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Bill prohibiting local regulations on gas-powered leaf blowers passes state House

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Bill prohibiting local regulations on gas-powered leaf blowers passes state House

Gas powered leaf blower. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA — The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill on March 27 that prohibits counties and municipalities from creating local regulations on landscape equipment, like gas-powered leaf blowers. 

Since the bill was amended, it has to go back to the state Senate for another vote.

Senate Bill 145 originally only aimed to prevent these regulations, but it took on a life of its own in the House as several other bills were combined into one bill. 

It passed the House by a vote of 103-67. Some Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill, including Reps. Shea Roberts (D-Atlanta), Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain), Angela Moore (D-Stonecrest).

The other members of the DeKalb County House delegation voted against the bill, and Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) was excused from the vote.   

Here is a breakdown of the various parts of the bill: 

– Local governments would not be able to adopt regulations that create differing standards for or distinguish gas-powered leaf blowers from similar equipment. 

– Provides procedures for municipal deannexation of property with signed applications of all property owners of the land. 

– Repeals provisions that authorize administrative officers to exercise zoning powers. It allows quasi-judicial boards and agencies to hear and make decisions on applications for special administrative permits and conditional permits

– Provides for the creation of county commercial property assessed conservation, energy and resiliency development authorities 

– Prohibits governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service or sales of certain fuel based upon the appliance. 

– Allows for additional investment in electric membership corporation-owned gas marketers. 

Some representatives, including Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, wondered how all these bills go together in one bill. Rep. Joseph Gullett (R -Dallas), who sponsored the bill in the House, said the governmental affairs committee “believed those to be germane.” 

Oliver made a motion that provisions of the bill be declared not germane, or not relevant, to one another. She mentioned two state court cases that say the provisions of any bill must have unity of purpose, and the provisions must have a logical and natural connection. 

“Mr. Speaker, in making your ruling, please tell me how leaf blowers, CPACE [and] annexation have a unity of purpose,” Oliver said. 

Speaker of the House Jon Burns (R – Newington) said the bill had been debated thoroughly, and the issues were related to one another.

Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) supported a few parts of the bill but spoke against the preemptions related to leaf blowers and gas appliances. 

“It is no secret that I am no fan of local preemption bills, but the ones that really stick in my craw are the local preemption bills that are entirely unnecessary,” Anulewicz said. 

She added that no city or county has tried to regulate gas-powered leaf blowers, other than potentially addressing them through a noise ordinance to note the time of day the leaf blowers could be used. No municipality has also tried to limit or prohibit gas appliances. 

The language related to leaf blowers was similar to SB 139 from 2015, which aimed to prohibit cities and counties from regulating plastic bags, Anulewicz said. That bill did not pass the legislature at the time.  

“The plastic bag ban ultimately met its demise here on this floor, and it died on this floor because the majority of the lawmakers here recognized that their personal feelings about plastic bags aside, it was a genuinely banal thing over which local control should be eroded,” Anulewicz said. 

“I believe the takeaway from SB 139 in 2015 is that there is no reason to deny cities and counties the ability to individually determine for themselves whether or not they want to regulate plastic bags or gas-powered leaf blowers or gas stoves,” she said. 

Those who spoke in favor of the bill were concerned that electric leaf blowers don’t have the same power as gas-powered leaf blowers, and the technology of electric leaf blowers has not caught up enough to be competitive in a free market. 

“I also believe in local control,” Roberts said. “I have a landscaper, Rigo. He works with his brother, his wife.’

He is one of the hardest-working people Roberts knows.  

“I’ve got to believe that this bill was brought because there was some threat to gas leaf blowers and right now, there’s no product on the market that’s comparable that he could do his job,” Roberts said. “I can’t vote against this because of my guy, Rigo.”

Rep. Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia) added that the bill doesn’t prevent a local government from implementing an energy efficiency or environmental program that are incentive-based. But it would prevent them from penalizing a lack of participation in those programs.

When the bill passed the Senate, it only sought to prohibit counties and municipalities from creating local regulations on gas-powered leaf blowers. It passed the Senate by a 37-16 vote. 

A gas-powered leaf blower is defined as “any machine that is powered by a two-stroke or four-stroke engine and uses as fuel gasoline or a blend of gasoline and oil, used to blow leaves, dirt, or other debris off of sidewalks, driveways, lawns, or other surfaces,” the legislation states. 

The Senate added an amendment from Sens. Shawn Still (R – Senate District 48), who is the bill sponsor, and Elena Parent (D – Senate District 42), which says the bill will be repealed as of June 30, 2031. The sunset was removed by the House governmental affairs committee.

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