District 61 State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, said he prefiled high-profile legislation in November to give constituents time to look it over, but cautioned its passage has its limits.
“House Bill 704 does not create the city of South Fulton,” he said about turning unincorporated portions of the county into a municipality. “This bill gives you time to investigate the pros and cons and make a decision as to whether you want the city or not. It gives you the right to vote [on it].”
District 63 State Rep. Ronnie Mabra, D-Fayetteville, said he donated to an upcoming feasibility study to see if the new city could be fiscally sound.
“I want to know the facts,” he said.
Bruce invited Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, a south Fulton resident, to be the first public speaker.
“No. 1 – the unincorporated area of south Fulton is well-run,” Eaves said. “No. 2 – you have very, very good representation.”
District 39 State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said he opposed cityhood.
“I have never been in support,” he said after distributing a statement. “Before we make a decision to put it on the ballot, we ought to have what? The right information. I have to be convinced.”
His statement read in part, “I believe there is a great potential for tax increases and decline in services for citizens if the city of South Fulton is created.”
District 64 State Rep. Virgil Fludd, D-Tyrone, said the 40-day session will have minimal breaks so representatives and senators can begin campaigning for the 2014 primary, which may be as early as May 20 instead of its usual July date.
“We’ll have less time for mischief,” he said, noting there will be more revenue in the state budget, the one bill the Legislature, by law, has to pass each session.
But the more intense session, Fludd said, will still include controversial bills like an expanded gun carry law and changes to how sheriff’s departments allocate confiscated cash and goods.
District 62 State Rep. LaDawn Blackett Jones, D-Atlanta, said she will propose a foreclosure bill to counteract a recent banking practice in which financial institutions reverse their decisions.
“‘We don’t want the house,’” she said of their responses. “‘We’re going to quit-claim it back to the person we took it from in the first place.’ Now this person has $30,000 in debt and a home they can do nothing with.”
Jones said she will have a town hall meeting Jan. 29 in College Park to discuss this bill, the city of South Fulton and other issues.
Airport noise is also an issue to be tackled, said public speaker Vangie Watkins, a Fulton County code enforcement officer.
“Over the years, the contours and flight patterns have changed,” she said about Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “When I moved to south Fulton, we didn’t have airplanes flying over Cascade [Heights subdivision]. Now we do.”
District 35 State Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, said she agreed.
“It is a real problem, even in houses that originally got mitigation,” she said about soundproofing. “There are cracks in walls. There has been an increase in air traffic. We have to make sure we protect homes from airplanes.”
Bruce also said a bill for legalizing medical marijuana will be filed by Dist. 29 State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, about which Bruce had already received calls and emails from citizens.
“I was surprised,” Bruce said.