Legislating and Lobbying in the ‘New Normal’

April 5, 2021

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly has persisted.

At the beginning of March, more than 1,000 house bills and resolutions had been introduced and over 450 bills and resolutions had been dropped in the senate. GMA’s governmental relations team follows all legislation impacting municipal governments and encouraged city officials to remain engaged with the legislative process until the date to adjourn sine die, which was on March 31.

Several municipal priorities had successfully passed prior to the Crossover Day deadline and were eligible for final passage. These legislative proposals range from allowing cities to call for liquor package sales referenda by local ordinance or resolution (House Bill 273, Senate Bill 145), to authorizing cities to hold virtual public hearings in emergency situations, such as the current pandemic (HB 98, SB 95).

As with each session of the General Assembly, there was the threat of preemptions and unfunded mandates, including HB 286 (Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens), which would prohibit municipalities from cutting the budgets of their city police departments. State level micromanagement of any municipal budgeting or service undermines the authority granted to each city’s locally elected officials and the citizens they represent.

Other proposals focused on large-scale changes to how local governments collect property tax (HB 352), restricting how cities calculate certain regulatory fees, causing undue administrative burdens to reestablish such methods (HB 302), allowing for increased truck weights for the timber industry (HB 496, SB 118), while others sought to preempt municipal ordinances related to security companies and false alarm calls (HB 465), and reducing the fees owed to municipalities for use of the public rights-of-way (HB 328), among others.

“Our governmental relations team, in concert with the Legislative Policy Council and city officials, will continue to advocate for the principles of home rule and local control on behalf of all of Georgia’s cities,” said Tom Gehl, GMA governmental relations director. “We thank the city officials who have participated in the legislative process this year, provided feedback on bills and communicated with legislators that cities are united, even in the new normal for legislating and lobbying.”

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.

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