Lawmakers look for the right vehicle

[private]You could call it the legislative equivalent of Uber.

As the legislative session calendar dwindles down to its last few days, lawmakers who can’t get their bills out of committee, for whatever reasons, look for other bills that they can use as vehicles for their own legislation. They then attach their bills as amendments to these vehicles, hoping to drive them to passage.

Here are some of the bills that are trying to find a vehicle:

MARTA funding for rail expansion Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) couldn’t get a Senate vote on his bills to provide tax funding for MARTA rail expansion, but hope springs eternal in the House, where Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones is trying to keep the issue alive.

Legislators typically try to find bills dealing with a similar issue to use as a vehicle, but not this time. Jones is using SB 369, which as originally drafted to regulate the explosion of fireworks.

SB 369, fireworks or not, has people like MARTA Board Chairman Robert Ashe lobbying for its passage as the calendar runs down.

Rules for the incorporation of new cities Sen. Steve Gooch introduced SB 375 after serving on a study committee that looked at the process for creating new municipalities. SB 375 sets up a uniform process for studying the viability of proposed cities and shepherding them through the legislative process.

The bill passed the Senate but ran into a roadblock in the House Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany). Rynders won’t call the bill up for a committee vote.

“If he passes the bill, he won’t be able to control which cities get created,” a lobbyist noted. “Who’d want to give up that power?”

Rynders said the current House rules are sufficient to handle proposals for new cities, so legislation isn’t necessary.

“We have rules in the House and we go by them,” Rynders said. “We’ve done a lot of cities before, using the same process.”

“There are all sorts of ways to approach it,” Gooch said of his bill. In this case, the approach is to attach SB 375 to HB 980, a bill supported by the Georgia Municipal Association dealing with the administration of city elections.

Funding for rural hospitals – Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) tried to provide a funding source for financially struggling rural hospitals with HB 919. His bill passed the House but was voted down in a Senate committee.

Duncan has found a vehicle for the hospital funding bill in SB 258, which deals with property tax assessments.

Spaceport liability Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) wanted to promote the location of a spaceport in Camden County by introducing a bill (HB 734) that would have made it virtually impossible to sue a space flight company for injuries or damages caused by an errant launch.

HB 734 couldn’t get off the launching pad in the Senate Science and Technology Committee, however, so Spencer went looking for another vehicle: HB 204, which deals with the serving of affidavits in civil lawsuits.

HB 204, however, can’t get off the launching pad with that extra payload.

Another search for a vehicle involves the easements approved by the state Board of Natural Resources for a controversial natural gas pipeline running through southwest Georgia.

Those easements can’t take effect until they are passed as legislation, so the vehicle turned out to be SR 954, a bill passed by the Senate earlier in the session that handles routine easements for construction projects.

The passage of that vehicle has become problematic, however, because of opposition to the gas pipeline by lawmakers from the Albany area and the “Pine Tree Caucus” of libertarian-minded Republicans.

The House could vote Wednesday on whether to park this vehicle or let it continue to roll down the legislative highway.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: General Assembly , legislative vehicles