Local officials don’t have any major concerns about proposed legislation that is designed to streamline processes for new businesses.
Senate Bill 2, known as The FAST: Fairness, Accountability, Simplification and Transparency Act is being supported by the National Federation of Independent Business and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
The Georgia Municipal Association, which represents Georgia’s cities and towns, is still evaluating the bill, said GMA Spokeswoman Amy Henderson.
The part of SB 2 that applies to local businesses deals with issuing business licenses. Under the act, every agency that issues a business license or permit must establish a fee schedule that includes turnaround times. If the agency is late issuing the permit, the fee will be reduced 10 percent for every 10 days it is late. Agencies are also required to offer expedited processing of licenses, for a charge not to exceed twice the standard fee.
Similar provisions would apply to state agencies which impose fees for business licenses and permits, and other regulatory fees for businesses.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs would be required to create a “building and infrastructure transparency score” for each county and city in the state, based upon licensing fees, turnaround time, dispute resolution, the consolidation of forms and documents to avoid repetitive or duplicate requests, and other criteria that may be deemed relevant.
The bill also requires the state’s professional licensing boards to set up provisions for issuing provisional licenses for people who have either been licensed in the state previously or who have been licensed in another state with similar licensing criteria.
“We’re currently reviewing the bill and if we have any concerns we will be in contact with GMA or our state legislators,” said Gina Snider, Newnan’s public information officer.
“After reviewing SB 2 and discussing it with our staff, we do not have any concerns based on our current operations,” said Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts. “In fact, we are very supportive of streamlining the application and permit process locally, as allowed by the state’s regulations.”
Henderson said that GMA does have some concerns.
“In general, first of all, cities are really supportive of business and new business,” she said. There are cities all over the state that are setting up incubators and helping new businesses get started.
When it comes to permitting, some cities are innovating. In Statesboro, when a new business comes in, there is a meeting with every department that is involved. “To say this is what we do here, these are all the permits you need,” Henderson said. “They do it all up front.”
But Georgia’s cities come in all sizes and have different resources. So a one-size-fits-all policy might be problematic.
The organization’s annual mayor’s day conference is this weekend, and Henderson said she expected some discussion on SB 2 in the policy committee meeting.
“We’re in the process of gathering information right now from our cities – asking what does this mean for you,” she said. GMA’s legislative team will use that feedback to have discussions with legislators as the bill moves through the process, she said.