Republican Rep. Ed Lindsey’s SB 353, which has been denounced by such education leaders as state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) and Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci, has already passed the Senate and the House’s Economic Development Committee last week.
Lindsey said he began to hear complaints about the bill over the weekend. On Monday, he asked that it return from the Rules to the Economic Development Committee for further study.
“I’m glad to see it’s getting more review,” Tippins said Tuesday. “It needs it.”
Lindsey disputed Tippins’ assertion that the bill would broaden a development authority’s power to approve tax abatements for projects.
“The intent of the bill was not to do that,” Lindsey said. “The intent of the bill as passed by the Senate when it came over to the House was simply to clean up the process for authorities to be able to approve bond projects for economic development.”
One of the things the bill would do is take away the ability to appeal the bond validation process, capping the process at the superior court level.
“You can’t start selling the bonds until there is some type of final adjudication, and so there needs to be a requirement of some type of time limit for someone who wishes to object to the bonds to file their objections,” Lindsey said.
The bill also sought to remove the district attorney from signing off on the bond validation. In place of the district attorney, the role would go to the development authority, a move critics described as letting the fox guard the henhouse.
“That was one of the concerns being raised to me that I felt was appropriate to send back to committee and have them look at,” Lindsey said. “I think the original purpose was because the DAs themselves felt that their role was useless in the process so they themselves wanted to be removed from it, but that concern was one of the concerns that was raised to me, and I felt that it was worthy to have the committee take a further look at it.”
Lindsey said if supporters and opponents of the bill could reach a reasonable consensus, it would be moved out of committee once again.
“If not, we’ll let the bill sit for another year and let the parties work their way through the bill that way,” Lindsey said. “I am very hesitant about trying to change public policy in the last five days of the General Assembly session.”
Lindsey said he understood why Tippins, Angelucci and others were concerned about unelected development authorities having the power to waive school taxes without the school district having a say in the matter.
“I can, and that’s one of the concerns that was raised. And while the bill wasn’t intended to try to deal with that issue, that was one of the concerns that was raised with this bill, and that’s one of the reasons it was sent back to committee for folks to sort of chew on that and decide, well, can we come up with a policy we’re more comfortable with, and if not, let’s just let that discussion continue for a year,” he said.