South Fulton bill may be dead for this year

The state Senate Tuesday tabled a bill that would allow residents to create a new City of South Fulton, likely ending its chances of passing this year.

House Bill 514 would allow residents of unincorporated South Fulton to vote in November on whether to form the new city. But the Senate tabled the measure on a 34-11 vote.

Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, said the Fulton bill has the votes to pass the chamber. But opponents on Tuesdsay removed it from the local consent calendar, which requires only a few signatures, setting up the possibility of a lengthy debate. With some 80 bills on the agenda, James said senators were not willing to spend significant time discussing the South Fulton bill.

The move was welcomed by Sandtown resident Dan Young, who would rather be annexed into the City of Atlanta than be part of a fledgling City of South Fulton.

“If you really look at the layout of South Fulton, the best option would be to let the existing cities annex the unincorporated area until it’s all gone,” he said.

South Fulton supporters were not conceding the bill’s defeat.

“We certainly won’t give up,” said Rafer Johnson, chairman of the Coalition for South Fulton Now. “We don’t have a choice. It’s about local control and the quality of life that we live.”

The overwhelming majority of Fulton County’s roughly one million residents already live in cities. But more than 90,000 people in South Fulton remain unincorporated. They receive police, fire and other municipal services from Fulton County.

South Fulton residents soundly defeated a proposal to incorporate in 2007. But supporters have been seeking another vote.

Last year, a cityhood proposal passed the state House of Representatives but died in the Senate. It looks like HB 514 might meet the same fate this year.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, pulled the bill from the consent calendar. He said tabling the measure effectively kills it this year. James held out hope the Senate may yet consider the bill, though she acknowledged that’s unlikely.

Johnson said the effort to form the new city will continue no matter what happens.

“”We’re not going to give up yet for this term,” he said. “If we’re unsuccessful, we’ll be back next year.”

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