Legislative Highlights

2018 Legislative Highlights

This year marked the second year of the 2017-2018 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.  What that means is that any legislation that did not pass both houses in 2017 was still on the table for 2018.  So we entered January with a carry over of bills from last year mixed together with all of the new bills for 2018.  The good side of having a two-year structure is that we can take the necessary time to build coalitions, develop a strategy and work with legislators to get more complex, or contentious bills through. The downside is that a bill that has been laying silent can still resurface at the end of the following year as something completely different, or can slip in on another seemingly unrelated bill.  Of course the latter is not always a negative, it just depends upon your perspective and what the resulting bill accomplishes.

I am happy to report that the Georgia REALTORS® have had successful session.  Let’s take look back at what all happened (and didn’t happen) this session.

If you are either an archivist or a pack-rat, you may still have last year’s version of this article.  If so, you notice that it ended with a “What’s Left” section that discussed House Bills 410 and 271. House Bill 410 addressed HOA closing letters.  House Bill 271 was a Department of Natural Resources bill that was aimed at cleaning up the Shoreline Protection Act. While each of the bills took a different path, they both are excellent examples of two-year bills.

House Bill 410 came to life out of discussion among REALTORS® regarding the exorbitant fees being charged for HOA closing letters.  As we began to work on the issue last year, it became clear that it would require more than a simple bill that would breeze through the chambers.  The factors at hand were 1) a stiff opposition from the other side; 2) an outdated existing law that did not specifically cover all elements needed to be part of the letter; and 3) a complicated consortium of players, each bringing a different perspective of what needed to be covered in the bill.

By the end of the 2017 session, we had a better idea of what needed to be changed in the original draft of the bill.  By the beginning of 2018, we had solidified our allies and expanded the the language of what needed to be in the bill to cover all forms of HOAs in Georgia (Condominium, POA and Covenants Running the Land), as well as all components of the letter.  Thus, the stage was set for battle.

Through the course of the 2018 Session, the bill went through various changes in committees.  With each committee and with each floor vote in the House and Senate, we had to call out the big guns and use our best weapon – YOU, our members.  Our single biggest legislative asset and advantage we hold over any other group under the Gold Dome is 37,000 REALTORS® ready to act on a moment’s notice. It works and it’s powerful. With the committee votes, only the constituents of the committee members were called upon. With the floor votes, you each received the call. Unlike the Congressional Calls For Action where we have advanced notice and weeks to act, our bills move more quickly at the state level.  With only between 24 hours to a couple of days, we had an amazing response of around 4,000 messages sent for each of the floor votes and a similar response rate for the committees – more than 10 percent of our membership! The House responded the Call For Action by passing House Bill 410 with an 85 percent favorable vote and the Senate responded with a 90 percent favorable vote.

We became aware of House Bill 271 when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) showed us their proposed bill.  As the existing law establishes the shoreline boundary based on certain trees and structures, they had been facing a difficult task of visiting sites each time a determination of boundary was needed.  Being an onerous task on DNR, they wished to simplify the the process by amending the law to enable a mapping approach. Our part in the bill was to ensure that the new definitions and boundaries did not encroach beyond the current law, nor impede any further upon private property rights.

We were able to get the Senate Natural Resources Committee to meet with a group of our coastal REALTORS® on the matter over the summer of 2017.  That meeting went well and the understanding of the REALTOR® perspective by DNR was clear.  Entering into 2018, several factors led DNR’s interest in the bill to wane.  Since the REALTOR® focus on the bill was to ensure that the changes did no harm, there was no need to push the bill forward.

With House Bill 271 having passed the house, it was now a prime vehicle to become something else.  Thus, our work on House Bill 271 during 2018 was to keep it from becoming anything of harm to private property rights. As we neared the end of the session, House Bill 271 became known as the Omnibus Hunting Bill, a collection of seven smaller bills packaged as one and having nothing to do with private property rights. That bill has now passed the Senate in a safe form.

Hopefully, I’ve given you a glimpse into the evolution of two-year bills.  Collectively, with the new bills dropped in 2018, we have reviewed a couple thousand bills; zeroed in on around a hundred; and actively navigated a couple of dozen that held the potential to impact private property rights, or the day-to-day business of REALTORS® in Georgia.  As we emerge out of the 2018 Session, you should feel good that you have not only one of the most dedicated lobbying teams under the Gold Dome working on your behalf, but you should feel proud for the role YOU play in making the Georgia REALTORS® a force to be reckoned with at the Capitol.

2017 Legislative Highlights

Blighted Properties

House Bill 434 passed on the final day of the Session and requires a local government to demonstrate in Superior Court that a property is blighted before it can take action through eminent domain.  Once that step is complete, the property can then be put back into the market, but can only be used for the same legal use that existed for a period of five years.  In other words, a group of single family dwellings cannot become a strip mall.  They must each remain as single family homes.

Third Party Deed Solicitation

House Bill 197 requires that any third party deed solicitation disclose that it is not official government correspondence and is purely a third party solicitation.

Stream Buffers

Senate Resolution 152 has established a joint study committee to find a solution to determining Georgia’s stream buffers.  This means that a combined House and Senate committee will conduct hearings over the off months to review the issue and develop legislation for 2018.

GREC License Law Update

House Bill 39 gives greater authority to the Georgia Real Estate Commission in making decision on revoking and sanctioning of licenses based on certain criminal convictions.

Solar Power Exception – Land Conservation Tax Status

House Bill 238 permits up to six acres of land held under land conservation use to be used to generate solar power without jeopardizing the tax status of the entire tract of land.

