ATLANTA — The legislative push for a vote on the proposed City of Buckhead took a step further early Monday, with a Georgia Senate committee endorsing it to move forward.
The state Senate's State and Local Governmental Operations Committee passed S.B. 114, which would provide for a public referendum on Buckhead cityhood, by a 4-3 vote along partisan lines.
The bill now goes to the Rules Committee, which will prepare to put it on the calendar for a vote before the full Senate.
In remarks before the committee vote Monday, Democratic state Sen. Jason Esteves - whose district includes Buckhead - said he opposed the bill. He argued it was a "half-baked pie" that would have a devastating effect on the City of Atlanta's financial health and put into limbo thousands of Buckhead schoolchildren that are currently in the Atlanta Public Schools system.
Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), a committee member and sponsor of the bill, argued it would give people in Buckhead who feel ignored a chance to "go fight for whatever they believe is right."
The four Republicans on the committee supported the bill, while the three Democrats opposed it. Republicans control the Senate 33-23, though it's unclear if the Buckhead cityhood issue enjoys wide support among the state GOP. Last year, then-Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan effectively tabled the issue by steering it to a Democrat-controlled committee, while Gov. Brian Kemp has not publicly endorsed it.
It's also unclear how Buckhead cityhood would fare in the Georgia House. Where new Speaker Jon Burns stands on the issue is uncertain; the late former Speaker David Ralston did not publicly support it.
State Republican leadership has at various times commended Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens' efforts to tamp down on crime - the major driving issue Buckhead city proponents cite when pushing for a vote - and signaled their openness to working with him. Dickens strongly opposes Buckhead cityhood.
Three cityhood referendums in Cobb County failed last year, while a fourth - Mableton's - succeeded.
For Buckhead to become a city, the bill would need to pass both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly, then be signed by Gov. Kemp and then put to the voters who would reside in the proposed Buckhead boundaries