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20 March 2015

Exclusive: Senate Committee Does a Complete Re-Write of South Fulton Cityhood Bill

There's an old saying that goes something like this:

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Simply put, it means too many people trying to add their own ingredients to a plain old recipe for chicken soup can end up making the whole thing taste terrible.

At times, during the 2015 legislative session, it's felt like too many cooks have been in the kitchen, each adding their own herbs and spices to a mundane piece of legislation proposing the creation of a new city in unincorporated south Fulton County.

On the single issue of south Fulton cityhood, five different bills were introduced in the Georgia House and Senate this legislative session. Add to that a constantly changing annexation bill, proposing a referendum on certain south Fulton communities going into Atlanta, and you've got a scenario that quite possibly has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

Well now there's a new chef in the legislative kitchen -- the Senate Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations. And that panel has thrown out the previous batch of bad bills in exchange for a fresh start.

At the end of a long afternoon of hearing from cityhood advocates in Tucker and Lavista Hills, State and Local Governmental Operations Committee Chairman John Albers (R - Roswell) unveiled a substitute to House Bill 514; the City of South Fulton bill.

You can read the latest version of House Bill 514 below:

House Bill 514 Committee Substitute by Andre Walker

The committee substitute is the sixth and final form (maybe) of the South Fulton cityhood proposal. It is a major re-write of the original bill introduced by Rep. Roger Bruce (D - Atlanta). But Bruce says he supports the changes.

Some of the highlights of the new South Fulton cityhood bill include:
  • Eliminating the position of city council president;
  • Reducing the Mayor's salary from $70,000 annually to $23,000;
  • and
  • Switching from a strong mayor form of government to a city manager form of government;

If this new City of South Fulton bill is passed and signed into law by Governor Deal, residents would have until 1 July 2015 to annex into an existing city before the borders would be locked for the November cityhood referendum.

Should voters say yes to creating the City of South Fulton, they would head back to the ballot box in February, 2016 to elect a Mayor and seven City Council members.

House Bill 514 is being treated as a local bill in the Senate, meaning that the legislation only needs a majority of the Atlanta-Fulton delegation to sign it before being placed on the local consent calendar.

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.

If approved by the Senate, the new House Bill 514 would go back to the House for final passage.