This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
he House Rural Development Council (RDC) released its recommendations for the 2019 Georgia Legislative Session on Dec. 6, 2018, shortly after their final meeting in Dahlonega. The RDC held five meetings in 2018 in and around the cities of Blue Ridge, Elberton, Statesboro, Brunswick and Dahlonega. Meeting topics ranged from the equitable use and compensation of right-of-way usage for emerging communications technologies, to economic development incentives for regionalism, to the certificate of need process for healthcare providers and much more. A majority of the recommendations can be categorized into three categories: Economic Development, Streamlining Small Cell Permitting and Health.
The council recommends legislation to create a blight control and code enforcement grant program, which would be administered through the Department of Community Affairs. The program would allow for grants of up to $5,000 per year for communities with a population of 2,500 or less. Thresholds in the county tier system for jobs tax credits would be changed to accommodate smaller businesses in the lower tiers and include a minimum wage multiplier. Regional development authorities of three to five counties would find a new fund category in GeorgiaOne along with other incentives. Farm wineries would also benefit from the recommended legislation allowing them to sell more of their product without the help of a distributor.
Streamlining Small Cell Permitting
The council recommends legislation that would cap costs and fees, set timelines for local governmental review for approval and denial for placement applications. The recommended legislation would also outline the reasons a local government might deny an application, define the height and size requirements and provide protections for local governments with historic districts and underground utilities.
The council also recommends legislation that would replace the certificate of need (CON) process with a licensing and accreditation framework for new providers. The legislation would establish new indigent and charity care requirements for non-profit and for-profit providers with penalties for failure to meet targets. New reporting requirements for non-profit hospitals as well as open records requirements would be imposed. Rules clarifying allowable contributions, expenditures and required reporting would accompany recommended legislation increasing the Rural Hospital Tax Credit cap from $60 million to $100 million. The RDC acknowledged Governor-Elect Kemp’s efforts to address safety net cliffs seen in the benefits and salaries of necessary industry personnel.
Co-Chairmen, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) and Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) both commended the work of the committee and those that took time to present.
“These recommendations reflect the council’s in-depth work and research that we’ve gathered as we’ve traveled the state over the last two years,” said Rep. Terry England.
The chairmen estimated that they would need to craft more than nine pieces of legislation to implement the RDC’s recommendations.
“Last session, rural Georgia saw tremendous legislative success in the General Assembly, but there is still much work to be done,” said Rep. Powell. “Our recommendations for the 2019 session seek to address some of those concerns that still need to be met in rural Georgia.”
GMA’s governmental relations team has been working with the council throughout this process and will continue the discussions during the legislative session. As many of these recommendations are in draft form, and will go through the committee process, there is plenty of opportunity to help the General Assembly perfect any proposed legislation.
For greater detail, the recommendations report can be accessed from the Rural Development Council’s webpage on the Georgia House of Representatives website at www.house.ga.gov