Bold initiatives took a back seat to politics during the 2017 legislative session. But some meaningful legislation did manage to pass that will have an impact on the future of the Atlanta region.
Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from this year’s session:
Backed by House and Senate study committees that met during the fall of 2016, both the Senate and House introduced bills (SB 6 and HB 160) early in the session that would have created statewide commissions on transit governance.
Both versions raised hopes that the state would undertake a comprehensive look at transit statewide, with a focus on the Atlanta region and an eye toward committing regular state funding for transit in the future. Neither transit bill survived, but the House passed a resolution to form a House-only committee (HR 848) to examine the same transit issues, which would include representation from ARC’s Executive Director.
Meanwhile, speaker of the House David Ralston made public comments about the importance of transit to the future of the state, making it clear that he takes this issue seriously and expects the legislature to revisit it in 2018.
The General Assembly for the first time passed addressing autonomous vehicles. The final bill modifies the amount of liability insurance required for self-driving vehicles without imposing further requirements that might have hindered future innovation.
The legislature modified the existing transportation SPLOST law to give counties and cities more flexibility if they choose to put a referendum before their voters to fund transportation projects.
Of interest to Cobb County, a resolution passed ensuring that the possibility of commuter rail remains open as the state enters into a new railroad lease.
A bill that would have imposed a new sales tax on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft services did not pass.
Stream buffer and stormwater fee laws
New study committees were created to examine stream buffer laws and stormwater fees. ARC and the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District will be engaged in these study committees to ensure that the region’s water interests remain top of mind during these discussions.
The state’s 2018 budget included an additional $4.2 million for home and community based services for older adults, which will remove more than 2,000 people from waiting lists. The budget also included $750,000 to provide additional meals for senior as well as funding to hire 11 adult protective services caseworkers and help the Georgia Alzheimer’s Project to establish Memory Clinics throughout the state.
Also of interest to aging advocates, legislators passed a bill allowing dental hygienists to perform cleanings outside of a dental office in such locations as senior services facilities. Another bill passed that will allow employees in larger organizations to use sick leave to care for sick family members, providing significant help for caregivers.
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