received a hearing on March 15.  Local government, law enforcement, and the Association voiced uneasiness about it.  The Senate Committee will not meet again this year; while the measure appears lost on its own, the author may attempt to attach it to another bill.  Click here for additional information.

Property Taxation and Valuation Legislation

Special Council on Tax Reform (SB 148)                         
Sen. Hufstetler, R-Rome

Language added to SB 6 on Mar-24
SB 148 creates two independent groups to launch a comprehensive review of the state’s revenue structure, including tax incentives.  The bill was co-signed by 38 of the Senate’s 56 members and passed that chamber unanimously.  However, it was voted down 139-20 in the House on March 18.  Similar language was then added to a tax omnibus bill (SB 6), keeping the issue active and helping to soothe tensions between the two chambers.
Excise Tax on AirBNB (HB 317)                                   
Rep. Stephens, R-Savannah

Scheduled for debate in the Senate on Mar-29
HB 317 expands the state levy of a nightly $5 excise tax to all rooms, lodgings, and accommodations, including those furnished by "marketplace facilitators" like AirBNB.  After some discussion about reducing the per night fee, the Senate Finance Committee opted to leave the fee at $5 but revisit the issue in an upcoming session.
Continuing Ed for Board of Equalization (HB 292)      
Rep. Williams, R-Cordele

Eligible for debate in the Senate
HB 292 removes certain continuing education requirements for members of county boards of equalization following their initial training for their first term.  This bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on March 18 but was tabled before it could be considered.
Rehabilitation of Historic Structures (HB 469)          
Rep. Stephens, R-Savannah

Favorably reported from the Senate Finance Cmte on Mar-24
HB 469 relates to the state tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures administered by the Department of Community Affairs.  It extends the sunset for the existing program through December 31, 2022, which allows for a tax credit equal to 25% of qualified rehabilitation expenditures for certified structures.

Code Enforcement, Land Use and Development Legislation

Priority Lien for Interior Designers (HB 480)                
Rep. Washburn, R-Macon

Scheduled for debate in the Senate on Mar-29
HB 480 provides for the creation, declaration, amendment, notice, and priority of liens for labor, services, or materials performed or furnished by registered interior designers.
Alternative Plan Review (SB 49)                                            
Sen. Dixon, R-Buford

Pending in the House Rules Committee
SB 49 allows for alternative plan review, permitting, and inspection by private professional providers, allowing applicants to select this option at the onset of the process, rather than waiting 30 days for the local government.  The applicant is still required to pay the local government 50% of their regulatory fee if they opt for a private provider.  Several members of the House Rules Committee have expressed concern about requiring local governments to allow private plan review and inspections.
City Housing Authorities (SB 144)                                    
Sen. Tippins, R-Marietta

Pending in the House Rules Committee
SB 144 limits the ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization.
Professional Engineers Act (HB 476)                             
Rep. Washburn, R-Macon

Pending in the Senate Rules Cmte
HB 476 removes Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors from the Professional Licensing Board at the Secretary of State’s Office.  It creates a new independent state agency to license and regulate those professions.

General Business Legislation

Uniform Mediation Act (SB 234)                                       
Sen. Kennedy, R-Macon

Adopted by the House on Mar-25; eligible for enactment
Created by the Uniform Law Commission and the American Bar Association, the Uniform Mediation Act is intended to keep mediation communications confidential and promote alternative dispute resolution.  For more information, click here.
S-Corp Income Tax (HB 149)                                       
Rep. Williamson, R-Monroe

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-22; eligible for enactment
HB 149 allows registered S-Corporations to deduct state and local taxes on their federal tax return, as was allowed before recent federal tax reform.
Remote Online Notarizations (HB 334)                                
Rep. Gullett, R-Dallas

Scheduled for debate in the Senate on Mar-29
HB 334 allows for remote online notarizations.  This has been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic; this legislation seeks to make the allowance permanent.
Remote Shareholders’ Meetings (HB 306)                    
Rep. Gunter, R-Blairsville

Scheduled for debate in the Senate on Mar-29
HB 306 provides that corporations and other organizations may hold annual shareholders' meetings and special shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication and provides requirements for such meetings by remote communication.  This has been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic; this legislation seeks to make the allowance permanent.
Cybersecurity Standards (SB 52)                                     
Sen. Thompson, R-White

Pending in the House Judiciary Cmte
SB 52 provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability.