In the March 22-April 4 issue of the Buckhead Reporter, Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves wrote that bills pending in the state Legislature would “devastate” Fulton County. In this issue, state Rep. Ed Lindsey reviews the status of the legislation and discusses why he thinks it is needed.
By Rep. Ed Lindsey
For the past decade, Fulton County has been transforming into a county whose population lives within the limits of one city or another. Today, 90 percent of Fulton County is municipalized.
As a result, concerned state and county leaders have twice before offered ideas which would reform the operations and scope of Fulton County government.
Eight years ago, a Blue Ribbon Commission in Fulton County suggested sweeping reforms. Six years ago, a bi-partisan House-Senate Study Committee on Fulton County — which I chaired — once again recommended a wide range of changes. On both occasions, the Fulton County Commission by and large blocked the suggested reforms. However, with a new House delegation elected in 2012, we have finally been able to move forward.
Thirteen pieces of legislation concerning Fulton County government reforms await Governor Deal’s signature, which are listed and summarized below:
1) HB 171 – Reapportionment of Fulton County Commission Districts
The Fulton County Commission redistricting maps include six districts and one at-large seat for the chairman or chairwoman.
2) HB 347 – Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections revise appointment
The board will remain five members; two will be nominated by the prevailing political party and two by the losing political party. One member will be nominated by the Fulton County House and Senate Legislative Delegation.
3) HB 435 – State Court of Fulton County – chief judge duties
Spells out duties for chief judge and adjusts salary to reflect increased responsibilities. New duties will include scheduling regular judges’ meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection and oversight of jury clerk, and developing a personnel system.
4) HB 437 – Superior Court of Fulton County – chief judge duties
Outlines duties for chief judge, including scheduling regular judges’ meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection and oversight of jury clerk, and developing a personnel system.
5) HB 441 – Superior Court of Fulton County – budget oversight
Fulton County Superior Court will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
6) HB 442 – State Court of Fulton County – budget oversight
Fulton County State Courts will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
7) HB 443 – Magistrate Court of Fulton County – appointment of chief judge
The chief magistrate will be a nonpartisan, elected position. Fulton County is the only Georgia county where the magistrate court is operated and administered under the state court, and the chief magistrate is appointed by the state court judges.
8) HB 444 – Superior Court of Fulton County – judge salary supplements
Despite being the largest court system in the state, the Superior Court of Fulton County (Atlanta Judicial Circuit) is ranked 11 of 49 circuits in judicial salary supplements. This legislation provides a 4 percent increase. If the other circuits remain the same, this increase will raise the Atlanta circuit to fifth, still behind both Gwinnett and Cobb counties.
9) HB 526 – North Fulton regional radio system
Provides for development of regional communication system for public safety and public service for Sandy Springs, Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta. Requested by numerous cities to reduce costs and privatize.
10) HB 594 – Fulton County personnel
Future employees will have unclassified status, except for public safety employees.
11) HB 598 – Fulton County Superior, State and Magistrate Courts
Employees will be unclassified.
12) HB 604 – Fulton County millage rate
Suspends any attempt to increase the ad valorem millage rate in 2013 and 2014. Requires five of seven commissioners to vote to increase millage rate in 2015, when reapportionment takes effect.
13) HB 627 – Fulton County Community Improvement Districts
Revise provisions to allow Fulton County Community Improvement Districts located outside Atlanta to renew prior to termination date. It was requested by all CIDs affected.
These reforms look to provide the taxpayers of Fulton County with streamlined, concise government that aims to do its job properly in the name of fiscal responsibility. Furthermore, these are only the first round of reforms for Fulton County.
I believe that these are positive steps in the right direction for Fulton County in a two-year legislative process that will hopefully culminate in lowering the footprint of the Fulton County government.
As for next session concerning carry-over legislation, the delegation tabled both the Fulton County Homestead Exemption and the revisions to the appointment of the Fulton County Tax Commissioner. Both bills will be vetted further before returning to the desks of the General Assembly.
I expect my friends across Fulton to continue to diligently fight for the interests of their communities and trust they expect me to do the same. My hope is that we will keep our focus on ways in which our interests overlap, refrain from using inflammatory rhetoric, and work together for the mutual good of all of Fulton County.
Rep. Ed Lindsey represents District 54 in the state House of Representatives.