Lawmakers are working on compromise legislation that could pave the way for the most substantial expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta in decades.

Metro Atlanta transit expansion bills come down to final days

After months of study and weeks of legislative maneuvering, the fate of mass transit legislation in the General Assembly will come down to two days and six people trying to compromise.

A conference committee of House and Senate members is hashing out differences between two bills that could pave the way for the most substantial expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta in decades.

Representing the Senate on the committee are Sens. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta; Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega; and David Lucas, D-Macon. The House’s representatives are Reps. Jan Jones, R-Milton; Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus; and Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

Zell Miller, a former two-term Georgia governor and U.S. senator, has died at the age of 86, his family said Friday, March 23 in a statement. According to his family, Miller passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones following treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Miller served as the 79th Governor of Georgia from 1991-1999 and went on to serve in the U.S. Senate from 2000-2005. During his time as governor, Miller created Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, which helps 1.8 million students attend college

Tanner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they two sides exchanged documents Monday morning. The conference committee scheduled a meeting Monday afternoon, then canceled it.

“I’m still hopeful we’ll come to a resolution,” Tanner said. “But we’re still in process of doing it.”

Tanner sponsored House Bill 930. Beach sponsored Senate Bill 386. Both bills that would allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to levy 1-cent sales taxes for mass transit.

Both also would create a new board to oversee transit construction and funding in the region. The board would have the final say over any project list that counties ask their voters to approve – the idea is to improve coordination of transit services across the region.

The board and its membership looks a little different in each bill – differences the committee will have to work out.

Among the other issues the conference committee must resolve:

  • State revenue: The House bill would add millions in state funding from an airport concessions tax and a 50-cent fee for taxi, limousine and ride-hailing service rides.
  • Gwinnett County: HB 930 would allow Gwinnett to hold a referendum on joining MARTA this year. Other counties would have to wait until next year for transit referendums – after the new board is up and running.
  • Cobb County: The original version of HB 930 included a special district in Cobb that could levy a transit tax without committing the rest of the county to a transit expansion it may not want. Disagreement over the size of the district led the House to remove the provision, but negotiations continued.
  • Fulton County: The House bill included a provision that would allow Fulton to levy a .2-percent transit tax. The county already has a .75-percent sales tax devoted to roads and bridges.

Both bills passed their respective houses by overwhelming margins. But the conference committee is running out of time to resolve the differences. Today and Thursday are the last legislative days of the session.

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The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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