MARTA Working with GA Legislature On $5.5 Billion Rail Projects Bill, Which Could Fund Clifton Corridor

According to the Atlanta Business Chroncle, MARTA is working with the Georgia Legislature pass a bill this year that would ask voters to approve a sales tax increase that would fund $5.5 billion in new rail projects in Fulton and DeKalb County over the next couple of decades.

MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe characterized the effort as ““What we’re looking for is to give Fulton and DeKalb the same thing Atlanta got in 2016,”.  In 2016, Atlanta residents the General Assembly passed and voters ratified $2.5 billion for new rail projects in the City of Atlanta, but nowhere else.

“Does this better connect the Decatur rail commuter to the broader region?”, you ask.  Why perhaps.  Perhaps indeed.  From the ABC…

Rail projects that could be funded through the new legislation include a light-rail line along the Clifton Corridor, an extension of MARTA’s North Line from Dunwoody to Alpharetta, an extension of MARTA heavy rail east along Interstate 20 and bus-rapid transit service, also along the I-20 corridor.

Here are a couple of Clifton Corridor maps that show the current alternatives for routes/stops as of late 2016 from a MARTA “fact sheet”. Click to enlarge.

More as this develops.

MARTA proposed map from 2015 courtesy of WABE

Decatur Senior Tax Exemption Bill Passes House; On Way To Governor’s Desk

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A reader wrote in…

Word just in from Rahn Mayo, DeKalb representative, that SB343 the Decatur senior homestead exemption has passed.  The many calls, emails, visits to the Capitol had an effect.

Decaturishconfirms the news thru multiple sources…

Decatur Superintendent David Dude says that Decatur’s bill expanding a homestead tax exemption for seniors has passed the House.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said the bill is on the way to the governor’s desk. The exemption would still have to be approved by voters in a November referendum.

“The House leadership understood that asking its Republican Representatives to vote against a tax cut for Seniors was a bad idea,” Oliver said. “Particularly, when it was demanded by one Representative far from Decatur. And, Decatur folks were great advocates for our city!  Thank you, Seniors!”

Mayor Patti Garrett also just sent out this note to residents…

Happy almost-spring! Some of you may have been following our efforts recently to have several Decatur-local legislative bills pass through the Georgia legislature. Four of the fivebills (SB 339, 340, 341, 342) passed the House on March 8. Then today (March 16), SB 343, which grants homestead school tax relief and the largest benefit to Decatur homeowners 65 and above, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Heartfelt thanks to Senator Elena Parent for sponsoring the legislation in the Senate and to Representative Mary Margaret Oliver for spearheading the efforts on the House side. She sponsored the bill in the house, and House Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams assisted in gaining support for the bill. A number of seniors came to the Capitol last week to ask for senior tax exemption support, and numerous residents emailed state legislators in support of Decatur having the ability to vote on these Homestead Exemptions that affect only residents of the City.

This is local legislation that residents in the City of Decatur will have the opportunity to consider and vote on in the November 2016 election. The Bills were supported by resolution by the City Schools of Decatur School Board and the City Commission. For more information and a summary of each of the five bills, please visit this link on my website.

Decatur To Push For Senior Tax Relief This Legislative Session; Promises To Revisit Annexation Later This Year

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The City of Decatur sent out this note to press – and me! – this morning…

The City of Decatur’s primary interest during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly session is to support the passage of homestead exemption legislation amending and creating tax relief for our resident homeowners, particularly for seniors.  Mayor Patti Garrett said, “Property tax relief for long-time residents who have been a part of our community for many years is our top priority, and we are focused on getting homestead exemption legislation passed this session.”

School Board Chair Annie Caiola said, “Over the past decade there have been significant austerity cuts to the State’s education budget, meaning that local residents have had to pay more and more property taxes in order to maintain the strength of our school system.  The increasing property taxes are forcing too many seniors out of our community, and it needs to stop.  The City Schools of Decatur School Board strongly supports legislation that will exempt our seniors from ad valorem school taxes.”

Proposed homestead exemption legislation would authorize referendums in November, 2016 and, if approved by the voters, would be effective in 2017.

In the 2015 General Assembly HB 663 was adopted by the Georgia House of Representatives that authorized a referendum to annex areas to the east of the existing city limits of Decatur.  “We have new City leadership, a new School Superintendent and new Board of Education leadership,” said Mayor Garrett, “and we need to look at a variety of issues, including annexation, so we will not be pursuing adoption of HB 663 by the Georgia Senate during the 2016 session.”

