Senate OKs Clayton County MARTA referendum

Bill awaits governor’s signature

Mike Glanton

Mike Glanton

JONESBORO — Clayton County voters may go to the polls by the end of the year to decide whether the county should join MARTA.

The state Senate passed Rep. Mike Glanton’s House Bill 1009 by a 43-2 vote amidst a flurry of Sine Die Day activity Thursday night. The bill gives Clayton County commissioners permission to hold a referendum on joining MARTA. The commission has until the end of 2016 to hold the referendum.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, where it will await his signature to become law.

“I think with the kind of bipartisan support we had for this bill, the kind of regional support we had for this bill, that everybody realized this is not only extremely important to Clayton County, but is important to the region as well as the state,” said Glanton.

The bill’s passage comes at a time when alot of activity is going on surrounding a possible return of public transit in the county. It has been four years since the C-Tran bus system was shut down by commissioners because of financial issues.

If voters approve the referendum, they would begin paying a 1-cent sales tax to participate in MARTA. The mass transit system, which includes buses and commuter trains, operated C-Tran for the county and therefore has some familiarity with the area.

There have been steady calls for transit’s return and even a nonbinding referendum on joining MARTA which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2010.

Recent weeks, however, have seen commissioners approve a transit feasibility study and calls by residents to find a way to use SPLOST funds to bring transit back. Last week, commission Chairman Jeff Turner proclaimed during his State of the County address that transit must return to boost economic development in the county.

“I think they [commissioners] are going to begin acting immediately, and I think the commissioners have already acted when they chose to make this part of their legislative priorities,” Glanton said.