Local Issues in the Legislature

April 22, 2014

Cross Keys Pages

This Wednesday, April 23, is the first of three neighborhood “meet and greet” events I will be holding across our community. This week’s event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 1396 Tugaloo Drive in the Brookhaven Fields neighborhood. Click here for a full schedule of these events. Each “meet and greet” is free and open to the public.

This message is the second of a three-part series explaining legislation that was considered in the 2014 legislative session. This particular message concerns bills that pertain to our local community, except the bills I personally sponsored and passed. The first installment explained the bills I passed this year. Click here to read my first message.

Also of local interest, I had the privilege of hosting “Cross Keys Day at the Capitol” this year. A group of outstanding Cross Keys High School seniors served as my pages on one of the busiest days of the legislative session. Above is a photo of this excellent group of students. Because this year’s “Cross Keys Day at the Capitol” was a great success, I am going to repeat it every year.

Below is a summary of this year’s significant local bills. The hyperlinks will lead you to the full text and other details of each bill:

House Resolution 486 – The Georgia Constitution prohibits the creation of new city school systems. Existing city school systems such as Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta, are grandfathered to avoid this prohibition. HR 486 is constitutional amendment — requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote of the House and Senate — to enable the creation of independent municipal school systems in cities created on or after January 1, 2005. This would include Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. It also would allow cities adjacent to cities created on or after that date, such as Chamblee and Doraville, to have their own school systems. HR 486 also would permit any combination of these cities to form a unified independent school district. Thus, a school system could be created across Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Doraville. This proposal will be a multi-year project because it requires a supermajority in order to pass.

House Bill 905 and House Bill 906 – These bills will settle the Century Center annexation dispute between Chamblee and Brookhaven by “reannexing” Century Center into the City of Chamblee. In early 2013, the General Assembly passed a bill that would annex Century Center and the Dresden East Civic Association (DECA) neighborhoods into the City of Chamblee if the voters approved the annexation in a November 2013 referendum. Between the passage of the original bill and the referendum, a vote of the Brookhaven City Council was taken to annex Century Center into the City of Brookhaven. In November 2013, the annexation referendum passed with 61% of the vote. I supported these bills because they are important to keeping a promise that the General Assembly made to the voters who supported the Chamblee referendum. They are on the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 1065 – DeKalb County presently has a ten-year property tax assessment freeze that will expire in 2016. I was the main sponsor of HB 1065 which will make the assessment freeze a permanent measure. This bill requires a majority vote of the representatives and senators who represent portions of DeKalb County. It passed the House but fell short in the Senate. I plan to revive it in 2015.

Senate Bill 95 – I support abolition of DeKalb’s unique-in-Georgia, highly dysfunctional CEO form of government. Until we find the votes in the DeKalb legislative delegation to accomplish that goal, however, SB 95 would have made the CEO position a non-partisan office. Presently, the DeKalb CEO is a partisan office elected in the Democratic primary. By making it a non-partisan position, Republican voters would be empowered to play a role in the selection of the county’s chief administrator. The bill failed on the House floor because there is insufficient support for adding non-partisan offices in Georgia, except for judgeships.

Senate Bill 367 – Attorney General Sam Olens issued a written opinion that Interim CEO Lee May continues to represent District 5 (Southeast DeKalb) on the DeKalb County Commission in addition to his appointed position as Interim CEO, effectively leaving District 5 without representation. SB 367 contains a provision that was added as a House floor amendment to permit the remaining six members of the DeKalb County Commission to appoint a temporary commissioner to replace Lee May until he is no longer the Interim CEO or his current term on the county commission concludes, whichever is sooner.

House Bill 390 – This bill would have allowed DeKalb County to impose an additional penny sales tax for transportation purposes — increasing the sales tax from the current 7 cents to 8 cents — but only if each and every municipality within the county agreed to allow this sales tax to go to a referendum. I voted against this bill. It narrowly failed on the House floor.

House Bill 819 – This bill would have stopped Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand from personally profiting from the sale of property tax liens to a private company. The bill passed the House with my full support but never passed the Senate.

Lakeside and Tucker – Near the end of this year’s legislative session, a compromise was struck to enable these two proposals for new cities in Central DeKalb to move forward. Unfortunately, a legal technicality made it impossible to pass the compromise this year. Although the bills are taking a one-year lap, both proposals likely will receive legislative consideration next year.

“Meet & Greet” Events & Voter Registration Deadline

April 17, 2014

The deadline to register to vote in the May 20 primary election is Monday, April 21. If you have a valid Georgia driver’s license or identification card, voter registration is available online for the first time ever. You may register online at registertovote.sos.ga.gov.

