Category: News

Capitol Overview 2018: Week 8 Legislative Update – Cross Over Day Edition


Candidate Qualifying

Candidates for 2018 elections qualified for office this week. All of Georgia’s Constitutional Officers, House and Senate seats, local county seats and a Special Election for Alpharetta Mayor and City Council will be on the ballot.  Nine candidates qualified to run for governor – seven Republicans and two Democrats. Five candidates for Lt. Governor include two Democrats and three Republican candidates.

There will be contested races in every legislative seat in the North Fulton Delegation, Fulton County Commission Chairman,  Fulton County School Board District 2 and Fulton County Chief Magistrate Judge.  Look for complete coverage of these Fulton County races in an upcoming Capitol Overview.

Distracted Driving

This legislation hit a snag in Week 9 in the Senate as concerns arose regarding exceptions and the ability of law enforcement to determine if there were any violations.

HB 673 says that in order to activate your cellular device in any way – GPS, phone call, etc. – the device must be affixed to your car. Georgia already has a law banning texting while driving but police officers have indicated it is unenforceable as it is difficult and time-consuming to prove. The bill would impose fines of at least $300 for the first offense and it increases the penalty from one point up to six for repeat offenders.


Bills to create a Regional Transit Authority in Metro Atlanta have now both passed overwhelmingly out of their respective Chambers and were in transportation committee this week in the other Chamber for consideration. The expectation in committee is that both would substitute the other bill’s language for the original house or senate version, and then head to a conference committee for agreement.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Brandon Beach (R-21) proposed SB 386.

Major Provisions:

  • Creates the Atlanta-Region Transit Link (ATL) Commission. The purpose of this Commission would be to coordinate the funding and construction of transit facilities in the 13 county metro-Atlanta area.
  • Creates an optional T-SPLOST that counties which are a part of the system may adopt through a referendum. The money would be used to fund public transit expansion within the local jurisdiction. The jurisdictions are encouraged to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with MARTA for their transportation services.
  • Authorizes the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to oversee the creation of the ATL board to develop, manage, and execute regional transit strategies throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area. The ATL Commission will consist of the Georgia Commissioner of Transportation, Mayor of Atlanta, Chief Executive Officer of MARTA, and County Commission Chairmen from each member-county.
  • The House Transportation Committee passed Senate Bill 386, but stripped it of all language from the Senate Bill and substituted all of the language for House Bill 930.  

Rep. Kevin Tanner, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, introduced

HB 930 as a result of the work of the House Regional Transit Funding and Governance Commission. The bill was amended to remove the special tax district for Cobb County and allow the entire county to have the option to join the new Regional Transit Authority if created.

Major Provisions:

  • Restructures GRTA into the Atlanta-Region Transit Link (ATL) Commission incorporating the 13 counties in the ARC region in the new authority governed by newly created districts.
  • Identifies two new funding revenues to support transit: (1.) Adds a 50-cent charge per trip on rideshare, taxi and limo providers (2.) Creates a 1% airport tax on concessions at the Atlanta airport.
  • Allows new counties to call for a referendum to levy a 1% transit SPLOST.
  • The Senate Transportation Committee heard House Bill 930 on Wednesday, March 7th without taking a vote, and awaits another hearing in the Senate Transportation  Committee.

Leadership in both Chambers agree that metro Atlanta needs well-networked, efficient transit and both are committed to passing framework legislation. What that final piece of legislation will look like remains to be seen. Rep. Tanner and Sen. Beach have both indicated that House and Senate are working together but differences remain.  This is likely to not be decided until the last day of the session, Sine Die on March 29.


