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Senate Committee Mulls South Fulton Cityhood Bill

Rep. Roger Bruce (right) breaks down the cityhood proposal to Senate committee members.
Rep. Roger Bruce (right) breaks down the cityhood proposal to Senate committee members.
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The Georgia Senate is considering a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to create a new city in south Fulton County.

House Bill 704 paves the way for November referendum.

Speaking before a Senate committee Wednesday, bill sponsor Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, testified the new city of South Fulton is financially viable and would actually run a surplus. He cited a Georgia State University study

“The only thing we are trying to do is give the people the opportunity to vote. We’re not, in this bill, arguing the merits for or against the city other than verifying whether it’s fiscally viable,” said Bruce.

In addition to several Democratic co-sponsors, HB 704 has the support of Republican Rep. Ed Lindsey, the former Minority Whip and current candidate for Congress.

The House already passed the bill, 163-2. It still needs approval from the Senate and governor.

While the bill is gaining traction at the Legislature, it remains unclear whether south Fulton residents would vote for cityhood if given the chance.

In 2007, 85 percent of voters said “No” to a similar referendum.

Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort commissioned a recent poll that showed a clear majority remain opposed. At the committee meeting, Fort challenged the GSU study and argued the new city would add an unnecessary layer of government.

“The most important thing is the people don’t want it. The people that I serve do not want it,” said Fort.

But advocates of the bill say now is the time for cityhood.

Over the last decade, unincorporated Fulton County has shrunk dramatically with the creation of cities like Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, and Milton.

Further, state lawmakers passed a law last year that reshuffled the county’s district lines, likely shifting power away from south Fulton.

Given the changes, Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, says cityhood is needed.

“Voters want an accountable government and people realize that we have only one county commission seat and one at-large seat and the at-large seat is being abolished,” said Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta. “With cityhood, we’ll be stronger than ever.”

The Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee is expected to vote on the bill as early as Monday.