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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Environmental Watch: Land Bill TUp for Vote Next Year

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA), House Bill 332, will be up for consideration by the Georgia General Assembly in 2018.

GOSA would generate nearly $40 million annually for land conservation without creating any new taxes or fees by redirecting 75 percent of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment.

The fund created would be used to acquire and maintain parks in urban areas, maintain access to already protected lands throughout the state and help protect water quality, wildlife habitat, cultural sites and lands buffering Georgia military installations, according to GeorgiaOutdoorStewardship.com.

Funds would be administered by the Georgia Environment Finance Authority, and only those projects approved by the Department of Natural Resources would be eligible.

HB 332 passed the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Envi- ronment during the 2017 legislative session, but it did not pass out of the House before the end of the session. The committee will renew the bill for consideration during the 2018 Session, reports GeorgiaConservancy.org, which suggests voters contact their representatives now to express their opinions.

If passed, companion House Resolution 238 will be on the ballot for voter referendum in November 2018, and funds would begin to be dedicated January 1, 2019. Overall taxes dedicated would be .2 percent of the state budget, according to GeorgiaOutdoorStewardship.com.

The largest impact of this bill, according to GOSA, would be that the funds would not be subject to the annual appropriations process.

To learn more about the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, visit GeorgiaConservancy.org/gosa or GeorgiaOutdoorStewardship.com. To read the bill, visit Legis.ga.gov.

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