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Legislative Update: Crossover Day Roundup

March 18, 2011

At the Georgia Capitol, Day 30 of the legislative session has now come and gone. That’s Crossover Day, and it’s significant because in order to have hope of passage this session, proposed legislation had to be approved by its chamber of origin (either the House or Senate) by Day 30.

So what’s still standing? Water-wise, the primary survivor is Senate Bill 122, regarding public-private partnerships to build water supply reservoirs. It passed the Senate on Mar. 2. If it becomes law, SB 122 would provide state financing and assistance for such public-private water supply projects. There have been changes made since the bill was introduced, among them the addition of requirements that these reservoirs maintain an undisturbed buffer and that they be utilized for drinking water. Also, the projects to be financed can include water efficiency upgrades and repairs of leaks, which reflects a sensible ordering of priorities. However, there are still a lot of fundamental questions raised by any legislation that brings private enterprise into the management of a public resource, so this bill is still a hot topic at the Capitol. (Areas of concern reportedly include a need for more forceful language on the use of eminent domain as well as guarantees, perhaps in the form of a performance bond, that could help keep private developers or investors accountable to taxpayers.) Other news items to keep in mind here include Gov. Deal’s budgetary pledge of funding for new reservoirs, along with the new Water Supply Program Task Force coming out of last year’s Water Stewardship Act.

The most notable legislative effort that did not move forward by Crossover Day is the effort to regulate IBTs, or interbasin transfers of water. Several bills on this topic were bottled up in committee in both the House and Senate, with the Natural Resources committee in each house failing to hold a vote on the topic. Early this week, the AJC’s Jim Galloway took note of the pressure that Georgia Water Coalition member groups exerted on Rep. Lynn Smith, the House Natural Resources chair, calling for a vote on the IBT legislation. See the Water Coalition’s site for more on that story. Looking ahead, one of the only things that would free up the logjam on this important and popular legislation in the future would be a change in committee leadership. But for now, it’s not to be.

On the plus side for fans of sustainable water stewardship, HB 131 did not make it out of the House by Day 30. This is a good thing, as the bill would have allowed the largest dirt-mover in the state – the Georgia Department of Transportation – to be exempt from key rules protecting our waterways from erosion and sedimentation. The bill not only presented an environmental threat but also a flagrant disregard for the principles of government – an institution that should follow its own rules, right?

Lastly, SB 110, which would allow the expansion of landfills over areas of significant groundwater recharge, passed the Senate on Mar. 8. A topic of great concern in Middle Georgia especially, the bill is an important one statewide for those concerned with protecting water resources.

Those are the highlights. Is that everything water-related that’s still in play at the Capitol? Probably not. With 10 legislative days left in the session, plenty can still happen.

-Ben Emanuel

4 Comments leave one →
  1. DrinkMoreWater permalink
    March 19, 2011 6:44 pm

    Good thing HB 131 died. It would have done far more than exempt GA DOT – it would have exempted all state agencies and contractors from fines for environmental violations of any sort. LC 34 3033S, a substitute, would have narrowed back down to erosion and sedimentation violations but would have lessened the fines and put in a crazy appeal process.

  2. garivernetwork permalink*
    March 21, 2011 2:05 pm

    Yeah, HB 131 was all kinds of bad. Thanks for the note. (Also, I just posted a response to your previous comment on the recent Saporta Report article — that comment had slipped by and I didn’t even know it was there! Apologies.)


  3. garivernetwork permalink*
    March 30, 2011 3:02 pm

    Turns out that parts of that bad HB 131 have made their way onto a bill still alive that’s numbered HB 137! It will be bad news for waterways if HB 137 passes with these amendments from 131. This question of erosion and sedimentation from state government projects (e.g. DOT) is now a big issue as the end of the session approaches.


  4. May 1, 2011 7:10 am

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