Legislative Report Week 12
LEGISLATIVE REPORT WEEK 12
March 31, 2023
Sine Die Edition
IN THIS ISSUE:
- General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die
- Truck Weights Bill Passed
- Preservation of Ag Land Tee'd Up
- State Budget Update
- Last Minute Water Bill Hits the Governors Desk
- Young Farmer and Ranchers Trip to D.C.
- WOTUS Congressional Review Act
- Bills That Passed
- Bills Eligiblefor Next Year
- USDA Disaster Assistance
General Assembly Adjourns SINE DIE
On Wednesday, March 29, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. This completes the 2023 state legislative session and marks the start of the 40-day period Governor Brian Kemp now has to either sign or veto all passed legislation. This year's session began slower than usual, but the pace picked up as the days progressed and any lost time was certainly made up for during the mad-dash that made up the final day of the session.
While approximately 1172 bills were introduced this session alone, only some made it through the entire legislative process. Agriculture was front and center on several major issues and was the topic of much discussion. From final passage of truck weights legislation to the stage being set for further work to be done on ag land preservation, there were many great successes this session for advancing Georgia agriculture.
Please see below for some highlights from this year's session as well as "Bills That Passed" and "Bills Still Eligible for Next Year" sections. Since this was year one of a two-year biennium, any bill that did not receive full passage this year will be eligible next year, having the opportunity to pick back up where they left off.
Truck Weights Bill Passed
In the final hours of the legislative session and after numerous compromises during a conference committee, legislative language was settled upon for HB 189 that received final passage late Wednesday night. The bill allows for a total 10% variance to the gross vehicle weight for commercial trucks hauling agriculture and forestry goods. This includes hauling both raw commodities from the farm to further processing and the finished goods to their final retail location. The bill will sunset in 2025, and therefore need to be readdressed in the coming years as we seek to find a more permanent solution to transportation infrastructure and the hauling of various freight in our state.
As a part of the compromise, the 10% variance will only be applicable within 150 miles from the point of origin; trucks may not haul at the higher weights within any nonattainment zone in Georgia which consist mostly of metro counties; and includes increased fines for overweight trucks based off every pound they are over the allowed variance to address bad actors. The last addition that was subject to much discussion is allowing local law enforcement to stop and weight trucks on local and city roads. In the end, the compromise allows for enforcement on local roads but not on state roads or highways. Any local law enforcement officer that pulls over and weights a truck must have completed the same training required by Motor Carrier Compliance Enforcement Officers. Additionally, all fines collected from overweight trucks are to be remitted to the state treasury and will not be retained by the local government to prevent enforcement for profit.
Throughout the session, this bill took many forms and saw hours of discussion in committees and in both chambers. We would like to thank Rep. Steven Meeks (R-Screven) for authoring HB 189 and Sen. Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell) for carrying the bill in the Senate. It is by their diligence this bill has found the success that it did. We would also like to thank the other four members of the conference committee, House Majority Whip James Burchett (R-Waycross), Rep. Rick Jaspers (R-Jasper), Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), and Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming). All four of these legislators and others played integral parts in the passage of HB 189. We want to thank them for their willingness to seek out a compromise to try and move our industry forward.
GFB was proud to be a part of the Georgia Economic Competitiveness Collation promoting the passage of HB 189. The efforts of the Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Poultry Federation, Georgia Agribusiness Council, Georgia Cattlemen's Association, and the Georgia Urban Ag Council were crucial to the success of this legislation. We are thankful for our partnership with these great organizations and the many others who provided help in this effort.
Preservation of Ag Land Tee'd Up
This year began what is expected to be an ongoing discussion and goal of preserving agricultural land in our state, and ensuring the future of one of the industry's most important resources, the land itself, is protected. With the passage of SB 220, we now have a mechanism in Georgia to help fund further conservation of agricultural land through the voluntary encumberment of development rights on one's farm. In return for giving up those development rights, a farmer would be compensated for a portion of the value of the land which is being encumbered in perpetuity. This is a start to more work that will be done in the coming years to find innovative ways to address the rapid loss of farmland in Georgia.
