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01 May 2013

Fulton Commissioners Threatened to Leave ACCG Over County Reform Bills Passing the Legislature

The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) is what it says in the organization's title. ACCG is an association of county commissioners from across Georgia. Their group features 810 county commissioners representing all 159 of Georgia's counties. Last month, ACCG nearly lost the membership of Georgia's largest county over legislation designed to reform that county.

During the 2013 legislative session, state legislators introduced a slew of bills aimed at restructuring Fulton County government. Included among these measures were bills to: 1.) require a super-majority vote of the county commission before Fulton County property taxes could be increased (House Bill 604); 2.) increase the homestead exemption in from $30,000 to $60,000 over three years, giving all Fulton County residents much needed tax relief (House Bill 541); and 3.) restructure the Fulton County Commission to ensure fair representation for all areas of the county on that panel (House Bill 171).

The representatives and senators sponsoring the reform Fulton legislation all agreed Fulton County was ripe for change. The Fulton County of ten years ago no longer exists. Fulton County has changed. More than 90% of its citizens live in cities, effectively reducing the number of services Fulton County government is required to provide to its citizens. In spite of this, many of Fulton County's elected leaders have been resistant to change.

The Fulton County Commission opposed many, if not all, of the bills aimed at reforming Fulton County [SOURCE: Fulton County Board of Commissioners Approves Resolution to Oppose Legislation Targeted to Change County Homestead Exemption, Millage Rate, Governance Structure and Employees’ Classification Status].

At its 6 March 2013 meeting, Fulton County Commissioners asked the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia to join their fight against reform of Fulton County.

A motion was made by Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves and seconded by Commissioner Bill Edwards to issue a letter by Friday, March 8, 2013, on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, to ACCG’s Executive Director and Board of Managers asking that they take a position in support of Fulton County by opposing several pending bills. If they are not able to take a position, state why. If they choose not to take a position or support Fulton County’s efforts, then the County will review whether it is in its best interest to paying annual dues.

In other words, the Fulton County Commission said to ACCG, "join our fight against reform or we're leaving your organization."

Nearly all of the Fulton County reform bills passed the Georgia General Assembly, and were sent to the Governor for his signature.

The next month, Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards formally moved to withdraw Fulton County from ACCG. His proposal failed by one vote. Two weeks later, Commissioner Edwards again tried to end Fulton County's association with ACCG. His second attempt ended the same way as his first. The proposal failed by a single vote.

The moral of this very true story is that some people are resistant to change. And they will lie or threaten to keep change from happening.