In the news

< A Pulse on Economic Growth in the U.S., Georgia & Forsyth County
03.04.2019 19:22 Age: 173 days

New, Bold Plans to Drive Georgia’s Transportation Success


Lawmaker Representative Kevin Tanner represents District 9 which includes portions of Dawson and Forsyth counties. He serves as the Chairman of the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding and is the co-sponsor of a new bill called House Bill 511 (“HB 511”), which would provide tens of millions of dollars to fund additions to mass transit within the state. The Georgia General Assembly has already passed the bill by an overwhelming margin. If the Georgia State Senate passes the bill and Governor Brian Kemp signs the bill, House Bill 511 could improve the state of public transportation in Georgia.

HB 511: The Basics

Initiatives

HB 511 is composed of several different initiatives—all around the theme of alleviating Georgia’s transportation woes. To start, the bill will likely allocate tens of millions of dollars per year for mass transit within the state. While HB 511 originally would have obtained those receipts from a 25 to 50 cent tax on taxi, limousine, and ride-sharing fares, it now funds these additional programs by dedicating the state sales tax on rides for hire to transit.

What It Would Do

  1. These additional tax receipts (which are expected to be larger than the $30 to $60 million from taxing taxi, limo and ride-sharing fares) would be Georgia’s first dedicated source of funding for public transportation. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft maintain that they are not required to pay sales tax under state law, but this matter will likely be resolved in litigation.
  2. In addition to dedicating the state sales tax on rides for hire to transit, HB 511 allows Georgia counties to raise sales taxes for transit expansion. Before doing this, however, counties would need to receive voter approval. This is in line with legislation from last year, where the Georgia General Assembly passed a law that allows 13 metro-Atlanta counties to raise sales taxes for transit construction. HB 511 goes one step further and would grant this same authority to counties in the rest of the state.
  3. Along with potential sales tax increases on the county level, HB 511 would launch pilot programs that would help unemployed Georgians travel to their jobs. Some of the pilot programs include transit vouchers or credits to unemployed Georgians. HB 511 also includes tax credits to businesses that subsidize their employees’ transportation to work. Representative Tanner is particularly excited about the pilot programs that are included in HB 511, as it will allow the state to test different ideas (and continue investing in the ideas that are working).

What Would Change

One other significant aspect of HB 511 is that the bill would replace the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (“GRTA”) with the Georgia Department of Mobility & Innovation (“GMobile”), a new agency. GMobile would be the entity that oversees various transit programs which are operated by several different agencies—including “The ATL” and the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority. According to Representative Tanner, the idea behind this consolidation is that Georgia can streamline its bureaucracy by creating one single agency whose primary duties are to improve transit access across the state. The Georgia State Transportation Board has objected to this provision in the bill, arguing that the move could hinder multimodal developments. Representative Tanner has responded by arguing that creating a single state agency would ensure that transit is a larger priority, rather than being resigned to an afterthought within another agency with a broad mandate.

The Road Ahead

Representative Tanner is particularly close to these issues. He spearheaded significant legislation last year that led the way for transit expansion into 13 counties in metro Atlanta. HB 511 received broad bipartisan support in the Georgia General Assembly.

As stated, HB 511 has already passed the Georgia House of Representatives. It is now pending before the Georgia State Senate. As for the 2019 legislative timeline, the Senate needed to pass the bill by April 2, 2019. April 2 is known as Sine Die day for the 2019 legislative year, signifying that it is the last day of the legislative session. Since HB 511 did not pass the Senate by April 2, it could be considered effectively dead—at least for this year. Since 2019 is the first year of a two-year legislative cycle, it could reemerge in 2020.

A Positive Vision for Georgia Transportation

Ultimately, HB 511 represents several significant changes to transit in Georgia. Regardless of what happens to HB 511, a much-needed conversation is occurring about the state of transportation in Georgia. We are optimistic that lawmakers will make the necessary changes to improve transportation within our state.

How To Learn More

Transportation Summit

On April 10, 2019, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of CommerceForsyth County Government, and the South Forsyth Rotary Club will be hosting the Transportation Summit. Representative Tanner, along with other state and local officials, will be answering questions from the public about transportation. 

Sign up here to attend the lunch event, and have your questions answered about HB 511 and other things impacting transportation.

Post-Legislative Session Breakfast

The Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and Lanier-Forysth Rotary Club are hosting the 2019 Post Legislative Session Breakfast. Join us for breakfast on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 7:30 AM to discuss all of the issues that are important to business leaders. This may include HB 511 and other acts that were considered, changed, or passed in the 2018-2019 legislative session. The panelists include 5 Georgia representatives and 1 senator. Learn more and register here.