Next year, we expect more discussion and debate on restricting the foreign ownership of agricultural land by entities that have been deemed to be a foreign adversary by the US Secretary of Commerce. HB 452 and SB 132, which both propose solutions to the issue at hand, will remain eligible next year for consideration. These measures seek to address food safety and security in addition to the loss of farmland.
Not receiving final passage this year, but expected to be debated next session, is HB 449. This bill would address a provision in the Conservation Use Value Assessment Program (CUVA) that provides special treatment and reduced breach penalties for property removed from the covenant for solar. According to current law, the land being used for solar must be removed from the CUVA covenant and the breach penalty is limited to the amount of tax savings on the affected parcel for that year. We expect policy that deals with the pros and cons of solar power generation, and its possible impacts on ag land preservation, to remain a part of this discussion going forward.
State Budget Update
On the final day of session, the $32.4 billion FY24 Budget was passed with the leadership of Senate and House Appropriations Chairmen Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) and Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin). After much negotiation, the two chambers reconciled the substantial differences in their proposals to agree on a budget very friendly to agriculture. In addition to education funding and pay raises for law enforcement, teachers, and state employees, items included important to Farm Bureau members are outlined below.
Department of Agriculture
- $0 - Proposed funds for implementation of Georgia Raw Dairy Act were removed.
- $550,000 - For two compliance specialist positions, equipment, and vehicles to administer the soil amendment program.
- $850,000 - For increased operational funds for the Consumer Protection Division.
- $75,000 - For increased operational funds for Departmental Administration.
- $75,000 - For increased operational funds for Marketing & Promotion
- $25,000 - For the Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank program.
- $100,000 - For planning a new veterinary lab in Athens.
- $150,000 - Addition of state funds to replace lost federal funds for two veterinary lab technicians at the Tifton diagnostic lab.
- $242,954 - Added to the Agricultural Trust Fund from 2022 GATE Card fee collections.
Ag Experiment Station
- $520,000 - For two positions, maintenance, and operations at the demonstration farm.
- $584,987 - For two faculty positions to serve the peach and citrus industries.
- $245,000 - For three research technician positions to support the Peanut Breeding and Extension Team.
Cooperative Extension Service
- $258,750 - For three shared 4-H county extension agents.
- $415,013 - For two faculty positions to serve the blueberry and citrus industries.
Georgia Ag Expo Authority
- $224,400 - For employee recruitment and retention.
- $288,000 - For two young farmer positions in Barrow and Hall counties and an oversight position
- $393,769 - For the purchase of 28 vehicles for fire protection services
- $2,550,293 - For employee recruitment and retention.
University System Special Funding Initiatives
- $1,500,000 - To support operations and address a backlog of projects at the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation.
Last Minute Water Bill Hits Governor's Desk
In the final hours of Sine Die, a measure was passed dealing with navigable water within our state. SB 115, which originally was a bill concerning the Georgia National Guard Life Insurance Program, was amended with a Rules Committee substitute. The bill received no hearing or public testimony yet was passed through the House and agreed to by the Senate in the final hour of session.
The intent of the legislation is to ensure the access and ability of the public to use, enjoy, and fish navigable waters in Georgia as they historically have. However, GFB has concerns that the bill's approach will impact longstanding private property and water rights. The bill is now heading to the Governor's desk where he has 40 days of bill review before either signing, vetoing, or taking no action on the bill. If no action is taken, the bill still becomes law. GFB is analyzing the legal implications of the bill to determine whether it infringes on property or riparian rights and, if needed, we will advocate for appropriate measures to be taken.
Young Farmers and Ranchers trip to D.C.
Members of GFB Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) traveled to Washington D.C., advocating for policies on behalf of future agriculture stakeholders. American Farm Bureau Federation briefed YF&R on key issues surrounding national agriculture and how best to convey to legislators that immediate action is necessary. Several topics stood out as primary concerns, including guest worker programs, crop insurance necessities, meat processing capacity, and Waters of the United States. Representatives Austin Scott, Mike Collins, Rick Allen, and Senator Raphael Warnock attentively listened to the concerns as the group collaborated on how to best alleviate the pressure felt by the newest generation of farmers and ranchers. House and Senate members eagerly inquired what prospective Farm Bill programs would maintain agriculture as a leading industry. This trip and others like it are the most effective tool for policy advocacy and are crucial with a chaotic Washington agenda just ahead.
