Atlanta readies wish list for legislative session

A constitutional amendment that would exempt police officers, firefighters and teachers from paying city property taxes is on a proposed “wish list” Atlanta will deliver to the Georgia General Assembly.

The amendment will be familiar, as it initially was passed out of the state Senate by Kasim Reed when he was a senator during the 2008 session. Now, as the mayor of Atlanta, he has revived it in an attempt to allow cities and towns throughout Georgia to keep their public servants.

Late Wednesday, Reed’s top lobbyist, Megan Middleton, unveiled an ambitious set of bills the city is hoping to get passed during the upcoming session of the General Assembly, which begins Jan. 10.

Among other things, Middleton will lobby the Legislature to increase the alcohol-by-the-drink tax; allow speed detection cameras to be placed in school zones; and regulate secondary metal recycling -- primarily to halt the theft and resale of copper wire.

Although Atlanta is pushing the bills, if any are passed they would become statewide laws. A meeting has not yet been set to present the bills to the Atlanta and Fulton County House and Senate delegations.

“I feel good about the legislative session,” Reed said Wednesday night. “We have so many challenges and we have to work hard together. The real threat is not Atlanta against rural communities, but other states against us. We all have to work together.”

In all, Reed and Middleton will lobby for 17 pieces of legislation, many of which are designed to pump more money into municipalities.

“This is a new session and they will be very focused on the state budget,” Middleton said. “And that might help on some of our issues. We have similar issues as we try to raise revenues.”

One bill, for example, would allow local governments to increase the E-911 fee on landlines and cell phones to cover the true costs of the service. Currently, Georgia caps the monthly fee at $1.50.

Atlanta has been operating its $16 million 911 system at a deficit since its inception and a fee increase would help the city cover costs and possibly expand the program.

“The $1.50 just doesn’t cover the cost,” Reed said.

After presenting the legislative packet to the local delegation, Reed and Middleton will have 40 working days to get their bills passed.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said he has not seen the packet but is hopeful Atlanta will identify its priorities and focus on those, as the chances of all 17 bills becoming law appear remote.

“The question that any city has to ask itself when they present their wish list is what are their priorities,” Fort said. “One of the things the city has done well in the past is identifying specific priorities that they have to have.”

In 2002, former Mayor Shirley Franklin presented such a wish list, but her main focus was getting a bill passed that would allow Atlanta and Fulton to vote on a 1 percent sales tax increase for sewer repairs. It passed.

“The city of Atlanta has many wishes and needs, but for a number of reasons -- 40 days, all of the political dynamics involved -- it can be difficult,” Fort said. “Particularly when you have a Legislature that doesn’t always appreciate Atlanta’s needs.”

About the Author

Editors' Picks