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02 April 2015

City of South Fulton Fails in Senate for Second Straight Year

For those supporting the proposed city of South Fulton, it was deja vu all over again.

After breezing through the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill authorizing a referendum on creating a new municipality in unincorporated south Fulton County stalled in the Georgia Senate. Twice in two years, South Fulton cityhood proponents had their hopes dashed on the final day of the legislative session. But this time, instead of languishing on the table until midnight, there was a brief debate before the vote that killed the city of South Fulton in 2015.

"This is a bad piece of legislation," Senator Vincent Fort (D - Atlanta) said on the Senate floor. "It is all messed up."

Donzella James, the sponsor of the South Fulton city bill in the Senate, countered, "This is just a referendum.

"This is about taxes. This is about a citizen having school choices. This is about people who just want to take care of their own community. And that's what we are here for today," James said.

At times, the dialogue between Sen. Fort and Sen. James got heated, with the two interrupting each other before Lt. Governor Casey Cagle stepped in to maintain order.

Senator Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus, said the severe disagreements between Fort and James was a reason to defeat the proposed city of South Fulton.

"This is the State Senate, not the Fulton County Commission," McKoon said to his Senate colleagues. "If there is this much division, the thing to do is vote it down."

While the Georgia Senate did not vote down the city of South Fulton bill, they didn't vote for it either.

The measure failed on a vote of 22 - 7; 7 votes fewer than the required 29 votes for the bill to advance.

Sen. McKoon told Georgia Unfiltered, after the vote, "I think there is a lot of frustration that here we are on the fortieth day dealing with a local contested matter.

"My feeling is let's allow the process to continue to work. Let's get everybody on the same page, and then it can be on the local consent calendar. And we can adopt it that way."

House Bill 514, the city of South Fulton legislation, is dead for the year. There will be no cityhood referendum in November for unincorporated south Fulton County. However, the bill can still come back in 2016.