WOTUS Congressional Review Act
Movement on the newest definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) was in full swing this week as the Senate voted to pass a resolution sent from the House poised to overrule the recently finalized WOTUS rule. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a tool that Congress may use to overturn rules issued by federal agencies. The CRA is a vital tool for Congress to keep federal agencies in check. After this bipartisan CRA passed the House with a simple majority vote (227-198), it did the same in the Senate with a 53 to 43 outcome. It now awaits action by President Biden, who can either sign or veto the legislation. Should Biden veto this joint resolution, we must make our voices heard and urge Congress to show up once again to overturn his veto. A two-thirds vote is all that would stand in the way of checking this administration and gross federal overreach.
Bills that Passed
Reps. Anderson, Powell, McDonald, Gunter, Yearta, and others
This bill that restricts wake surfing or wakeboarding on certain bodies of water in Georgia also now allows a multipurpose off-highway vehicle (ATV) to drive on local county roads if they obtain a proper license plate. The license plate will cost $20 per year. This bill does not require a person to buy a license plate for a multipurpose off-highway vehicle but gives the option if they want to drive it on local county roads.
Passed Senate 3/27/2023 & Agreed by House 3/29/2023
Reps. Jenkins, Pirkle, Knight, Huddleston, and Camp
This bill authorizes the use of ungraded lumber in the construction or repair of any accessory structure not primarily used as habitable space.
Passed House 2/15/2023 & Passed Senate 3/27/2023
Reps. McDonald, Blackmon, Gillard, Meeks, and Barrett
This bill issues a tax return to all qualified taxpayers who filed an individual tax return for both 2021 and 2022. For a single or married taxpayer filing separately, they will receive $250. For a head of household, they will receive $375. For a married couple filing jointly, they will receive $500.
Signed by Governor 3/14/2023
Reps. Meeks, Burchett, Corbett, Frye, Dickey, and others
This bill would increase the current total gross vehicle weight (GVW) allowed for various trucks and haulers of agricultural commodities and timber to include a 10% variance, allowing for 5-axle trucks to haul up to 88,000lbs within 150 miles of the farm. It would also cover the hauling of finished agricultural goods to their final retail point. It would not allow those trucks utilizing the 10% variance to haul within any "non-attainment" counties. Local law enforcement would be granted the authority to police trucks and haulers on local roads only, but must be certified to do so.
House Passed Conference Committee Report 3/29/2023 & Senate Passed Conference Committee Report 3/29/2023
Reps. Smith, Stephens, Knight, Greene, Blackmon, and others
This bill is the enabling legislation for the recently passed constitutional amendment that provides for optional temporary tax relief to certain properties located in nationally declared federal disaster areas. The constitutional amendment on the ballot this past November received a 'yes' vote of nearly 92%.
Signed by Governor 3/16/2023
Reps. Cannon, Corbett, Dickey, Rhodes, Houston, and others
This bill would establish the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits.
Passed House 3/2/2023 & Passed Senate 3/20/2023
Reps. Meeks, Jasperse, Corbett, Houston, and Jackson
This resolution will reauthorize the House Rural Development Council to study how to promote rural Georgia and help develop ideas to ensure rural communities prosper.
House Passed and Adopted 3/27/2023
Reps. Jenkins, Burchett, Knight, Cheokas, Corbett, and others.
This resolution will create the House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater.
House Passed and Adopted 3/29/2023
Sens. Hatchett, Ginn, Albers, Robertson, Kennedy and others
This bill seeks to address concerns raised by secondary metal recyclers whose business practices are restricted in their methods of payment for deposits. Under current law, recyclers may only pay using a check, electronic funds transfer, or a voucher. GFB along with other interested organizations worked closely with Sen. Hatchett to seek a solution that alleviated their business expenses by allowing for limited cash payment (up to $100) for deposits excluding utility wire, communications copper, copper wire, batteries, or catalytic converters. The bill seeks to strike a reasonable balance between deterrence of widespread metal theft while still allowing for a business-friendly environment. We appreciate Sen. Hatchett working with all interested parties to find a solution that also provides specific carve outs for the items and metal property most commonly stolen from farms and agricultural operations.
