Get the Facts about the MARTA referendum passed as SB 369

SB 369 as Passed House and Senate    April 4, 2016

Summary provided by Todd Long, COO, Fulton County

Senate Bill 369, as amended by Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, assists MARTA, the City of Atlanta, and the areas of Fulton County outside of Atlanta to address the critical transportation needs of all the residents of Fulton County. Specifically, the bill as amended does the following:

  • Amends the MARTA Act to permit MARTA and the City of Atlanta to improve the transit needs inside the city. MARTA and Atlanta will formulate a list of critical transit needs in the city and the city will be permitted in November, 2016 to ask the voters of Atlanta to approve an additional sales tax up to 1⁄2 penny to fund these additional transit projects in the city. The City of Atlanta will be able to call for the referendum that can take place as early as November, 2016, or, if so desired, November, 2017.
  • Amends HB 170 passed last year to allow for two different transportation service districts in an effort to address different transportation needs thereby allowing a transportation SPLOST for those Fulton County areas outside of the City of Atlanta and those areas exclusively inside the City of Atlanta.
  • For the Fulton County area outside of the City of Atlanta the different city and county commission representing the citizens in unincorporated Fulton County may develop a list of transportation projects to address the critical needs in the different areas of the county. A TSPLOST tax of up to 0.75% can be approved. The overall list must be approved by these local officials representing at least 60% of the Fulton population outside of the City of Atlanta. The referendum may take place in any general election after July 1, 2016.
  • For the City of Atlanta, the city may develop a list of transportation projects to address the critical needs within the city limits in Atlanta. A TSPLOST tax of up to 0.75% can be approved. However, if the City of Atlanta pursues a MARTA tax of 0.5%, the max rate for TSPLOST is 0.5%. The recommended list must then be approved by the County Commission in order to place it on the ballot for a referendum in Fulton County inside the City of Atlanta. The referendum may take place in any general election after July 1, 2016.
  • The Fulton County Commission is charged with calling for a referendum after the local governments inside and outside the City of Atlanta submit a proposed list of transportation projects.


4th Week of the 2016 Session

Dear Friend,

Thank you for letting me know your opinion of the so-called “religious freedom” proposals. District 57 constituents were unanimously opposed to those proposals with the exception of the protection of the pastor.…erty-proposals/

Monday night I will join Bill Nigut on the Lawmakers at 7 on PBS and hope to discuss bills I have introduced to create a redistricting commission of voters rather than legislators.…/en…/20152016/HR/1160 The League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and Common Cause have worked on this issue around the country and I believe it is time for Georgia to have a serious discussion about alternative ways of reapportioning the House, Senate, and PSC districts.

I have also introduced the Gun Safety Act to require background checks at all gun shows and, as you might imagine, have received some heated and hostile emails and phone calls…/en…/20152016/HB/843.

As a continuation of my advocacy to expand Medicaid I have signed a bill entitled “Expand Medicaid Now”…/en…/20152016/HB/823

Legislative Action This Week.

The House reconvened on Monday, February 1 to start our fourth week of the 2016 legislative session. With a month of session behind us, we are hard at work in the General Assembly passing meaningful legislation that will have a positive impact on all Georgians..

We unanimously passed House Bill 801 this week to encourage students to take college courses in certain areas. HB 801 would change the GPA weighting system for HOPE Scholarship recipients who take certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. HB 801 would direct the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level STEM courses to receive extra weight when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA while a student attends college. Under HB 801, a student completing a class selected for extra weight would receive .5 added to his or her grade when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA. To qualify for additional grade weighting, identified core and major courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields

In the efforts to bolster our state’s business climate and arm our citizens with the tools they need to succeed in Georgia’s job market is crucial , we also passed House Bill 402 this week, which is another measure that seeks to close the skills gap in Georgia. HB 402 passed our body unanimously and is an effort to increase business partnerships and participation with local public school systems for K-12 work based learning programs. Work based learning programs allows students age 16 and older to participate in a structured learning environment at an employer’s job site for a portion of the school day, while also receiving academic credit. Modeled after Georgia’s drug-free workplace program, HB 402 would offer businesses that participate in the program a discount of up to five percent on their worker’s compensation insurance premiums as an incentive to encourage participation.

