South Fulton residents have earned the right to vote on whether they want to turn their unincorporated area into a city.
A bill that will allow a referendum, HB 514, passed the state House of Representatives Thursday, the last day of the session.
It was approved 127-25, and cheering could be heard as the vote was tallied.
On Tuesday, James told legislators that South Fulton — which is the last unincorporated area in Fulton County — has been acting like a city for a decade. It has its own police and fire departments, administered through the county, and a feasibility study showed the potential city would have a surplus when it was formed.
Fulton supports the area’s incorporation, and Chairman John Eaves said earlier this week that the vote would be “really good news.”
Area residents last voted on cityhood in 2007, when they rejected it. Since then, more cities have formed in the county and supporters say residents have more information about what it would mean to be a city.
Additionally, neighboring cities are interested in annexing some of the unincorporated areas. Proponents say South Fulton residents should get the chance to decide their own fate.
Still, the vote has had a difficult path. In addition to James’ maneuvering to get to a vote, the bill was rejected in committee before it was reconsidered and passed. Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, had stalled the bill in the past, and had tried to do so again.
Fort said previously that allowing South Fulton to become a city would hurt the tax revenue collections of its neighbors.
Minutes after the vote passed, Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-Atlanta, sent an email to constituents urging them to contact the governor to ensure they will get to decide whether to be a city.
“After three years of consistent work, HB 504, to allow a referendum to create a new city has finally PASSED,” she wrote. “As you are aware our right to vote has consistently been stalled by people with friends in high places. However, the power of the people should rule.”
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