I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the March meeting were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be admitted to membership in BCN.
IV. BCN Standing Committees
- Jeff Clark of Garden Hills has volunteered to handle communications for BCN. Jeff made a presentation of the improvements and services he plans to provide including BCN’s web page, Facebook page and email communications. He is especially interested in providing cross-neighborhood information. BCN’s web site home page will provide links to a calendar, neighborhoods, minutes, and resources. This topic will be discussed in more detail in the May meeting. Click here to see the Website Revision Proposal
- No report.
- No report.
- No report.
- No report.
Briefing on the 2015 Legislative Session
BCN meeting attendees were privileged this month to be briefed by three local Georgia legislators about the 2015 legislative session which recently concluded. While the comments below are organized by speaker, the dialogue did not actually occur in the sequence below. On some topics two and occasionally all three legislators commented on the merits or shortcomings of some bills. In particular, there was a long discussion of education legislation.
Senator Hunter Hill represents District 6 which includes most of Buckhead. Senator Hill is Chair of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee, Vice-Chair of the Finance committee; and a member of five other committees.
Senator Hill considers HB 1 (medical cannabis bill) an important win. He said that the bill was opposed by many conservatives. He said it was important that the federal government remove cannabis from “Schedule 1” so it can be tested in medical trials. Second, Hill spoke about his efforts in support of the craft beer bill and the effort to permit brewers to share samples and sell limited quantities of their products. He said the effort was partially successful and brewers may sell up to 72 ounces of their products. Third, Hill spoke about a public/private partnership bill, which, if signed by the Governor, would permit unsolicited bids. He also worked on the transportation bill – he said Florida spends 11% of their budget on transportation while we spend 4% and, as a growing state, need to spend more. In discussing education issues, Hill felt it very important that teacher retirement and compensation policies be revisited.
Representative Beth Beskin represents District 54 which includes most of Buckhead. She is on the Education, Judiciary and State Planning & Community Affairs committees.
Rep. Beskin explained why she supported the “Opportunity School District” bill. She said what we have been doing in APS “is not working”. She felt the two most important bills the Legislature
dealt with this year were the transportation bill and the Opportunity School District bill – she voted for both. She said we can’t grow as a state unless we address our transportation problems. She said her constituent input heavily favored the transportation bill. The money appropriated wasn’t to build new roads or bridges as much as it was to start addressing deferred maintenance. She pointed out that the shift from a fuel sales tax to an excise tax will generate $65 million in new revenue from truckers. She said Tesla successfully lobbied for a bill permitting them to open up five dealerships, something that manufacturers had previously been prohibited from doing. She added that a fireworks bill was also passed. Beskin also discussed her bill to provide a school property tax exemption for seniors in Fulton County. She said nine counties surrounding Fulton have such an exemption and it puts Fulton at a disadvantage. She said that the City of Atlanta was pursuing the annexation of a large portion of DeKalb County and parts of southern Fulton, an issue she said Atlanta residents should be able to vote on, but can’t. She said the annexation raises all kinds of financial policy issues, especially, that DeKalb has some senior education property tax exemptions. These possible annexations raise the issue of whether the annexed areas would have to join APS and pay their tax rates. She encouraged attendees to ask their City Council representative to insist that Atlanta residents be able to vote on these annexations. Beskin’s bill was not approved by the House; she will be back with it next year. Also, Beskin offered a comment that should be useful to anyone who writes her or other elected officials. While it is perhaps useful to comment that you are a constituent, please add your street address to your letter or email. She said she pays more attention to communications from people she knows are actually her constituents.
Representative Margaret Kaiser represents District 59 which encompasses much of eastern Atlanta. She serves on the Education committee as well as three others.
Rep. Kaiser recently announced her campaign to run for Mayor of Atlanta in 2017. Rep. Kaiser spoke first about the medical cannabis bill – she said she had been working on it for about seven years. She said several important medical conditions were omitted from the bill as was permitting local cultivation. Nevertheless, she said the bill was a “huge win” for the state of Georgia. She is also a big charter school supporter, which got her into politics. She got a bill passed which allows educationally disadvantaged children to participate in a weighted lottery to attend charters. She spoke about the “Opportunity School District” bill. Tom Tidwell commented that APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said 20 APS schools were on the takeover list and she is very concerned about it. Kaiser tried to modify the bill but her concerns were not addressed and she ended up opposing it.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
VII. Next Meeting May 14, 2015
IX. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:15 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.