Lawmakers sign off on plan that could boost mayor’s voting power

Mayor Garnett Johnson holds a news conference on a plan to give him a full vote at Augusta Commission meetings.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:27 PM EDT
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - Lawmakers have sent the governor a bill to give Richmond County voters the decision on whether the mayor should get a full vote on the Augusta Commission.

After the Senate backed the measure last week, the bill was approved Tuesday by the Georgia House, sending it to Gov. Brian Kenp’s desk for his signature.

Then the decision would be in Augusta voters’ hands.

Right now, the mayor can only cast a vote to break a tie, resulting in strategies among commission members that can keep the mayor from voting.

Most recently, this happened when an abstention during a commission meeting avoided a tie and blocked Mayor Garnett Johnson from voting on an ambulance contract with Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service. Ultimately, this means the state is picking an ambulance provider for the city.

The plan was unveiled in a letter signed by Johnson and commission members Alvin Mason, Brandon Garrett, Catherine Smith McKnight, Sean Frantom and Wayne Guilfoyle.

Senate Bill 231 was introduced by state Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, and Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta.

“We trust the citizens of Augusta to review this proposed advantages of this change and decide in a referendum whether to move forward,” Newton told News 12 on Tuesday.

“We look forward to also working in any way needed with others who have suggested an even more thorough overall study and assessment of our 1996 charter to evaluate potential additional areas where improvements may be made,” he said. “Passage of SB 231 is an excellent first step allowing voters to decide this important issue”