Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin has copped a hard copy of the new version of the MARTA rail bill.
The bill would create two regions. The city of Atlanta would be allowed to levy, via a November referendum, a half-percent sales tax that would run concurrent with the present one-penny sales tax, in order to double down on rail in the city. Roughly $2.5 billion in projects could be financed, by one estimate.
North and south Fulton County, outside Atlanta, would be allowed to levy a five-year, .75 percent sales tax, also by referendum. Presumably that would be for roads and bridges. That means a .25 percent tax could be levied in the future, should north Fulton change its mind about rail.
Most importantly, the two-region strategy would eliminate the impasse that had been building over rail in Fulton County -- with transit and anti-transit forces able to veto the proposal of the other.
House Speaker pro tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has been in charge of this heavy, last-minute lift. Read about it below.
The bill is expected to make its debut at 2 p.m. today in a meeting of the House Regulated Industries Committee. SB 369, a fireworks bill, will be the gutted vehicle. The idea is to send the measure to the Senate on an agree/disagree basis that goes straight to the chamber's floor -- avoiding a screen by the Senate GOP caucus, where north metro Atlanta lawmakers hold greater sway.
Gov. Nathan Deal chimed in on the effort to expand mass transit as well:
"We are in a changing environment here in our state, especially in the metropolitan area. There have been some interesting discussions," he said, adding: "I don’t know what the final product will be. I know there have been some twists and turns in the process. But the expansion of MARTA comes down now to those who are willing to financially support it. They should have the primary say-so over whether they see fit to do so."