As we continue through the legislative session, I hope that you will contact me if you have questions or concerns about these bills, or any other legislation that may come before us. As your state representative, it is my job to represent your thoughts and opinions in Atlanta, and I would like to hear from you before the session adjourns on March 24. Please stop by and visit if you are in Atlanta during the legislative session, call my office at the State Capitol 404 656-0261, or email me at and let me know what I can do for you and your family.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Recap of Religious Liberty Proposals

Georgia Religious Exemption Bills to-date 

SB 129 – Georgia RFRA – Sen. McKoon (R – Columbus)  Broad language that would allow individuals and businesses to use religious views to ignore or avoid state and local laws. Legal experts agree that this could be used as an excuse to discriminate and passage of the law may provide such an incentive, especially as it relates to the LGBT community. Supporters tabled the bill last year when an amendment was added that stated explicitly that “Compelling government interest includes but is not limited to: protecting the welfare of a child from abuse and neglect as provided for by state law, and protecting individuals against discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal, state and local laws.”

SB 284 – First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia – Sen. Kirk (R- Americus)  Would allow people or businesses who believe that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage” to claim an exemption from having to provide services to couples. Would specifically allow organizations to receive government grants and contracts while discriminating against same-sex and unmarried couples.

SR 388 – Georgia State Constitutional Amendment to Fund Religious Organizations – Sen. Heath (R- Bremen)  Would put up for public vote a change to the state constitution to allow for direct funding to religious organizations.

HB 756 – “Discrimination Protection Act” – Rep. Tanner (R – Dawsonville)  Similar to SB 284, states explicitly that no business or individual “shall be required to sell goods or services directly to a religious organization or for a religious or matrimonial ceremony in violation of such a seller’s right to free exercise of religion” Could be used to withhold services from same-sex or couples whose religion does not match that of the seller. Could be interpreted to also allow people to refuse to do business with various religious organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc…

HB 757 – Pastor Protection Act – Rep. Tanner (R-Dawsonville)  Would affirm constitutional guarantees that no member of the clergy would have to preside over a religious marriage ceremony that they do not want to participate in. Additional language has been added to protect companies that do not want to open on Saturdays or Sundays and to allow certain religious organizations to refuse to “rent, lease or otherwise grant permission for property to be used by another person for purposes which are objectionable to such religious organization.”

HB 816 – Student Religious Freedom Act – Rep. Mitchell (D – Stone Mountain)  Reiterates into state law the legal precedent that student led prayer is acceptable. Not as troubling as the broader RFRA or other religious exemption laws, but could be amended to broaden the language.

HB 837 – RFRA – Rep. Setzler (R – Acworth)  House alternative to SB 129 that simply states federal RFRA will become state law. Introduced 1/25, fuller legal analysis is pending. Troubling because language of SB 129 (or any other bill) could be used as substitute language in floor vote. Also note the growing problems and concerns with how federal RFRA has been used and interpreted in recent years.

Nondiscrimination Bills that are positive steps

HB 849 – Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act – Rep. Golick (R- Smyrna)  First attempt to pass public accommodations law in Georgia by mirroring Title II of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Does not include sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Georgia Equality issued the following statement on this bill:

“We’ve been working for several years now to build support for non-discrimination protections that extend to all Georgians, including those who are gay and transgender. Over the past year in particular, the broad support for that type of legislation has become increasingly clear – among conservatives, businesses, people of faith and many others.

 “Rep. Golick has explicitly said that he would like to expand the classes covered by his current bill, so that the protections it offers are as inclusive as possible. This is a step in the right direction. We look forward to having discussions with Rep. Golick and other lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, about how we can craft legislation that protects all Georgians from discrimination.”

HB 323 – Fair Employment Practices Act – Rep. Drenner (D-Avondale Estates)  Would protect state employees from discrimination in hiring, firing or promotions due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Has strong bi-partisan support with 77 co-sponsors, including 17 Republicans.

Budget Week in the General Assembly 2.2.16

Dear Friend,

This second week of session is known as “Budget Week”. The joint House and Senate appropriations committees and subcommittees held hearings to begin the budget process.
These joint budget hearings were to review Governor Nathan Deal’s budget proposals and begin crafting two budget bills: the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY2017) budget and the Amended Fiscal Year 2016 (AFY2016) budget. The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year. The amended budget uses a more accurate estimate of state revenue and accounts for any discrepancies between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained.
This past week’s joint budget hearings allowed us to closely examine the governor’s recommendations, while also hearing testimony from the various state agencies vying for state funding.

We have seen substantial economic growth in state revenues each of the past three years. Another area where we have seen growth is in our population.

Between 2000 and 2015, Georgia’s population grew by more than two million, making us the eighth largest state. Due to this revenue and population growth, we are able to allow for “new” funding to account for adjustments in the AFY2016 budget, including $109,913,685 for K-12 education for a mid-term adjustment growth.

