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06 March 2014

South Fulton City Bill Racing Against Time As Lawmakers Enter Final Days of 2014 Session

"May you live in interesting times" is an oft-repeated curse attributed to the Chinese.

For supporters of the movement to create a new city of South Fulton, times don't get any more interesting than they are right now.

With seven legislative days left in the 2014 legislative session, pro-city advocates are racing to get House Bill 704 passed before lawmakers go home for the year. And it isn't proving to be an easy task.

After breezing through the state House on a vote of 163 - 2, the South Fulton city bill (H.B. 704) entered the Georgia Senate as local legislation; meaning that all H.B. 704 needed to pass was a majority of Fulton County's Senators to sign off on the bill so that the proposal could go on the local consent calendar for a vote.

In other words, House Bill 704 must be on the Senate Rules Calendar by the 39th legislative day or it is dead for the year.
The local consent calendar is a list of bills posted by the Senate each day that only affect a local city, county, or school board. These bills do not have statewide implications, and are traditionally approved by Senators so long as the local legislative delegation supports the legislation.

One member of the Fulton County legislative delegation, state Senator Vincent Fort (D - Atlanta), is opposed to House Bill 704.

"I am not supporting the creation of the city of South Fulton," Fort said in a statement. "I believe there is a great potential for tax increases and decline in services for citizens if the city of South Fulton is created."

But Senator Fort's opposition could easily be overcome, so long as every other Senator representing Fulton County signed off on the bill.

Then, on 3 March 2014, Fort made a motion in the Senate to withdraw H.B. 704 as local legislation and recommit the bill to the State Local and Governmental Operations Committee as a general bill. No other Senator objected.

As a general bill, House Bill 704 falls under a different section of Senate Rules.

First, a general bill can be changed by any Senator, regardless of where the lawmaker lives or which district they represent.

Georgia Unfiltered has obtained a committee substitute that amends House Bill 704 by moving the South Fulton cityhood referendum from 20 May 2014 to the November General Election. There are rumors that other changes may be coming to H.B. 704 as well.

House Bill 704 Committee Substitute

Next, there's Senate Rule 4-2.10(a), which reads:

"No general House bill or resolution having the effect of law shall be read the third time and put upon its passage or adoption after the thirty-ninth (39th) day of any regular session except that this prohibition shall not apply to a bill or resolution which was laid on the table on the thirty-ninth (39th) day. The provisions of this paragraph shall in no case be suspended except by a two-thirds' (2/3) vote of the members to which the Senate is entitled."

In other words, House Bill 704 must be on the Senate Rules Calendar by the 39th legislative day or it is dead for the year.

H.B.704 remains in the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee, and Georgia General Assembly is currently on its 33rd legislative day.

Any Senate changes to House Bill 704 must be approved by the House before the proposal can go to Governor Deal for his signature.

This is a developing story. Keep logging on to Georgia for continued updates on the proposed city of South Fulton.