I am pleased to announce three “Meet & Greet” campaign events across House District 80, which includes portions of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Sandy Springs. There will be an event near you. Please join us to discuss state and local issues. Many thanks to the gracious hosts of these events:

Meet & Greet in Brookhaven Fields
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Hosted by Brookhaven Councilman Bates Mattison, Brookhaven Councilman Joe Gebbia, Shawn Keefe and John & Cynthia Garst
A joint event with State Senator Fran Millar
at the home of John & Cynthia Garst
1396 Tugaloo Drive
Brookhaven, GA 30319

Meet & Greet and Fundraiser in Sandy Springs
Thursday, May 1, 2014
5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, Sandy Springs Councilman Gabriel Sterling and Josh Belinfante
The Brickery
6125 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328

Meet & Greet in Nancy Creek Heights
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Hosted by Brookhaven Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams, Shannon Cameron and Holly & Michael Snow
A joint event with State Senator Fran Millar
at the home of Holly & Michael Snow
4041 Navajo Trail
Brookhaven, GA 30319

Yard Signs Available

April 3, 2014

Within the upcoming week, my campaign will be distributing yard signs for the 2014 primary election. The primary is being held earlier than usual this year, on May 20.

If you would like a yard sign, please send me an e-mail at repjacobs@gmail.com with your name and street address in the body of the message. We will deliver your sign in the upcoming week.

To determine whether you live in State House District 80, please click here to see a district map.

Thank you for your consideration.

Rep. Jacobs Bills Reach Governor’s Desk

March 30, 2014

The 2014 legislative session concluded on March 20, 2014, earlier than any other legislative session in the past 18 years. This is the first of a series of messages to update you on what passed and what didn’t pass this year.

I am pleased to report that every bill I was pushing this year has passed and is awaiting Governor Deal’s approval or already has been signed into law. These five bills are as follows:

1&2. House Bill 264 and House Bill 265 (click to read the bills) – These bills, known as the “MARTA bills,” have been a three-year project. The MARTA board of directors currently has 11 voting members. Four of these members are appointed by the DeKalb County Commission, and three are appointed by the Fulton County Commission. Of the Fulton members, two are required to be residents of North Fulton. HB 264 will change one of the DeKalb members to be appointed by a caucus of the DeKalb mayors. The two North Fulton members will be appointed by a caucus of the North Fulton mayors. This will give cities such as Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody direct influence on the MARTA board.

HB 264 streamlines the required collective bargaining process with the transit union by eliminating an inefficient arbitration proceeding. The superior court judge who now will resolve collective bargaining issues on a 90-day deadline will be required to take into account MARTA’s ten-year financial projections in making a decision on union demands. MARTA also will be given more flexibility to manage its financial resources, including three years of relief from the “50-50 split” which requires 50 percent of all sales tax revenues to be allocated to capital projects and no more than 50 percent on operations.

HB 264 gives MARTA the authority to impose fines and penalties on riders who engage in nuisance behavior. This is an effort to enhance public safety on the system.

HB 265, the other bill of the pair, repeals two outdated provisions of the general Georgia Code pertaining to MARTA. It also gives Clayton County voters the opportunity to join MARTA if they vote no later than 2016 to pay the penny sales tax that is charged in Fulton and DeKalb.

As I have said previously, I am pleased that MARTA is privatizing key operations on its own, without any legislative mandates. MARTA is beginning to see cost savings from this effort.

Thank you to Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) for their assistance in the Senate in ensuring passage of these two bills.

3. House Bill 979 (click to read) – This bill completes the reduction of the DeKalb County Board of Education from nine seats to seven seats effective January 1, 2015. Governor Deal signed this bill into law on February 26, 2014, the same day it achieved final passage in the General Assembly.

HB 979 scraps the two “super districts” that each encompass half the county, retains the seven existing single-member districts that are fairly and logically drawn, and will ensure stable governance on our formerly troubled school board. Without HB 979, this year’s school board elections could not have gone forward. Click here for a WABE news story regarding this bill.

Thank you to Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) and Senator Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) for their help in passing HB 979 in the Senate.

4. Senate Bill 386 (click to read) – This bill requires redaction of personal information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers in civil filings in state court. This privacy measure was a joint effort with Senator John Albers (R-Roswell). It is modeled after Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2, which is a similar rule that applies in federal court.

