Macon-Bibb government bills back on track

mlee@macon.comMarch 13, 2013 

ATLANTA -- The state House of Representatives has approved a bundle of bills governing Bibb and Hancock counties, after a partisan standoff tied to a Fulton County row threatened to kill the midstate measures.

By a nail-biting margin of a single vote, the House passed House Bill 273, which provides for a county-funded State Court judge in Bibb County, House Bill 514, which carries bipartisan, uncontested administrative changes to the Macon-Bibb merger charter; and House Bill 470, to allow awarding attorneys’ fees for cases in front of the Bibb County Civil Service Board.

Legislators also passed Senate bills 182 and 183, by state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, which deal with redistricting for Hancock County’s board of commissioners and school board.

Approval came upon passage of a GOP-authored bill to raise the homestead exemption to $60,000 in Fulton County.

The homestead proposal in House Bill 541 divided Fulton’s team of legislators along party lines, sending the county Republicans to the full House last week in search of support, which state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, and most Democrats did not give.

“I don’t feel comfortable being forced to vote on bills where there’s discord in the delegation,” said Randall, the sponsor of the Bibb bills.

So she, Lucas and Democrats representing Hinesville and Albany found their local bills tied to the Fulton tax cut.

The Fulton measure needed a two-thirds majority to pass, hence the Republican move to link that bill to some things that would attract Democrat support.

State Rep. Chuck Sims, R-Ambrose, runs the Intragovernmental Cooperation Committee, which oversees all local legislation.

“I have to handle every one of them,” he said, urging passage “in a work of harmony.”

The re-vote on the bundle of Fulton, Bibb and other local bills came Wednesday with the key 120th “aye” ballot cast by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. Ralston rarely votes.

Fifty-one representatives voted no, in a nearly party-line vote, while 10 more were absent or excused from voting.

“We got it done. That’s the important thing,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. “There’s sometimes political maneuvering going on, but at the end of the day we got the bills passed which is what needed to be accomplished.”

But the fight spurred Randall to say she is going to step down as chairwoman of Bibb’s eight-member, GOP-dominated legislative team at the end of the year. As chairwoman, she sits on the Macon-Bibb consolidation task force and plans to hold on until the body finishes its work.

The Bibb bills now move to the Senate. The annual legislative session is set to end by April.

To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail her at mlee@macon.com.

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