Governor’s Budget Proposal

Governor Deal signed HB 683, the amended FY2018 appropriations bill. The bill authorized $25.4 billion in spending for the current fiscal year, based upon a 2.7% growth in general fund revenues over FY2017 collections. The additional funding addresses growth needs in education and human services, and provides additional funding to local government, school systems, and statewide economic development efforts. Highlights include:

  • $101.4 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $25.9 million for airport runway extension projects
  • $60.7 million in additional funds for Forestland Protection Act reimbursements
  • $15.7 million for school buses for local school systems
  • $9.6 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program
  • $2 million to expand marketing efforts to promote educational opportunities available at the technical colleges
  • $10.3 million for technical college equipment replacement statewide
  • $28.2 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid
  • $1.2 million for hospitals to offset costs due to the high number of flu cases
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody
  • $3.5 million for autism services for children under 21
  • $10 million for grants to local communities for beach nourishment projects
  • $1.6 million for improvements to the Great Dunes South Beach Park and the Ocean View Beach Park at Jekyll Island State Park

Then focus now shifts to the FY19 budget.

  •  FY 2019 ·
  •  $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System. ·
  • $127.6 million for K-12 enrollment growth, training and experience. ·
  • $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems. ·
  • $54.3 million for resident instruction at University System institutions. ·
  • $5.9 million for operations for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. ·
  • $34.4 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program. ·
  • $255.9 million for Medicaid to fund growth and offset the loss of federal and other funds. ·
  • $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases. ·
  • $5.9 million for autism crisis services for children under 21. ·
  • $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health. ·
  • $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts. ·
  • $31.7 million in new motor fuel funds for transportation. ·
  • $100 million in bond funds to repair and replace bridges throughout the state.

The overall numbers for the FY 2019 revenue estimate is $26,032,155,186 with an FY 19 Budget of $22,365,038,266, a $917,700,455 increase over the FY 18 Amended Budget.


SB 317:       Fulton County Schools Homestead Exemption
Sponsor:    Sen. John Albers (r-56)
Status:        Passed the Senate; Passed the House 169-0
Provides for a homestead exemption capped at a 3% increase annually for all properties located within the Fulton County School District.

HB 707, 708, 710, 711, 712  Fulton City Homestead Exemption 
Sponsor:     Rep. Jones, Rep. Price, Rep. Martin, Rep. Raffensperger
Status:         Passed the House by substitute; Passed the Senate; Sent to the Governor
Provides a homestead exemption from City ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park and Roswell, with a cap of 3% or CPI (whichever is less) based on the 2016, 2017 or 2018  year assessed value that is the lowest. This measure to be on the Nov. 2018 ballot.

HB 820:    Tax Assessment Procedure Following Rejection of a Tax Digest
Sponsor:   Rep. Beth Beskin, (R-54)
Status:       Passed the House by substitute; Senate Finance Committee
This bill now has new language that removes the former intent to freeze all Fulton County residential property tax values at the 2016 levels for two years and replaces it with language to provide for a homestead exemption from City of Atlanta ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the adjusted base year assessed value of such homestead.



HB 787:      Charter School Funding Act
Sponsor:    Rep. Scott Hilton (R-95)
Status:        Passed the House; Senate Education and Youth Committee
Increases funding for state authorized charter schools.  Schools currently funded at the average of the five lowest funded districts in the state would see funding increased to the state average.

SB 3:      Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training                   (CONNECT) Act
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Tippins, (R

Status:     Passed House & Senate; Sent to Conference Committee
Requires the State Board of Education to prescribe a minimum course of study in career education for students in grades 6-12. The course of study should include career exploration and career-oriented learning experiences that include participation in work-based learning programs like internships, apprenticeships, cooperative education, or employable skill development; and rigorous industry credentialing.


SB 309:        
Special Election Primaries     
Sponsor:      Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29)
Status:          Passed the Senate; House Government Affairs Committee
Provides that special primaries shall be conducted with special elections to fill vacancies in partisan offices, and standardizes all poll hours to 7 am – 7pm.

Public Safety

 HB 673:      Distracted Driving
Sponsor:    Rep. John Carson (R-46)
Status:        Passed the House by substitute; Senate Judiciary Committee
Prohibit actions which distract a driver while operating a motor vehicle; to provide for the proper and safe use of wireless telecommunications devices while driving.


HB 764:       Medical Cannibus Conditions
Sponsor:     Rep. David Clark, (98)
Status:         Passed the House; Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Adds post-traumatic stress syndrome and chronic pain to the list of eligible conditions that can be treated in Georgia with medical cannibus oil.

