2017 Legislative Update - Week 1


The mission of the Georgia Conservancy is to protect and conserve Georgia’s natural resources through advocacy, engagement and collaboration. That mission no better manifests itself than in our work at the Georgia State Capitol during the General Assembly’s yearly legislative session.
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Welcome to the Georgia Conservancy's legislative update for the first week of the 2017 Legislative Session. 

We're at the Georgia State Capitol every day of the legislative session pushing for conservation-minded bills and fighting against legislation that would roll back the advancements that we've already made. If you are interested in receiving our weekly legislative updates, please click here. We will provide you with updates every week of the legislative session.

On Wednesday, Governor Nathan Deal gave his State Of The State Address. Click here to read the Address in full.

As the session progresses and more bills are filed, our weekly summary will become more comprehensive. This session, we are focusing on a number of important issues and anticipate the filing of a number of bills that will have an impact on Georgia's natural resources, which may include:

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act: The establishment of a dedicated, permanent and sustainable source of funding that provide the resources necessary to meet Georgia's conservation challenges.

Petroleum Pipelines: The development of greater transparency, accountability and environmental protections in any future petroleum pipeline projects in Georgia.

Hunting & Fishing License Fees: A revision of hunting and fishing license definitions, fees and requirements, as fees are crucial to funding the conservation of state lands and waters.

School Siting / Minimum acreage requirements: Reduction of the minimum acreage requirements for new schools so as to reverse recent development trends that have contributed to sprawl and poor land use practices.

Coastal Greenway: State funding for the development of the Georgia segment of the East Coast Greenway, a bicycle trail that runs from Florida to Maine. 

Freshwater Buffers: Examining existing state laws regarding fresh water buffers and understanding potential actions that can be taken to further protect our state's rivers, creeks, streams and freshwater wetlands, and close any gaps in stream buffer language as it relates to wrested vegetation.


The following bills have been filed and are of high importance to the Conservancy. We will keep a dedicated eye on them during this legislative session:

Georgia Space Flight Act - House Bill 1

House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-180), seeks to establish the Georgia Space Flight Act, which defines terms related to space flight and would limit the liability of space flight entities related to injuries sustained by any passengers of space flight. The bill is intended to further position Camden County as the chief candidate for the proposed Spaceport Camden. 

The proposed site is located in the northeast corner of the county near the confluence of the Satilla River and Saint Andrews Sound in Georgia. This area is one of the highest functioning estuarine ecosystems on the East Coast of the United States and, as such, has extensive value to plants, animals, and the people of Camden County.

The Georgia Conservancy has been fully engaged in the environmental subcommittee of the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee.

Building a spaceport is an unusual proposition, which makes it more important for Camden County and the FAA to explain to the citizens of the County what to expect from the project. On January 14, 2016 the Georgia Conservancy submitted a comment letter as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping process for Spaceport Camden. There continue to be significant concerns based on the very limited amount of project information released to date. It is unclear from development details how the project will benefit the County or what financial impacts it may have for Camden's citizens.

Given the lack of design and operational information for the Spaceport the Federal Aviation Administration consultant charged with drafting the EIS has a big job, which might explain why it has taken over a year to develop the, yet unreleased, environmental document. The Georgia Conservancy will look to the EIS to use science to address the issues, such as environmental impacts for the project and any related development the project may bring to this ecologically-important area of Camden County.

Our concerns center on the following general topical areas

  • Environmental issues at a larger scale (regional),
  • Impacts to adjoining sites and landscape scale natural resources (including National Park wilderness), and
  • Site-specific development, mitigation and conservation measures

A separate but related issue for the project is addressing property rights and park operations related to “launch exclusion areas” that require periodic evacuations on Little Cumberland and Cumberland Island National Seashore. 

The Georgia Conservancy looks forward to the upcoming opportunity to review project plans and understand the long term vision Camden County has for this ecologically-important area of the lower Satilla River.

House Bill 1 does not address any of our concerns as they relate to potential environmental impacts. We will continue to monitor this bill and any legislative activities as they relate to the proposed Spaceport Camden.

HB 1 has been filed by the House and awaiting assignment to a committee.

The Georgia Conservancy will continue to monitor House Bill 1.


other news:

Last year, with House Bill 736, a new Marine Wildlife License Plate was created. The sell of this license plate provide voluntary funding for projects to restore and enhance marine habitats through oyster reef creation, construction of man-made reefs along the shorelines of tidal rivers and creeks, and the construction of man-made reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. The State is currently promoting the sale of these license plates to Georgia drivers. Click here for more information on how you can purchase your Marine Wildlife License Plate.


House and Senate Committees

The Conservancy works closely with members of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the EnvironmentHouse Committee on Natural Resources and the EnvironmentHouse Committee on Game, Fish and Parks, and the House Committee on Ways and Means.  Bills that originate in these committees often have the greatest impact on Georgia's natural environment.

Please advocate for sound environmental policies that benefit all of Georgia by reaching out to your elected officials.  This is our Georgia.


2016 Legislative Recap

 
 

For a statewide nonprofit organization, there are more barriers than incentives to including an Advocacy Program in its mission and work.

Advocacy work is difficult to resource. It takes a special disposition to balance various relationships with elected officials and between partners, and an interest not only in policy, but also in politics, process and strategy.

The 2016 Georgia General Assembly demonstrated again why the investment in an effective and engaged Advocacy Program at the Georgia Conservancy is so important – it’s necessary! Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director Leah Dixon and our team reported on more than 30 pieces of legislation last year, in addition to the Governor’s budget.

The highlight of the 2016 Legislative Session was our tireless work to pass a moratorium on the permitting and the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipeline construction in Georgia and the establishment of a commission to review the current siting and permitting guidelines and procedures.

Click here to learn more about our advocacy efforts during last year's session.


QUESTIONS?

 
 

Please contact Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director Leah Dixon at ldixon@gaconservancy.org with any questions regarding the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Georgia Conservancy is a member-supported organization. Learn more about how you can join the Georgia Conservancy and be a part of our mission to protect and conserve Georgia's natural resources.


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