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House fuses Regional Development Centers
Plan wont affect local service area
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A bill passed Monday by the Georgia House of Representatives would consolidate the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center and 15 other RDCs in the state into 12 regional commissions.

The bill, which was sought by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, would not change the service area for Georgia Mountains RDC, but would change the way its board, which would become a regional council, is selected.

"It allows us to line up state agencies within these regional commission lines," said Mike Beatty, commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

He said the proposal was studied for a year by a panel appointed through Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Commission for a New Georgia.

"We brought everybody to the table," Beatty said. "We wanted to determine how we could deliver services to the citizens of this state in a more effective way."

The bill would make the chief elected official in each county a member of the regional council. In addition, there would be one elected city official from a municipality in that county.

One change from the current law would give the governor three appointments to the regional commission council and one each for the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. One of the governor’s appointees must be a school board member or school superintendent. The others must be private citizens of the region.

The bill will consolidate eight current regional development centers into four larger regional commissions. The Georgia Mountains service area will still include Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties.

Danny Lewis, executive director of the Georgia Mountains RDC, said his board supports the change. However, he is concerned about the loss of some board
members from the private sector.

"Our private sector people are some of the best folks on the board," Lewis said. "They have a lot of time and are interested in what we’re doing."

The bill allows the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs to approve additional members each for a one-year term.

Presently, the RDC is supported by a per capita dues payment of $1.10 per resident from each of the counties.

The bill does not change any of the duties of the RDC in reviewing major projects, referred to as developments of regional impact. These are typically large-scale developments that are likely to have regional effects beyond the local government jurisdiction in which they are located. The Georgia Planning Act of 1989 authorized the Department of Community Affairs to establish procedures for review of these large-scale projects.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 134 to 30, now goes to the State Senate. If passed and signed by the governor, it would not take effect until July 1, 2009.

All members of the Hall County legislative delegation supported the bill. Two area lawmakers, Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, and Rep. Ben Bridges, R-Cleveland, voted against the measure.

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