2015 Georgia Laws and the Construction Industry

New Laws Impact Georgia Construction Industry
The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die on April 2, the 40th and last day of the 2015 legislative session. From that date, Governor Deal had 40 days to sign or veto the 312 bills that successfully passed both houses. To date, the Governed has signed 193 and vetoed 8 bills. This is the first year of a biennial session, meaning that any bill that is still on the table (not voted on) at midnight of sine die can be resumed next year without starting the process over for that particular bill.

One such bill of note to the construction industry is SB 191 regarding Call Before You Dig requirements. This bill would prohibit local governments from varying from the utility and sewer marking requirements of the “Statewide Call Before You Dig” law. Allowing local governments to adopt alternative requirements for marking underground services could lead to 159 county and hundreds of municipal standards with which workers would need to be familiar. If this bill is taken up again next session, it only needs to pass the House before being considered by the Governor.

More successful bills this session include The Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act, SB 59 , which was signed into law on May 5. The so-called P3 Act allows the state, state agencies, and local governments to partner with the private section to finance, construct, and operate qualifying projects. As such projects are broadly defined as “meeting a public purpose or public need,” many types of projects may qualify, ranging from airports to courthouses to wastewater facilities. The private sector may submit both solicited and unsolicited proposals to participating government entities. Specific guidelines and processes for submission to local governments and state-level entities are provided for legislatively.

HB 170: Transportation Funding Act of 2015 , sponsored by Representative Jay Roberts, was signed into law by the Governor on May 4th. This law provides significant transportation infrastructure funding – $1 billion – to improve and repair existing roads and bridges. This law will address the maintenance backlog plaguing Georgia’s infrastructure and will fund projects such as pothole filling, road resurfacing, and bridge buttressing. Transportation officials successfully argued that $1 billion is the minimum amount needed to bring the roads and bridges up to standards. These funds will be generated by a 6 cents gas tax, a $5/night hotel stay fee, and additional fees on electric vehicles and heavy trucks. This new law also allows counties to propose additional sales tax for local projects. In addition to addressing motorist safety and mobility concerns, this new law is expected to create jobs.

HB 341 relating to certification of certain professionals by the Building Officials Association of Georgia (BOAG) was signed into law on May 6. This law applies to qualified inspectors of state building, plumbing, and electrical codes. While such inspectors were previously required to hold ICC certifications, BOAG certifications with certain testing requirements will not also be acceptable. BOAG represents local government building code officials and those involved in building design, construction, testing, and research of the code industry.

HB 255 , signed into law on May 4, requires that Georgia only acknowledge green building standards that give equal credits to Georgia timber products. This means that any state building project seeking green certification may only use the certification systems that equally credit Georgia forest products under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council. While heralded as a win for state economic development, critics are concerned that it is an infringement on the free market as many of the green certification systems will no longer be a viable option for many state construction projects.

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