February 24, 2016 10:42 AM
It’s getting close to the witching hour for legislation to be introduced for this session of the legislature, and indeed for the two year legislative cycle ending on Sine Die. In the Senate, especially, the deadline came yesterday for a bill to be introduced and go through the committee process if it is to be voted on in the upper chamber by Crossover Day.
Now comes Senate Bill 420, which was dropped, read, referred to the Transportation Committee and passed by that committee on Tuesday. SB 420, sponsored by Lindsey Tippens of Marietta, Judson Hill of Marietta, Renee Unterman of Buford and others would require an affirmative vote in a countywide referendum prior to the construction of fixed guideway transit — essentially rail or bus rapid transit which used dedicated lanes. It is similar to an amendment to House Bill 170 last year that was proposed by Cobb Rep. Ed Setzler.
According to the bill, the referendum requirement would apply to any county within one of the 12 regions defined in the Georgia Code that is served by a multi-county transportation authority such as MARTA or GRTA. For example, Cobb, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties are within the region governed by the Atlanta Regional Commission, as are Fulton and DeKalb, although the bill specifically exempts the expansion of MARTA from its requirements. Other regions with GRTA bus service include the Georgia Mountains region, including Forsyth and Hall counties, and the Three Rivers Region, including Carroll and Coweta Counties.
The bill could impact the Transit Community Improvement Districts contemplated in Buzz Brockways HB 1032, transit on Atlanta’s BeltLine or streetcar systems, or even commuter rail between Atlanta and Macon as has been proposed.
The measure could also affect any plans for a regional transit authority that could be created by the General Assembly and funded by general appropriations, effectively allowing any county to opt out.
It will be interesting to see the fate of the bill as it advances through the legislature.