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Political Debates
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There were many bills passed during the 2014 legislative session that went into effect on July 1, 2014. Below are some of the bills and resolutions, including short summaries, of significance to counties. House Bills:

HB 60 Omnibus Gun Bill of 2014
(Rep. Doug Holt, 112th)
This was the omnibus gun bill of the 2014 session. ACCG opposed three of its numerous provisions: weapons being allowed in local government buildings unless security and screening are in place; law enforcement not being able to detain persons carrying weapons to determine whether they are legally licensed to do so; and individuals being empowered to sue a county, an elected official or a county employee for any perceived violation of state firearms regulations.

HB 215 Filings in the Clerk of Superior Court Office/Office Hours
(Rep. Tommy Benton, 31st)
This legislation allows, but does not require, superior court clerks to require payment of filing fees before accepting an instrument or document for recording.  It also allows the clerks to require that an instrument or document meet all filing requirements before accepting it for recording.
Current law requires the superior court clerk’s office to be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. This legislation provides some flexibility for a lunch hour closure if the office opens at 8 a.m., has a lunch break from 12–1 p.m. and closes at 5 p.m.

HB 449 Non Disclosure Of Victim Calls To 9-1-1
(Rep. Micah Gravley, 67th)
This legislation provides an exception to the open records law for 9-1-1 call recordings in which the caller is in extreme distress or dies.

HB 490 Require County Library Employees to Work at Least 30 Hours per Week to be Eligible for Health Insurance
(Rep. Timothy Barr, 103rd)
Under current law, the Board of Community Health is authorized to contract with county libraries to include certain library staff under health insurance plans created for public school teachers. The county deducts required amounts from the salary of these employees and remits it to the Board of Community Health. This legislation specifies that “librarians” means certified personnel who work at least thirty hours per week. “Other personnel” specifies that it applies to non-certified employees who work at least thirty hours per week. The fiscal note issued with the substitute version of this bill estimates at least a $1.6 million dollar savings to the counties in benefit costs for state paid positions funded by counties.

HB 755 Property Tax Appeals, Refunds and Recalculation of FLPA Grants Upon Final Valuation
(Rep. Jay Powell, 171th)
This bill makes several changes to the ad valorem tax laws. These changes:
• Require forestland protection grants for 2008 to be based upon the final value once an appeal is settled;
• Before an appeal can be filed in superior court, authorize the payment of the temporary tax bill as an alternative to payment of the amount of taxes that were paid in the year a final tax bill was determined;
• Reinstate appeal thresholds that cannot be exceeded in order to get digest approval;
• Give the Commissioner the authority to reject a tax digest if evidence exists that the county has substantially failed to comply with the ad valorem tax laws or the Department’s rules and regulations;
• Authorize owners of nonhomestead property with a value of $2 million or more to pay a portion of the temporary tax bill to an escrow account held by the tax commissioner until the appeal is settled;
• Consolidate the provisions that define the amount of interest due once an appeal is settled into a single subsection;
• Change the eligibility to request a refund of paid taxes or license fees from a case where it has been determined that the tax or fee was illegally erroneously collected to an allegation that the tax or fee was illegally or erroneously collected;
• Redefine the authorized time frame for submitting a refund request to the governing authority and filing suit in court for a refund.

HB 778 Exemption of Certain Nonprofit Charitable Entities from Food Service Establishment Regulations
(Rep. John Pezold, 133rd)
This legislation exempts certain nonprofit organizations from the board of health’s food service establishment requirements. The exemption would apply to qualified nonprofit organizations that operate food banks; that provide on-site feeding programs for free distribution of food to combat poverty and hunger; that provide food to houses or residential structures where seriously ill or injured children and their families are provided temporary accommodations near the hospital where the child receives treatment, so long as food is prepared, served, transported or stored by volunteer personnel.

HB 845 Mugshots - Limit Posting on Web Sites
(Rep. Brian Strickland, 111th)
This bill prohibits law enforcement agencies from posting booking photographs (other than of those on the sex offender registry) on a web site. Furthermore, law enforcement is prohibited from providing these photographs to persons who place them in publications or post on web sites and who charge a fee for removing or deleting these photographs.

HB 990 Legislative Approval for the Expansion of Medicaid
(Rep. Jan Jones, 47th)
This legislation requires the General Assembly to approve an expansion of Medicaid eligibility through an increase in the income threshold.

Senate Bills:

SB 65 Pilot Program to Authorize Licensed Professional Counselors to Sign Mental Health Commitment Orders
(Sen. Renee Unterman, 45th)
This legislation will allow a licensed professional counselor to sign 1013 orders to hold mental health patients they deem to be a danger to themselves or others until March 15, 2015. Currently, only doctors are allowed to sign these orders. This pilot project will document the cost savings of having additional professionals approved to sign the orders, thereby lowering transportation costs of the sheriff’s departments.

SB 117 Call Before You Dig Revisions
(Sen. Rick Jeffares, 17th)
This legislation changes are made to Georgia’s Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA, or “Call Before You Dig Law”).  It changes procedures for addressing un-locatable utilities. It reinforces that sewer laterals are not owned by local governments. Also, it clarifies that routine road maintenance is not “excavating” for purposes of Call Before You Dig Law. Finally it changes the makeup of the GUFPA advisory committee.  Despite earlier concerns, this bill does not expand penalties for local governments found in violation of the law, nor does it expand the Public Service Commission’s regulatory reach over local governments or water authorities.

SB 290 Dangerous Dog Law Revisions
(Sen. Dean Burke, 11th)
This legislation makes several changes to the Responsible Dog Ownership Law. First, it allows county commissioners to appoint more than one individual as dog control officer. Second, in addition to animal control boards or boards of health conducting hearings to determine if a dog is dangerous or vicious, these hearings may also be held before the probate court. Third, it reduces the amount of time to request a hearing, as well as the amount of time that a vicious or dangerous dog must be held if no owner can be found.

SR 875 Reporting of Tax Abatements and Other Economic Development Incentives Impacting Tax Digests
(Sen. Jack Hill, 4th)
This legislation establishes a joint committee to study the impact of tax digest reporting, tax abatements, any economic development related revenues paid “in lieu” of taxes and any other arrangements that impact local digests or education funding. The study committee would also consider establishing a central clearinghouse where reports on tax digests impacts would be submitted for public inspection.

SR 1203 Creation of Senate Study Committee on 9-1-1 System Modernization
(Sen. Jeff Mullis, 53rd)
This legislation creates a Senate Study Committee on 9-1-1 modernization, comprised of five members of the Senate.  The committee will study the conditions, needs, issues, and problems with the current 9-1-1 system and make recommendations on actions or legislation needed.

Contributed article.

 

 



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