Passed House 3/23/2023 & Senate Agreed 3/29/2023
Sens. Anderson, Ginn, Gooch, Kennedy, Robertson, and others
This bill prohibits local governments from denying the installation of a water well serving a single-family residence situated on a parcel of one acre or more. It would therefore allow for drilling, servicing, or repair of new or existing wells on single-family residential.
House Passed by Substitute 3/27/2023 & Senate Agreed 3/29/2023
Sens. Gooch, Anavitarte, Kennedy, Cowsert, Summers, and others.
This bill requires the Department of Community Affairs to determine locations that are eligible for state and federal funding for broadband services.
Passed Senate 3/6/2023 & Passed House 3/16/2023
Sens. Goodman, Watson, Anderson, Walker III, Sims and others
This bill, titled the "Georgia Farmland Conservation Act," would establish the Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund Program for the purpose of conserving agricultural land in the state of Georgia. This would be accomplished through appropriation of state dollars that have the opportunity for federal matching funds, used to fund the acquisition of agricultural conservation easements. The program would be administered by the Department of Agriculture with the help of an advisory council that includes family farmers, executive and legislative branch appointments, and members of statewide farm organizations, including the President of Georgia Farm Bureau. The goal of this program is for the permanent preservation of farmland in our state and the future of our agricultural economy.
Passed Housed by Amendment 3/23/2023 & Senate Agreed 3/27/2023
Sens. Anavitarte, Gooch, Kennedy, Dolezal, Robertson and others
This resolution would create the Senate Truck Driver Shortages Study Committee.
Senate Passed and Adopted 3/27/2023
Bills Eligible for Next Year
Reps. Camp, Mathiak, Lim, Au, and Cameron
This bill would establish the State Board of Veterinary Medicine as an independent agency attached to the Department of Agriculture for administrative purposes. The State Board of Veterinary Medicine serves as the licensing board for veterinarians in the state of Georgia. Currently, this board is administratively attached to the Secretary of State and is under the professional licensing boards division.
Passed House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee 2/22/2023
Reps. Corbett, Meeks, Pirkle, Dickey, and Williams
This bill would establish the State Board of Registration for Foresters as an independent agency attached to the State Forestry Commission for administrative purposes. Currently the Board is under the professional licensing boards division of the Secretary of State's office.
Passed House Natural Resources and Environment Committee 2/23/2023
Reps. Gullett, Parsons, Thomas, Anderson, Meeks, and others
This bill deals with ensuring transparency between buyers and sellers of distributed energy generation systems, including solar energy procurement, and provides access to educational information surrounding contracts and agreements for such systems. It specifically looks to address deceptive business practices seen throughout the state by certain companies selling rooftop solar systems.
Passed House on 2/22/2023 & Assigned to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities on 3/1/2023
Reps. Jackson, Hawkins, Cooper, Williams, Beverly, and others
This bill would eliminate the current tax credit available for rural physicians and replace it with a new tax credit of up to $5,000 for each taxable year. The new tax credit would be available to a wider array of health care professionals including dentists, nurse practitioners, physical assistants and more. It also imposes certain restrictions such as a cap on the number of years it can be claimed (5 years) and restrictions on those who are already working in a rural area.
Passed House on 3/6/2023 & Senate Tabled 3/27/2023
Reps. Momtahan, Parsons, Dickey, Tarvin, Pirkle, and others
This bill would prohibit the foreign ownership of certain types of land or properties, including farms and agricultural land, by Chinese, Russian, Iranian, or North Korean governments, citizens, or companies. It would both prohibit direct ownership but also ownership through majority stock or other specified intertest.
Assigned to House Judiciary Committee 2/7/2023
Reps. Schofield, Drenner, Kennard, Evans and Hutchinson
This bill would require the Public Service Commission to adopt regulations to gradually reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from every electric utility in Georgia, regardless of fuel type. It would require that by 2050 all electricity provided by an electric utility in Georgia be generated from energy sources that produce zero greenhouse gasses.
