Get ready residents of Fulton County, because county government won’t look the same at the end of the 2013 legislative session.
At Jan. 24 meeting of the north Fulton state legislative delegation held in Sandy Springs, members of the new Republican majority discussed a two-pronged approach to overhaul the way the county conducts business.
Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, serves as speaker pro tem of the House and said the legislative delegation agrees that change is needed, even if some members differ on how to make those changes.
“I want no footprint from Fulton County in my area, but in the end we want a lesser footprint for Fulton County,” Jones said at the luncheon. “We want residents to have accountable government that’s responsible to them.”
The first and most politically viable options are a number of laws meant to change county government operations, curbing the power of county commissioners. The second option, considered a long-shot by some in the delegation, is recreating Milton County that would encompass the northern end of Fulton.
Currently Republicans hold a 13-12 majority in Fulton County’s state House Delegation and a 7-4 majority in the Senate.
Jones said she’s going to reintroduce Milton County legislation. Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, believes the delegation should try reforms first.
The Milton County idea, while popular among some north Fulton residents, faces a major obstacle. The state Constitution sets a limit of 159 counties, meaning it would require an amendment approved by voters in a statewide election. Another option legislators discussed would be allowing a county-wide vote by petition, but it would have to be approved by a majority of county voters.
The obstacles haven’t deterred some in the delegation, however.
Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, said the new cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek are proof that local government can better serve residents.
“I am committed to the recreation of Milton County because I truly believe, as our new cities have proven, smaller is better,” Jones said. “You’re very responsive. You’re agile, you’re versatile and you can immediately meet the demands of government services that a city is required to provide.”
Jones said the delegation will redraw the Fulton County Commission districts to create “a very fair, very representative map that will serve in the best interest of the citizen for the top of the county to the bottom.” The redistricting is required by federal law.
Lindsey said he plans to impose term limits for county commissioners, an idea that received a round of applause from the elected leaders gathered at the luncheon.
He also wants to make it more difficult for individual commissioners to meddle in the daily operations of government and give greater authority to the chairman of the commission.
Mayor Eva Galambos repeated her suggestion that leaders can work around the constitutional limit by merging Atlanta and Fulton County governments and consolidating the governments of smaller “dying” counties in the state.
“We’ve had phone calls from south Georgia counties asking ‘Would you buy us out?’,” Galambos said.