The local consent vote, in which numerous legislative items from different parts of the state are approved in a single vote, sailed through despite the objections of Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), the chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation.
“I believe the county officials and their staff are hardworking, but other people are facing challenges,” Hill said.
The raise was able to go before the full Senate after getting signatures from a majority of Cobb senators. According to the Secretary of the Senate’s office, Sens. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna), Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) signed off on the measure, but Judson Hill and Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) did not.
Thompson said it’s difficult to see why anyone would oppose the raise.
“I don’t disagree with the fact that they deserve a raise. It’s a 3-percent cost-of-living increase,” he said. “I think we’re back at a time when the economy is getting better.”
The vote means pay raises for Cobb’s 12 state court judges, 10 Superior Court judges, probate court judge and staff, as well as top assistants in the sheriff’s and tax commissioner’s offices, though Sheriff Neil Warren and Tax Commissioner Gail Downing declined raises for themselves, Judson Hill said. Members of the Cobb Board of Commissioners also declined to take part in the raises that they approved for most of the county’s 4,000 employees in November.
Others declining raises included Solicitor General Barry Morgan, state court clerk Diane Webb and chief deputy clerk Angie Davis.
Downing said it was appropriate for her staff members who weren’t covered by the countywide increase to get the raise.
“I feel like everybody (else) in the county got it, and they are administrative personnel that most certainly deserve that,” she said.
Chief Probate Court Judge Kelli Wolk said it was her understanding that no one in her office would get a raise, though she needed to look at the final bill.
“I don’t believe that the provision that dealt with my court was ever introduced, but I’m a little uncertain,” she said.
Judson Hill said he would like to see future votes on staff taken out of the Legislature’s hands. He said no other county gives the Legislature authority to set pay for anyone outside of constitutional officers like the sheriff and tax commissioner. He expects legislation on making that happen to be introduced in 2014.
“It’s become very clear, with the challenging economy, that the local level may be best suited to determine their own budget and how their monies are spent,” he said.
The House previously approved the bill to grant raises, which was authored by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna). She obtained needed signatures from Reps. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb), Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb), Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), David Wilkerson (D-Austell), Sheila Jones (D-south Cobb), Roger Bruce (D-south Cobb) and Michael Smith (D-Marietta).