I am pleased to report that every bill I was pushing this year has passed and is awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s approval or already has been signed into law. These five bills are as follows:
House Bill 264 and House Bill 265 – these bills, known as the MARTA bills, have been a three-year project. The MARTA Board of Directors currently has 11 voting members. Four of these members are appointed by the DeKalb County Commission and three are appointed by the Fulton County Commission. Of the Fulton members, two are required to be residents of north Fulton. HB 264 will change one of the DeKalb members to be appointed by a caucus of the DeKalb mayors. The two north Fulton members will be appointed by a caucus of the north Fulton mayors. This will give cities such as Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody direct influence on the MARTA board.
HB 264 streamlines the required collective bargaining process with the transit union by eliminating an inefficient arbitration proceeding. The superior court judge who now will resolve collective bargaining issues on a 90-day deadline will have to take into account MARTA’s 10-year financial projections in making a decision on union demands. MARTA also will be given more flexibility to manage its financial resources, including three years of relief from the 50-50 split, which requires 50 percent of all sales tax revenues to be allocated to capital projects and no more than 50 percent on operations.
HB 264 gives MARTA the authority to impose fines and penalties on riders who engage in nuisance behavior. This is an effort to enhance public safety on the system.
HB 265, the other bill in the pair, repeals two outdated provisions of the general Georgia Code pertaining to MARTA. It also gives Clayton County voters the opportunity to join MARTA if they vote no later than 2016 to pay the penny sales tax that is charged in Fulton and DeKalb.
As I have said previously, I am pleased that MARTA is privatizing key operations on its own, without any legislative mandates. MARTA is beginning to see cost savings from this effort.
HB 979 – this bill completes the reduction of the DeKalb County Board of Education from nine seats to seven seats effective Jan. 1, 2015. Deal signed this bill into law Feb. 26, the same day it achieved final passage in the legislature.
HB 979 scraps the two super districts that each encompass half the county, retains the seven single-member districts that are fairly and logically drawn, and will ensure stable governance of our formerly troubled school board. Without HB 979, this year’s school board elections could not have gone forward.
Senate Bill 386 – this bill requires redaction of personal information such as Social Security numbers and bank account numbers in civil filings in state court. This privacy measure was a joint effort with State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell. It is modeled after Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2, which is a similar rule that applies in federal court.
HB 1136 – this bill authorizes the city of Brookhaven to utilize tax allocation districts if the citizens vote in favor of this redevelopment mechanism in a referendum this November. The districts do not impose new or additional taxes, but rather allow the marginal increases in commercial property taxes, that automatically might result from commercial redevelopment, to be used for infrastructure improvements in a localized area.
This bill was passed at the request of the city of Brookhaven. If approved by the voters, the districts could be used to spur redevelopment in areas such as Buford Highway in the future.