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Counting down the days to Sine Die
Steve Gooch
Steve Gooch

We returned to our busy ways during the tenth week of the 2018 Legislative Session. We had three session days, committees were held throughout the week, and ultimately we passed 22 pieces of legislation.

We are counting down the days to Sine Die and only one week remains. While we are working on House Bills, I am happy to report that our friends across the hall are continuing to move two of my bills in the right direction.

Senate Bill 425, which creates a new classification of land surveyor, was passed by the House on Wednesday.

Current law places a burden on those seeking to become land surveyors by requiring a level of education which is unnecessary for most surveying projects. SB 425 seeks to eliminate this hurdle by creating two categories of land surveyor: professional and registered. Under the provisions of SB 425, a registered land surveyor will have to meet fewer educational requirements, but will still have all the necessary qualifications to perform standard surveying duties. A professional land surveyor will have to meet a higher standard of education and training, but will also have the opportunity to work on more complex jobs that often place an emphasis on engineering, such as design work for land disturbance activities. The new standards will attract more land surveyors to the profession and place no additional burden on those seeking to utilize their skillset.

The Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, or Senate Bill 426, is also one step closer to becoming law. On March 14, the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee passed the bill and it now awaits selection in the House Rules Committee before being voted upon by the full House. SB 426 lays the groundwork for private companies to deploy future technology, such as 5G or small cell broadband, through the use of public rights of way. SB 426 also addresses the construction of small wireless technology on existing utility poles – collocating – as well as the construction of new poles.

Several changes were made to SB 426 to address some concerns that were brought up by constituents, stakeholders, local governing authorities and service providers.

First, the wireless equipment volume in cubic feet was reduced from 28 to 25 and each new or modified utility pole would not exceed 50 feet above ground level. Those wishing to deploy a service using the public rights-of-ways would need to pay a fee of $25 per year, per deployment application. To ease any unnecessary burdens on the local governing authority reviewing provider applications, the number for collocating applications at one time was reduced from 25 to 15. This will allow the authority a smaller amount of applications to review, leading to an increase in efficiency and hopefully reducing time needed to do a thorough review of the provider’s applications.

 Additionally, a provider would not be able to submit any additional applications if they have at least eight pending with the authority. In order to ensure that all due-diligence is done on the service provider’s side, a provision was added to address construction of a new pole. If a provider wishes to install a new utility pole because they determine that collocating on an existing pole isn’t feasible, they would have to base their decision on the assessment of a licensed engineer. This will protect against new poles being constructed unnecessarily.

It is important to note that this legislation has no impact on private property and only addresses public rights-of-ways. Under SB 426, protections are in place for historic districts that are designated as such by the ‘Georgia Historic Protection Act.’ All of these changes are being done with a greater goal of expanding rural access to broadband and wireless services to put in place a foundation for economic growth. We are working on ensuring that the best possible version of this legislation is passed and signed into law.

I am also currently working on Senate Bill 402 –the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act – which would bring broadband access to unserved and underserved areas across rural Georgia by laying the groundwork for private investment and public-private partnerships and HB 696 regarding tax credits to encourage data centers to locate to rural Georgia.

 The last few weeks are usually packed with activity and week 10 was no different. With only a few legislative days remaining, we have much to do in a small amount of time. I will continue to fight for rural broadband expansion legislation and any legislation beneficial to the 51st District and all of Georgia’s citizens. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Senator, and if you have any questions in our final days under the Gold Dome, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip.  He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at (404)656-9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

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