Additionally, the AFY2016 budget proposes an increase of $1,651,892 to support the information technology applications utilized by local school systems. The governor also proposed an adjustment of $14.9 million in this year’s amended budget to provide grants to local school systems to improve internet connectivity and for live online instruction and other digital resources for students and teachers.
The AFY2016 budget proposal also makes funding adjustments in education, impacting students planning to attend our colleges and universities. Since 2012, the number of Zell Miller Scholars at both public and private universities increased by more than forty percent. To account for this increase in eligible individuals, the governor has allocated an additional $30.3 million for AFY2016 and $59.1 million for FY2017 for Zell Miller and HOPE Scholarship recipients.
The governor’s FY2017 budget proposal is the largest budget Georgia’s history at $23.7 billion, approximately one billion dollars more than the total FY2016 budget.

In his State of the State the governor listed his funding priorities and education remained a top priority for 2017. He recommended an investment of $300 million for K-12 education to allow local school districts to give salary increases, eliminate furlough days or increase instruction days. The budget recommendation also includes an additional $26.2 million in funding for Pre-K teachers for salary increases up to three percent, as well as increasing salaries for assistant teachers. I believe Georgia’s future depends on attracting and retaining high-quality educators.
The state has also made noteworthy progress in other key areas as well, especially in criminal justice reform system. State juvenile justice facilities have seen a twenty-five percent decrease in population since the implementation of reforms, and Gov. Deal’s FY2017 budget calls for an additional $3.8 million towards the accountability courts to rehabilitate offenders and juvenile incentive grants aimed at providing community alternatives, as a proven alternative to sentencing. Gov. Deal has also allocated an additional $4.3 million in FY2017 to support educational initiatives in the state prison system. This includes operational costs for two charter high schools and expansion of GED fast track, vocational, and general education programs. These programs will give individuals the tools they need to succeed and transition into re-entry with a skill set and a purpose.
The last portion of the FY2017 proposal that I would like to highlight is the inclusion of new transportation dollars. As a result of changes in the motor fuel taxes passed last session, Gov. Deal’s budget proposal for FY2017 appropriates over $800 million to help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges to keep freight and commuters moving safely and efficiently.

Pay raises for all State Employees including teachers was a welcome proposal after many years of no increases.
Finally this week, the House and Senate voted on an adjournment resolution that set the legislative calendar for the remainder of the 40-day session. Day 40, the final day of the 2016 legislative session, or “sine die,” will be Thursday, March 24. We have a very aggressive and busy schedule from now until then, and as we continue through this 40 day legislative session.


Redistricting Proposals at Liberty Plaza tomorrow

A Press Conference to talk about redistricting proposals will be held at 2pm at Liberty Plaza across from the State Capitol.   State Representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) will be joined by Senator Elena Parent and Representative Mary Margaret Oliver.  Presentations from both the President of the League of Women Voters of the US, Elizabeth MacNamara and the President from Georgia, Elizabeth Poythress.

Please note that an earlier notice incorrectly mentioned Freedom Park instead of Liberty Plaza.

Proposed Redistricting Legislation

Rep. Pat Gardner Comments on Proposed Redistricting Legislation  

ATLANTA – State Representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) today commented on House Resolution 962 and House Resolution 963, legislation she recently pre-filed for the upcoming 2016 legislative session. Both resolutions address redistricting practices in Georgia through constitutional amendments.

“ It is time to give the citizens the ability to choose their representatives instead of the representatives choosing their voters.

Redistricting is a complex process, and in order to reach an outcome that is fair to all, several factors need to be taken into account,” said Rep. Gardner. “The process should: be reflective of the one person one vote requirement; allow for reasonably compact districts that are centered on communities of interest and do not split them apart; have respect for minorities; and produce results that fairly reflect the partisan balance in our state rather than overriding it.”

HR 962 would create a constitutional amendment requiring an independent, nonpartisan Citizens’ Redistricting Commission to carry-out congressional or legislative reapportionment instead of the General Assembly. Under HR 962, the commission would consist of 14 appointed members and is charged with proposing congressional, House of Representatives and Senate legislative districts for approval or rejection by the General Assembly.

HR 963 proposes a constitutional amendment that would require the General Assembly to convene for a special reapportionment session in the second year following each federal decennial census. The special session would last up to 30 days, during which no other legislative business would be conducted, and it would be mandatory for the General Assembly to pass a reapportionment law during this time.

HR 962 and HR 963 will be formally introduced during the 2016 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Gardner, along with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), the League of Women Voters of Georgia, the American Civil Liberties Union and Common Cause Georgia, will hold a press conference on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 to discuss HR 962 and HR 963 in addition to pending legislation regarding reapportionment. The press conference will begin at 2 p.m. at Freedom Park in Atlanta.

For more information on HR 962, please click here.

For more information on HR 963, please click here.

Representative Pat Gardner represents the citizens of District 57, which includes portions of the City of Atlanta. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2000, and currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and the Ethics, Higher Education, Natural Resources & Environment, and Transportation Committees.