Georgia legislative highlights: 4 issues SELC is watching in 2016

SELC is keeping an eye on bills related to water quality, transit, and private spaceports during this session of the Georgia state legislature. (© iStock)

Under the gold dome of the Georgia Capitol, the 2016 legislative session has been a whirlwind of activity for lawmakers, lobbyists, and representatives from organizations statewide working to cover as much ground as possible within the short 40-day session.    

Each January when the General Assembly convenes, SELC’s legislative role includes meeting with elected officials, working to get bills introduced, weighing in on proposed legislation, and providing comments during committee and subcommittee hearings.

As a highlight from the 2015 session, SELC and our partners succeeded in getting legislation passed that re-established the protective 25-foot buffer for Georgia’s marshes and in closing large loopholes that would have left the coast at risk.

SELC is keeping close tabs on a range of issues in the 2016 session, including: 

  • Freshwater buffer protections: Since there is currently no clear-cut legislation in place regarding buffer protections for Georgia’s freshwater wetlands, streams, and rivers, SELC and our Georgia Water Coalition partners are aiming to get a bill introduced.
  • Groundwater protections: SELC and our fellow Georgia Water Coalition partners are pushing for legislation that would require the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to improve groundwater safeguards. An existing bill passed the Senate last year, and we are seeking to get the bill through the House this session.
  • Transit funding: A bill introduced earlier this week could pave the way for residents in Fulton and DeKalb Counties to enjoy additional access to MARTA, metro Atlanta’s mass transit provider. The legislation would allow for significant growth in MARTA coverage, expanding high quality rail service to a number of areas not currently served by MARTA rail (such as North Fulton, and the areas around Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control). SELC is participating in robust discussions around the importance of increasing Atlanta’s investments in transit that we hope will lay the groundwork for the bill's successful passage.
  • Georgia Space Flight Act: Related to a proposed spaceport in Camden County that raises serious environmental and safety questions, this legislation would limit the rights of the surrounding private property owners who are harmed by noise, vibration, odor, smoke, and other "nuisances" from spaceport operations. SELC and our coastal partners testified in opposition to the bill this week before the subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, which also heard concerns from local citizens who would be affected by flight activities.

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