Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 25: Fulton County bills moved forward with Republican push

Day 25: Fulton County bills moved forward with Republican push

Wednesday 02/27/2013. Twenty-Fifth day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Today was the committee hearing of the bulk of the Fulton bills I mentioned before. There was more bills added to this already long list, among them a batch that dealt with the judicial system of Fulton. Given that these are local bills, the chair of the Intragovernmental Coordination Committee Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose) mentioned that these bills were not to be debated in the floor of the House, so the presentation in this committee was all the ‘debate’ there was going to be of these bills. Moreover, given that these bills fulfilled the requisites of the local bill, he can just sign them and considered them passed, which meant there was not even a need for debate.

Most of the presentation of the debate was held by actual Representatives of Fulton (quite unusual), among them freshwoman Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-College Park), Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Red Oak), Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone), which did a great job presenting with both passion and fact their positions, and why they were against all these bills, which when put together, just have the objective of weaken the County Commission of Fulton, and give more power to its wealthy north portion. All the bills were voted to a 6-6 tie, being the same members voting for their same positions, Democrats against, and Republicans in favor. It is worth to mention that Democrat Rep. Bell and Jones requested meetings of the Fulton Delegation with its Chairwoman and co-signer of most of these bills Rep. Riley (R-Johns Creek) several times to discuss them, but their requests were never addressed. The tie was broken by Chair Sims always in favor of the bills. The bills need to be reviewed by the State Department before can be effective.

In the almost 2 and a half hours meeting, these are some paraphrasing of the testimonies that showed you what happened:

It changes the current form of the Board of Commissioners from 5 Commissioners and 2 at large to 6 County Commissioners to 1 at large. Nobody has a problem with adding an extra commissioner to the north part of Fulton. The problem is the way the south part is being redrawn. There was a Resolution by the current County Commissioners against this bill.
“This bill reshapes the south part of Fulton with no respect for the communities’ integrity, and would make three current Board Commissioners to run against each other. This is nothing more than gerrymandering over people. This is doing what is best for the party, not what is best for the citizens” (Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-College Park).
“They are trying to destroy Fulton County” (Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague, D-Red Oak).
“There was a proposal of redistricting by the county board of commissioners. It was denied” (Rep. Fludd, D-Tyrone).
HB171 passed with a vote of 7-6 and it is going to the local bill calendar for Friday.

Bill that has for objective to remove the power of the Board of Commissioners to elect or appoint the Election Board. The argument in favor of the bill was that this past elections the Election Board has done a controversial job. Therefore the Board of Commissioners should not have the discretion of choosing them.
HB347 tied 6-6. Chairman Sims broke the tie and passed the bill. HB347 is going to the local bill calendar for Friday.

It changes the Tax Commissioner of Fulton from an elected position to be appointed or elected by the Board of Commissioners.
“So we just said that the Board of Commissioners should not choose the Election Board, but now we want them to choose Tax Commissioner” (Rep. Patty Bentley, D-Reynolds).
HB346 tied 6-6. Chairman Sims broke the tie and passed the bill. HB346 is going to the local bill calendar for Friday as well.

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