Legislative Update - Week 9

Posted By: Stephen Davis

Drama at the Gold Dome

The House and Senate have ticked another four days off their forty-day schedule.  Committees have been active and both chambers have adopted a modest number of bills, but the shadow of political gamesmanship weighs heavy over the Capitol.
 
Since Crossover Day last Monday, the House convened five times with a debate calendar that included no more than one Senate bill.  The Senate retaliated by not considering any House bills on Tuesday.  By Wednesday, it appeared the logjam had cleared. 
 
Then yesterday, the House overwhelmingly rejected a bipartisan Senate measure to create a tax reform council.  Once the Senate learned of the bill’s defeat, they abruptly tabled all remaining House bills on their calendar, adjourned for the day, and opted to not consider any measures when they return on Monday.
 
While this sort of political posturing is common, time is running out for cooler heads to prevail.  Just five legislative days remain as the General Assembly speeds towards Sine Die on March 31.

Landlord-Tenant Legislation

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

Favorably reported from the House Judiciary Cmte on Mar-15
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

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-17
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

Adopted by the Senate on Mar-18
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.
 
Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 138)                
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta

Given a hearing 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 bill was not called for a vote, but the sponsor continues to press for passage.  Click here for additional information.
 
Fines to Alarm Companies (HB 465)                                     
Rep. Gullett, R-Dallas

Pending in the Senate Rules Committee
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.

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Special Council on Tax Reform (SB 148)                          Sen. Hufstetler, R-Rome
Voted down in the House on Mar-18
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, leading to an abrupt cessation of activity in the Senate.
 
Continuing Ed for Board of Equalization (HB 292)      
Rep. Williams, R-Cordele

Eligible for debate in the Senate on Mar-22
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

Pending in the Senate Finance Cmte
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.  Effective January 1, 2023, the credit reverts to the parameters that existed in 2015.  This still allows a credit of 25% but caps it at $300,000 for a 10-year period.
 
Excise Tax on AirBNB (HB 317)                                   
Rep. Stephens, R-Savannah

Pending in the Senate Finance Cmte
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.

Code Enforcement, Land Use & Development Legislation

Alternative Plan Review (SB 49)                                             Sen. Dixon, R-Buford
Favorably reported from the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Cmte on Mar-17
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.
 
City Housing Authorities (SB 144)                                    
Sen. Tippins, R-Marietta

Favorably reported from the House Governmental Affairs Cmte on Mar-17
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.
 
Priority Lien for Interior Designers (HB 480)                
Rep. Washburn, R-Macon

Pending in the Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Cmte
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.

General Business Legislation

Uniform Mediation Act (SB234)                                       
Sen. Kennedy, R-Macon

Favorably reported from the House Judiciary Cmte on Mar-17
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

Pending in the Senate Rules Cmte
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

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
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

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
HB 306 provides that a corporation 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.