Development authority bill did not get a vote on Crossover Day

Bills’ sponsors were on a Georgia Senate study committee that was prompted by multiple investigations and controversies involving development authorities
Dan McRae, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, spoke to the Senate Development Authority Study Committee on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

Credit: Zachary Hansen

Credit: Zachary Hansen

Dan McRae, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, spoke to the Senate Development Authority Study Committee on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

A bill aiming to make modest changes to development authority members’ training and terms did not receive a vote on Crossover Day, likely tabling its proposals for this legislative session.

Senate Bill 171 was the result of a Georgia Senate study committee that evaluated development authorities in the wake of recent scandals and controversial tax break deals.

Development authorities are appointed by elected leaders but act as shadow government agencies with broad powers to reduce companies’ local government and school property taxes in exchange for jobs and investment. But they receive limited oversight and have faced withering criticism in recent years.

The bipartisan committee weighed broader reforms, but those were nixed at the end of last year. The final bill’s proposals would have required two hours of additional training for development authority board members and prohibited board members serving expired terms from voting after six months.

The bill also included a provision to limit contractor liability for projects with certain real estate lease agreements. But state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said its language upset development authority representatives.

“Some of the local development authorities’ attorneys had some heartburn with it because of the way it was written,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There was definitely some cleanup needed to be done on it before it could be adapted permanently into law, and that’s probably the main reason it didn’t get pulled (on Monday).”

Crossover Day is the General Assembly’s internal deadline for bills to pass at least one legislative chamber. Measures that fail to advance by that day would need to be inserted into another piece of legislation that has been approved by at least one chamber to become law before the final day of the 2023 session.

Gooch said it’s possible parts of the bill will make its way into other legislation this session, but he said tweaking development authority rules is not a priority of the Republican Senate caucus. State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said there has been “a lot of opposition from the development authorities” over potential reforms.

The legislation’s other sponsors sponsors did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Senate study committee’s final report had other recommendations that did not involve new legislation.

They recommended asking the state Department of Audits and Accounts to conduct a performance audit on the state’s development authorities and asking the Georgia Economic Development Association to create a “best practices” plan.

Another bill that would affect how development authorities could hold meetings did survive Crossover Day. Senate Bill 26 passed through the state Senate in February and would allow development authorities and community improvement districts (CIDs) to hold virtual meetings.