Legislative deadline left many bills behind

By WALTER C. JONES
Morris News Service
ATLANTA  — When the gavel in the House of Representatives fell at 9 p.m. Thursday, it ended the prospects of hundreds of proposals as stand-alone bills that failed to make the General Assembly’s internal deadline.
Of the roughly 400 statewide bills introduced in the House, just 193 came up for a vote in the House during the first 30 days of the legislative session, leaving behind about half of what lawmakers proposed. One was defeated Thursday, and a couple were sent back to committee to avoid defeat so their sponsors can try to win enough votes next year, but most simply died of neglect in committee.
The numbers in the Senate are smaller since it has fewer members, but only about half of the bills got a vote.
Veteran legislators said they felt voting Thursday resulted in few dramatic moments.
“Yesterday went pretty dad-gum smooth, the smoothest I’ve seen,” said Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn.
Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy bills that are now dead in the water.

• Plant Vogtle profits: House Bill 267 would have allowed the Public Service Commission to reduce the profits Georgia Power could earn on expenses beyond what was budgeted for constructing two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro.

• Transportation-sales-tax penalties: Senate Bill 73 would have repealed the discount in the required local share of transportation contracts enjoyed in regions that passed last summer’s sales tax for transportation compared to those that didn’t.

• Left-lane slowpokes: House Bill 459 would have required drivers to vacate the left-hand lane except under listed circumstances, such as no vehicle behind, construction, weather or uneven pavement.

• Dog owners: House Bill 409 would have kept local governments from prohibiting tethers and certain dog breeds or from requiring dogs be spayed and neutered.

• Environmental emergencies: House Bill 549 would have established emergency-response procedures within the Environmental Protection Division to react to pollution spills like those that have triggered massive fish kills.

• Historic district subdivisions: House Bill 474 would have allowed the subdividing of land in historic districts without seeking approval first from local planning agencies.

• Seizure of crime-related property: House Bill 1 would have limited the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies could seize cars, cash and even buildings used in the commission of a crime, such as selling illegal drugs.

• Cellphone towers: House Bill 176 would have limited the time local governments could consider applications for new cellphone towers and allowed existing towers to be extended without additional approval.

• Government broadband: House Bill 282, one of the very few bills defeated outright this session, would have prohibited local governments from competing with private telecommunications companies.

• Bridge renaming: No bill was introduced to change the name of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah as local residents have requested.

• Augusta officials’ salaries: No bill has been introduced yet to raise salaries for the Richmond County sheriff and court officials whose jobs were created by the state constitution although the deadline isn’t until March 20.

• Solar power: Senate Bill 51 would have allowed property owners to use so-called purchased power agreements to lease their rooftop to companies that would then sell them electricity.

• National curriculum standards: Senate Bill 167 would have required Georgia to withdraw from national school standards.



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