State legislators expect to return to the capitol in mid-June for a short and fast end to the legislative session, and many bills will likely be left on the cutting room floor as a result of the extended recess.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some negotiating between the House and the Senate over which bills receive a hearing and which get voted on,” said state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak.
Both the state House and Senate are planning to conclude the last 10 days of the current legislative session on June 11, Ligon said, which doesn’t leave much time to pursue new legislation.
Anything that doesn’t get approved will go back to square one in the next session, he said.
Exactly which bills will get a chance at becoming law has not yet been decided, he said. In the Senate, it’s largely up to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, while House Speaker David Ralston has to give the green light in the House.
“It just depends on how we’re able to manage the rest of the session,” Ligon said. “With distancing and the reduced level of support staff, what can we, physically and from a time standpoint, handle?”
And each election official in the bicameral body has his or her own bills they want to see on the floor of their respective chamber.
Several bills that affect the Golden Isles are potentially on the chopping block as well.
State Reps. Jeff Jones and Don Hogan, both St. Simons Island Republicans, mentioned House Bill 883, which would amend a law created by a bill Hogan sponsored in 2019.
Called H.B. 201 at the time, the intent was to clean up derelict vessels and protect oyster beds, Hogan said.
It came with several unintended consequences, he said, which significantly impacted the leisure boating industry and potentially drove away many who make regular voyages along the Intracoastal Waterway.
“It’s driving away tourist dollars along our coast and that’s never a good thing, especially in these times,” Jones said.
Hogan has other measure he’s not so sure about.
One is a local legislative act that would put a question on the November general election ballot asking local voters whether they want to keep the Glynn County Police Department independent or fold it into the county sheriff’s office.
“It has been scheduled for the day after we have returned to session,” Ligon said.
He said he was assured that it would make it to the floor for a vote.
The other deals with an issue in state law that prevents regulation of some types of electric golf carts that are modified to go faster. The problem is with the cart’s vehicle identification number, or VIN. Carts that go below a certain speed are classified in a way that they do not need a VIN. One that is modified to go above that speed falls into a category that prohibits it from being driven on a public road without a license.
“They couldn’t (obtain a license) because the carts didn’t have a VIN number, but my bill would let them get an inspection to get a number,” Hogan said.
Rather than simply looking for bills to get passed individually, Ligon said some could be adapted and merged with others.
He used Senate Bill 384 as an example. The bill would ban new landfills along the Satilla River, effectively killing a controversial project to build a landfill in Brantley County.
“For example, if there were a bill that dealt with landfills or dealt with a code section the landfill bill dealt with, we could take language from the landfill bill and attach it to that if it met certain requirements, and the substance of that would be passed,” Ligon said.
The landfill has proven unpopular with Brantley residents and environmental organizations like the Satilla Riverkeeper.
The developer, Brantley County Development Partners, has filed multiple lawsuits to get through roadblocks thrown in its path by the Brantley County Commission.
“I know this is important to Brantley County,” Ligon said. “Getting this passed may save them a lot of money. They may be able to hold off on that for another year, I don’t know, but we’re trying to get this passed.”
On Jones’s plate is a coal ash bill that would require advance notice anytime a coal ash pond was to be drained and a bill that would take short-term rental regulations out of the hands of local governments.
“While I would still like to see that bill passed, it’s almost a moot point anymore. Almost all of that pond draining has happened,” Jones said.
The short-term rental bill still needs work and is not a particularly high priority, he explained, unlike the state budget.
“What’s more important to the state of Georgia than the budget?” Jones said.
State leaders are mulling asking businesses to file their May sales taxes documentation within the first few days of June, weeks earlier than normally required, Jones said.
Doing so would give the state a better idea of how to plan the budget for the next year.
“I’m suggesting an executive order to make that happen,” Jones said. “We want to have revenue numbers through May, hoping that May will show an upward trend in the hopes we don’t have to reduce (the budget) by 14 percent. Even if we could trim that to 13 percent or 12 percent, that could be huge.”
No decision had been made on that front as of Friday.