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April 14, 2016

Statesmanship key to passage of transit bill

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Anyone who followed the 2016 legislative session knows that each of Fulton County's 36 legislators had varying perspectives on the issue of MARTA transit expansion. Transit was one of the most talked about issues in this session and despite significant early opposition, a compromise bill ultimately passed both chambers with overwhelming support. The dramatic reversal of fortune for transit expansion and the passage of SB 369 is the result of quiet leadership and diplomatic statesmanship from Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton).

In moving SB 369 forward, Speaker Pro Tem Jones neither sought the limelight nor held press conferences to grandstand on this legislative prerogative. Rather,she simply listened to the concerns of her colleagues, in both chambers, and created a path forward through compromise and accommodation. Jones, along with a collaboration of business interests, civic groups, environmental concerns, labor and trades, and engaged citizens, showcased the importance of this issue for economic development. Legislators outside the metro region also deserve praise for understanding that a rising economic tide lifts all boats around the state.

The Metro region is fortunate to have legislators like Speaker Pro Tem Jones who will rise above discordant politics to build consensus. Thanks to her leadership, the City of Atlanta has the tools it needs to enable MARTA expansion for the first time in more than 15 years. Atlanta will the opportunity to generate over $2.5 billion in local funding for transit projects, while other Fulton County municipalities are free to explore an approach they prefer. As a result, our region is poised to attract new business, millennial workers and marquee events that require affordable and reliable public transportation.

Last, it is important to note that early efforts by Senator Brandon Beach to push a broader transit expansion bill (SB 330) raised the profile and initiated debate on this important issue. While SB 330 stalled in the Senate, his efforts gave lawmakers and the public an opportunity to delve into the data and research supporting transit rail expansion. Expert testimony combined with input from concerned citizens illustrated the merits of smart growth, our region’s lagging economic competitiveness, all the while informing and elevating the public discourse.

Georgia is in a stronger position today because of the diligent legislative work of Speaker Pro Tem Jones and Senator Brandon Beach.