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05 February 2015

New House Gov't Affairs Committee Chair Not Interested in Fast Tracking Any Cityhood Bills

State Representative Ed Rynders (R - Albany), the lawmaker who took over the House Committee on Governmental Affairs from state Rep. Amy Carter (R - Valdosta) this year, made it clear that he would be a different kind of committee chairman.

"The rules are there for the purpose of being a guideline for following," Rynders said as he presented the House Governmental Affairs Committee with its rules for the 2015 legislative session. "This is the procedure, but I won't tie our hands for those unintended consequences to say they're so rigid that we can't work with them."

Chairman Rynders made those remarks as he presided over a brief debate among committee members regarding Rule 3(a), which addresses the process by which bills proposing a new city will be considered by the committee.

Rule 3(a) reads as follows:

Any bill or resolution coming before the Committee that proposes the incorporation of a new municipality shall be considered only if the bill is introduced during the first year of the biennium. Such bill must be a complete bill providing for all aspects necessary for the incorporation of the municipality. The bill shall contain, among other things, a complete description of the proposed municipal boundaries. Not later than the end of the interim between the first and second year of the biennium, a comprehensive feasibility study shall be conducted by either the Carl Vinson Institute of Government or the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies regarding such municipality using the boundaries set forth in the bill. No amendment of the boundaries shall be allowed after the end of the first session of the biennium except to deal with subsequent annexations of the portions of the area proposed for incorporation; provided, however, that the Chairperson may permit minor adjustments to such boundaries. If two or more proposed municipal incorporations are submitted that have overlapping boundaries, no plan shall proceed until such boundary conflicts are resolved; provided, however, that the Chairperson shall be permitted to proceed on a proposed incorporation if it appears to the Chairperson that the conflicting plan was not proposed in bad faith and was not introduced solely to block the consideration of the other proposal..

In a stark contrast between Rep. Carter who, as committee chairman, allowed a similar rule to be waived so that the city of South Fulton bill could move forward in 2014, Chairman Rynders said he would need a real compelling reason to exempt legislation from a committee rule.

"We won't grant exemptions for the sake of granting exemptions," Rynders told the committee. "I want to try to be rigid and make sure everyone knows the game that they're playing by because then you can play if you know the rules."

Currently, four possible cities --LaVista Hills, South DeKalb, South Fulton, and Tucker-- are under consideration by the Georgia General Assembly. But it does not appear any of those cityhood bills will be considered until 2016.

"It is my intent that we try and do it the right way with a two-year study," Rynders said.