The Georgia Senate overwhelmingly rejected a Republican bill that would have cleared the way for Buckhead County to separate from the city of Atlanta.
The March 2 vote on Senate Bill 114 to incorporate the city of Buckhead passed 23 to 33. The vote came a day after Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration raised serious concerns about the legality of SB 114, as well as SB 113, which was introduced after 114’s defeat.
Debate over SB 114 lasted nearly two hours. Supporters of the bill – all from outside Atlanta – said they voted to keep Buckhead out of Atlanta after hearing from residents who felt City Hall was ignoring them, especially on crime.
“Georgia has a strong history of disaffected citizens leaving counties and established cities to establish their own identity when they feel their voices aren’t being heard and their opinions don’t matter,” said Sen. Randy Roberts, the bill’s author. and a Republican from Kataula.
The senators representing Buckhead, all Democrats, said the Buckhead city movement is supported by a small group of people and does not represent the majority of those who live in north Atlanta, known for its commercial district and thin residential neighborhoods.
“My friends across the aisle often use the phrase, ‘We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic,'” said Sen. Josh McLaurin, a Democrat who represents part of Buckhead.
“To me, that means you’re not always swinging back and forth with a change in the public poll,” he said. “We have our role here. We are still representatives in the republic. And there are times when we’re called to hold the line on some popular impulses that just won’t work.”
Rep. Frank Ginn of Danielsville, chairman of the State and Local Government Affairs Committee, which has held two hearings on Buckhead’s urban zoning bills, praised Senate President Lt. Gov. Bert Jones for making good on his promise to pass the Buckhead zoning bill. get to the Senate floor for a vote.
But, Ginn said, he also wanted to praise Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and the progress he and his administration have made in the past year to address the concerns of Buckhead residents, including working with the General Assembly on issues such as public safety.
But if Buckhead is allowed to incorporate into a city, it will cause serious problems for the entire state of Georgia, he said.
“I’m going to tell you that this law is very troubling to me,” Ginn said.
“I know that everyone here has a big heart. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in,” he said. “But if we rip that heart out, we’ll all die. If we rip the heart out of Atlanta, which is Buckhead, the city of Atlanta will die. I don’t want our capital to perish.”
Buckhead City critics decried the terms of the bill, which would have forced Atlanta to sell its public facilities and property at bargain prices and leave unanswered where children will go to school and bond payments, among other issues.
Following the vote, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens issued the following statement:
Atlanta is one city with one bright future.
“I am grateful to the bipartisan majority of the Georgia Senate that voted to reject SB 114. I am grateful to the many Atlantic residents—from parents to businesses to education leaders—who stood up and spoke with one voice for one city.
“When I took office, I made a commitment to build strong relationships throughout Atlanta, including Buckhead, and with our state leaders. Together, we’ve invested in public safety that has reduced crime, filled potholes, and moved Atlanta forward. But most importantly, we listened to residents about their concerns and hopes, and we responded.
“To my Atlantic friends, whether you support or oppose de-annexation, I will continue to work with you to improve our services, invest in our communities, and ensure a safe city for all. Atlanta is a group project, and we will work every day of the week with you, on your behalf, and hearing your voices.
It’s Buckhead City’s second defeat in as many years after a similar bill died in committee in 2022.
Colin Kelly contributed to this report.