House Bill 1281, approved 39-13, is intended to ease the pain of the nursery business, which has suffered under tight water restrictions in 61 counties in the state, said Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, who handled the bill in the Senate.
Under the measure, governments would need approval from the state Environmental Protection Division and would have to show cause for stiffer restrictions.
Legislators added an exemption from fines if cities are not allowed to impose more stringent restrictions and fail to meet water reduction goals as result. The EPD board would have to adopt a drought management plan by July 2009 under an amendment to the bill.
Another amendment that would have allowed more stringent restrictions approved by the EPD to remain in place after the filing of a lawsuit failed by a wide margin. The amendment, by Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, would have allowed the restrictions to continue until the lawsuit was decided.
The measure now goes back to the House for approval of the amendments.