It is anticipated that the City Commission and the Board of Education will revisit annexation later in 2016 to determine what options should be pursued in the future.

Photos courtesy of City of Decatur and CSD

Legislature Gives Bikers Legal Option at Unresponsive Red Lights

640px-Atlanta_CyclingOne of the ongoing complaints among cyclists over the years when discussing the old evergreen discussion, “Should cyclists be able to proceed through red lights?”, has to do with a lack of legal alternatives when your bike doesn’t trigger a red light.

Well the legal landscape of this situation could soon change, if Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill passed this session by the Georgia Legislature.

WABE reports that the General Assembly passed a bill that makes it legal for cyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through red lights if they don’t believe their bike is triggering the stoplight.  Bikers are still required to make a complete stop at intersections and the burden of proof will be on them if their actions result in an accident.

The bill also makes it the law that cars stop for pedestrians in crosswalks with flashing signals.

Photo “Atlanta Cycling” by Tim – Flickr: Canyon. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A Very Modified Georgia “Beer Jobs Bill” Passes Legislature

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Strangely, I can find very little info on this yet.  I guess all the wordsmiths are spending all their energy writing missives about LaVista Hills and Tucker?

Luckily that never stopped skilled aggregators such as myself.

There is this post on the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild Facebook page

SB 63 has passed with 40 minutes left in the session. This bill is far from ideal but it is a small step towards helping Georgia breweries and we look forward to Governor Deal signing it into law.

The most detail I can find is in this Atlanta Reddit thread.  Here are some of the details according to that post…

There have been a lot of changes through the process on this bill however we did finally get a version passed that will allow taking beer home from breweries.

It’s kind of convoluted, as the lawmakers were careful not to word it where breweries can have “sales”. Instead they will be able to offer variable pricing on tour packages that can include “free souvenirs” of beer in “a container or containers” up to 72 oz.

The bill also allows brewpubs to can/bottle their beer, under current law they can only offer draft beer outside of the brewpub. There was a section to allow brewpubs to have growlers to go but it was removed in the process. You still will not be able to buy beer to go at a brewpub.

It’s a small step for GA beer but HUGE in the political sense. With the three-tier system and power players like Bud, Miller, and Coors opposed to this legislation – it’s amazing this was passed.

The public was very active on this bill with tons of phone calls and emails to lawmakers. One lobbyist said he’s never seen public support for a bill as strong as he has for this one. Way to go, Georgians!

Three cheers for Georgia beers!

In a follow up, one of the commenters on Reddit said that if Gov. Deal signs the bill in law, the change could take effect as early as July.

Photo courtesy of Three Taverns Facebook page

Cities LaVista Hills and Tucker Pass State Legislature

Tucker LaVista Hills map

Want to quickly get caught up on the cityhood/annexation events of last night?  Here you go…

1.  Late last night the Georgia General Assembly approved both the cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker, after resolving a border dispute in an area southeast of Spaghetti Junction.

2. The final approved map removed the Medlock and Mason Mill neighborhoods from LaVista Hills’ borders after residents said they wanted more time to consider inclusion in the City of Atlanta, according to the AJC.

3.  Voters will decide whether to make these DeKalb cities a reality with a referendum in November.

4.  Check out this Google Map if you want to investigate the final boundaries of the potential new cities and how it relates to other existing DeKalb cities.

5.  In related annexation news – Avondale’s annexation died yesterday after an amendment removed the DeKalb Farmer’s Market from its borders.

AJC map courtesy of Google Maps 

Decatur Annexation Bill Dies in Senate; Avondale Bill Lives On

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The AJC reports that Decatur’s partial annexation bill “fell apart” today after it didn’t get the required four signatures from state Senators to move forward.

The AJC also reports what we already know – that the predominant issue at hand was the commercial property – and thus tax revenue – being diverted from DeKalb County to Decatur and the various neighborhood groups that opposed the commercial-dominated effort.

“Other senators felt there was too much controversy with Decatur and too little time to work it out,” [Sen. Elena] Parent said. “I’m not saying it’s impossible to get this done, but we’re going to wait and see how things develop over the next year.”

Meanwhile the Avondale bill did get the required signatures and will be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday.  However, again there’s opposition due to the transfer of – say it with me – commercial areas from DeKalb to the city.