Michael L.Sullivan 2015-05-19 02:35:49
The 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly proved to be a very successful session for Georgia’s engineering industry and for the larger business community. Obviously, the success in passing transportation funding is an effort that will benefit everyone. Transportation infrastructure is the circulatory system of Georgia’s overall economy and our surface transportation infrastructure, along with the Port of Savannah and Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, are the major economic engines that drive the state’s economic development. While transportation funding may have gotten most of the public’s attention, there were several other bills that passed that will greatly benefit Georgia’s business climate and the A/E/C industry specifically. The following is a listing of important legislation that passed in the 2015 session. Note that at press time, some of these bills have not yet been signed (or vetoed) by the Governor. HB 18 By Rep. Jason Spenser (R-Woodbine) exempts “defense, aviation, space, or aerospace companies and those who work for them and who provide engineering for certain products or services from complying with the provisions” from professional engineer registration. The exemption is located in the same code section that exempts employees of the Georgia Department of Transportation and engineers working under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer. The bill is premised on the fact that the aviation engineering practice is regulated by Federal, rather than state government requirements. HB 106 By Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) started out as a simple housekeeping bill to clean up and modernize several provisions of existing Code relating to the state highway system and the appropriation of funds to the Department of Transportation. Ultimately, it became a companion bill for several provisions related to HB 170, specifically the new local T-SPLOST provisions and the new hotel/motel tax. Now, counties that are in regions that did not approve the TIA referendum in 2012 can impose their own T-SPLOST by local referendum at a fractional rate of up to one percent. The T-SPLOST may not exceed five years and 30 percent of estimated revenue must be dedicated to projects in the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). HB 170 By Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (TFA2015) eliminates Georgia’s existing four percent sales tax on gasoline and 7.5 cents per gallon excise tax on diesel, replacing them both with a new 26 cent per-gallon excise tax on gasoline and a 29 cent per gallon excise tax on diesel fuel. The new excise tax will be indexed to Federal fuel efficiency (CAFÉ) standards and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for two years, after which CAFÉ standards will be the only indexing measure. Other sources of new revenue include (1) a new statewide $5 per-night hotel/motel tax, (2) a new $200 per-year registration fee for electric cars and $300 for commercial electric vehicles, (3) a new fee on heavy trucks, which ranges from $5 to $100, depending on the vehicle’s weight. Overall, the bill is projected to initially raise approximately $945 million per year in new funding, an amount that will increase over time due to indexing. The state’s budget (HB 76) also included $100 million in funding dedicated to bridge repair and another $75 million for transit systems across the state, including MARTA. HB 213 By Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) eliminates the 50/50 restriction on MARTA funds (which restricts MARTA to spending 50 percent of its revenue on capital expenditures and 50 percent on operations and maintenance), provided certain auditing requirements are met. The bill also makes some board governance changes, including giving the Executive Director of Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) a vote on the MARTA Board until at least December 31, 2016. HB 237 By Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) extends Georgia’s Angel Investor tax credit (35 percent of the amount invested against the tax imposed, up to certain limits) to 2018, in order to continue to try to attract and retain Georgia startups. HB 308 By Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) makes several changes to Georgia’s historic structures preservation tax credits, including increasing the tax credit cap for projects that create 200 or more jobs or more than $5 million in annual payroll, as well as allowing the tax credits to be transferred or sold. HB 397 By Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) makes sweeping changes to the structure and operation of the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission, including moving it into the Department of Agriculture, converting it from elected members to five statewide/at-large members appointed by the Governor to five statewide/at-large seats. The bill also gives ultimate control over the Manual for Erosion and Sediment Control in Georgia to the Erosion and Sediment Control Overview Council and requires that the manual “shall be based foremost upon sound engineering principles and repeatable bench and field 110 testing of structural and vegetative best management practices.” This bill was introduced at the Governor’s request in response to a major economic development project that Georgia almost lost last year due to holdups related to issues under the jurisdiction of the Commission. HB 412 By Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) restores the fundamental principal that Workers’ Compensation is the exclusive remedy for employees against employers for work-related injuries, a principal that was undermined by a Georgia Court of Appeals decision last year allowing additional tort recovery in addition to workers comp. HB 592 By Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) introduced (at ACEC Georgia and SEAOG’s request) would create a new “Professional Engineer, Structural Engineer” (“P.E., S.E.”) license for structural engineers in Georgia. While this bill did not pass during the 2015 session, passage of this legislation will be the number one priority for ACEC Georgia and the Georgia Engineering Alliance in the 2016 session. SB 4 By Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) will allow public-private partnerships to be used for surface transportation projects within the Atlanta BeltLine. The original draft of this bill contained problematic language that would have allowed the BeltLine and/or Invest Atlanta (the City of Atlanta’s development authority) to engage in contractual negotiations with multiple bidders simultaneously. ACEC Georgia, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) worked with Sen. Gooch and representatives of the Atlanta BeltLine on compromise language that will require a QBS-type procurement process. SB 59 By Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) the “Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act” seeks to create transparency in facilitating public private partnerships for the financing, construction and/or operation of vertical structures, such as schools, dormitories, structured parking, healthcare facilities, offices or other government facilities. ACEC Georgia was actively engaged in supporting this legislation for the past three legislative sessions. SB 101 By Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) is a coastal marshland buffer bill that will establish a 25 foot buffer along coastal marshlands and provide variances for activities associated with existing infrastructure, proposed new activities within the buffer zone and the activities of utilities. The bill will reduce permitting time, complexity and costs for businesses and utilities with infrastructure and other developments located within a marsh environment. SB 125 By Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) will expand the authority of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) to allow for the collection of tolls solely for traffic flow management purposes.
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
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