SB 352:       Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery
Sponsor:    Sen. Rene Unterman, (R-45)
Status:        Passed the Senate by Substitute; House Health and Human Services Committee
Creates a director of Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Related Disorders; prohibits patient brokering and fraudulent drug testing and billing practices.

Business / Taxation

HB 61        Internet Sales Tax Collection
Sponsor:  Rep. Jay Powell, (R- 171)
Status:      Passed the House; Passed Senate Finance Committee by Substitute9
                  Attached to HB 329 and passed the Senate
Require online retailers who make at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year in Georgia to either collect and remit to the state sales taxes on purchases or send “tax due” notices each year to customers who spend at least $500 on their site.

HB 696:    Computer Equipment Tax Credit
Sponsor:  Rep. Trey Kelley (R-16)
Status:      Passed the House by substitute; Senate Finance Committee
Allows for state sales and use tax exemptions for certain computer equipment sold or leased for use in high-technology data centers.  This is a modernization of existing tax law relative to data centers with incentives for large investments by data centers in the state.

HB 888:      Freeport Exemptions
Sponsor:   Rep. David Knight (R-130)

Status:       Passed House; Passed Senate Finance by Substitute
Summary: To create uniform timelines for filing and responding to applications for freeport exemptions.

HR 993:      Create a Business Court with Statewide Jurisdiction
Sponsor:    Rep. Chuck Efstration, (R-104)
Status:        Passed the House; Senate Judiciary Committee 
Proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would establish a business court with state-wide jurisdiction to provide specialized resolution of complex business litigation matters.

SB 2:           The FAST Act
Sponsor:    Sen. Mike Dugan, (R-
Status:        Passed Senate in 2017; House Substitute Reconsidered
Substitute bill now only requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish a council to create and maintain the “Ready for Partnership” program, a voluntary certification program for each county and municipality in Georgia that includes licensing and permitting fees charged, time required to process applications for licenses and permits and other regulatory requirements for businesses and professions, the manner by which dispute resolution over such licensing, permitting, and regulatory requirements is handled, and the consolidation of forms and documents to avoid repetitive or duplicate requests for information.

SB 17:        Brunch Bill  (R-45)
Sponsor:   Sen. Rene Unterman
Status:       Passed the Senate by substitute; Passed House Regulated Industries Committee
Allow for Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants to begin at 11:30 am with a voter referendum in local jurisdictions.

SB 402:       Rural Broadband Act
Sponsor:    Sen. Steve Gooch, (R-51)
Status:        Passed Senate by substitute; House Ways and Means Committee
Encourages the deployment of broadband and other communications technologies. Authorizes GDOT to use or lease interstate and state road rights of way and to contract with public or private entities to bury broadband equipment on the right of ways of interstate highways, allows for a portion of any profits will be used for DCA grants to promote broadband, and outlines the state’s role in developing a plan for deployment of the broadband system.


HB 930:       Regional Transit Authority Act 
Sponsor:    Rep. Kevin Tanner, (R-9)
Status:        Passed the House by Substitute162-13; Senate Transportation Committee
Includes transit governance and funding options for the Metro Atlanta region (Cherokee, Clayton, Coweta, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale counties). The bill creates a new regional governing board, Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL), that will lead the planning and coordination of transit in Metro Atlanta as well as control state and federal transit funding. Two new funding revenues would be created to support transit:

1) a 50-cent charge per trip on rideshare, taxi and limo providers
2) a 1 percent airport tax on concessions at the Atlanta airport.

Counties in the Metro Atlanta area (and counties outside of Metro Atlanta who partner with a neighboring county) would be able to call for a referendum to levy a 1 percent Transit SPLOST for up to 30 years to enter the regional transit system.

 SB 386:      Regional Transit Authority (ATL)
Sponsor:   Sen. Brandon Beach, (R-21)
Status:       Passed Senate by Substitute 51-4: Passed House Transportation Committee by substitute
Creates the Atlanta-Region Transit Link (ATL) Commission in the metro-Atlanta area with an optional T-SPLOST that counties which are a part of the system may adopt through a referendum to join the current MARTA system for their transportation services.


