Turkey, mashed potatoes, and the re-birth of an idea for commuter rail

A happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours this morning. We at the Political Insider blog are taking a long weekend, and will be back at our keyboards on Monday.

Last week, state Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, was summoned to Columbus, where the House Transit Governance and Funding Commission was meeting. The chairman, state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, wanted Brockway to discuss a dead package of legislation.

House Resolution 830 and House Bill 1032 were filed in the middle of the 2016 session of the Legislature. They would allow special districts to be established in the paths of commuter rail lines, and would be allowed to levy property taxes in those specific areas.

The reasoning: “[R]eal property owners within close proximity of rail transit stations receive significant positive economic development opportunities because of such proximity….The number of available rail transit stations has a positive impact on the value of certain parcels of real property….”

Many of Brockway’s constituents rely on I-85 to get to and from work. But not all of Gwinnett County’s voters are convinced that rail is needed.

Brockway’s bill offered a path around the countywide referendums that many local governments demanded – Cobb and Gwinnett counties in particular. “Not everybody in the county has to be involved,” Brockway explained.

The bill never moved. “It was in the middle of the session. It was a big idea and it was different,” Brockway told me this week. He was calling from his car. What’s more, H.B. 170, which had raised the gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge repair across the state, had passed just the year before. And likely, there was no appetite for another case of heartburn – not in an election year.

“It seemed clear to me that state funding of transit was coming. I wanted to get some thoughts out there about what that should look like, and what form it should take, led me to introduce the legislation,” Brockway said.

We explored this avenue earlier this year.

Brockway is not sure what will happen next. He is also running for secretary of state next year.

“If [Tanner] and the rest of the commission like it, then they might recommend it. I’m not quite sure whether I’ll reintroduce it. I’ll kind of take his lead on that,” Brockway said.

Just before he signed off, Brockway offered one more bit of tantalizing information: He was on his way to lunch with Robbie Ashe, chairman of the MARTA board. Clearly, some wheels are turning on the issue.

Have a peaceful and thank-filled weekend.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.