Fulton Commissioners challenge GOP legislation curbing powers

BOC will fight doubling homestead exemption, millage cap, redistricting, civil service changes

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ATLANTA – The Democrats on the Fulton Board of Commissioners are not going to take the Fulton legislative delegation’s attempts to curb their powers lying down.

At its Feb. 6 meeting, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to oppose House Bills 170, 171 and 172, which propose changes to the county’s homestead exemption, millage rate, governance structure and employees’ classification status.

The next day, they led a host of Atlanta and South Fulton supporters to denounce the moves by the delegation in a public hearing at Room 403 at the Capitol Building.

The BOC resolution is sponsored by five Democrats on the board, Chairman John Eaves, Vice-Chair Emma I. Darnell and Commissioners William “Bill” Edwards, Joan P. Garner and Robert “Robb” Pitts. Republicans Liz Hausmann and Tom Lowe voted against it.

The resolution states the board’s opposition to House Bills 170, 171 and 172. The commissioners say the negative effects of those bills include:

** Affecting the ability of Fulton County government to continue to provide essential services to its citizens.

** Denying the voting rights of Fulton County citizens.

** Denying the right of Fulton County employees to be free from arbitrary treatment and disciplinary actions.

At the joint meeting, the Fulton County House and Senate delegations listened to stinging rebukes of the proposed legislation. Room 403 was filled with county employees concerned about declassification, Atlanta clergy and elected officials who weighed in against the proposals.

Some decried the legislation as an alternative to Milton County, which North Fulton legislators have long supported but haven’t had the support of the General Assembly.

Alvetina Lee, a lobbyist for the MARTA Transit Union, called the bill to declassify all county employees “an attack on workers’ rights.”

“You should quit these negative attacks and allow the county to handle our business,” Lee said.

The Rev. Albert E. Love, vice president of Concerned Black Clergy, called the bills “a bad idea, a terrible idea.”

“It’s almost embarrassing to say I’m from Georgia. Let’s be progressive,” he said.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Alpharetta, said the legislation is offering residents to increase their homestead exemption and cut taxes. It would also give a more fair representation to all Fulton residents by splitting two districts in North Fulton and taking away the at-large district now held by Robb Pitts.

“We’re just creating districts that reflect the changing population that has come into North Fulton. There is nothing unfair about that,” Albers said.

Fulton Commission Chairman Eaves has called the bills “punitive” and will ultimately cause Fulton County to cut funding for Grady Hospital, library hours and personnel, arts programs, senior centers and more.