State of Emergency Assistance

House Bill 251 permits prison labor to be used to assist clean-up efforts in times of emergency, but only at the property owner’s request.

Post Session

On November 27, 2017, through a joint meeting of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees, the Georgia Department of Revenue was stopped from implementing Proposed Rule 560-6-2.  That rule would have required home owners obtain a tax clearance certificate before being able to record a deed.

2016 Legislative Highlights

Georgia REALTORS® Strengthen the Business Practice of Our Members in the 2016 Session

On Thursday, March 24, the 2016 legislative session concluded, with both chambers standing adjourned Sine Die. It was a fast and furious session with campaign season in sight.  Despite the rapid pace, the Georgia REALTORS® were able to secure major victories and we’re pleased to deliver measures that will benefit the real estate industry. Above all else, GAR remains committed to protecting the business interest of our members through effective political representation. Below are highlights of the major REALTOR® victories achieved during the 2016 session.

GAR Protects Members by Bringing State Law into Compliance with TRID

After the passage of TRID at the federal level, real estate agents and brokers were no longer guaranteed access to closing statements for each transaction. This created a grey area in which REALTORS® were forced to operate, as Georgia Law still required real estate brokers to provide clients with a closing statement in all transactions and to keep a true copy of all closing statements for three years.

The Georgia Dream Program Receives an Increase in Bond Limits

GAR was proud to support a housing initiative sponsored by Representative Penny Houston that increases the bond limit allotted to the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority (GHFA). Under the provisions of House Bill 773, the GHFA will receive an increase in its outstanding bond limit from $1.3 billion to $3 billion that will be used to fund the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program (GDHP).

GAR Successfully Establishes Procedure for Water Liens at Closing

In conjunction with the Real Estate Section of the Georgia Bar, the REALTORS® worked with Senator William Ligon to pass Senate Bill 206.  Prior to the bill’s passage, water suppliers were not required to properly file and record water liens.

Efforts to Cap the Mortgage Interest Deduction Stalls

Conversation about tax reform has become a more serious and popular topic in recent years at both the federal and state level. Measures aimed at capping the mortgage interest deduction (MID) are commonly associated with tax reform dialogue, highlighting the importance of GAR’s Governmental Affairs efforts.

Delivery Methods Expanded for Issuing a Summons Notice

The REALTORS® partnered with the Georgia Association of Homebuilders to modify provisions of House Bill 1025, sponsored by Representative Tom Taylor, which allows for the “tack, mail, and file” delivery notice of a service accusation or ordinance violation concerning real property.

Commercial REALTORS® Reap Benefits from Extended Freeport Exemptions

GAR was one of many that supported House Bill 935 sponsored by REALTOR® Champion, Representative Brett Harrell. The bill provides Freeport Exemption for e-commerce facilities in Georgia, safeguarding our state’s competitive edge and supports the commercial real estate market.

REALTORS® Strengthen Private Property Rights for Condominium Owners

During the 2015 Session, GAR began working with Representative Jeff Jones on House Bill 219, which was introduced to exclude pools operated by a condominium association or townhome from the definition of ‘public swimming pool’.

GAR Limits Sovereign Immunity for Action to Quiet Title

Introduced by Representative Wendell Willard in the 2015 Session, House Bill 59 waives the defense of sovereign immunity for any action brought in the courts by an individual or organization seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, or decree in a conventional quiet title against the state or local governments.

2015 Legislative Highlights

Georgia REALTORS® Strengthen the Business Practice of Our Members in the 2015 Session

On Thursday, April 2, the 2015 legislative session concluded, with both chambers standing adjourned Sine Die. The Georgia REALTORS® secured major successes in 2015 and we’re pleased to deliver measures that will safeguard the business practices of our members. Above all else, GAR remains committed to providing unparalleled value to our membership through effective political representation that ensures the real estate industry remains fruitful for Georgia REALTORS®. Below are highlights of the major REALTOR® victories achieved during the 2015 session.

GAR Ensures REALTORS® are Protected  from Increased Legal Liability in a Closing

It is standard practice within the real estate industry to advise clients on the completion of a contract and negotiate special stipulations. The original version of House Bill 153 would have made REALTORS® susceptible to legal liability for the mere practice of those tasks.

GAR Improves the Process of Appeals for Appraisers

GAR’s Governmental Affairs team partnered with the Georgia Real Estate Commission (GREC) and Representative Mandi Ballinger to pass House Bill 253, granting state authority to the Georgia Real Estate Appraiser Board (GREAB) to process appeals against Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) in violation of Regulation Z.

Georgia REALTORS® Increase Options for Real Estate Trust Accounts

Prior to the 2015 Legislative Session, several brokers contacted GAR to inform that they had been sanctioned by the Georgia Real Estate Commission (GREC) for operating a real estate trust account that was not a “bank checking account” mandated by Georgia law.

Effort Defeated to Provide Super Liens to Condominium Associations for Unpaid Fees

The Georgia REALTORS® stood united with the Georgia Bankers Association, the Georgia Community Bankers, and the Georgia Credit Union Association in efforts to defeat Senate Bill 117, a measure aimed at granting condominium associations the authority to impose super liens for unpaid dues and assessments on foreclosed units.

GAR Prevents Attempt to Create New Criminal Penalties for Hindering Code Enforcement Officers

House Bill 33 was introduced at the request of the Georgia Association of Code Enforcement, seeking to establish new criminal offenses for obstructing or hindering the duties of a code enforcement officer.

Georgia REALTORS® Strengthen the Rights of Taxpayers in the Appeals Process

The Georgia REALTORS® proudly supported the passage of House Bill 202, which streamlines the process for property tax assessments and appeals, providing greater protections to property owners.