ANNOUNCEMENT: FINAL HEARING on HB704 - City of South Fulton Referendum
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:00pm in Room 515 in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (directly across from the Capitol) 18 Capitol Square SW, Atlanta, GA, 30334.
Fulton County residents please take note of the Fulton County Delegation hearing on HB704 - City of South Fulton Referendum. This bill will allow residents who live in unincorporated south Fulton County the opportunity to vote on the May 20, 2014 primary ballot to become a city.
STATEMENT OF STATE REPRESENTATIVE LADAWN "LBJ" JONES
The 2014 Legislative session is moving at lighting speed. Even with the snow. One of the first votes of this session was to change the primary election dates from late July to May 20, 2014 to coincide with federal election dates. As a result, HB704 and several other bills must go through both the House and Senate, as well as get the Governor's signature before the May primary election. HB704 is currently moving
through the legislative process. The expedited, 40 day session automatically creates uncertainty for any bill in the General Assembly. It is not clear where in the process the bill will be at the time of the February, 11th hearing. At the time of this announcement the bill has sufficient co-signors from the Fulton delegation and is waiting to be put on a calendar to be voted on by the 180 members of the House.
Over the last several months, members of the House and Senate delegation have met with members of the south Fulton community. Members of the south Fulton delegation have hosted more than 5 town halls, as well as individual meetings with community groups. Proponents of the bill, Citizen's United, have also hosted meetings to encourage community members to take their position.
I have posted a video of my position on the ballot measure on my website www.MyGA62.com. The District 62 portion of unincorporated south Fulton includes most of the Cliftondale and Welcome All communities. Other portions of the unincorporated area include the Old National and Sandtown communities. As someone who grew up throughout these areas, I know that these communities are distinct with their own personalities. Some of these distinctions become more obvious when discussing their positions on becoming a city. Yet at the same time, these four communities are so similar and entwined that they are already operating as a city. Much like the Democrat members of the Fulton caucus are completely different individuals with their own thoughts on citihood. Yet when their policy positions are compared to the Republican members on the north side of the County, the Democrats begin to look as uniform and inline as the Westlake marching band. (Go Lions!)
After researching the issue to my satisfaction during the General Assembly off season, I was certain I would be a co-sponsor of a fair citihood bill. A decision made completely based on my experiences in south Fulton, my knowledge of the 2006 vote, the 2013 legislative session, input from the community, input from elected officials from every level, and the research my office conducted on the options for the area. Other options included annexation by an Act of the General Assembly or remaining unincorporated. I likely would not have supported a bill that simply changed the makeup of south Fulton County without consulting the people's vote first.
If it were up to me, I would make more of the decisions in our state by popular vote. There is no clearer way to make sure the will of the majority of the people is fulfilled. However, that process does not lend itself to every decision that is made under the Gold Dome. (Also if it were up to me I would make everyone over 18 vote, period.)
My community meetings have led me to come to several community based conclusions. First, the majority of people I spoke to in the District 62 portion of unincorporated Fulton do not understand the issue. Some do not understand that HB704 gives them the opportunity to vote and does not automatically create a city. Some did not even know that they did not already live in a city. One unincorporated subdivision had next door neighbors who believed they lived in the cities of College Park and Atlanta. A large portion of those I spoke to made up the 30,000+ new people who moved to the south Fulton community in the last ten years.
For the not so new people, the 2006 vote on this issue is lurking in the background. There is some "bad blood" and lots of rumors left from the 2006 vote. I have seen confusion as to why the issue has come up again and why there was such an overwhelming vote in 2006.
Finally, the voters I spoke to fall into two categories. The first are people who want to research the issue on their own and be the voice for their community. For those voters I have provided opportunities to obtain and give info, as well provided a report and information on my website. The second voter is one who wants clear direction from their elected official who has a unique perspective on the issue from under the Gold Dome. For that voter, I give my recommendation to support a city in south Fulton County.
There is one thing I hope for certain about HB704, that the interest in the issue will drive voter participation higher than the T-Splost in 2012. We need our community members to be active, engaged and involved. The dynamics of Fulton County is changing, largely due to a strategic push from under the Gold Dome from members north of I-20. Whether the people vote for a city or not, it is time for EVERYONE to get more involved. Consider this a call to action.
Additional information on HB 704 can be found on my district website www.MyGA62.com. There you will find a copy of the original bill, a report compiled by my office, and a feasibility study conducted by Georgia State University. Please get engaged in this process.