The 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly ended at midnight on April 2, 2019. This is the first year of a two-year term, so legislation that did not pass may still come back and become law in 2020. Working with the Georgia Water Coalition, CRK staff worked under the Gold Dome to ensure state laws are protective of the Chattahoochee and all Georgia waterways.
Each year we pursue a handful of legislative priorities while also tracking all environmental legislation and opposing bad bills that will degrade our clean water protections. You can view all the bills we tracked in 2019 here, where you may also sign up to receive action alerts that put you in contact with your elected officials about these important legislative efforts.
Here’s an update on just a few of the big bills we watched in 2019:
Attempt to stifle property rights fails. HB 545—an egregious attempt to stifle rights of rural property owners to protect against neighboring activities that harm property value—failed to make it out of Senate Rules and onto the floor for a vote before the session ended. The bill was an attempt to re-write Georgia’s 40-year-old Right to Farm law, and sought to allow new industrial agriculture operations to move into rural communities and cause harm, while preventing long-time property owners from bringing nuisance claims if the new operations damaged the neighboring properties. This radical rewrite of existing nuisance law would have forced private landowners to forever suffer from odors, flies, dusts, noises, and other unreasonable nuisances with no recourse even when they were there first. Read more about HB 545 here.
Thanks to thousands of messages from our partners and volunteers like you, HB 545 failed to move out of the Senate before Sine Die. We expect the legislation to return in 2020. Read more about the bill and sign our petition opposing this rewrite of the Right to Farm law.
Progress made in restoring trust in Trust Fund management. One of our priority issues made it further than ever before, and while it did not pass in 2019 it is poised to reshape the state’s funding of important environmental clean-up activities. HR 164 proposes a constitutional amendment that Georgians can approve in order to ensure fees collected by the state for specific purposes are properly spent for these purposes continues to progress. For the first time, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted the resolution out of committee and onto the Senate floor, where it passed unanimously. However the version that passed the Senate was different from the original resolution, and the House declined to engage in last-minute negotiations with the Senate this year and instead will bring the original language back in 2020. Read more about HR 164 here.
Georgia needs a constitutional amendment that gives the General Assembly the authority to dedicate fees while providing flexibility to the budget in the event of a downturn or recession. HR 164 will make this possible. Please support efforts to address this problem and restore the trust in our Trust Funds! Contact your Senator and urge them to support HR 164 in the form as it passed the House – www.protectgeorgia.org/trust-funds.
We’re proud to partner with the Georgia Water Coalition in the fight to protect Georgia from laws that might endanger our natural resources. Throughout the year, we’ll share ways to get involved in these efforts and make your voice heard. Stay tuned for updates and news on what we can expect under the Gold Dome in 2020.