2018 Legislative Update

Week 12 of the 2018 Georgia General Assembly Legislative Session

Welcome to the Georgia Conservancy's legislative update for the 12th week and final week of the 2018 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. 

The following bills are of high importance to the Conservancy, and we have kept a dedicated eye on these measures during this 2018 Legislative Session:


The following bills are of high importance to the Conservancy.  We will keep a dedicated eye on these measures during this 2018 Legislative Session:

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act - House Bill 332 & House Resolution 238

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act has passed! The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (HB 332) and companion legislation calling for voter approval in a referendum this fall (HR 238) were both overwhelmingly passed by the Georgia House of Representatives and the State Senate on Sine Die, the final day of the session. The Georgia Conservancy and the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition thank Representative Sam Watson and Senator Steve Gooch for marshaling support for these measures in their respective chambers.

HB 332 now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature. Per Georgia law, HR 238 does not require a signature, having received the two-thirds majority necessary to be put on the ballot for the November general election. The Governor has 40 days from the end of the legislative session to sign bills into law. 

The ballot measure, HR 238, as passed will go to the voters to allow for the dedication of up to 80% of existing sales tax collections on outdoor sporting goods as classified by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The enabling legislation, HB 332, as passed would initially dedicate a portion of that amount equating to $20 - $22 million in annual dedicated funding (or 40%). The legislature has the ability to increase that amount up to the 80% cap as the economy allows. The measure sunsets after ten years with the option to be renewed.

Our state currently lacks a dedicated funding mechanism for the conservation for priority lands, the stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas, and the support of local parks and preserves - the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act seeks to change that.

With the goal of conserving Georgia’s precious natural resources – its people, jobs, land and water – through a sustainable source of funding for land and water conservation, The Georgia Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Conservation Fund and Park Pride joined forces in 2010 as a coalition advocating for dedicated conservation funding.

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act seeks to:

  • Dedicate up to 80% of all monies received from the state sales and use tax collected from the sale of outdoor sporting goods. 
  • Provide for the acquisition of critical areas for the provision or protection of clean water, game, wildlife, or fisheries, or natural-resource-based outdoor recreation.
  • Aid local governments in the acquisition and improvement of local parks and trails.
  • Provide for the stewardship of conservation lands through maintenance and restoration projects.

Georgia's natural resources play a critical role in job creation and the economic health of communities throughout the state. Conservation funds generated by the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act would have a significant impact on our ability to conserve and protect our lands and waters and to continue to attract hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who contribute to our tourism and recreation economy. Access to outdoor space also plays a key role in the state's efforts to promote a healthier population. Finally, it is important to note that Georgia's economic competitors, such as Texas, Virginia, Alabama and Florida, all have programs in place to ensure conservation funding.

From within the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, dollars would also be made available in each fiscal year for loans to any city, county, or nongovernmental entity to defray the costs of acquisition of conservation land or of conservation easements placed upon property that ensure its permanent protection as conservation land.

To allow for the dedicated allocation of tax revenue, the Constitution of Georgia would first have to be amended and the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act would seek to accomplish this through the creation of a ballot initiative presented to Georgia voters during the fall 2018 election cycle. The passage of House Resolution 238 creates this ballot initiative. The proposals would also better position Georgia to compete for additional investment from federal, private and philanthropic entities.
 
Click here to read a press release regarding the passage of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act.

House Resolution 238 has passed the State Legislature allowing for a 2018 statewide ballot initiative.

House Bill 332 has passed the State Legislature and will now move the Governor's desk.

The Georgia Conservancy strongly supports the signing of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act.


Dedicated Fees - House Resolution 158

HR 158, sponsored by Rep. Jay Powell (R-171) proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would require the state to "dedicate", or spend fees on the specific purposes for which the fees were collected.

Since the economic downturn of 2007-08, Georgia lawmakers have relied on a practice of diverting to the state's general fund fees that are collected for specific purposes.

For example, the tire fee on new tire purchases that is supposed to fund the clean-up of dangerous tire dumps has been diverted to other state activities and programs. The diversion of fee income has left the state with inadequate funds to properly clean-up these tire dumps that pose a threat to the public safety, health and the environment. HR 158 would prohibit this practice.

House Resolution 158 passed the House but did not pass the Senate before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The Georgia Conservancy supported the passage the House Resolution 158


Regional Mass Transit Funding - House Bill 930 

An amended House Bill 930, one reconciled by both chambers through a conference committee, passed on Sine Die and would allow 13 counties in the metro region to fund mass transit projects through voter approved sales tax referendums. Counties would have to submit mass transit projects proposals to be approved by a new regional transit board (Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority), which each bill would establish. Each county would also be eligible to seek state funds for approved projects.

