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Local GOP reps pushing Fulton county reform
by Joan Durbin
February 06, 2013 12:47 PM | 4261 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By a slim, one-vote majority, Republicans hold an edge for the first time in the delegation comprised of 25 elected officials representing Fulton County at the Capitol.

It’s the first time the GOP has been in the driver’s seat. So far, it has meant a flurry of new bills being introduced in the legislature that if enacted, would have significant impacts on the way the county operates.

“We’re reforming Fulton County. We’ve been waiting for the county commissioners to do it themselves for decades. We’re not waiting any longer,” Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, said Friday.

Three bills were filed last week by GOP members of the delegation. Jones’ bill calls for lowering property taxes for Fulton homeowners by increasing the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000.

Additionally, the legislation freezes for two years the property tax rate at the current 10.281 mills. After that, the tax rate could be increased only by a super majority of county commissioners instead of a simple majority vote, as is current law.

And if the federally mandated redistricting of county commission districts, as per the 2010 Census, yields at least three mostly GOP districts and three Democratic, that super majority vote might not be attainable. That redistricting is what State Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, is addressing in a new bill she is championing.

Riley, who was just elected the first-ever Republican chair of the county legislative delegation, is seeking to redraw the Fulton County Commission districts to reflect changing population trends within the county. “Due to the tremendous growth our county has experienced, this legislation will add a new district seat to the Commission. This will result in six district seats and one chairman elected at large,” Riley said in a prepared statement.

State Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, is sponsoring local legislation that would move the county to a performance-based system for evaluating county employees. That would take away the necessity for managers to document infractions over a period of time in order to legally terminate a worker under the current labor system.

In a statement, Martin said this legislation “will provide greater flexibility for the county, reward hardworking employees, and allow for a more effective system that is more responsive to the needs of Fulton County residents.”

The new legislation would apply to all Fulton County employees in all branches and divisions within the county government hired after the legislation’s effective date. It wouldn’t change the status of any current employee who remains in their position, but if an employee’s position in the county government changes, eligibility to remain covered by the current system would be lost. All employees would continue to be protected by federal employment protections.

These three bills are just the beginning, Jones said. “There are more to come, and we won’t be done after this year.”

Extensive research shows that what Fulton County spends per capita significantly exceeds what counties such as Cobb and Gwinnett spend, Jones said.

“I keep hearing that if [my bill] passes, Fulton will have to make all these cuts. Well no, they don’t. All they have to do is benchmark Fulton County per capita expenses to well-managed counties of similar size,” she said.

“It’s time for Fulton County to get its house in order, and we’re going to help.”

The Fulton County House and Senate Delegations will meet on Thursday, from noon until 1 p.m. in room 403 at the Capitol.

This is a public hearing on HB 170, HB 171 and HB 172 filed by Reps. Jones, Riley and Martin.

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