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20 June 2013

Fulton County Commission Using State Constitution to Repeal Property Tax Cap

Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 604; a bill freezing the Fulton County property tax rate until 1 January 2015. The bill also requires five of the seven county commissioners to approve a property tax increase once the tax cap is lifted.

Governor Nathan Deal signed H.B. 604 into law 6 May 2013. However, a provision in the Georgia state Constitution may put a halt to the enactment of H.B. 604.

Article IX, Section II, Paragraph I, subparagraph (b) of the Constitution of the State of Georgia allows a county to repeal or amend virtually any law imposed upon the county by the state legislature.

Except as provided in subparagraph (c), a county may, as an incident of its home rule power, amend or repeal the local acts applicable to its governing authority by following either of the procedures hereinafter set forth:

(1) Such local acts may be amended or repealed by a resolution or ordinance duly adopted at two regular consecutive meetings of the county governing authority not less than seven nor more than 60 days apart. A notice containing a synopsis of the proposed amendment or repeal shall be published in the official county organ once a week for three weeks within a period of 60 days immediately preceding its final adoption. Such notice shall state that a copy of the proposed amendment or repeal is on file in the office of the clerk of the superior court of the county for the purpose of examination and inspection by the public.

The Fulton County Commission, at its 19 June 2013 meeting, took the first step towards repealing House Bill 604.

Fulton County Commissioners received a request from interim county manager David Ware to "adopt an ordinance pursuant to the Home Rule provisions of the Georgia Constitution repealing House Bill 604 adopted by the 2013 Georgia General Assembly."

According to an Atlanta Journal Constitution report, county commissioners approved that request, opening up yet another rift between Fulton County and state lawmakers.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, who authored House Bill 604, said Fulton County needs reform.

"The message to Fulton County government is clear," Jones said. "Get to work on cutting the waste and improving services."

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves called House Bill 604 "divisive and spiteful."