Fulton County seeking lobbyist for state Capitol, likely to fight proposed Milton County in 2013 Legislature

By David Pendered

Fulton County is seeking to hire an external lobbying firm to represent the county commission at the state Capitol, and a key part of the job likely will be to oppose the creation of Milton County.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones is among the influential House members who support the creation of Milton County, which Fulton County’s new lobbyist is expected to oppose.

Friday is the deadline for proposals from firms that want the job. A company probably will be hired before Thanksgiving, based on past timelines. One person attended a pre-proposal conference on Aug. 22, according to the sign-in sheet.

The job looks like heavy lifting. All the tasks cited in the county’s prospectus involve fending off challenges to the county’s current authority, trying to address traffic congestion, and influencing expected legislation to consolidate MARTA and other metro transit providers.

The headline issue for Fulton in the 2013 legislative session is likely to be the proposed formation of Milton County. The concept has plenty of influential advocates, including House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton).

Here’s what the county’s request for proposals from lobbyists says about the Milton County issue:

  • “ The Board [of commissioners] likely will oppose legislation that would divide Fulton County, restrict the Board’s governmental powers, or which would impose unfunded state mandates on the County.”

Jones outlines her reasons for backing the division of Fulton County in a posting on her personal webpage. The article contends that Fulton’s taxes are higher than its peers, and also says a smaller Fulton County could consolidate with Atlanta – as Macon and Bibb County voters agreed to do in the July 31 election.

Proposed Milton County

Proposed Milton County. Credit: House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones

Here’s what Jones’ post says:

  • “Atlanta and Fulton County’s consolidation could be facilitated, similar to consolidated Athens/Clarke County, Augusta/Richmond County and Columbus/Muscogee County.”

The county’s prospectus outlines other significant issues its lobbyist will handle. The remainder of the paragraph on key issues states:

  • “The 2013 political landscape likely will look very different for Fulton County from that of recent years. After the 2012 elections, given the 2011 General Assembly redistricting, the Fulton County Senate delegation may become majority Republican and it is possible that the Fulton County House delegation could also become majority Republican.
  • “The key issues in the 2013 General Assembly are likely to be issues of County governance, including possible charter amendments, Commission redistricting plans and Commission powers.
  • “Transportation issues will continue to be critical, with the focus on MARTA and regional transit legislation.
  • “The key issues the Board of Commissioners likely will be advocating for include increased funding for health services and the repeal of population bills that restrict the County’s governance and/or its revenue stream.

The transit issue promises to be nettlesome.

So much has changed since January, when Gov. Nathan Deal’s transit governance task force recommended that GRTA lead all the transit systems: Lawmakers never publicly discussed the governance issue; the proposed transportation sales tax failed; and MARTA will have a brand new GM/CEO, or perhaps an interim leader, because Beverly Scott will have resigned effective Dec. 31.

The Aug. 22 pre-proposal conference was attended by Philippa B. Brown, who was the only attendee who doesn’t work for the county.

Fulton County now is represented by one external lobbyist – Michele Rowland Dunn – according to the state agency that monitors lobbyists. Dunn represented Fulton County in the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.

Dunn is CFO of Capitol Affairs, Inc., a lobbying firm headed by former state Rep. Wesley Dunn, who lost a 1994 campaign for state attorney general against Mike Bowers – who had just switched the Republican. Dunn’s other clients include Oconee Regional Health System, Repreve Renewables, South Georgia Businesses for Economic Development, and Wesley B. Dunn, PC.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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