Legislation in Buckhead borough challenged by political chess movements in first week of General Assembly session

Buckhead city legislation faced its first political challenges in the first week of the General Assembly session with two chess moves aimed at a quick checkmate.

The coming legislation will try to make every referendum in the city a city-wide vote rather than just Buckhead. And the Senate version of the city bill, which is sponsored exclusively by Republicans, has been assigned to a committee of all Democratic members, though the chairman says he will be heard fairly.

Both appear to be chess moves against the city, for which backers must obtain approval from the General Assembly to be placed on the November ballot.

A peculiarity of the city legislation is that it is sponsored exclusively by Republicans who do not represent Buckhead or Atlanta, while local lawmakers oppose it. Two of those lawmakers, Deputy Shea Roberts and Senator Jen Jordan (who is also running for the office of Attorney General in Georgia), are poised to introduce legislation requiring such a referendum to be held citywide and need a super majority of 57.5% to win. Roberts said she expects her version to be read for the first time on January 14.

The idea of ​​such legislation was floated on Jan. 12 at a joint meeting of Atlanta’s house and senate delegations by Edward Lindsey, a former state representative who is now co-chair of the anti-city group, the Committee for a United Atlanta. Lindsey noted that supporters of the city have argued that secession would be good for both Buckhead and Atlanta. He asked, “Then why do only the people in Buckhead have the right to vote?”

State Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) chairs the Urban Affairs Committee, which will consider the Senate version of Buckhead cityhood legislation.

The pro-cityhood Buckhead City Committee did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation amending the referendum.

The next move came on January 13 from Lt. gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican who was skeptical of the city. Duncan assigned SB 324, the Senate version of the city law, to the Urban Affairs Committee for consideration. Committee members include Senator Nan Orrock, an Atlanta delegate and an outspoken opponent of the city.

An early political response was that the bill is likely to die in that committee, wiping out the city’s efforts for at least this year. However, the committee chair, Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), said in a telephone interview that the bill will receive a fair consideration.

“I somehow didn’t take a position on the bill,” Jackson said. He added that he personally does not feel partisan about it and is familiar with the city’s traditional efforts, including the failed 2019 proposal to include Skidaway Island, an island near Savannah. He said he is not aware of any moves in the Savannah area for a Buckhead-esque breakaway version of city life.

“I know I’ve had bills similar to this one in my own community…and I really think the lieutenant governor is doing the right thing [with the committee assignment]because it’s really a matter of urban affairs,” Jackson said.

“Our committee will be transparent and fair, and it will take time to listen to all of the public’s concerns about this matter,” Jackson said. “So everyone’s vote is taken into account.”

He indicated that after a hearing, the committee ‘will see where we should go with this legislation’. He said he didn’t want to make a “pre-agreement” about what that outcome would be.

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