House Bill 930 passed both chambers and will now move to the Governor's desk.

The Georgia Conservancy supports the signing of HB 930.


Oil and Gas Extraction Regulations - House Bill 205

House Bill 205 proposes new rules and stronger regulations for the extraction of oil and gas in Georgia, and the authority to create an Oil & Gas Board under certain circumstances.

The bill would establish much needed regulations on the extraction methods commonly known as fracking. The intent is to put in place statutory measures to properly protect Georgia's waters, especially those in Northwest Georgia, an area of the state that has seen an increased interest in gas extraction from its Conasauga Shale.

During 2017, HB 205 passed the House, but an amended Senate version could not be agreed upon in conference committee before the close of the session.

House Bill 205 has passed the House and the Senate and will now move to the Governor's desk.

The Georgia Conservancy supports the signing of HB 205.


Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration - House Resolution 1041 and Senate Resolution 706

House Resolution 1041, sponsored by Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-162), and Senate Resolution 706, sponsored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-2), are bi-partisan measures that oppose seismic testing and oil and gas drilling off of Georgia's coast. The resolutions ask for the General Assembly to express their support for Georgia's fishing and coastal tourism industries, extensive salt marsh and marine mammals, as well as opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration.

Neither House Resolution 1041 nor Senate Resolution 706 were adopted by their respective chambers before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The Georgia Conservancy strongly supported the adoption of both resolutions.

Please read our statement on offshore oil and gas exploration.



Coal Ash Landfill Dewatering Notifications - House Bill 879

House Bill 879, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Jones (R-167), provides for new coal combustion residual (CCR) definitions in the code section and requires the owner or operator of a coal ash pond to provide notifications to the local governing authority and public before the start of dewatering practices at CCR surface impoundments. 

House Bill 879 passed the House and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment, but was tabled by the Senate before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The Georgia Conservancy supported the passage of House Bill 879.


Working Forests License Plate - House Bill 695
 
HB 695, sponsored by seeks to establish a specialty license plate honoring Georgia’s working forests and the benefits they provide to Georgians and wildlife habitat.

The funds generated by the sale of this license plate would be given to the Georgia Forestry Foundation. Passage of this bill requires a two-third’s majority vote in both houses of the Legislature.

HB 695 was amended last week to include an effective date of July 1, 2019, as well as to add an additional plate supporting the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia. 

House Bill 695 has passed both chambers and will now move to the Governor's desk.
 
The Georgia Conservancy supports the signing of HB 695


Extending The Hazardous Waste Trust Fund - House Bill 792

Sponsored by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-10), HB 792 seeks to extend the sunset date on the state's Hazardous Waste Trust Fund. The collection of fees that support the fund is currently set to expire on July 1 of this year. With passage of this amended bill, the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund will be extended.

Until June 30, 2019, under this legislation, when a municipal solid waste disposal facility is operated by private enterprise, the host local government is authorized and is required to impose a surcharge of $1.00 per ton or volume equivalent, in addition to any other negotiated charges or fees which shall be imposed by and paid
to the host local government for the facility. On July 1, 2019 that fee will be increased to $2.50.

The Hazardous Waste Trust Fund is supported by monies collected from hazardous waste generators, solid waste tipping fees and various fines for violations.  The Fund, which is administered by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, is used to remediate contaminated sites throughout the state. If the collection of fees were to sunset, the ability of local governments to fund the clean up of leaking landfills, as well as abandoned and contaminated properties, would be seriously hindered. 

The amended House Bill 792 has passed both chambers and will now move to the Governor's desk.

The Georgia Conservancy supports the signing of House Bill 792


Fuel Conversion of Non-Recyclable Plastics - House Bill 785

House Bill 785, sponsored by Rep. Randy Nix (R-69), seek to adds to and modify definitions of solid waste so as to provide for additional options in their management. These additional management options include the gassification and pryolosis of materials previously classified as waste, such as non-recycled feedstock and post-use plastics.

To complement current recycling, this bill would allow for materials that cannot be economically recycled to be converted in to fuel.

HB 785 has passed both chambers and will now move to the Governor's desk.

The Georgia Conservancy supports the signing of HB 785. 


Deferred Maintenance of National Parks - Senate Resolution 778

Senate Resolution 778, sponsored by Rep. Steve Gooch (R-51), urges the United States Congress to create a reliable, predictable stream of resources to address deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service, specifically for NPS properties found within Georgia. 

Senate Resolution 778 was adopted by the State Senate.

The Georgia Conservancy strongly supports the adoption of SR 778.


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Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Program

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 2017 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. 

Click here to learn more about our advocacy efforts.


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.


QUESTIONS?

Please contact Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director Leah Dixon at ldixon@gaconservancy.org with any questions regarding the 2018 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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