Assigned to House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee 2/7/2023
Reps. Lewis-Ward, Beverly, Jackson, and Gilliard
This bill would establish the Office of Equity in Agriculture to support current members of socially disadvantaged groups and to encourage the growth of socially disadvantaged groups into the field of agriculture.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/7/2023
Reps. Thomas, Schofield, and Marin
This bill would establish the ability to set up and operate a Microenterprise home kitchen. This would be a noncommercial kitchen facility located in a private home or on a farm where ready-to-eat food is handled, stored, prepared, or offered for sale for consumption off the premises. The kitchen must meet the criteria to be a microenterprise as established by the Department of Economic Development. This bill would exclude food sales establishments, any food production which requires a license by the Dept. of Agriculture, and more.
Heard House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/14/2023
Reps. Smith, Kelley, Williamson, Stephens, and Blackmon
This legislation would establish the Solar Technology Trust Fund and impose a fee of $15 per kilowatt of capacity on retail sales of solar equipment in Georgia. The fees collected would be used by the trust fund for remediation, decommissioning, and disposal of solar equipment, such as solar panels.
Assigned to House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunication Committee 2/9/2023
Reps. Dickey, Houston, Gilliard, and Carpenter
Over the past few years there has been discussion over how to address issues with our state's Farmers Markets, some of which are in need of substantial capital repairs and improvements. Several of the markets have also suffered from profitability issues, leading to the temporary closing of certain markets. This bill seeks to establish the Georgia Farmers Market Authority, allowing the state's markets to be run more like a business by retaining the income it generates and using it to operate and improve the markets.
Recommitted to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee 3/1/2023
Reps. Scott, Schofield, and Davis
Under this proposal, the Department of Human Services could establish the Healthy Food Development Program, to establish, support, facilitate, and expand access to healthy foods in eligible underserved areas, in coordination with Departments of Economic Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources on an approved application basis.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/9/2023
Reps. LaHood, Parrish, Williams, Jackson, Burchett and others.
This bill seeks to amend the tax credit limit for rural hospital contributions and redefines a rural hospital organization. It would increase the tax credit limit for contributions by corporate donors and increase the aggregate limit for tax credits for contributions to rural hospital organizations. This bill includes a sunset date of December 31, 2023.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee 2/14/2023
Reps. Yearta, Corbett, Cannon, Jasperse, and Franklin
This bill would make it unlawful for anyone other than a secondary metal recycler to sell, purchase, possess, or transport a catalytic convertor. The individual would be charged on a separate offense for every individual catalytic convertor. This, along with other similar pieces of proposed legislation, are in response to increasing frequency of catalytic converter theft in recent years.
Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee 2/13/2023
Reps. Williams, Meeks, Rhodes, Dickey, Blackmon, and others
This bill seeks to grant a second round of funding to the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs program. This bill would also increase the application fee and provide an annual maintenance fee.
Passed House Ways and Means Committee 3/2/2023
Reps. Anderson, Williamson, Parsons, Frazier, Jones and others
This bill says no governmental entity of this state shall adopt any policy that restricts or prohibits, or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting, the type or source of energy or fuel to be delivered to a home or the appliance to be used.
Passed House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunication Committee 2/22/2023
Reps. Houston, Meeks, Dickey, Pirkle
This bill would establish the Farmer's Market Trust Fund allowing for the state farmers markets to retain fees and utilize them to repair and maintain those farmers markets and for marketing and promotion of Georgia agricultural goods.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/16/2023
Reps. Knight, Corbett, Rhodes, Cannon, and Pirkle
This bill would do away with an exemption provided in the Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) program that allows for the installation of solar panels on land within a CUVA covenant, so long as that portion of the land is removed from the covenant and the specified breach penalty is paid. That penalty in current law is less than what must be paid for a normal breach on a property that is subject to a covenant. Under this proposal, installing solar panels on land enrolled in CUVA would constitute a breach of the covenant, and the full penalty would have to be paid.
Passed House Ways and Means Committee 3/3/2023
Reps. Pirkle, Jasperse, Meeks, Rhodes, Knight, and others
This bill would prohibit the foreign ownership of agricultural land by any non-resident alien, government, or business from a country considered to be foreign adversary as determined by the US Secretary of Commerce. It would also restrict ownership by those individuals, governments, and businesses of any land that is within a 25 mile radius of a military facility. The bill does allow for possession in certain special circumstances such as through an inheritance or for the collection of debts, but the land must be dispersed after a specified period of time.
