2011 to See Another Legislative Push for Milton County

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(APN) ATLANTA — With the 2011 legislature in session, there are several reasons to believe that some North Fulton residents, County Commission Members, and state legislators will ramp up their push for the re-creation of Milton County, splitting off the northern part of Fulton County.

State lawmakers introduced legislation last week which could lead to the re-creation of Milton County.

In the State Senate, three separate bills were introduced–SR 16, SR 17, and SR 18–which are different versions of the same measure.  SR 16 is co-sponsored by State Sens. David Shafer, John Albers, Judson Hill, and Chip Rogers.  SR 17 is co-sponsored by the same four, plus State Sens. Charlie Bethel and Butch Miller.  SR 18 is co-sponsored by Hill, Albers, and Shafer.

In the State House, six different bills were introduced by a variety of legislators, each with districts including parts of Milton County.

The legislation would allow previously-merged counties to separate, kind of like a divorce for counties.  This would require an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia, requiring first a vote by two-thirds of State Representatives and State Senators, and then a statewide referendum.

If this legislation and the referendum were successful, then portions of counties could vote on re-establishing themselves as independent counties.

Milton County became part of Fulton County in 1932, when it was facing bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Steve Broadbent, a Republican candidate for Fulton County Chairman who unsuccessfully challenged Democrat John Eaves in 2010, had warned that if he was not able to get elected and reform Fulton County, that this would only increase the push and desire for the recreation of Milton County.

Broadbent at the time would not say that the creation of Milton County was off the table for him, at a Town Hall Meeting and Candidates’ Forum hosted by APN in October 2010.

“John Eaves gave the State of the County.  There was no indication he was going to lower taxes or cut spending.  There’s nothing he said that would lead North Fulton to believe anything’s gonna change,” Steve Broadbent told APN last week.

“I campaigned on reform.  I thought that was a good alternative to Milton County,” Broadbent said.

Having lost and having observed the new Commission’s leadership in action, he added that at this time, “The only alternative for Fulton County citizens is to continue to pursue Milton County.”

The Beacon newspaper, which covers North Fulton, reported last year–perhaps counterintuitively–that the Milton County mafia, as the publication referred to them, did not actually want Broadbent, or Republican county-wide candidate Lori Henry, to win, because reform to Fulton County would damage their case to create Milton County.

“The Milton County Mafia doesn’t want to reform Fulton,” the Beacon wrote.  “They have one goal: create their own county government and build another taxpayer funded power base, with seven new commissioners and hundreds of government workers and lawyers needed.  They need Fulton County to fail to make their now delusion a dream come true.”

Now, the legislature is back in session, with State Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) serving as the Speaker Pro Tem.  That is the first reason to believe Milton County will be on the legislative agenda.

Second, according to the Beacon newspaper, the recent cross-over of nine Democratic legislators to the Republican Party will also bode well for Milton County coming up for a vote.  Third, add to this Republican pick-ups in the 2010 General Election.  

Fourth, the Beacon also predicted that Gov. Nathan Deal will be supportive of the Milton County effort, in part because some Republicans in North Fulton supported Deal in his Primary race against former Secretary of State Karen Handel, helping him win the Primary.

Fifth, former Fulton County Commissioner Lynne Riley last year decided to run for State House instead.  One source familiar with the matter said Riley was frustrated that she could not get much done in the majority-Democratic Commission.

Riley is now State Rep. Riley (R-Johns Creek) for District 50.  According to her website, she is already providing constituents with legislative updates on efforts to re-create Milton County.

Rep. Riley introduced one of the new 2011 bills herself, HR 33.  Co-sponsors on HR 33 are State Reps. Joe Wilkinson, Jan Jones, Chuck Martin, Harry Geisinger, and Tom Rice.

HR 29 was introduced by Geisinger, HR 30 by Jones, 32 by Rice, and 34 by Wilkinson, with the same co-sponsors.  HR 35 was introduced by State Rep. Wendell Willard, with mostly the same co-sponsors.

Fulton County has hired a lobbyist, Mike Vaquer, for $68.75 per hour, with his first priority to help prevent the passage of Milton County, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

Progressives and Democrats remain largely opposed to Milton County.

However, some have taken a good riddance approach.  “We’ve heard the rumblings for years and personally, I say not only let them go but since N. Fulton wishes to be seperate [sic], by all means, we should oblige them,” Stacey Hopkins wrote on Facebook.

“Let them figure out how to fairly divide the debts and assets of the county and go for it, but they may have to pay an unexpected price,” Hopkins wrote.

“I’m talking a full-scale Cuban-type embargo against Milton County.  They’ll be no workers from other counties; no soliciting N. Fulton businesses; boycott all S. Fulton businesses owned by N. Fulton residents — it may harm the remaining Fulton County, but it will definitely hurt Milton County and can be done if people are willing to make it happen.  They want to be independent and on their own, so be it,” Hopkins wrote.

(END / 2011)

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