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Hall commissioners head to Atlanta to talk issues

POSTED: February 3, 2013 11:33 p.m.

Members of the Hall County Board of Commissioners are in Atlanta today and Tuesday to advocate for legislation the Georgia General Assembly will consider this session and to learn the impact of laws already passed.

Board Chairman Richard Mecum and Commissioner Scott Gibbs are attending the Association County Commissioners of Georgia conference this week to take required training and get updated on what’s going on at the Capitol.

Commissioners Jeff Stowe and Craig Lutz also are expected to attend.

“We’ll find out about a lot of the bills when we get down there,” Mecum said. “And learn how they impact us.”

About 400 county commissioners are expected to join the Hall County members at the event. The 2013 Capitol Connection Conference runs two days and features legislative updates from Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

“We feel it’s important for commissioners to be there,” said Beth Brown, director of communications for ACCG. “We want to encourage them to go to the Capitol and reinforce their concerns on the bills they support and oppose.”

They’ll also have the opportunity to give their opinion on legislation to lawmakers from the Hall delegation and from surrounding counties.

Gibbs said he wants to talk to legislators about House Bill 41, which would keep water and sewer providers from charging higher fees for residents outside of its geographic area than those charged within that area. Gibbs said this would mean Gainesville would need the county’s approval on its rate structure. County customers don’t have a choice on what Gainesville City Council charges right now, and must pay more for the same service than city residents, Gibbs said.

“It’s a monopoly,” he said. “County residents can’t vote for the people setting the rates.”

Gibbs also said he wants to engage legislators on the issue of forced annexation. Gainesville has a plan to annex 115 “island” properties in the county. The commission opposes the annexation and both sides have agreed to mediation to resolve zoning and land-use issues.

Mecum said he’s more interested in legislation that has already passed and is about to take effect. This is his first conference as a commissioner, but he’s attended this type of conference as Hall County sheriff for 12 years. He said he has questions about tax reform that passed in the previous legislative session and how it will impact the county as the regulations take effect.

One issue Mecum said he wants to understand more is the changes to motor vehicle title fees. Beginning in March, the annual vehicle ad valorem tax, often called the “birthday tax,” will change to a state and local title ad valorem tax. State and local governments will split funds from the new title tax, with local governments guaranteed a base amount of $1 billion, plus 2 percent growth per year for 10 years. Mecum said he wants to know how the process will work.

He also has questions about the changes to the criminal justice code and its financial impact to Hall County. With penalties for some crimes reduced, he is concerned that some reforms could cause a backlog in the county’s jail. The commission would need to try and offset revenue the county would have collected under the old laws.

“A lot of things that passed are becoming reality now,” Mecum said.


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