Passed House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/28/2023
Reps. Pirkle, Corbett, Williams, and Rhodes
This bill seeks to make changes to the current hemp law to ensure the safety of the products being sold and marketed here in Georgia by requiring certain labeling and testing requirements for all consumable hemp products. It defines hemp products, consumable hemp products, and industrial hemp products to distinguish between the different usages of hemp plants. It seeks make changes to the licensing and registration process and fee structure for growers, processors, and retailers. This bill also requires a person to be 21 years old to purchase consumable hemp products, be the target of certain marketing, or receive samples of consumable hemp products in stores.
Passed House 3/6/2023 & Assigned to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee 3/7/2023
Reps. Leverett, Petrea, Prince, and Jackson
This bill seeks to address issues with bad actors improperly applying soil amendments through increased notification requirements and delegation of enforcement authority to certain local governments. GFB is actively monitoring this bill and has been in discussions with the sponsor to work towards an appropriate and balanced solution to the issue.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee 2/21/2023
Reps. Drenner, Carter, Evans, Davis, and Thomas
This bill creates a definition for what is an overburdened community and seeks to establish a special permitting process and environmental justice considerations that must be followed for an individual or entity to build or expand certain types of facilities in an overburdened community.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment 2/22/2023
Reps. Drenner, Carter, Evans, Davis, and Thomas
This bill is titled Georgia Environmental Justice Act of 2023. It establishes the Environmental Justice Commission to oversee the permitting of certain projects in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee 2/22/2023
Reps. Barnes, Beverly, Clark, Au, Oliver, and others.
This bill seeks to provide free school meals to all public-school students who qualify for the reduced-price meals under federal and state guidelines. It encourages the use of Georgia Grown products in school breakfast and lunch programs to promote Georgia agriculture and healthy eating.
Assigned to House Education Committee 2/22/2023
Reps. Washburn, Bazemore, Reeves, Lim, Ridley, and others.
This bill is known as the "Housing Regulation Transparency Act." It seeks to limit the duration of time that a local government may enact a temporary housing moratorium on properties being developed for residential purposes to 180 days. It also requires that a local government must wait another 180 days before enacting any new temporary housing moratorium once the initial 180-day moratorium is expired. The bill allows for exemptions under certain circumstances including a declared state of emergency, when safety is of concern, a court order, or while a studied is being conducted investigating future development. This bill also grants local governments the power to collect fees associated with their zoning powers and issuance of permits. This is to create an equitable program for governments to finance the development and creation of local planning, land use, and zoning ordinances for orderly growth.
Assigned to Conference Committee 3/29/2023
Reps. Gilliard, Stephens, Willis, and Thomas
This bill, titled the "Georgia Hemp Industry Growth and Business Partnership Tax Credit Act," provides for a tax credit for costs of doing business with Georgia Grown hemp owners and suppliers.
Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee 2/23/2023
Reps. Lewis-Ward, Beverly, Bentley, Jackson, and Schofield
This bill would require the Department of Agriculture to spend no less than 5% of the entire marketing and promotion budget on minority or women owned agricultural enterprises.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/27/2023
Reps. Cheokas, Collins, Hitchens, Yearta, and Washburn
This bill would allow a county to establish a trespass enforcement program to provide any participating owner or rightful occupant of property with a method for designating any peace officer with the local law enforcement agency as his or her authorized representative for purposes of enforcing criminal trespass.
Assigned to House Public Safety and Homeland Security 2/27/2023
Reps. Cameron, Camp, Campbell, Hagan, and Huddleston
This bill is tilted the Healthy Food Development Program Act. It allows for the Department of Human Services to coordinate with the Department of Economic Development to create the Healthy Food Development Program. They could provide grants, loans, state tax credits, equipment, other financial assistance or technical assistance to grocery stores, corner stores, farmers' markets, or other retailers.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/27/2023
Reps. Hagan, Gaines, Camp, and Clark
This bill creates the cottage food operator license for a person who produces homemade food items at a residential property for sale to a consumer. They will be permitted to only sell non-potentially hazardous foods - foods that do not require temperature control for safety. A license must be obtained through the Department of Agriculture for $100 per year to obtain this license. This bill exempts cottage food operators from inspection but grants the Department the power to conduct an inspection upon complaint.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/27/2023
Reps. Cheokas, Yearta, Mathiak, Ridley, Powell, and others
This bill would increase a statewide ad valorem tax exemption limit for tangible personal property from $7,500 to $50,000. It also provides for a statewide referendum and a question to be placed on the ballot for the voters of Georgia to decide on making this change.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee 3/23/2023
Reps. Smith, Dickey, Pirkle, Leverett, Hagan, and others
This bill increases the punishment for livestock theft by increasing both the penalty fines and the years of imprisonment.
Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee 3/29/2023
Reps. Williams, Petrea, Dickey, Corbett, Rhodes, and others
This resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would reduce the rate of ad-valorem tax assessment on timber at the time of sale or harvest. The proposal would require that the state appropriate funds annually to each county or municipality to compensate for any loss in revenue.
Passed House 3/2/2023 & Assigned to Senate Finance Committee 3/6/2023
Reps. Bennett, Jenkins, Dempsey, Lewis-Ward, Newton, and others
This resolution establishes the House Healthy Food Retail Study Committee to investigate the lack of access to healthy foods in both rural and urban areas.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 2/15/2023
Reps. Drenner and Thomas
This is a resolution creating the House Study Committee on Environmental Justice. This committee will study the impact of pollution and hazardous materials on low-income neighborhoods or neighborhoods consisting primarily of minorities.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee 2/22/2023
Reps. Mathiak, Gunter, Hatchett
This resolution would create the House Study Committee on Rural Medical Personnel Recruitment. This study would look to raise awareness of the challenges rural hospitals face to recruit personnel and retain surgical support personnel.
Recommitted to House Special Rules Committee 3/29/2023
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Robertson, Hufstetler, Payne, Butler, and others
This bill seeks to address licensing, testing, and retail sales of consumable hemp products. It puts in place certain testing requirements for consumable hemp products, establishes a licensing structure with the associated fees, and addresses certain issues surrounding the offering of hemp samples to anyone under 21 years of age. The bill also puts in place specific labeling requirements for retail consumable hemp products.
Recommitted to Senate Rules Committee 2/22/2023
Sens. Jackson, Goodman, Summers and Butler
This bill, called the "Georgia Hemp Farming Act," would change the limitations for individuals seeking a license or permit to grow hemp. It would change current law to allow individuals who are convicted of a misdemeanor involving the sale of a controlled substance, to apply for and be given a license or permit to grow industrial hemp. It would also allow someone convicted of a felony to apply for and receive a license or permit after 10 years has passed from said felony.
Recommitted to Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee 2/28/2023
Sens. Beach, Dolezal, Goodman, Summers, Anderson, and others
This bill would prohibit the purchase of agricultural land by a non-resident foreign alien who is subject to a government that is considered a foreign adversary as defined by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. It would also restrict the purchase of agricultural land by any government of, or business domiciled in a country subject to a government that is considered a foreign adversary. There are provisions within the bill that would also limit the foreign ownership of land near certain military instillations.
Passed Senate 3/2/2023 & Recommitted to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 3/29/2023
Sens. Anderson, Brass, Burns, Anavitarte, Robertson and others
This bill changes the definition of what is considered a dangerous or vicious dog. This bill revises the definition to include the following: a dog who is unprovoked barking, growling, or snarling, aggressively running along fence lines, or escaping confinement when people are present. It requires the owner of a dangerous dog as defined by the bill to maintain a $500,000 insurance policy covering any damage or bodily harm caused by the dog.
Assigned to Senate Insurance and Labor Committee 2/13/2023
Sens. Still, Dolezal, Robertson, Anavitarte, Payne, and others
This bill which at one time would have only prohibited local regulations that create differing standards for gasoline-powered leaf blowers from similar equipment, now includes an additional 33 pages of language that addresses numerous other issues.
Senate Disagreed to House Amendment 3/29/2023 & House Insisted 3/29/2023
Sens. Goodman, Sims, Walker, Brass, Mallow, and others
This bill is a companion bill to HB 189. The current state law sets the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of any 5-axle truck at 80,000lbs. Agriculture and forestry receives a 5% variance exemption to allow them to haul 84,000lbs. The bill would allow for these industries and a few additional ones to haul using a 12.5% variance, setting allowable weights at 90,000lbs. This bill only pertains to state roads. Due to federal regulations, trucks traveling on interstates are only allowed to haul at 80,000lbs with no variances.
