Capitol Castings | Break on through to the other side…

Georgia General Assembly Crossover DayYou know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah
We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side…
– The Doors

We’re now on the other side of Crossover Day under the Gold Dome at the Georgia Assembly. It was a hatch of activity and a long day last Thursday, Day 30 – Crossover Day. The lyrics from the Doors classic may ring familiar for many Senators and Representatives. In order for legislation to move forward this year, bills must have passed a floor vote in at least one chamber. Bills not voted upon are recommitted to their committees. Those failing a floor vote fall like spinners at the end of a hatch.

We are up to 567 House Bills and 701 House Resolution. In the Senate, 246 Bills have been filed along with 451 Resolutions. Here’s how Georgia Trout Unlimited (GA TU) reads the water:

Active Bills: Focus

House Bill 142 Ethics
Speaker Ralston’s ethics bill expands definition of a lobbyist and applies to volunteers representing organizations, like GA TU, pro bono while advocating to an public officer or elected official. A $25 annual fee is required and lobbyists must wear a badge. Activity reports are also mandated. The definition exempts those lobbying 5 days or less. Passed the House 164-4.

GA TU views the initiative as a positive step toward a more open legislative process. Some groups feel the restrictions could be tighter and other view the registration requirement as an infringement.

House Bill 199 Georgia Reservoir Fund Expansion
Currently, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) is permitted to fund water storage (reservoir) projects but not conservation projects that could eliminate or reduce the need for new reservoirs that destroy habitat. This bill corrects that problem and would allow GEFA to fund water conservation initiatives. Passed the House with bipartisan support 169-9.

GA TU supports HB 199.

Senate Bill 210 Georgia Legacy
Georgia Legacy replaces the outdated Land Conservation Program by creating trust and revolving loan funds that addresses Georgia’s current needs by funding:

  • Acquisition of areas for clean water, game, wildlife, fisheries, or natural-resource-based outdoor recreation
  • Preservation of working farms and forests
  • Support of local parks and trails
  • Stewardship of permanently protected conservation areas
  • Promotion of environmental wellness

Georgia legacy unanimously passed the Senate 169-0.

GA TU worked for several years as a stakeholder developing Georgia Legacy and supports HB 210.

Active Bills: Of Interest

HB 189 Closure Notification
With this legislation, GA DNR would be required to provide sixty days written notice to local governments before making any significant changes to a state park, historic site or recreational area. HB 189 passed a House vote 167-1.

GA TU views HB 189 as beneficial.

HB 381 GA DNR Foundation Board Membership
This bill would allow for up to three GA DNR Board Members to sit on a GA DNR Foundation Board.

SB 213 Flint Fiver Drought Protection Act
Although the Flint River is a warmwater stream, amendments affect water quality statewide. A provision added during the House floor session provides for a statewide ban on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). ASR stores groundwater available during the wet season in underground aquifers to be recovered during dry periods.

GA TU views ASR as harmful. Contaminated groundwater could easily be introduced to pure water supplies and cause negative, unintended consequences. While this provision is beneficial, the Georgia Water Coalition opposes stream augmentation language as a threat to property rights and basic tenets of Georgia Water law.  GA TU is concerned.

On the Bench: In Committee Until 2014 – Focus
These bills did not receive a floor vote.

HB 501 Tree Removal
This bill would require GA DOT to remove trees in the public right-of-way  that  could fall onto interstate and limited access highways.

GA TU opposes HB 501 unless amended to include requirements for replanting to mitigate runoff and erosion or obtaining variance for tree removal from stream buffers.

HB 225 GA EPD Rules
GA EPD would be required to seek legislative approval before implementing GA EPD rules. This bill appears dead.

GA TU views the proposed process as harmful to GA EPD’s effectiveness and opposes HB 225.

HB 548 Emergency Pollution Response
Under HB 548, emergency response procedures for water pollution harmful to public health, safety, or welfare, public or private drinking water supplies, or animals, birds, or aquatic life would be established.

GA TU supports HB 548. 

On the Bench – In Committee Until 2014: Of Interest
These bills did not receive a floor vote.

HB 158 Free Fishing Days
Registered boat owners would be allowed under HB 158 to hunt, fish and trap without a license on birthday and two days thereafter. This bill is supported by GA DNR to potentially increase the number of sportsmen.

GA TU views HB 158 as beneficial.

HB 180 License Plate Fees
This legislation would increase the amount of the special license plate fee and renewal fee paid to GA DNR from $10 to $25; includes trout license plates.

GA TU views HB 180 as beneficial.

HB 515 Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Interbasin Transfers
The bill would provide an exemption for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District to plan for an Interbasin Transfer (IBT) from outside the District. Currently, IBT planning to bring water from outside the Metro Area to Atlanta is prohibited.

GA TU has concerns about HB 515. We believe that water conservation and expansion of existing reservoirs are a less impactful solution.

SB 75 Free Sportsman’s License to Veterans
Veterans who served more than 90 days active duty would be allowed a free Sportsman’s License. SB 75 is unlikely to gain traction in committee due to cost.

GA TU views SB 75 as fiscally harmful to wildlife resources programs.  [Personal note: Retired from the United States Marines, I have no expectation of a free Sportsman’s License.]

See you on the stream.

Kevin McGrath is Georgia Trout Unlimited’s Advocacy Chairman.


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