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Wed March 13, 2013
On Second Try, House Passes Bill Targeting Size of Fulton County Government
The Georgia House approved a controversial bill Wednesday aimed at shrinking the size of Fulton County’s government.
It ends a weeklong feud between House Democrats and Fulton County Republicans.
House Bill 541 would allow Fulton voters to decide whether to raise the county's homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000. If approved, homeowners would receive a significant tax break at a cost to the county of about $50 million.
The bill's supporters argue Fulton’s government is bloated and needs to shrink.
“By reducing services and turning them over to municipal governments for a county that’s over 90 percent municipalized, that’s a very reasonable thing for us to be asking,” said House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey (R – Buckhead).
But opponents, including most Fulton officials, have said the bill threatens core county functions, like funding Grady Hospital.
“On its face, it is financially irresponsible,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta). “It is being done without any real evaluation of who would actually be impacted and there’s still core services that the county has to provide and if anyone believes they are being over-served in Fulton County, I have not heard that.”
Earlier this week, with Democrats voting uniformly against it, HB 541 fell one vote shy of passing.
In response, Lindsey held up several unrelated bills that House members had already approved. Democrats accused Lindsey of holding the bills hostage.
For the second vote, Lindsey packaged the exemption bill with the stalled measures. Republicans also were able to convince two Clayton County Democrats - Representatives Mike Glanton (D - Jonesboro) and Valencia Stovall (D – Ellenwood) - to support the bill.
Still, the measure nearly failed again, receiving the required 120 votes only after House Speaker David Ralston cast the deciding vote.