Heard by Senate Transportation Committee 2/27/2023
Sens. Jones, Goodman, Butler, Hickman, and Sims
This bill is entitled the "Food Insecurity Eradication Act." It establishes the Georgia Food Security Advisory Council under the Georgia Department of Agriculture to advise the General Assembly on ways to alleviate food insecurity in the state.
Passed Senate 3/6/2023 & Recommitted to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 3/29/2023
Sens. Dolezal, Still, Gooch, Kennedy, Watson and others
This legislation deals with premises liability action and seeks to make changes to tort law provisions that are significant to landowners. It states no landowner shall be liable in a premises liability action to anyone who is injured on the landowner's property as the result of the willful, wanton, or intentionally tortious conduct of any third party who is not a director, officer, employee, or agent of the landowner unless the invitee can prove specific items as laid out by the legislation.
Senate Tabled 3/6/2023
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Hufstetler, Payne, Echols, Dugan, and others.
This bill is known as the Outdoor Dog Protection Act. It would make it unlawful to leave a dog outdoors or unattended for more than 24 hours under the defined circumstances within the bill. It provides an exemption for livestock herding dogs, dogs sued within production agriculture, and hunting or field training dogs.
Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee 3/27/2023
Sens. Jones, Harbison, Rahman, Merrit, Butler and others
This bill is entitled the Right to Repair Act. It seeks to require manufactures of digital and electronic products to provide diagnostic and repair information, parts, and tools to independent repair providers.
Assigned to Senate Science and Technology Committee 2/27/2023
Sens. Anavitarte, Gooch, Anderson, Summers, Cowsert and others.
This resolution will form the Senate Study Committee on the Benefits of Solar Energy in Georgia. It will report on the pros and cons of solar generated energy in the state of Georgia.
Passed Senate Rules Committee on 3/23/2023
Disaster and Pandemic Assistance Programs
Starting Jan 23, agricultural producers can begin to apply for two new important programs for revenue losses, from 2020 and 2021 natural disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic. Both programs equitably fill gaps in earlier assistance.
First, you may be eligible for assistance through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) Phase Two if you experienced revenue losses from eligible natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. ERP Phase Two is for producers who didn't receive assistance from ERP Phase One.
You may also be eligible for the Pandemic Assistance Revenue Program (PARP) if you experienced revenue losses in calendar year 2020. PARP is addressing gaps in previous pandemic assistance, which was targeted at price loss or lack of market access, rather than overall revenue losses.
Applications for both new programs are due June 2, 2023, and you can apply for both programs during your same appointment with USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).
Historically, FSA programs have been designed to make direct payments to producers based on a single disaster event or for a single commodity loss. For many of you, this may be the first revenue-based program that you've applied for with FSA. Please click the button below for more information.
Not a Member Georgia Farm Bureau? Join Today!
The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation has a membership of almost 250,000 and serves as state's the largest general farm organization. Our goal is to provide leadership and assistance to the agricultural sector, to promote farm products, to aid in ag-related procurement, to be a spokesman for the farmer in the legislative arena, to be a leader in the development and expansion of farm markets, and to strive for more agricultural research and educational funds and facilities.
With members in all 159 Georgia counties, Georgia Farm Bureau is dedicated to promoting and improving agriculture in our counties, state and nation and in continually improving and expanding our service-to-member programs which serve to enhance the quality of life for all Georgians.
Membership in Georgia Farm Bureau is open to everyone. You don't need to be a farmer or have insurance with us to join Farm Bureau!
If you would like to become a member of Georgia Farm Bureau, you can start your membership online right now! We have a simple application process, and you can be our newest member in just a couple of minutes. Click the button below or use our County Office Locator to find the office nearest you.
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Public Policy Department Staff
Alex Bradford, Director
Adam Belflower, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Manager
Renee Jones, Operations Coordinator
Jake Matthews, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Keaton Walker, Advocacy and Policy Development Specialist