The 2023 Georgia Legislative session is well underway! We are soon approaching “Crossover Day” on Monday (March 6), the last day for a bill to pass out of the chamber it was introduced in and move forward for consideration in the opposite chamber. Think of this as the halfway point. By the end of the day, we’ll be able to gauge the viability of each bill and if it has what it takes to make it to the finish line on the last day of the session (March 29).
We have some powerful opportunities to advance bills to protect Georgia’s environment while creating thousands of good-paying jobs. But some proposed bills also constitute a significant threat to advancing our climate agenda. Below is a list of critical environmental bills we are following closely. To see an all-inclusive list of the bills GCV is tracking this session, visit: www.gcvoters.org/legislative/.
After reading up on these issues, we ask that you’ll take action by:
- Click here to send a personalized message to your legislators to demand that they pass legislation that takes bold climate action.
- Join us at the Capitol – we’ll help you set up meetings with your legislators to discuss issues that matter to you most. Sign up for Environmental Justice Day on March 22!
Senate Bill 210: This would establish a monthly netting program to fairly compensate rooftop solar customers for the excess power they generate. Most Georgia homes and businesses with solar have been underpaid on their electric bills for the solar they send to the grid. Consequently, Georgia must catch up to states like Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina in rooftop solar generation. SB 210 would expand the net metering program (currently capped at 5,000 customers) until we reach 5% of the prior year’s annual peak demand. Solar customers who export excess solar to the grid would receive a wholesale (or “avoided cost”) credit at the end of each month. SB 210 also expands the program to leased solar systems, includes options for nonprofits and governments, and calls for customers to have access to their own net metered data. GCV SUPPORTS SB 210.
House Bill 73: Would regulate the residential solar rooftop industry by requiring contractors to obtain a Certificate of Authority (COA) from the Public Service Commission. It’s supposedly designed to provide consumer protection for residential solar customers from “bad actors” in the rooftop solar industry. There are problems with out-of-state companies ripping people off, but the solution is for the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to do its job. Consumer protection legislation is warranted, but requiring a COA is an overreach. The PSC does not have the staff to issue these certificates effectively. Putting the PSC in charge of the certificates is also concerning, given they have done very little to support the rooftop solar industry (GA ranks 46th in rooftop solar). The disclosure section of the bill is okay, but allowing the PSC to regulate the industry is a poison pill. GCV OPPOSES HB 73.
House Bill 300: This bill would establish a $15/kilowatt fee on the retail sale of all new solar. There is some fear being generated around the Capitol about solar panels at the end of their life being a big solid waste problem in the future. End-of-life solar decommissioning and disposal are currently handled at the local level. Why aren’t these same legislators proactively addressing what happens at the end of life for massive coal plants and the coal ash waste that come with them? It’s because this is a targeted attack on the industry and would make solar incredibly expensive for Georgians. We believe there are better ways to push for the most sustainable practices without crushing the industry. GCV OPPOSES HB 300.
In reaction to the increased number of electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads, we are seeing an enormous amount of EV bills competing for our attention this session. A few of the top bills are:
House Bill 406: Instead of paying for the amount of time it takes to charge your EV, this bill would require drivers to pay for the electricity they use. It would also allow businesses to sell electricity by the kilowatt hour — a right usually limited to utilities to encourage convenience stores to install chargers. The bill would also add a new tax on EV charging to address lost revenue from the gas tax that builds roads and bridges. However, this seems unnecessary, given that EV drivers already pay a whopping $211 a year, one of the highest fees in the nation.
House Bill 307: Would also allow for the sale of electricity by the kilowatt hour. In addition, it prohibits electric utilities from owning or operating publicly available vehicle-charging equipment beginning in 2026. The utility could establish a separate company to own and operate the equipment.
We won’t cover all the EV bills here, but you can go to this link to see all the transportation bills we’re following. GCV is not yet supporting or opposing these bills, but we support legislation that encourages the expansion of the industry (which means no more fees on EVs!) while also prioritizing fair and equitable deployment of chargers to avoid “charging deserts” in lower-income communities.
Senate Bill 188, House Bill 514, House Bill 517: These bills would curtail local building standards and regulations. Gov. Kemp has been talking up “workforce housing” and lowering investment costs per housing unit. Unfortunately, most of these homes do not allow young working families to build wealth with new homeownership. Instead, hedge funds are scooping them up, creating more pump-and-dump renters. GCV is also concerned about a few environmental threats. First, developers want easier paths to build in wetlands. And secondly, this would increase the use of petroleum plastic building materials (PVC), which have significant carbon footprints that are highly flammable.
House Bill 514 is focused on zoning. It restricts local governments from issuing new moratoria on zoning changes for approvals over 180 days. Counties and cities could remove impact fees covering wastewater treatment, roads, and other infrastructure costs.
House Bill 517 is focused on design standards and would prohibit cities from enforcing “any ordinance or regulation relating to or regulating building design elements as applied to one- or two-family dwellings.”
Senate Bill 188 would bar local governments from denying permits or making landlords pay business taxes to promote these “build-to-rent developments. It describes a certain type of “rental agreement” that might force tenants to sign contacts that would make their eviction a simple matter of rent increase. It’s a sweeping giveaway to the Hedge Fund operators to be able to convert them all to rental properties.
Forcing working people into lower-quality housing at higher rents will only worsen an already intolerable imbalanced wealth distribution. The inequities are also environmentally unjust. GCV opposes SB 188 and is carefully monitoring HB 514 and HB 517.
CONSERVATION & AGRICULTURE:
House Bill 71: “Okefenokee Protection Act” – This important legislation permanently protects the sand ridge that forms the Eastern boundary of the Okefenokee from future mining operations. Georgia’s iconic Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is at risk. Mining corporations continue to threaten the largest blackwater swamp in North America, and it’s up to Georgia’s leaders to save it. Thel has over 70 sponsors and has strong, bipartisan support. GCV SUPPORTS HB 71.
House Bill 477: The poor regulation of industrial sludge and sewage being applied to agricultural lands across the state is causing havoc on our waterways. This bill addresses issues with bad actors improperly applying soil amendments through increased notification requirements and delegation of enforcement authority to certain local governments. GCV SUPPORTS HB 477.
House Bill 370: This year’s “Marshland Destruction Act” would flip the presumption of salt marsh ownership away from the state and toward private individuals. GCV OPPOSES HB 370.
House Bill 31: Introduced by Rep. Debbie Buckner, this bill seeks to ensure the dedication of all fees intended for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, including those not dedicated through 2020’s House Bill 511. GCV SUPPORTS HB 31.