Legislative efforts to incorporate portions of DeKalb County have fizzled out, at least for this year.
State House leaders Monday were unwilling to change procedural rules to accommodate a last-minute compromise between two cityhood groups – Lakeside and Tucker.
Leaders from both groups met over the last several days and agreed on a set of boundaries that could go before voters in May. The deal’s sticking point was lawmakers had to approve both cityhood proposals by Thursday, the last day of this year’s legislative session. That, however, raised a procedural issue because only the Lakeside bill had cleared a chamber of the General Assembly by the March 3rd Crossover Day deadline.
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, helped the groups reach the compromise, but speaking before the House Governmental Affairs Committee Monday, he recommended tabling both proposals.
“Changing the local legislation procedures in order to make this deal move forward is too steep a hill to climb and I probably don’t think it’s what we should be doing,” said Jacobs.
House Rules Chairman John Meadows and other committee members agreed.
As a result, the sponsor of the Lakeside bill, Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, withdrew his proposal, but not before expressing surprise and disappointment in his fellow Republicans.
“What you’re basically telling 70,000 people is they don’t get the opportunity to vote this year,” said Millar, who has said he would not carry another Lakeside bill in the future. “When Republicans don’t let people vote for self-determination for their form of government, then shame on us.”
Mary Kay Woodworth of the Lakeside City Alliance said Republican leaders caved to pressure.
“Follow the process. Follow the rules. We get a bill passed and then this garbage happens,” said Woodworth. “It’s a travesty and its very disappointing.”
Meanwhile, many Tucker residents were relieved. They had urged lawmakers to slow the process and accused Lakeside advocates of bulldozing their bill through the Senate.
“I don’t see that the decision hurts DeKalb County and I think a lot of people will be pleased that they decided to follow the existing rules of the state rather than push something through that a lot of people weren’t ready to receive,” said Tucker resident Matthew Lee.
DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May now plans to form a task force to help the communities resolve their differences and draft a comprehensive cityhood plan for the 2015 legislative session.
“I fully believe our county is likely headed down the road of being fully incorporated and I think we have the opportunity to determine how that’s done for ourselves so it’s important for us to develop a plan of action,” said May.