Transit-funding bill clears Senate committee

A bill that could provide a mechanism for raising money to fund public transit in Clayton County is waiting for placement on a calendar for a floor vote in the State Senate, according to Sen. Emanuel Jones.

Jones (D-Decatur) said Thursday that the bill, which would allow the county to put to voters the question of whether to raise the sales tax in Clayton by 1 percent, passed through the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The next step is for the bill to be placed, by the agenda-setting Rules Committee, on a calendar for a vote of the full Senate.

With only a few days left in the 40-day legislative session, the clock is winding down. Tuesday is scheduled to be the 37th day.

The measure, which already passed the State House, was amended to extend the exemption that public transit operators enjoy on motor fuel taxes by two years. That means the House would have to take another vote to agree to the change before the bill could find its way to the governor's desk.

Clayton County Commissioners shut down the county's C-TRAN bus service on March 31, citing a lack of funding.

The sales tax measure, which was first pushed by State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), opens the door for counties that were a part of the original MARTA Act, but aren't paying members, to break a sales tax cap to fund transit. Abdul-Salaam has said the tax could raise $49 million a year in Clayton.

-- Michael Davis