Leaf blower bill doesn’t pass in the Georgia General AssemblyGas powered leaf blower. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Atlanta, GA — During the legislative session, lawmakers considered bills that would’ve prohibited counties and cities from creating local regulations that create different standards for or distinguish gas-powered leaf blowers from similar equipment. The legislation ultimately did not pass the Georgia General Assembly.
City officials in Decatur and Avondale Estates were waiting to see what happened with the legislation as the cities consider what regulations, if any, they may adopt regarding gas-powered leaf blowers.
The Avondale Estates City Commission discussed the issue at a work session but decided to pause conversations about leaf blowers until the legislature made a decision on House Bill 1301, the Landscape Equipment and Agricultural Fairness Act.
“Given that this is getting tossed around at the Capitol, I think it would be best for us if we would shelve this discussion until they sort this out, primarily because I don’t want our discussions to be used as fodder in any way for pro or against by any legislator on that particular law,” Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore previously said. “If they pass that law, we can’t do anything anyway. If they don’t pass the law, then we can discuss it again.”
HB 1301 was never voted on by the House of Representatives, but was added to HB 1382, which passed the House in March. The Senate, however, did not take up a vote on the bill.
The Decatur City Commission is in the process of updating its noise ordinance, which will include looking at leaf blowers.
“It’s more than just the leaf blowers, but we do understand the consternation caused by leaf blowers and other lawn equipment. The team will start meeting, and they’re going to pull together a steering committee,” City Manager Andrea Arnold previously said.
City staff and the steering committee will look at other updates that could include looking at other lawn equipment, addressing noise from large generators and looking at outdoor music, among other things. She added that the process will be similar to what the city did regarding rental scooters.
Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett was also following House Bill 496, which would have allowed permits to be issued to drivers, so they can operate a vehicle or move along the state’s public roads even if their weight, width, length or height exceeds the maximum that’s allowed by law. HB 496 also was not voted on by the House of Representatives.
Permits, however, cannot be issued if the vehicle would threaten to unduly damage a road.
South Candler Road, College Avenue and parts of Commerce Drive are state roads, so allowing larger vehicles to drive on them would cause more wear and tear, and bigger trucks would end up driving in some residential areas of the city, Garrett said.
The General Assembly did pass HB 923, which sets a cap on the per diem allowance that development authority directors receive.
The bill addresses two issues that development authorities across the state face, bill sponsor Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) previously said. The government affairs committee has had an in-depth discussion over the last two years about the extent to which development authorities operate positively and independently for economic development.
“But in my district, and in many districts across Georgia, there are issues of conflict among the development authorities and there are other issues of certain management. They are not governed by anybody. They are truly independent entities,” Oliver said.
Other bills that passed this session include:
– A bill expanding the number of paid state holidays observed by Georgia employees from 12 to 13 to add Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
– A bill requiring high school juniors and seniors to take a financial literacy course beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
– Masks and COVID-19 vaccines were also a topic of discussion during the session, with Gov. Brian Kemp introducing the “Unmask Georgia Students Act” with Sen. Clint Dixon (SD-45). That bill passed the legislature at the end of March. The General Assembly also passed legislation that prohibits the state and local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccine passports.
“No agency shall require proof of COVID-19 vaccination of any person as a condition of providing any service or access to any facility, issuing any license, permit, or other type of authorization, or performing any duty of such agency,” the bill states.
It also prohibits agencies from requiring an individual or private entity to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of providing services or access to a facility. The bill will be in effect until June 30, 2023.
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