2019-2020 Legislative Session


Last Update: January 24, 2020

The 2019-2020 Georgia Legislative Session kicked off its first session on January 14, 2019. It will re-convene in January 2020 for session two. We will be following bills related to local government, land use, transportation, planning, and environmental issues. Each week we will add any relevant new bills and update the status of existing bills we are tracking. This is not an extensive list of relevant bills. We attempt to track bills that are not well-covered by major news outlets as the major bills pertaining to transportation, land use, and the environment. The title and sponsor of each bill will be listed, as well as links to any relevant SustainAtlanta articles and a brief synopsis and opinion of the bill.

Throughout the session we will be posting articles that analyze and debate some of the more interesting and consequential issues contained in the proposed bills. Please check back each week for updates.

Bills must be passed by both houses of the Georgia Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) in order to go to the Governor for final consideration. The governor can sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing. If the governor does nothing then the bill automatically becomes law. Crossover Day for the first session is March 7 and it’s the final day for bills to be passed in their respective house so that they can move into debate in the opposite house. Those bills that failed to pass in their respective house by Crossover Day are marked as Dead and no longer have the opportunity to be by passed by the full Georgia Legislature and considered by the governor. Those marked as Passed have either been signed by the governor or sent to the governor with no action taken.

However, those bills can be re-considered when the legislature re-convenes in January of 2020. Once the legislature re-convenes in 2020 the Dead label will be removed from all bills. Session 2 also has a Crossover Day (that date is still TBD) – any bill that has not crossed over by this day will be marked Dead. Bills that crossed over have until midnight on the last day of the session to pass both the House and Senate. Those that pass are sent to the governor for consideration. And that will be it for the 2019-2020 session. Any bill that has not passed will have to be reintroduced during the 2021 legislative session.


Bills to Watch

HB-2: Constitutional Carry Act of 2019 *

Sponsored By: Matt Gurtier, 8th

Status: House Second Readers (February 6, 2019)

Surely one of the more controversial bills will be the Constitutional Carry Act of 2019, which expands the number of weapons allowed in state parks and historic sites. While fireworks, bows and arrows, and slingshots (in their usable forms) would still be banned, long guns and knives would be allowed.


HB-19: Expand Prohibition on Housing and Employment Discrimination

Sponsored by: Sandra Scott, 76th

Status: House Second Readers (February 8, 2019)

Georgia law currently mimics federal law in prohibiting housing discrimination against certain individuals in protected classes. Generally speaking, it’s illegal to refuse to rent or sell (or broker a deal in the case of real estate agents) to someone because of that individual’s race, color, sex, religion, disability, familial status, or country of origin. HB-19 would expand that class of individuals to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and age.

Under HB-19, the prohibited conduct would extend to religious organizations. Such organizations are allowed to give housing preference to members of their religion, but membership in the religion cannot be restricted because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or age (race, color, sex, disability, familiar status, and country of origin are already protected).

The bill would also expand employment discrimination protection, barring employers from discrimination against employees or potential employees because of sexual orientation, gender identity, and age.


SB-20: Establishment of Banking Improvement Zones

Sponsored by: Pat Gardner, 57th; Mary Margaret Oliver, 82nd; Dar’Shun Kendrick, 93rd; David Dreyer, 59th; Spencer Frye, 118th; Michael Smith, 41st

Status: House Passed/Adopted by Substitute (April 04, 2019)

With approval from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, local governments may establish banking improvement zones for the purpose of increasing bank accessibility in under-served areas. Local governments could then designate a bank in the one as the holder of local government funds.


SB-21: Mandatory Cybersecurity Training for Children

Sponsored by: Donzella James, 35th

Status: Senate Read and Referred (January 17, 2019)

Senate Bill 21 would require local boards of education to prescribe mandatory cybersecurity education for children. The local board would have to set minimum coursework for each year during k-12 education, as well as provide education for pursuing careers in cybersecurity.


HB-71: Political Signs – HOA’s

Sponsored by: Scot Turner, 21st 

Status: House Second Readers (January 30, 2019)

HB-71 would prohibit Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) from banning up to 3 political signs in the yards of property owners. In other words, the bill would override any restriction placed on land by HOA covenants that prohibit owners from having political signs in their yards.


HB-74: Allow Rideshare Drivers to Have Guns

Sponsored by: Scot Turner, 21st

Status: House Second Readers (January 30, 2019)

Keeping with the theme of overriding private agreements, Mr. Turner’s HB-74 would prohibit rideshare companies (Uber, Lyft, etc) from contractually mandating that drivers not carry weapons. The bill would amend Georgia’s rideshare licensing statute to require that rideshare companies allow drivers with lawful weapons carry permits to carry their guns while driving for the rideshare company.


HB-76: Allow Local Jurisdictions to Change Alcohol-Church Distance Requirements

Sponsored by: Ron Stephens, 164th

Status: Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute (April 02, 2019)

Georgia law mandates that sellers of alcoholic beverages cannot be located within 100 feet of churches and within 200 feet of schools. HB-76 would allow local jurisdictions can change these requirements to make them less restrictive, but could not change them to be more restrictive.


HB-93/HB-94: Surface Water

Sponsored by: Jeff Jones, 167th

HB-93 Status: House Withdrawn (February 5, 2019)

HB-94 Status: House Second Readers (February 5, 2019)

HB-93 is a notice requirement for electric companies operating coal ash ponds. Coal ash is a waste product from burning coal for electricity. The bill would require owners to give notice to local authorities within three days of commencing the de-watering of coal ash ponds.

