The Georgia Legislature- Overreach and Power Grab

It is very disturbing that so many state legislators who claim to support limited government, have sponsored or voted for legislation that expands government. The legislation in question appears to indicate that the Georgia Legislature is in favor of the same type of overreach that is normally found only at the federal level.

Most troubling are the bills that steal local control from cities and counties. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that when the legislature disenfranchises city councils and county commissions, it also disenfranchises the residents who live in those cities and counties. For details about the impact on your community, click here. (SB represents Senate Bill, HB represents House Bill) A partial list of disenfranchising bills is below. Click the number at the beginning of each paragraph to read the actual bill. If you take exception to the overreach in these bills, contact your Georgia Representative or Senator.

SB 426 by Senator Steve Gooch- The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee passed this bill which grants nearly unregulated access and special privileges to private companies seeking to put small cell antennas, new poles and other telecommunications equipment in public spaces (public right of way). (Small cell systems are approximately the size of a refrigerator.)

If this bill is signed into law, and you don’t like a telecommunications company’s plan to put a pole and cell antenna in the right-of-way in front of you house, don’t your city council member or county commissioner. They will be powerless to help.

SB 2 – by Senator Mike Dugan mandates cities and counties to establish and publish a time frame and fee schedule related to the processing and issuance of occupational licenses and permits for businesses, professions or occupations.  Additionally, the local government would have to require the applicant to pay 50 percent of the fee up front.  After payment of half of the fee, the local government would be required to verify with each applicant that an application is complete. If a local government does not meet its published deadline, the fee owed would be reduced by 10 percent for each ten days that the published deadline is not met.

This unnecessary legislation will create a red tape nightmare and increase processing costs for cities and counties, which will ultimately result in the need to raise property taxes to compensate. This bill has passed in the Senate last year and is awaiting a vote in the House.

HB 518 –by Rep. Lee Hawkins would amend the compensation due to cities for placement of telecom equipment in the public rights-of-way. This legislation would first allow telecoms who do not have retail end users, but are instead wholesalers, to pay no more than 3% of recurring local service revenues in a jurisdiction for use of the rights-of-way. Additionally, it would create a flat rate for those telecoms who don’t have retail end users or wholesale users in a jurisdiction of $100 per linear mile. This is a giveaway to telecommunications companies.

HB 693 –by Rep. Brett Harrell would remove the authorization for cities, counties and authorities to use liens as a method of collecting unpaid solid waste assessments.

This bill leaves cities and counties with little if any practical means of collecting unpaid fees for trash collection. Consequently, fees for paying customers would have to be raised to cover non-paying customers, the number of which would undoubtedly increase once it became common knowledge that non-payment had no consequences. This bill passed in the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

HB 948 – by Rep. Rick Jasperse would prohibit municipalities from placing bans on the sale of goods or products regulated by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

This bill sounds innocent enough as it would seem that any good or product regulated by agencies of the federal or state government would not need further regulation by municipalities. While this bill will have no economic impact on cities, what is not obvious in the its language is that by removing local authority to regulate sales on retail items, it would allow the retail sales of cats and dogs bred in puppy mills, which are notorious for abusing animals and selling unhealthy puppies and kittens.

SB 418 –by Sen. John Wilkinson- This is the Senate version of HB 948, described above.

For another example of the state legislature’s assault on cities, see The Stockbridge Land Grab