ATLANTA — After trying last year to place restrictions on electric scooters all across Georgia, a state Senate committee now wants the state to keep its hands off.
The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a new version of Senate Bill 159, which would define electric scooters in state law. But it would do nothing else, leaving other regulations up to local governments.
State Sen. Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican, told committee members Tuesday that's how the scooter companies and local governments both want it.
"Local governments should be doing backflips and cartwheels," Gooch said. "They're getting everything they asked for."
The cities of Atlanta, Brookhaven and Decatur have authorized scooters, as has Georgia Southern University. But a Senate study committee report filed last year found 12 other cities had banned or placed temporary moratoriums on scooters. They include Athens, Columbus, Macon, Savannah and eight Atlanta suburbs.
The study committee, which Gooch chaired, recommended regulating impounds and encouraging safer scooter designs and docks to alleviate the problem of scooters being strewn on sidewalks. However, it also said the state "should be careful not to overregulate the micromobility industry." Gooch says he hopes cities don't ban scooters.
"We believe scooters are a good solution to the first- and last-mile transit problem," Gooch said, saying they help people reach buses and trains.
Atlanta banned more scooters after 12,000 were deployed. Grady Memorial Hospital found it treated at least 400 and probably 600 injuries from scooters in Atlanta from June 2018 to September 2019, and four fatalities were recorded in Atlanta and East Point. Atlanta moved to ban new scooters and nighttime operation of scooters after the deaths.
The legislation in the General Assembly last year would have banned people from parking scooters on sidewalks and in other locations that could hinder vehicles or pedestrians, among other restrictions.
Nick Juliano is a lobbyist for Uber, which offers Jump electric scooters in addition to its ride-hailing service. He said Georgia's law mirrors those adopted in other southern states. He said Uber supports it.