The House of Representatives returned for the sixth week of the 2022 legislative session on Monday, February 14, 2022. From economic development to protecting our natural environment, my colleagues and I mulled over dozens of bills that would address a wide range of policy issues both on the House floor and with our committees this week.
Early in the week, the House unanimously passed legislation to encourage and incentivize regional cooperation between Georgia counties, as well as provide a specific framework for regional development authorities. House Bill 1044 would allow three to five adjoining counties to create a regional development authority that would work to stimulate economic development and job growth within those counties. While counties may currently establish a development authority with a neighboring county for various purposes, this issue became a priority for the House Rural Development Council after learning about several rural Georgia counties that teamed up to help spur economic development. With this legislation, we hope to replicate and strengthen this model in other parts of our state, especially in rural areas. HB 1044 also aims to provide counties with an even greater incentive to take advantage of this regional approach to economic development and implement standardized continuing education to ensure high levels of service across Georgia.
The House also passed House Bill 1134, legislation which would allow the state’s attorney general to collaborate with local district attorneys to prosecute certain gang-related crimes across the state. Additionally, HB 1134 would allow the attorney general to employ peace officers for investigative purposes. This bill would also work in tandem with the governor’s plan to create the Gang Prosecution Unit in the attorney general’s office. HB 1134 has now been sent to the Senate for consideration.
We also passed bipartisan legislation, House Bill 893, to extend the collection of hazardous waste fees, which are crucial to supporting the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and its work to restore Georgia’s environment. The legislature originally established this fund to collect fees from hazardous waste generators, solid waste tipping fees and violation fines to help fund the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Without this fund, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division might not be able to implement programs to remediate contaminated sites, and our local governments would be left to fund the cleanup of leaking landfills, abandoned and contaminated properties. Originally set to expire this summer, HB 893 would extend the sunset date of the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund to July 1, 2027, allowing the state to fund this important work for another five years. HB 893 was sent over to our counterparts in the Senate, and I hope that this bill receives overwhelming support as it did in the House.
The Georgia House also voted to advance legislation to modify certain hunting and wildlife protection laws this week. Our state laws already provide extensive protections to Georgia’s wildlife, including turkeys and other ground nesting birds, as well as year-round protections for endangered loggerhead sea turtles that call Georgia’s coastline their home during their nesting season. This week, we passed House Bill 1147 to help protect these animals that have low population numbers from nest-raiding predators, such as raccoons and opossums, which have had a population boom in recent years and threaten certain wildlife populations. HB 1147 would allow property owners to hunt and trap raccoons and opossums year round and remove bag limits for these animals. Several other states have also adopted similar policies when it comes to hunting these animals, and this bill would help the state better protect special nesting animals that are native to our state.
On Wednesday, my colleagues and I dedicated a whole day to meeting with our House committees and subcommittees to consider bills as they move through the legislative process. By the end of the day, nearly 20 House meetings were held to discuss countless bills that cover a range of policies. House Bill 1013, the Mental Health Parity Act, received its first committee hearing, several education bills were debated in committees and subcommittees, and Appropriations subcommittees met to discuss portions of the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Finally, the House Rules Committee met and set a calendar full of local redistricting bills for our last legislative day of this week, as well as an extensive calendar for when we reconvene on the House floor next week.
The House also passed the following bills and resolutions during Legislative Week 6:
- House Bill 963, which would provide the annual update of provisions of the Controlled Substance Act for Schedule I and Schedule IV controlled substances;
- House Bill 969, which would update reporting requirements for insurance holding companies to include information on their financial profile and group capital calculation;
- House Bill 1021, which would decrease the minimum non-forfeiture interest rate for individual deferred annuities from one percent to 0.15 percent;
- House Bill 1089, which would increase the penalty fee for each violation of specified motor vehicle registration requirements from $25 to $145. Some out of State trucking companies are willing to pay the penalty fee if they get caught traveling through
- our State unregistered since it is so low.;
- House Bill 1223, which would extend the sunset date on the sales and use tax exemption for computer equipment sold to high-technology companies from June 30, 2023, to December 31, 2023;
- House Bill 1275, which would revise provisions of Georgia’s code concerning the appointment and removal of municipal court judges;
This busy week of legislating on behalf of House District 8 has come to a close, but I am already gearing up for another meaningful and productive week in Atlanta when we resume our work on Tuesday, Feb. 22. I hope that you continue to reach out with any questions or thoughts you have on legislation that is up for consideration this year. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-0325 or Stan.Gunter@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative under the Gold Dome.