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Legislature OK's several county plans

ATLANTA - Gwinnett will have a new judge, Norcross will consider hiring a city manager and residents will have a say in redevelopment, thanks to action in this year's General Assembly.

"I think they did all right considering the circumstances," Chairman Charles Bannister said.

He came to the Capitol on Thursday, the day before Friday's marathon last day, to get word on Gwinnett initiatives such as a stormwater authority, which received approval Friday.

Bannister also got assurances that the General Assembly would pass an annexation law to give counties more of a say in city development - a statewide issue that followed a drawn-out debate between local officials.

"With the success of bills involving annexation reform and our stormwater utility, we believe that these types of initiatives will benefit our citizens tremendously and allow us to continue to provide high quality services," County Administrator Jock Connell said.

The stormwater authority legislation sets up an agency to leverage revenue bonds to help the county get rid of a backlog of stormwater projects.

In 2007, though, a legislative solution to metro Atlanta's transportation funding woes was never reached.

"We're stuck with the transportation issue that hasn't had any real leadership to pull it together," Bannister said, adding that the issue's fate could be even worse next year, which is an election year. "We're going to have to step out front and fund our own solution."

While money for a library and to hire professors for the growing Georgia Gwinnett College was included in the budget that passed the General Assembly, approval of the final version of the document may have to wait until a special session, depending on budget negotiations that lasted late until the evening. Money for the proposed Brain Train from Lawrenceville to Athens is also in flux.

Months after voters rejected a redevelopment funding tool in a countywide referendum, legislators approved referenda for nearly ever city in Gwinnett: Norcross, Duluth, Lilburn, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Buford, Braselton, Loganville, Grayson and Dacula.

While a measure to deannex land in Auburn that is the subject of a lawsuit between the city and Barrow County was approved in the legislature's last day, senators failed to take up a proposal to annex hundreds of homes in Sugar Hill.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said she didn't move the legislation forward because some homeowners did not agree to the boundary change.

Another local bill sets a referendum before voters on whether Norcross will switch to the council-manager form of government. The vote will be held in November.