Little local legislation from Clayton County expected in 2014

Legislators pet bills may come to the forefront

LAKE CITY — After a busy 2013 that saw several backlogged pieces of requested local legislation get a chance in the Georgia General Assembly, 2014 may be a case of “all quiet on the legislative front” for Clayton County.

County and city officials were asked by the Clayton News Daily what pieces of local legislation would be requested this year, and no one had anything to talk about.

That isn’t a surprise to Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt. He said he hasn’t heard anyone talk about plans to request local legislation during meetings with the county’s other mayors. That may be due to the fact that the Clayton County’s legislative delegation introduced a number of pieces of legislation that had been ignored for a few years.

“I don’t think there’s any local legislation left to be introduced now,” Oswalt said.

As the second half of the 2013-14 legislative term looms, the focus may shift to pet pieces of legislation introduced by representatives of the county.

Some of those pet pieces of legislation include House Bill 331, which was introduced by State Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) in February. It would require day care centers install safety alarms in vehicles to prevent children from being left in those vehicles by accident.

The bill is titled the Jazmin Green Act in honor of 2-year-old Jazmin Green, who died after she was left in a day care van in Jonesboro for approximately two hours on a hot summer day in 2011.

The bill has been sitting at the House Second Readers stage since Feb. 14. It still must go through the House of Representatives’ committee system, come back to the full House for a vote and go through the same process in the Senate before it can become law.

Another key piece of legislation, which got further along in 2013, is House Bill 545. This legislation was introduced by freshman state Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Ellenwood) to create a Metropolitan Atlanta Aerotropolis Development Authority that would oversee economic development around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

This legislation quickly made its way through the House of Representatives in March and is in the early stages of being considered in the Senate.

But there are some pieces of legislation introduced by legislators from outside Clayton County that residents will need to keep an eye on.

One of those pieces of legislation is House Bill 399, which would bar the county from assessing ad valorem taxes on leases businesses hold at the airport. The legislation made it through the House, but stalled in the Senate before Sine Die Day in 2013.

Millions of dollars in tax revenues are expected to be lost to the county and its school system if it becomes law.

Although a county lobbyist has been working to kill the bill altogether, it can still be considered and passed in the Senate in 2014. If it does pass, the only recourse would be to petition Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.

But Oswalt said there is another piece of legislation looming that could hurt the county and its cities.

Although it is not directly aimed at Clayton County, Oswalt said the legislation would bar any municipality in Georgia from retaining drug forfeiture funds. The legislation, whose number Oswalt could not recall, would require those funds be turned over to state officials.

That would hurt local law enforcement agencies such as the Lake City Police Department, and therefore municipal and law enforcement officials want to see it defeated, said Oswalt.

“Those funds are vital to the cities to buy equipment for their officers,” he said.