By Maggie Lee
Part of a state legislator’s job is to tend to their home city and county governments. Certain changes can only be made at the Gold Dome.
This year, through a trio of bills, a portion of the DeKalb delegation is starting to try to cut down the size of the county school board. And northside legislators have already passed two bills to allow cities to ask their citizens to spend tax money on certain big projects.
With the annual session nearly three-quarters over, it’s time to move.
Several DeKalb legislators started the year’s work pledging to cut the size of the nine-member county school board. Lawmakers have discussed trimming the board to either five or seven members.
A bill by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, would ask voters to choose either no cut, a cut to seven or a cut to five. She needs a majority of legislators from DeKalb to sign it, or it can’t move. It hasn’t gone anywhere since it was pre-filed November last year.
A similar Senate bill offers voters the choice of no cut or cut to seven. That bill, number 226, was filed on March 4.
But Reps. Tom Taylor of Dunwoody and Mike Jacobs of Brookhaven, both Republicans, are standing by with another bill that simply cuts the board to seven, by statute, with no countywide referendum.
Their House Bill 63 does not need so many DeKalb signatures, but it must pass the House by March 16. It could slide through the House on a Republican majority vote, and perhaps do the same in the Senate.
Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, predicted that when the dust settles, there will be a proposal of seven seats, cutting the at-large board seats, subject to county-wide referendum. He’d like school board seats to match DeKalb County commission seats, but it’s not clear that will happen.
The easiest Dunwoody bill is already on the governor’s desk for signature. House bill 195 grants Dunwoody government state-defined redevelopment powers.
“It allows, through referendum,” explained Taylor, “to ask voters if they would like a certain percent of their property tax to go to certain projects.”
It’s not an additional tax, it’s just the question of where revenue should go.
Freshman Rep. Elena Parent, D-Doraville, signed the Dunwoody redevelopment bill — she represents a few blocks in the city — and she’s also shepherded through the legislature an identical rule for Doraville.
She said the rule would give Doraville more power to raise funds to do something with the old GM factory site. Parent said she’s meeting with the site’s listing agent and the Georgia Department of Economic Development “to make sure the parcel is on their radar” when the state is marketing sites to businesses.
Parent has also been very visible in a loose coalition of legislators and activists seeking ethics reform and greater transparency in government. Parent sponsored a bill that would require an online list of all proposed Georgia budget items that would be tied to a specific project, plus the location, cost and principals behind each build.
However, her House Bill 188 was filed more than a month ago and has not been scheduled for a committee hearing. She’s not been able to get a so-called fiscal note — a calculation of the bill’s costs prepared by a nonpartisan academic team.
The state legislature will finish its annual session at a yet-to-be-decided date, likely in mid-April.