Take it or leaf it: House sends blower bill back to Senate
The Georgia Legislature is one step closer to passing a bill designed to protect gas-powered leaf blowers and appliances from cities and counties that might seek to restrict them.
Lawmakers attached a slew of other bills to the original leaf blower bill, including provisions regarding de-annexing properties from cities and county bodies called Commercial Property Assessed Conservation, Energy Resiliency Development Authorities.
So-called Christmas tree legislation becomes more common when a legislative session nears its end and lawmakers rush to get their bills across the finish line before time runs out for the year. Wednesday is the final day for this year’s session.
In House and Senate committee hearings, the bill’s author, Johns Creek Republican Sen. Shawn Still, said no Georgia municipality has banned gas blowers, but cities and counties in other states are doing so, and preventing such moves in Georgia will protect landscaping businesses from having to spend big dollars on tools he says are inferior.
Several Atlanta-area homeowners came to committee hearings and urged lawmakers to vote down Senate Bill 145, arguing that gas blowers are noisier than their electric brethren and governments should have the freedom to decide at a local level which yard care appliances to promote.
Controversy over gas stoves has simmered in the background for years, recently flaring up after a commissioner on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the agency would begin considering regulations on new gas stoves because of safety concerns.
Smyrna Democratic Rep. Teri Anulewicz said bills like Still’s strip local governments of power, comparing them to a snipe hunt, a classic shenanigan in which a prankster sends a rube into the forest to hunt a nonexistent animal.
“The thing about a snipe hunt is that you send someone on a quest to find something that they will never find, and that’s a little bit what these preemptions are like,” she said. “They are special interest groups mad libbing legislation in an attempt to send the General Assembly on a quest to keep cities and counties from outlawing something that no one is even trying to outlaw. It is a waste of our time.”
Duluth Democratic Rep. Ruwa Romman said passing the bill would undo work the state has done to become a hub for clean energy.
“This is a blatant attempt to stop that,” she said. “It’s like we keep moving one step forward and three steps back. Those things are exciting. We’ve got kids right now in schools who are preparing for those jobs, and now you’re telling me by the time they graduate, those jobs might not be there anymore?”
Cornelia Republican Rep. Victor Anderson characterized Democratic complaints as overblown.
“There’s nothing in either of those bills that prevents a local governing authority from implementing energy efficiency or environmental programs that are incentive based,” he said. “What it does is it prevents them from penalizing lack of participation in those programs. We’re not saying that you can’t have programs. We’re not saying you can’t promote those types of energy choices, but we are saying that you can’t mandate them and penalize a lack of participation.”
Valdosta Republican Rep. John LaHood saw Anulewicz’ snipe and raised her a goat and a squirrel.
“You can get a goat to climb a tree, but you’re better off to hire a squirrel,” he said. “In other words, your landscape provider, if he can do a better job with a gas leaf blower than he can with an electric, let him do his job. And if you want to hire a landscape crew that uses all electric, then do that. It’s up to you. Nobody’s telling you that you can’t use the leaf blower of your choice. The bill just says that the local government cannot treat one type of blower different than the other.”
The bill cleared the House Monday with a 103-to-67 vote. It now heads back to the Senate, where the original leaf blower bill passed 37-16.