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Fulton commissioners discuss controversial bills
by Caroline Young
February 20, 2013 03:42 PM | 3798 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A long line of Fulton County residents Wednesday expressed opposition to newly proposed House Bills 170, 171 and 172 at the Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting at the county government center in downtown Atlanta.

The board opposed passage of all three bills Feb. 6 by a 5-2 vote, which was dissented by Republican Commissioners Liz Hausmann of District 3 and Tom Lowe of District 4.

HBs 171 and 172 are going to be reviewed Thursday at the State Capitol downtown by the House Intergovernmental Committee, and could be voted on as early as next week.

HB 171 is a 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.

And 172 adheres to 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.

South Fulton resident Helene Mills, who is over 80 years old, said, “Let’s have a house bill that serves all of the people that live in Fulton County.”

Commission chair John Eaves (District 1 at-large) said he wants to make sure all residents know how the legislation would impact everyone.

“I would like to make sure our communications department is getting the word out to all of our districts about what is going on and the legislation being proposed,” said District 6 Commissioner Joan Garner, “and inviting them to respond in any way they care to respond.”

Hausmann said she wants to remind all commissioners the vote was not unanimous.

“Some people in Fulton County think these bills are fair,” she said.

Hausmann then read the definition of fairness from a dictionary, describing it as being, “free from self-interest, prejudice or favoritism.”

“The distribution of current commissioners is not fair or spread out,” she said. “Therefore we do not have the perspective of the entire county. We need to achieve fairness.”

Hausmann recalled a meeting held last Sunday for the public to come and speak about the bills. Four commissioners were in attendance, and Hausmann was not one of them.

She went on to speculate whether or not the meeting was legal, and asked County Attorney Larry Ramsey to check into it.

But Commissioners Garner, William Edwards and Emma Darnell said the meeting was open to the public and definitely not illegal.

“Given with what we are dealing with, and proposed changes, … we are looking at the future of Fulton County and how it affects lives of everybody in Fulton County,” Gardner said. “If there is a meeting held in a Fulton County building, if I have constituents whose lives are affected by it, I am going to show up, whether it’s in Johns Creek or Palmetto.”

Edwards added, “Ms. Hausmann, you continually speak out of board policy every day and I am sick of it. … Everybody was invited to the meeting. There were people there from North Fulton.”

If the intergovernmental committee approves the two bills Thursday, they will be voted on by the House and then the Senate. A final decision will be made in the next four to six weeks, when it will be presented to the governor for signature or veto.

House Bill 170, which proposes changes to homestead exemption and millage rates, has no signs of moving forward at this time, a county official said at the meeting.

It was on the House’s local calendar Thursday, meaning it could have been voted on then, but Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, moved to have it removed from the calendar, possibly so it could be rewritten, House spokeswoman Kristy Lindstrom said. The bill will go back on the calendar Friday and could be voted on then, Lindstrom said.
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