5. House Bill 1136 (click to read) – This bill authorizes the City of Brookhaven to utilize tax allocation districts (TADs) if the citizens vote in favor of this redevelopment mechanism in a referendum this November. TADs do not impose new or additional taxes, but rather allow the marginal increases in commercial property taxes that automatically may result from commercial redevelopment to be used for infrastructure improvements in a localized area.

This bill was passed at the request of the City of Brookhaven. If approved by the voters, TADs could be used to spur redevelopment in areas such as Buford Highway in the future.

False Ethics Accusations

March 30, 2014

This morning a blogger acting on my opponent’s behalf made false accusations of ethics violations against my campaign. The blogger “charges” me with disclosing campaign reimbursements exactly the way that State Ethics Commission staff instructed me to do so. My campaign disclosures always reconcile to the penny with the bank statements and expense reimbursements are paid one time only.

March 10 Town Hall Meeting Video

March 29, 2014

Senator Fran Millar and I held a town hall meeting on Monday, March 10, at Chamblee First United Methodist Church. Thank you to The Brookhaven Post for producing this video of the event.

Cause for Optimism at MARTA

March 10, 2014

I anticipate House Bills 264 and 265, two bills I introduced last year that would affect MARTA, will be revived for consideration in this year’s General Assembly. These bills had several mandates in them related to privatization and efficient governance. I will discuss these bills at greater length in a future update, but wanted to set the stage by republishing the following editorial I wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 10, 2013:

December 2013 marked the one-year anniversary of Keith Parker’s installation as general manager of MARTA. He arrived in Atlanta from previous stints in Charlotte and San Antonio where he was well-liked and respected on both sides of the political divide.

When Mr. Parker arrived, parties who had been involved in his selection said he had the potential to be the transformative leader that MARTA sorely needed. The transit system had been slashing service and hemorrhaging red ink as far as the eye could see.

I was not optimistic. Now entering my tenth year as a member of the state legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC) and my fourth year as its chairman, Mr. Parker is the fifth general manager to serve during my tenure. MARTA leadership has been a revolving door.

Today, after a full year of Keith Parker’s leadership, I can safely say that I was wrong, a rare statement to be made by someone in elected office. There is cause for optimism at MARTA, and Mr. Parker is at the root of it.

When Keith Parker arrived at MARTA, there was a management audit sitting on his desk that the accounting and consulting firm KPMG had completed in 2012 at the behest of MARTA’s prior management. KPMG recommended, among other things, the privatization of certain aspects of MARTA’s operations, including paratransit bus service, bus and train cleaning, human resources and payroll, and various information technology functions.

The aim of the KPMG audit is cost savings and efficiency. Its recommendations are drawn from the best practices of other transit systems and the private sector. For example, MARTA has had its own payroll department. Live MARTA employees have processed its payroll. This is a function widely outsourced in both the public and private sectors these days.

Some state lawmakers are determined to keep the KPMG audit from collecting dust. This is the fate of so many studies performed for governmental entities. Some studies deserve that fate, but not a study the purpose of which is to help MARTA save money and operate more efficiently.

Keith Parker assured me that the KPMG audit would not collect dust. I adopted the Ronald Reagan doctrine: “Trust but verify.” After all, savings and efficiency have not been MARTA’s strong suit over the years. Every couple of months, we hold a MARTOC meeting and put the implementation of the KPMG audit on the agenda.

KPMG furnished a five-year road map for implementing its privatization recommendations. Keith Parker is following through with his commitment. He and his staff are making progress where progress desperately needs to be made.

Another area where Mr. Parker has excelled is boosting confidence in public safety. MARTA’s crime statistics always have stacked up well against peer transit systems, but infractions like loud music and aggressive panhandling have tended to sour the public perception of safety. As with many things in life, perception becomes reality. MARTA loses riders as a result.

When I speak about MARTA at public gatherings these days, the “Ride with Respect” campaign always comes up. Spearheaded by Keith Parker, this effort includes a crackdown on unruly behavior and an aggressive public relations blitz. It coincides with MARTA installing closed-circuit cameras on all of its buses and trains.

The legislature and MARTA, a state-created authority, historically have had a chilly relationship. Listen closely, however, and you will hear the dripping of thawing ice.

The keys to improved relations with the General Assembly are implementing the KPMG recommendations, achieving cost savings and operational efficiencies in the way MARTA is run, and improving the quality of life for MARTA riders.

Clearly, Keith Parker understands what needs to be done. Hopefully the revolving door will stop spinning for a while. I am glad Mr. Parker arrived in Atlanta.


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