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Fulton commissioners take stance on new local House bills
by Caroline Young
March 20, 2013 02:48 PM | 3661 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners Wednesday voted to oppose a new bill to take control away from it at the board’s meeting at the county government center in downtown Atlanta.

In a legislative update, county legislative liaison Christopher Boyd presented the newly proposed House Bill 604, which adheres to the millage rate cap, and cites the 1951 local constitutional amendment.

He said it would suspend the ability of the board to raise the millage rate above the “revenue-neutral rollback” rate until Jan. 1, 2015.

Boyd suggested the board vote to take stances on HB 604, as well as some other newly proposed local bills.

The board voted to oppose the bill by a 5-1 vote. District 3 Commissioner Hausmann dissented while District 4 Commissioner Tom Lowe was absent.

District 5 Commissioner Emma Darnell, who opposes HB 604, said the basis of her opposition is loss of local control, which she said is “the fundamental principle of governance” in Georgia and countrywide.

“Why are people trying to direct us to freeze caps on millage rates we haven’t had a cap since 1991? … It’s unprecedented,” Darnell said. “This bill opposes upon rights of all Fulton County residents to make decisions about how their taxes are going be spent and whose going to make the decision. That’s the basis for our opposition, … in order to be honest with our citizens.”

Today, Boyd said the Senate will be voting on HB 171, the redistricting bill to change the current commission district lines for the board, which would increase the number of seats and eliminate the second at-large seat. It changes the distribution and layout of the geographic commission districts.

In turn, the Senate will also be voting on the alternative to HB 171, which is Senate Bill 248, introduced Monday by District 38 State Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta.

The board also voted on HB 594, which is a replacement of HB 172, which was about making changes to the county’s civil service system for employees, meaning anyone hired after the bill was adopted would be immediately placed in unclassified status.

However, Boyd said HB 594 is basically the same but includes an exception for public safety employees. The board voted to oppose the bill by a 5-1 vote. Hausmann dissented.

Boyd also said HB 541, which would increase homestead exemption to $60,000, passed in the House by a two-thirds majority vote, which is necessary in the state when a bill pertains to this topic.

Now, the bill, which the board opposed, is in the Senate and could possibly be heard Thursday or any day before March 28.

“If that bill passes in the Senate, it goes onto the governor [Nathan Deal] for his signature or veto,” Boyd said. “He has 30 days to decide.”

And after multiple residents voiced opposition to the bill during the board meeting’s public hearing segment, Darnell offered Deal’s phone number to them, if they wish to call and voice their opinion.

If the governor does sign the bill, Boyd said it will then transfer to a referendum and be voted on by county residents in November 2014.
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