ATLANTA — A state senator from Macon has proposed merging Municipal Court into the county’s State Court. But there’s some resistance, because local leaders have not voted to request the change.
“If we can achieve some cost savings for the taxpayers of Macon-Bibb and continue to effectively and efficiently handle all the business that needs to be handled, then that’s good for the people in Macon-Bibb,” said state Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, who filed Senate Bill 283.
Municipal Court of Macon-Bibb County handles minor cases such as traffic and parking violations. State Court of Bibb County hears civil cases, plus misdemeanor criminal offenses.
But state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, was surprised to see his signature on the bill Wednesday morning. After heading to a clerk’s office to get his signature removed, he said he signed it inadvertently and does not support the proposal.
“The (county) commissioners haven’t agreed to do it, and the State Court judges want to take it over because they want to add another … court,” Lucas said.
In December, the Macon-Bibb County Commission heard a pitch from State Court Judge Bill Adams to have State Court absorb Municipal Court. Commissioners voted to table the idea, to set it aside.
Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said Mayor Robert Reichert supports the idea and that with the State Court, the mayor has floated the idea to Macon-Bibb’s state lawmakers.
The mayor believes it’s a better process for the public, Floore said.
“Part of consolidation (of Macon and Bibb County) was to make things easier for the public, so we’ve looked at a lot of different areas. … We’ve been talking about Municipal Court and State Court for a while now and looking at it, and we just think this is a better way to move forward,” he said.
The bill does not say what would happen to the Municipal Court staff or its judge if the bill becomes law, though clearly the State court’s workload would increase.
“We would work with them (State Court) from a budget and personnel side to find good staffing levels,” Floore said.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Mallory Jones has objected to the bill. He thinks it’s possible that the State Court could be overwhelmed by the new caseload. Via an e-mail, he’s urged Kennedy to leave the decision to local leaders.
It may or may not move quickly through the state Senate. Macon-Bibb’s third state senator, Republican Burt Jones of Jackson, signed the bill because he thought Lucas and Kennedy were in agreement on it.
“I am learning more information about the whole scenario and am going to meet with both Kennedy and Lucas and determine the best direction for us,” he said.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee