General Assembly will decide DeKalb issues

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The Georgia Capitol and Liberty Plaza as they appeared on Jan. 6. (BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM)

State lawmakers will likely give DeKalb County a good deal of their attention during this year’s legislative session, which begins today.

The Georgia General Assembly may take up proposals to form new cities, an unfilled county commission seat and overhauls of county oversight.

Though community and government groups have suggested many new laws affecting DeKalb, it’s unclear how many will be considered by legislators. Only a handful of bills statewide had been introduced before today.

Proposals have come from lawmakers, various cityhood groups, Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May’s Operations Task Force and Blueprint DeKalb, a citizen organization that has been pushing for structural reforms.

  • Four communities across DeKalb are seeking to form cities: LaVista Hills, Tucker, Stonecrest and South DeKalb. A legislative subcommittee last month solidified the shared border between LaVista Hills and Tucker, forcing a compromise after the two regions couldn’t agree on boundaries among themselves. Advocates for potential cities of Stonecrest and South DeKalb also hope their drive for greater self-governance moves forward.
  • A group in Druid Hills wants to be annexed into the city of Atlanta in hopes wresting control of their schools from DeKalb County. Annexation proposals also are pending to expand the cities of Decatur and Avondale Estates.
  • Ronald Ramsey, D-Lithonia, has pre-filed a bill that would allow Gov. Nathan Deal to fill the DeKalb Commission seat left vacant since Deal in July 2013 appointed then-Commissioner May to replace CEO Burrell Ellis, who is suspended as he faces criminal charges. The DeKalb Commission hasn’t been able to agree on the confirmation of a temporary commissioner appointed by May. “Clearly we should be able to handle matters locally,” Ramsey said. “But when local officials are at loggerheads and the citizens are suffering … it would be the proper course to have the governor step in.”
  • Blueprint DeKalb and the Operations Task Force have suggested an independent auditor as a way to safeguard DeKalb’s finances. Proposals for an auditor have stalled for years at the DeKalb Commission.
  • The groups also have suggested outside appointments of DeKalb Board of Ethics members, removing the county commission and CEO from the appointment process. Instead, board members could be chosen by the county chamber of commerce, bar associations, major universities and civic associations.
  • Other bills could arise attempting to address DeKalb’s unfunded pension liability and its distributions of its Homestead Option Sales Tax.

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