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State lawmakers approve ‘very monumental’ transit bill
Expansion could include Forsyth, other counties

A bill approved by the Georgia General Assembly could mean new rules and expansion for transit in Forsyth County and a dozen other counties in metro Atlanta.

If approved by Gov. Nathan Deal, the recently-approved House Bill 930 would allow 13 counties in metro Atlanta to pursue new funding sources and would create a new regional governing body for transit. 

A member of Forsyth County’s legislative delegation was a major force behind the bill. 

District 9 state Rep. Kevin Tanner, whose district includes the northwestern corner of Forsyth County, serves as chair of the state House Transportation Committee. 

“I’d like to thank Speaker [David] Ralston for his leadership in this area, as well as my fellow conferees, Speaker Pro Tem [Jan] Jones and Rep. [Calvin] Smyre,” Tanner said in a release. “The General Assembly and Governor Deal provided $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget specifically for transit, and this funding and giving final passage to HB 930 today is very monumental for transit in the state of Georgia.”

In the release, Ralston said the bill would be effective and maintain local control.

“This legislation is the result of countless hours of good-faith negotiations among local governments, transit operators and the General Assembly,” Ralston said. “This bill will allow us to plan effectively for future transit needs in Metro Atlanta while maintaining local control.”  

If signed by Deal and approved by voters, the bill would create a 16-member governing body called the Atlanta-region Transit Link, or The ATL, to oversee transit projects and funds in the counties. The board would create a transit plan for the region. 

The bill would also allow for a transportation special local option sales tax, or TSPLOST, within special districts and the creation of those districts, provide exceptions for ceilings on local sales taxes and allow a referendum for voters living in the counties to decide whether or not to approve the plan. 

The 13 counties would be Forsyth, Cherokee, Clayton, Coweta, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale. 

According to the bill, the approaches to transit could include buses and rail and would not include charter and sightseeing services, limousines, ride-share services or taxi services. 

The plan would also establish new multimodal stations, “cost-effective expansion of existing transit systems” and coordination of schedules and methods of payment.

The bill was approved in the House by a vote of 155-19, with four not voting and two excused, and 48-6 in the state Senate, with one not voting and one excused. 

For the local delegation, Tanner, District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones and District 26 state Rep. Marc Morris voted in favor of the bill, while District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan, District 22 state Rep. Wes Cantrell voted against the measure and District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch was excused from voting.