Rep. Darlene Taylor gives update on 2022 legislative session

Published 9:58 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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The House of Representatives reached the sixth week of the 2022 legislative session on Monday, February 14, 2022. We spent the week addressing issues from economic development to protecting our natural environment. My colleagues and I mulled over dozens of bills that would address a wide range of policy issues both on the House floor and within our committees this week.

Early in the week, we unanimously passed legislation to encourage and incentivize regional cooperation between Georgia counties, as well as provide a specific framework for regional development authorities. House Bill 1044 would allow three to five adjoining counties to create a regional development authority that would work to stimulate economic development and job growth within those counties. This bill would incentivize this regional cooperation structure by providing a tax credit for each new quality job for eligible investment properties; this tax credit would be offered to the county determined by the state to have the lowest economic performance within the regional development authority. To ensure that these authorities are equipped with even greater knowledge and expertise, the bill would require that at least half of the authority members from each participating county complete an economic development training course certified by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. These regional development authorities would be comprised of a board of directors that would meet quarterly, develop an operational business plan, own property within one or more of the participating counties, as well as maintain an active agreement for sharing expenses and proceeds. Under this legislation, a county could only belong to one regional development authority. While counties may currently establish a development authority with a neighboring county for various purposes, this issue became a priority for the House Rural Development Council after learning about several rural Georgia counties that teamed up to help spur economic development. With this legislation, we hope to replicate and strengthen this model in other parts of our state, especially in rural areas. HB 1044 also aims to provide counties with an even greater incentive to take advantage of this regional approach to economic development and implement standardized continuing education to ensure high levels of service across Georgia.

The House also passed House Bill 1134, legislation which would allow the state’s attorney general to collaborate with local district attorneys to prosecute certain gang-related crimes across the state. Additionally, HB 1134 would allow the attorney general to employ peace officers for investigative purposes. This bill would also work in tandem with the governor’s plan to create the Gang Prosecution Unit in the attorney general’s office. HB 1134 has now been sent to the Senate for consideration.

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We also passed bipartisan legislation, House Bill 893, to extend the collection of hazardous waste fees, which are crucial to supporting the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and its work to restore Georgia’s environment. The legislature originally established this fund to collect fees from hazardous waste generators, solid waste tipping fees and violation fines to help fund the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Without this fund, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division might not be able to implement programs to remediate contaminated sites, and our local governments would be left to fund the cleanup of leaking landfills, abandoned and contaminated properties. Originally set to expire this summer, HB 893 would extend the sunset date of the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund to July 1, 2027, allowing the state to fund this important work for another five years. HB 893 was sent over to our counterparts in the Senate, and I hope that this bill receives overwhelming support as it did in the House.

The Georgia House also voted to advance legislation to modify certain hunting and wildlife protection laws this week. Our state laws already provide extensive protections to Georgia’s wildlife, including turkeys and other ground nesting birds, as well as year-round protections for endangered loggerhead sea turtles that call Georgia’s coastline their home during their nesting season. This week, we passed House Bill 1147 to help protect these animals that have low population numbers from nest-raiding predators, such as raccoons and opossums, which have had a population boom in recent years and threaten certain wildlife populations. HB 1147 would allow property owners to hunt and trap raccoons and opossums year round and remove bag limits for these animals. Several other states have also adopted similar policies when it comes to hunting these animals, and this bill would help the state better protect special nesting animals that are native to our state.

On Wednesday, my colleagues and I dedicated a whole day to meeting with our House committees and subcommittees to consider bills as they move through the legislative process. By the end of the day, nearly 20 House meetings were held to discuss countless bills that cover a range of policies.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative under the Gold Dome.