Next Story

6 things we learned under the Gold Dome today: ‘campus carry’ and Marta bills in the spotlight

Georgia House panel passes resurrected MARTA expansion bill


An effort once presumed dead to expand MARTA’s rail system found new life Tuesday when a House committee inserted it in another bill.

Senate Bill 369, which the House Regulated Industries Committee passed as a substitute to a fireworks bill, would allow the city of Atlanta to hold a November referendum to determine whether to levy a half-percent sales tax to fund a MARTA expansion.

The bill would also create two regions within Fulton County, addressing continued differences between north and south Fulton over a MARTA expansion.

Parts of Fulton County outside Atlanta would be allowed to levy a five-year sales tax of 0.75 percent, also depending on the outcome of a referendum. If north Fulton decides to adopt a rail expansion, the region could levy a 0.25 percent tax for funding.

The sales tax could fund about $2.5 billion in new transit projects by one estimate.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has been in charge of the last-minute changes to the legislation. Jones said the MARTA expansion is necessary because Fulton serves as a “crossroads for much of the commerce and many of the commuters in the metropolitan area.”

“There was a desire, in particular by much of the city of Atlanta, to go forward with a significant expansion of MARTA’s infrastructure,” Jones said.

Senate Bill 330, sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, was the original MARTA bill lawmakers introduced this legislative session.

The bill would have allowed residents of DeKalb and Fulton counties to vote to increase their existing 1-cent sales tax by a half-cent for additional MARTA financing. The funds would have extended MARTA rail to Alpharetta, Lithonia and through the busy Emory/CDC corridor.

The Senate Rules Committee blocked a vote on the legislation last month after expressing concerns about the plan. One committee member, state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, expressed concerns that SB 330 excluded Cobb and Gwinnett counties by focusing on DeKalb and Fulton.

Leaders in the cities of Johns Creek and Alpharetta also opposed the legislation and said a MARTA expansion could worsen the metro area’s traffic problems instead of improving them.

The Senate’s block on the bill made the the future of transit service in metro Atlanta uncertain because SB 330 was the only long-term transit plan that was introduced.

Since the MARTA expansion is now under SB 369, the legislation is now getting a second chance at becoming law.

Lawmakers who continued pushing the MARTA expansion used the legislative technique of writing the bill’s language into an existing piece of legislation in the House. This could then bring the issue to the chamber for a vote.

Several representatives expressed their support of the legislation and applauded Jones’ efforts in reviving the bill once considered dead.

“I can’t think of anything more important than having a MARTA bill come out of this House and Senate this year and get to the governor,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus. “It’s something that directly affects the quality of life here in this region, as well as the workforce development and employment.”

State Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, has been another avid supporter of expanding MARTA in the metro area. She said her constituents are “crying for some help on the congestion” Atlanta has on its streets.

“The expansion of MARTA will help us get around our city,” Gardner said. “I really believe in a regional transit system, and I think this is a great start.”

Gov. Nathan Deal also weighed in on the possibility of letting voters have the final say on the MARTA expansion. He said “those who are willing to financially support” the expansion, meaning voters, “should have the primary say-so over whether they see fit to do so.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement earlier this month that “expanding MARTA is one of the most important things we can do to win the jobs war.”

MARTA officials have also expressed overwhelming support of the legislation.

“MARTA, of course, thinks this is a really great first step in expanding transit options for people throughout the metro area,” said John Bayalis, MARTA’s director of government affairs.

Jones said she hopes SB 369 will get a House vote Wednesday.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Georgia AG joins 36 states to demand answers from insurers on opioids
Georgia AG joins 36 states to demand answers from insurers on opioids

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr on Monday joined three dozen other states’ attorneys general in firing a shot across the bow of insurance companies in regards to the opioid crisis. Opioid addiction among Americans is at epidemic proportions. This weekend, ProPublica and The New York Times published an investigation into the role insurance...
How Jane Fonda's 1972 trip to North Vietnam earned her the nickname ‘Hanoi Jane’
How Jane Fonda's 1972 trip to North Vietnam earned her the nickname ‘Hanoi Jane’

On a hot, sticky May afternoon in 1970, a crowd of several thousand students and protesters took over the University of Maryland mall. Many were there to protest the Vietnam War. Others were hoping to catch a glimpse of a famous Hollywood actress. Her name was Jane Fonda. As the war raged, the one-time blonde bombshell cut her naturally brown hair...
Opinion roundup from the Right: Trump’s tax plan; Sanders’ Medicare for All; Burns’ ‘Vietnam’
Opinion roundup from the Right: Trump’s tax plan; Sanders’ Medicare for All; Burns’ ‘Vietnam’

A roundup of editorials Monday includes a look at President Donald Trump’s plans for tax cuts; Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan for “Medicare for All” and Ken Burns’ new documentary, “The Vietnam War.” Here are some opinions from the right. From George Will: “The Vietnam War” reminds viewers of the lunacy...
Opinion roundup from the Left: Why Harvard dropped Chelsea Manning; the ghost of Comey; Jemele vs. Donald
Opinion roundup from the Left: Why Harvard dropped Chelsea Manning; the ghost of Comey; Jemele vs. Donald

A roundup of editorials Monday includes a look at why Harvard asked Chelsea Manning to take a fellowship then took it back; what ESPN’s Jemele Hill said about President Donald Trump and what James Comey’s role was in this presidential election. Here are some opinions from the Left. From The Daily Beast: Margaret Carlson wonders if former...
Georgia wants to honor its Vietnam War veterans
Georgia wants to honor its Vietnam War veterans

The hourlong honor ceremony had just ended when William White, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, burst into tears. His emotion caught him unexpectedly. It left his wife, Patricia, almost speechless — it was not something she had ever seen him do. But having his service appreciated was something he wasn’t used to. “It...
More Stories