State Sen. Sally Harrell discusses city of North Decatur during town hall
Atlanta, GA — Throughout the legislative session, Sen. Sally Harrell (SD-40) pushed the DeKalb Senate delegation to have substantive discussions about forming the city of North Decatur.
During a virtual town hall on April 6, Harrell explained that the project is still in the discussion phase. She plans to have meetings with the community before the next legislative session starts. She said the map for the city of North Decatur looks different from what has been proposed in the past and is still a work in progress.
“It goes all the way down to Decatur and that’s to ensure that a city like Decatur, or even Atlanta, that has their own independent school system doesn’t grab property in this area that is high value, but has no students,” Harrell said. “Kind of like what happened in the Emory area, because that hurts DeKalb County Schools when that happens.”
Linda Zuk, an Evansdale resident, raised concerns about her community not being included in the draft of the map and potentially becoming an island of unincorporated DeKalb. She said that in Evansdale many feel excluded and like they’re not being heard.
Harrell said that area would be municipalized in some way, whether it’s included in the city of North Decatur or possibly joins the city of Tucker. She added that there aren’t many unincorporated parts of DeKalb County left, so if the city of North Decatur was formed, then most of north DeKalb County would be municipalized.
“Right now the map doesn’t include the outside the perimeter area because not having it go outside the perimeter preserves the choices,” Harrell said. “There are a lot of people who want to be in the city of Tucker. If the North Decatur map already included you, then that option of being part of [Tucker] would be gone.”
She added that cityhood isn’t a matter of city versus county, but rather it’s more of a partnership.
“I think what people need to realize is it’s not a matter of either county or city,” Harrell said. “All you have to do is offer three services, and you’re called a city according to our constitution. There are probably more than a dozen, 15 or so, services that are provided. Tucker offers three services. All the rest of the services are still done through the county.”
Harrell and Sen. Elena Parent (SD-42) are working on a constitutional amendment to define which services should consistently stay with counties and which services could be taken on by cities. The legislature also has rules requiring every city to complete a feasibility study before becoming a city to make sure there would be enough tax revenue to support the city.
Some highlights of the legislative session included passing the state’s largest budget of $30.2 billion. Within the fiscal year 2023 budget, austerity cuts for education were eliminated, the quality basic education formula is fully funded, teachers were given a $2,000 bonus, and all state employees were given a $5,000 raise, Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) said.
The General Assembly also did a lot of work related to mental health and passed the Mental Health Parity Act that was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 4. The bill provides for parity, so mental health has to be covered the same as physical health, and it builds a pipeline of mental health workers. The legislature allocated about $183 million toward mental health services in the fiscal year 2023 budget.
More elections bills passed the legislature this year.
“The only things, to my knowledge, that passed were expanding time off to vote to include the early vote period, not just election day, and then unfortunately, the shift of election investigations to the GBI instead of the Secretary of State,” Harrell said.
Some legislation that didn’t end up passing in the General Assembly were the abortion pill bill, the medical marijuana bill, gambling and the legislative raise.