Fulton County leaders appear to have decided against sending high-priced lobbyists to the state Capitol next year.
County commissioners had expressed worries about sending the wrong message to Republicans determined to shrink their powers because they believe Fulton is bloated and wasteful. On Wednesday, a proposal to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists didn’t have enough supporters to warrant a vote.
Northside lawmakers have said they’re considering eliminating some county services or shifting them to the county’s cities, where 90 percent of Fulton’s residents now live, during the legislative session starting Jan. 14. Seeking a counterstrategy, the county sought an outside lobbying firm, but the best-scoring bidder’s price was $260,416.
Commissioner Robb Pitts, who was pushing hardest to hire lobbyists and lay off the county’s in-house legislative affairs staff, had said that $250,000 — an earlier estimate of the contract — would be too much.
Commissioner Tom Lowe made a motion to approve the contract with law firm Arnall Golden Gregory on Wednesday, but no one gave him a second. The issue will come back up in two weeks.
Johns Creek resident Michael Fitzgerald, a Milton County NOW committee member and co-founder of the North Fulton and Friends Tea Party, said commissioners made the right move.
“I wouldn’t call it a good sign,” said Fitzgerald, who plans to be at delegation meetings next year working against the county. “I would call it a once in a rare opportunity for Fulton County to display common sense and reason.”
Fulton County lawmakers, including House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, and Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, have said they would rather deal directly with county commissioners than talk to lobbyists.
Commission Chairman John Eaves said he has already met with five Fulton County lawmakers, and four of them said lobbyists would be a waste of money.
“We are the best lobbyists,” Eaves told the board. “There’s no replacement for us.”
Eaves suggested beefing up the in-house lobbying staff instead.
This year, Fulton has spent more than $600,000 on lobbying efforts, including two state-level lobbyists hired as temporary employees, a federal lobbying contract and an in-house intergovernmental affairs staff charged with pursuing grants, among other things.