Sen. John Albers
john@senatoralbers.comSen. David Shafer

Sen. Brandon Beach

Sen. Fran Millar

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick

Sen. Jen Jordan

Rep. Todd Jones Rep. Meagan Hanson

Rep. Rich Golich

Rep. Jan Jones

Rep. Beth Beskin

Rep. Brad Raffensberger

Rep. Chuck Martin
chuck@martinforgeorgia.comRep. Scott Hilton

Rep. Wesley Cantrell

Rep. Deborah Silcox

Rep. Wendell Willard

Rep. Betty Price


Trails, Transit and Park Spur $650M in New Development

By Geoff Smith

The obvious movie line here is ‘build it and they will come.’ But that is really only partly true. The other part of that is don’t act crazy when they get here.

If you look at the multitude of quality development and redevelopment running through the city of Atlanta, you have to be amazed at what they have been able to pull off. I’ve written extensively over the years about Ponce City Market, the Old Fourth Ward and the developments growing up like trees along the Beltline. Intown Atlanta has become a trendy place in the country to live. Expensive compared to other areas of Atlanta, yes, but that’s another story.

If you are a good city planner, and you want to redevelop your city, your job isn’t to do all of the work yourself. Your job is to know what things attract quality developers to want to invest in your city, and then figure out how to have those things in your city. What has happened in Atlanta has been the result of a multitude of partnerships between the city itself, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, MARTA, The Beltline and a number of other countless organizations and business leaders. The city, chamber and other organizations had the vision and guts to turn a college student’s thesis paper into one of the most significant economic develop projects in the county. Ryan Gravel was a student at GA Tech when he came up with the idea of The Beltline. Today the trail is a reality through the east side of Atlanta, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in new projects along it, and developers are racing to buy up land near where the trail will expand.

With these partnerships in place, and a large, growing portfolio of success-stories, I have stopped being surprised every time I hear of a new, huge development going up in Atlanta.

The latest is a development being called Quarry Yards that is in the works on the west side of intown Atlanta. It hits the trifecta in surrounding amenities for today’s developer: It’s next to the Bankhead MARTA Station, will sit between two parks, one of which will be bigger than Piedmont Park when completed, and will be split by a future expansion of the Beltline. Oh, and there is this other trail in the works that will run near the property from the Beltline to the Chattahoochee River. While we are at it, let’s throw one more cool thing in there: one of the development partners is former Atlanta Brave Mark Teixeira.

The first phase of the project will cost around $400 million and will include 575,000 square feet of Class A office space, 850 residential units, a 300-key hotel, and 75,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. According to reports in Curbed Atlanta, the project will “tap into the industrial roots of the neighborhood” by using architecture that will include a lot of metal and glass. They are talking about using shipping containers for start-up business offices and small restaurants. They are also working with MARTA to expand the Bankhead Station so that it can accommodate longer trains.

Just north of that 70-acre project is a $250-million project that has been submitted. It will convert a 19-acre paving and construction site into a neighborhood with 700 residential units, and possibly some office and retail. All of those residents will have access to the Beltline, the MARTA station and the Westside park at Bellwood Quarry. The city is spending $26.5 million to kick off construction of the park which is converting a quarry into a reservoir and park. The reservoir will provide drinking water for the city and will serve as a park that is 100 acres larger than Piedmont Park.

Let me reiterate the point that this is on the WEST side of Atlanta. For most of us in the suburbs, the furthers west we go when visiting downtown Atlanta is the Mercedes-Benz stadium. This project sits about 2 miles west of that.

Rates did several small rises and drops over the last week, ultimately landing 0.08% above where they were, according to Mortgage News Daily.

What this Means to You:
According to Mortgage News Daily’s Rate Survey, best execution rates for a conventional 30-year fixed are at 4.58%.


