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Watching the Golden Dome
Redistricting, horse racing and water independence among local legislative priorities for 2011

Transportation tax, spanking among issues brought to Rockdale delegation Town Hall  (Jan. 8)


Rockdale Legislators:



Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce 2011 Legislative Priorities:


Rockdale County should have a State Legislative District comprised of only Rockdale County.



Rockdale County’s water independence was paid for by Rockdale County taxpayers. Additionally Rockdale County is in the Okmulgee River basin, not Chattahoochee basin.  Rockdale County should maintain control and use of Rockdale County Water Resources.



- Cease austerity reductions and cuts to Quality Basic Education Act (QBE) formula earnings, support equalization, and restore funding to public education.

- Maintain the constitutional authority of the local RCPS Board to secure revenue and make decisions based on the unique needs of its students and community.


Health Care:

- Prevent additional health care mandates that drive up the cost of employer provided insurance.

- Control the regulatory and financial burden resulting from the implementation of federal health care reform.



- Provide employers with uniform standards and procedures for employee verification and indemnity those who make good faith efforts to follow the law.


Economic Development:

- Promote the expansion and growth of Georgia's Ports.

- Allow Communities to use Local Option Sales Tax revenues for tourism-related projects.

- Continue to fund and expand the Georgia Work Ready Program.



- Support HB2 and HB 12 the "Right to Grow Act" and the "Georgia Food Freedom Act"



- Support HB18 Abolish State Road and Tollway Authority and return all responsibilities to Georgia Department of Transportation.

- Maintain the key provisions of the Transportation Investment Act 2010.



RCPS 2011 Legislative Priorities:

Advocate for Public Education
Support the Vision Project as the vehicle to raise awareness, address issues and enhance public education in the state of Georgia.

Local Control and Flexibility
Maintain the authority of the local Board of Education and its ability to generate local revenue. Increase flexibility of usage of state funds by local Boards. (Examples to consider: expenditure control requirements, IE2, charter system, SPLOST and millage rate.)

Funding Public Education
The state continues to reduce the funding for our students who rely on public education to prepare them for a successful future. The world relies on these students to lead the next generation. Our students and our future are at risk because of the continued reduction of funding to public education.

- Cease Austerity Reductions and Restore Full Funding to Public Education
Since FY 2003, Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) has experienced austerity reductions in funding provided by the state totaling $32.2M.

  • State funds supporting RCPS have decreased from 59.3% in FY 2001 to 50.43% in FY 2011.
  • After the local Board approved and adopted the FY 2010 budget, an additional 4.5% cut to QBE funding and a state-mandated funding cut requiring six furlough days was handed down totaling approximately $4,800,000.
  • The negative impact of this decreased funding is an increased local taxpayer burden to make up the difference.

- Oppose Public Funds for Private Education
Oppose vouchers and tax credits which reduce state funding of public schools.

- Maintain Support of a Tax Funding Mechanism that Ensures Stable Revenues
Support tax reform but oppose any initiative to replace property tax with a sole source (i.e. sales tax).

Federal Priorities

- Stimulus Funding
RCPS has been able to use stimulus money to offset a portion of the reduction in our funding during the current fiscal year. What is the future for stimulus funding beyond FY 2011?

- No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
Support a fair accountability system that incorporates an appropriate growth/progress model for student achievement. Support the use of multiple measures to calculate the growth in student achievement over time.


Rockdale County Legislative Packet for 2011:

Six items were presented to the Board of Commissioners at the Jan. 25 meeting for their consideration to send to the Georgia General Assembly for the 2011 Session. Three have been taken off the list and three kept on the list.

Kept on the list:

- Public Safety: Allow the County Sheriff(s) to use the county employees and/or county prison detainees to remove “gang related graffiti” from private property without authorization from the court. The intent of this initiative is to quickly reduce gang related crime and violence. A motion was made by Commissioner Van Ness, seconded by Commissioner Nesbitt and was passed unanimously to approve sending this item to the General Assembly.

 - Courts: Authorize a modification to the salary structure of the Rockdale County Probate Court Judge. Amend Georgia Act #259 (S.B. 286) as approved by the Governor on April 16, 1999. The intent of this initiative is to reconcile the salary discrepancy with similar positions and clarify the manner in which the compensation of the Probate Judge is calculated. A motion was made by Commissioner Nesbitt, seconded by Commissioner Van Ness and was passed unanimously to approve sending this item to the General Assembly.

 - Courts: Change the Magistrate Court Judge’s position from a partisan elected status to a non-partisan elected status. The intent of this initiative is to remove the partisan nature of this elected position and to make it consistent with the non-partisan status of other judgeships in Rockdale County. A motion was made by Commissioner Van Ness, seconded by Chairman Oden and was passed unanimously to approve sending this item to the General Assembly.

