2024 Legislative Priorities

Updated: March 29, 2024

HB 1146 – This bill passed the House 105-58 and passed the Senate 32-22. It now goes to the governor for signature.

ORK strongly opposed this bill.

Unfortunately, citizens and experts who were on the schedule to speak at the committee hearing were told moments before it began that opposition comments would be limited to two people, for two minutes each. This meant citizens who travelled to the Capitol from Bryan and Bulloch County were not heard and conservation organizations were not heard.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Senate chairman denies critics of Georgia water bill chance to speak

However, the supporters who will profit from this bill, were allowed to speak at length, and were able to repeat talking points that have been debunked

Savannah Morning News – Stephens makes fact-challenged case for HB 1146 to enable private water utilities in state

Savannah Morning News – Savannah’s Stephens revisits false narrative in pushing private water service bill

HB 1146 would allow private companies or individuals to bypass local governments and water utilities and get a permit to sell water to developers.

Concerns about HB 1146

  • It applies to the southern half of Georgia, which could lead to unplanned growth in every coastal county.
  • The bill lets private water providers operate similarly to public ones, competing directly without the necessary coordination with local governments. This would undermine responsible planning efforts and privatize our limited drinking water supply.
  • It might grant access to drinking water to the highest bidder, and doesn’t clearly define “Consumptive Use,” potentially allowing for unchecked water usage.
  • HB 1146 focuses on water services but ignores sewer system requirements, which would lead high density septic or other inadequate wastewater treatment options that endanger water quality. This is not a sustainable solution, especially for affordable housing.
  • Promoting private water services outside of government planning may result in inadequate firefighting infrastructure, with taxpayers bearing the cost. Additionally, encouraging more private water providers raises utility costs for consumers.

Updated: March 27, 2024

HB 1223 – This bill passed the House unanimously and it passed the Senate with additions. It now heads to governor’s desk for signature. ORK supports this bill.

ORK and coalition partners have been working to tighter the rules around so-called “soil amendments.” HB 1223 makes it unlawful to spread unlabeled, misbranded, or unregistered materials and it forces any site that has a suspected violation to stop spreading while it is investigated.

This means companies can be stopped if they are found to be spreading chicken guts or other slurries that cause problems like flies, fish kills, and more.

Updated: March 27, 2024

HB 1172 – This bill passed the House 107-60 and passed the Senate 34-18. It now heads to the governor for signature. ORK opposes this bill. 

HB 1172 removes important Georgia Public Trust Doctrine language and expressly limits the public’s use of navigable streams that have privately owned beds to just three uses: fishing, hunting, and passage. The Public Trust Doctrine ensures that the public can use stream beds previously owned by the state, but HB 1172 removes that language from the law, creating uncertainty.

Critically, Georgians use navigable streams for wading, swimming, research, water quality
monitoring, education, and more. HB 1172 could severely restrict these uses.