By Geoff Smith

It’s no secret that every economic player in the US and abroad was shaken to his and her financial core by the collapse in 2008. Well, after 10 years of relatively cautious stewarding by our business leaders, Federal Reserve governors and Federal regulators, our economy seems to have steered itself away from the shore and is heading back out to sea.

If you are an investor, this is thrilling. The Federal Reserve put extreme measures in place in 2008 to encourage banks to loan their money, and encourage small businesses and citizens to want to apply for loans. The Federal Government enacted more strict regulations governing several sectors of our economy. And businesses have been cautious while watching the global corners of the economy slowly and steadily put themselves back together. Aside from a couple yips, our stock market has steadily marched into record levels. Things have been steady and relatively quiet. And if you are a Wall Street investor, it’s probably been boring.

The underlying data that points to the health of our economy had been spotty with some sectors showing strength, while others showed weakness. But one-by-one, almost every measurement of our economic health has fallen in line. And those same things in the global economy have been doing the same. Today, all cylinders seem to be pumping in unison. Our economic ship is strong, the Fed will be removing the last of its recession-era policies and we will be headed out toward the deep waters.

In those deep waters, the sea is rougher and our economy will be more sensitive to disruptions at home and abroad. The Fed’s low interest rate policy has meant lower interest rates on loans, which has spurred people and businesses to borrower more and spend more. Typically, inflation, the measure of how much things cost and how much workers get paid, increases in this environment. But until recently it hadn’t. Many economists believe that low prices for goods and services being offered from global competitors have kept US businesses from raising their prices – which also has kept them from being able to raise workers’ wages. Economists had been concerned about inflation not moving up. But last month, the Consumer Price Index shot up past a projected 0.3%-increase and rose 0.5%. Now they are worried that inflation could quickly rise out of control.

Those concerns, coupled with a Fed announcement confirming several rate-increases this year, seemed to jolt the stock market. Investors had been riding a very long rise in the market. Many economists recently began to warn that stocks were getting over-priced. So when inflation, the last holdout data set, finally started to move, it seems investors started selling their positions.

To put it in more colorful terms, it seems as though our economic ship is heading away from the safety of the shore and out into the deep waters, and investors are tightening their portfolios to get ready for the voyage. Out in the deep waters, we’ll be less controlled by moves from the Federal Reserve, and more reactive to moves in the global market. That is unsettling to investors because where the Federal Reserve goes way out of its way to lay hints of future actions, the global economy is the wild west and there is a surprise around every corner. This concern could be the reason for the recent ‘correction’ in the stock market.

To put all of this into even more simpler terms, we are just now finally getting back to a normal, capitalist economy. Let’s all be good stewards of this ship this time, shall we?


Informative Article just released from Craig Cheatham of Realty Alliance

Perhaps we’re breathing a sigh of relief today, thinking it could have been worse? The new tax law in the USA preserves several major housing tax breaks while imposing caps on others.

U.S. homeowners with existing mortgages will see no change to their mortgage interest deduction. Starting Jan. 1, homeowners obtaining new-purchase loans on a first or second house will have their mortgage interest deduction capped at $750,000, down from the current $1 million.

Deductions for state and local income and property taxes will be capped at $10,000.

The plan preserves current law that gives homeowners a tax break on profit from the sale of a house as long as they’ve owned and occupied it for two of the past five years. Up to $500,000 in capital gains from the sale of a primary residence is tax free if the owner-occupancy requirement is met. The provision was a hard-fought win for real estate and title companies.

Advocates for affordable housing prevailed in their fight to preserve tax exemptions for private activity bonds, a popular tool used to finance low-income housing, hospitals and infrastructure. Low-income housing tax credits are also retained under the new plan.

A cut to the corporate tax rate will hit companies that hold deferred tax assets, including government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A February analysis by Fitch Ratings calculated that the mortgage giants would need to write down a combined $23.1 billion in tax assets under a 20 percent tax rate. As a result, the companies are likely to require another infusion of taxpayer cash early next year.


Blessed Trinity Catholic High School Wins Championship

Blessed Trinity Catholic High School football team won the Class AAA Championship at Marist’s stadium winning 16-7.