Deleted from the list:

 - Stormwater: Authorize the County stormwater utility to use liens against the property as a tool to assist with the collection of stormwater utility bills. The intent of this initiative is to obtain outstanding revenue in order to better manage and maintain stormwater issues. A motion was made by Commissioner Van Ness to approve this item. The motion failed due to lack of a second. A motion was made by Commissioner Van Ness, seconded by Commissioner Nesbitt and was passed unanimously to defer this item to the next Board of Commissioners meeting. Update: The Stormwater advisory committee requested not to pursue this topic

 - Elections: Reduce the number of days for early voting from the current forty three (43) days to fourteen days (14) days. The intent of this initiative is to reduce the number of days in order to reduce the costs that counties incur due to the extensive early voting period. A motion was made by Commissioner Nesbitt, seconded by Chairman Oden and was passed with a majority to delete this item from the list. Commissioner Van Ness was opposed.

- Recreation and Greenspace: Authorize the County(ies) to assess a real estate transfer tax (approximately 1%). The intent of this initiative is to obtain funds to acquire, maintain and improve greenspace throughout the county. A motion was made by Commissioner Van Ness, seconded by Commissioner Nesbitt and was passed unanimously to delete this item from the list.



As the 2011 session in the Georgia General Assembly heats up local groups are making sure Rockdale and Conyers interests are kept on the radar of state legislators.

With this year being the first in the two year cycle of the General Assembly, there are relatively few specific bills that have been introduced, so many groups are watching and waiting for issues as they arise.


Chamber of Commerce

The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce is closely watching a list of seven areas during this session with the aid of a lobbyist, said Government Affairs Committee Chair David Shipp.

Reapportionment of the legislative districts is first and foremost on that list.

The Chamber would like to see a legislative district for mainly Rockdale County, according to that list. Currently, the county has four house representatives and two state senators, all with small portions of Rockdale County in their districts.

House and senate legislators have already been appointed to the reapportionment committees, according to Shipp. None of Rockdale’s delegates are on those committees.

"We’ve sent a letter to all the members expressing our desire to have a majority (Rockdale) house district," said Shipp.

Local numbers from the 2010 Census will be released in April, with public meetings on redistricting held around the state in June and a special summer session for redistricting. Within the state, the population has shifted from south to north, according to Shipp.

Maintaining Rockdale’s water independence is another important area the Chamber is watching.

"We spent over $100 million of SPLOST to make sure we’re water independent," said Shipp, referring to the Randy Poynter reservoir and water treatment plant. "We have developed that resource and we don’t want the state to come in and say you have to give that to DeKalb county or Gwinnett county."

Other issues include the regulation of health care mandates, economic development incentives such as using Local Option Sales Tax revenue for tourism-related projects, abolishing the state road and toll way authority, and supporting the Rockdale County Public Schools legislative priorities.


Rockdale County Public Schools

RCPS school board, which, according to RCPS spokesperson Cindy Ball does not have a lobbyist, approved their list of legislative priorities in December.

Besides calling for a stop to budget cuts and austerity reductions, and the priorities include local authority of the school board to raise revenue and to increase the flexibility of using state funds.

This includes supporting "tax reform but oppose any initiate to replace property tax with a sole source, (i.e. sales tax)."

The school system would oppose the use of "public funds for private education," such as vouchers and tax credits.

On the federal level, RCPS wants to see a No Child Left Behind system that uses a "fair accountability system that incorporates an appropriate growth/progress model for student achievement" and "multiple measures to calculate the growth in student achievement over time."

Rockdale County

Rockdale County’s Board of Commissioners recently reviewed its 2011 legislative packet of requests and priorities to send to state legislators.

Of the six requests, two were deleted at the Jan. 25 BOC meeting. Another request – to authorize the county to place liens for uncollected storm water utility fees, will not be pursued, according to county Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon.

The BOC voted to deferred that request until after the recently formed storm water authority could convene for a workshop on Friday.

At Friday’s workshop, the storm water authority decided not to pursue that request, said Pridgeon. "They do not want the matter to go forward to the state."

About 88 percent of the fees are currently being collected, said Pridgeon.

The three requests that will be presented to legislators are to allow the county sheriff to go onto private property to remove gang-related graffiti without permission from the courts, to change the elected Magistrate Court judge position from a partisan seat to a non-partisan seat, like other Rockdale circuit judges, and to amend ordinance and formalize the pay compensation for the Probate Court judge. The county will also be watching and defending against "unfunded mandates" through the aid of lobbyist and former Georgia Republican Party chair Rusty Paul, with the firm Arnold, Golden and Gregory.

Pridgeon reiterated that this list is a "living document" that can change as the session progresses.


City of Conyers

Mayor Randy Mills said the city did not have a formal legislative priorities list for this year, but was carefully watching the discussions on pari-mutuel betting and horse racing, which was brought up in previous General Assembly sessions as a way to increase revenue.

Mills pointed out this would be an issue determined from the top down.

"If the Governor decides to use this, that would have to be put to a (constitutional) ballot vote," said Mills. "We want to make sure Conyers is on the radar as far as a site."

On the federal level, Mills said the city’s economic development center and business incubator, a project still in development, has drawn attention from Georgia’s senators and Congressional representatives.

"There’s a lot of excitement from our federal legislators on our economic development center.