By DOUG NURSE www.ajc.com
City leaders in Milton and Johns Creek breathed a sigh of relief last week when, in the 11th hour, the General Assembly passed a measure worth millions of dollars to the young municipalities.
The closely watched legislation will transfer from Fulton County to Johns Creek and Milton money that was collected from residents prior to incorporation.
The money — $8 million — could be released to the cities in a matter of weeks.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), was imperiled with an explosive amendment. But as the close of the session loomed, Jones used a parliamentary maneuver to get the transfer of money approved.
"She's a smart woman," said Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker. "It looked like her bill was dead, but she figured out a way to get it done."
Milton could use the money, said a grateful Mayor Joe Lockwood.
"It will provide a lot of opportunities for Milton to use for improvements, parks and whatever else the citizens want, what the council thinks is necessary and desirable," Lockwood said. "I want to thank Jan Jones and [House Speaker Pro Tem] Mark Burkhalter [R-Johns Creek] for their hard work."
Jones' bill called for Fulton County to turn over leftover taxes collected in 2006 from the Milton and Johns Creek areas.
Milton was owed $5.5 million – a hefty sum for a city with a $15 million budget. Johns Creek would receive $3 million to add to its $45 million budget.
Fulton County was willing to hand over the money but said there was no legal way to do so, hence the need for Jones' bill.
If the bill failed, the money would remain in accounting limbo.
State Sen. Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody) slapped on an amendment on Jones' bill. The amendment basically would require counties to give fire stations, parks and other public assets to newly incorporated cities.
The proposed city of Dunwoody had been approved by the Legislature days earlier, and some voiced concern that DeKalb County might not play nice with the new city.
"On the 39th day of the 40-day session, it was clear my bill was in peril," Jones said.
Jones said she asked Weber to take off the amendment. He refused.
While supportive of Weber's cause, Jones wasn't sure her bill would pass with his amendment.
Jones abandoned her bill and made the rebate plan an amendment to a noncontroversial law sponsored by the Forsyth County delegation.
With a scant three hours remaining to vote on the last day, lawmakers passed the Forsyth County bill with Jones' amendment intact.
Her original hijacked legislation was the last bill considered by the House.
At 11:56 p.m. Friday, it died.