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Proposed bill would change
chairman powers


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  A proposed bill that would change the powers of the chairman of the Henry County Board of Commissioners will not be brought before the Georgia General Assembly during the current legislative session.

  State Senator Rick Jeffares, who last week published a “Notice of Intention to Intro-duce Local Legislation” in the Henry Daily Herald (the county’s legal organ), said Tuesday morning that the bill would not be dropped during this session but he would receive an opinion letter from legal counsel regarding two issues in the proposed bill and he would pass that along to   county officials.

  Here is the text of the notice published last week:

  “Notice is given that there will be introduced at the Regular 2013 Session of the General Assembly of Georgia a bill to amend an Act providing for a new Board of Commissioners for Henry County, approved March 28, 1974 (Ga. L. 1974, P.3680), as amended, so as to provide that the Chairperson shall vote only in the case of a tie; to provide that the Chairperson shall preside over meetings of the Board but shall not make or second motions before the Board; to provide that the County Manager shall establish the agenda for Board Meetings and shall have the power to hire, discipline, and terminate employees of the Board; to provide for related matters; and for other purposes. Signed by Senator Rick Jeffares, District 17.”

  The issue was debated in social media in the days following the announcement, with speculation brewing that this action was retaliatory in some way because of current Commission Chairman Tommy Smith’s position on various issues, such as Jeffares’ appointment to the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, which Smith has said he does not support.

  Jeffares said Tuesday that Smith has taken no specific action on any issue that motivated him to consider this bill. He said that he has gotten calls from county commissioners regarding parliamentary procedures and decided to look into the matter, which included examining the county’s charter.

  “According to Robert’s Rules of Order, if you are presiding over a meeting, correct parliamentary procedure dictates that you ask for a motion or a second,” said Jeffares, who noted that Smith has been advised by county attorney LaTonya Wiley that he has the legal right to make such motions.

  In addition to addressing parliamentary procedure, the written opinion Jeffares has sought is expected to also address the authority of the commission chairman to hire and fire certain country employees, another issue about which commissioners have expressed some concern, Jeffares said.

  A meeting of the Henry County legislative delegation was scheduled for Monday morning in Atlanta to address this proposed bill and other matters. Four members of the delegation attended the meeting, according to Jeffares, who could not attend because of floor leader meetings. There are ten senators and representatives in the Henry County delegation.

“It’s hard to get them all together at this time of year,” said Jeffares, noting that the legislative session is now in its busiest time.

  As of Tuesday morning, the senator had received 29 contacts in favor of his proposed bill and 18 in opposition.

  Smith said Tuesday that Jeffares met with him for a few minutes Friday but said very little in the way of addressing these concerns. He said Jeffares spoke about the changing demographics in Henry County and possibility of a Democratic commission chairman in a future term, but did not say anything about Smith’s ability to vote or make motions in meetings, or the issue of taking away the chairman’s authority to set the agenda for board meeting, which was also in the proposed bill.

  Smith added that he received an estimated 50 phone calls, text messages and e-mails within a few hours of the notice’s publication last Wednesday.



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