HB-94 would put limitations on when and how landfills can accept coal ash waste. The bill would require that landfills can only accept coal ash if the structure in which it will be stored is at least 5 feet above the uppermost limit of an aquifer (aka drinking water source).


HB-107/HB-115/HB-111/HB-278: Civil Asset Forfeiture

Sponsored by: Scot Turner, 21st

HB-107 Status: House Second Readers (February 6, 2019)

HB-115 Status: House Second Readers (February 6, 2019)

HB-111 Status: House Second Readers (February 6, 2019)

HB-278 Status: House Second Readers (February 14,2019)

Perhaps no issue has united the left and the right as much as civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, state and federal police authorities seize cash and other property that they claim is associated with a crime. This has led to houses being seized when teenagers have small amounts of marijuana to thousands of dollars in cash being seized because police believe, with little evidence to back it up, that the cash was associated with an illegal act. Police then use the property as they see fit. Property owners must then hire lawyers to get the property back.

HB-107 would change the burden of proof on the government in civil asset forfeiture cases. In Georgia courts, police must only show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the property they want to seize is associated with a crime. BH-107 would change that to the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence.”

HB-115 puts certain restrictions on state attorneys and local law enforcement from turning over seized property to federal authorities.

HB-111 would require law enforcement to note in their annual report when property seized or proceeds resulting from the seized property is associated with a criminal proceeding in which there was a dismissal or acquittal.

HB-278 would require that a criminal proceeding actually conclude prior to the commencement of a civil forfeiture proceeding. Currently, a persons assets can be seized through civil asset forfeiture even if they are found not guilty in the corresponding criminal proceeding.


HB-223: Notification of Toxic Spills

Signed by Governor. Effective as of July 1, 2019.

Sponsored by: Robert Dickey, 140th

Status: House Passed, Senate Passed (March 27, 2019)

HB-223 exempts pesticide products and animal waste from state requirements that certain spills of toxic substances be reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and local authorities.


HR-50: Passenger Rail Between Atlanta and Savannah

Sponsored by: Carl Gilliard, 162nd

Status: House Second Readers (January 30, 2019)

The “Nancy Hanks” was a passenger rail service that last ran in 1970 connecting Atlanta to Savannah. A high-speed rail line between the two cities would cut travel times down to 75 minutes. House Resolution 50 would create a House sub-committee to study the re-establishment of a rail line (though now it would be a high-speed rail line) between Atlanta and Savannah.


HR-48/SR-88: Opposition to Offshore Drilling

HR-48 Passed

SR-88 Dead

HR-48 Sponsored by: Carl Gilliard, 162nd

SB-88 Sponsored by: Lester Jackson, 2nd

HR-48 Status: House Passed (April 04, 2019)

SR-88 Status: Senate Read and Referred (February 6, 2019)

Relevant SustainAtlanta articles: Georgia Lawmakers Push for Offshore Oil Drilling Ban

House Resolution 48 voices an official opposition by the Georgia House of Representatives to offshore oil drilling and offshore seismic testing. This relates to proposals by President Trump and federal authorities to explore offshore oil drilling along the eastern coast of the U.S. and to initiate seismic testing, which interferes with the well-being of whales.

Senate Resolution 88 is the Senate’s counterpart to HR-48.


HB-302/SB-172: Prohibit Housing Design Standards

Sponsored by: Vance Smith (133rd)

Status: House Committee Favorable Reported (February 20, 2019)

Both bills would prohibit local government from enacting design standards on one or two-family houses, except when those houses are located in historic districts or flood zones. Notably, homeowners association restrictions are also exempt; meaning the bill does not attempt to override any private covenants that prohibit houses in certain developments from being painted pink, etc.

HB-346: Prohibit Landlords from Retaliating Against Tenants

Passed. Signed by Governor. Effective July 01, 2019.

Sponsored by: Sharon Cooper (43rd)

Status: House Passed, Senate Passed (April 04, 2019)

We saw a similar bill get filed in the past (it failed) relating to landlords retaliating against tenants when tenants attempt to exercise their contractual or statutory rights. Under HB-346, tenants would be entitled to recover 1 month’s rent, $500, court costs, and attorneys fees if a landlord raises rent, deprives the tenant of use of the property, or attempts to evict the tenant simply because the tenant requests a repair, reports a building code violation, or joins a tenant organization.

HB-407: Prohibit HOA’s from Banning Solar Energy

Sponsored by: Karla Drenner (85th)

Status: House First Readers (February 17, 2019

Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) are all over this legislative session. HB-407 would prohibit HOA covenants from banning homeowners from installing solar energy devices. Any existing covenants that violate the bill would be declared void.

HB-511: Tax Uber to Pay for Transit

Sponsored by: Kevin Tanner, 9th

Status: Senate Read and Referred (March 8, 2019)

HB-511 would dedicate the state sales tax for ride-hailing services to transit throughout the state. While state law doesn’t specifically include ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft in the ride-hailing tax, the Georgia Department of Revenue believes Uber and Lyft is subject to that tax. We covered this bill in a recent Weekly Links, so we won’t go into too much detail. The bill wold also allow counties to impose a new sales tax for transit projects and would reorganize various statewide transit agencies into a new agency.