By Matt Roy

May 22, 2013

What  is “Regionalism”? – Regionalism is a state imposed layer of regional  government over several local/city governments.  States promote this idea as a  way for neighboring counties and cities to work together to solve problems and  implement larger cross-county initiatives.

Regionalism in Georgia – House Bill 1216 of 2008 reorganized  the Department of Community Affairs and divided the state into 12 regions, each  ruled in part by a commission. The officials serving on the regional commissions  are a mix of appointed and elected officials.  This legislation calls for the  county commission chair and one mayor from each county in a region to serve on  the commission. The other members of the regional commission or council are  appointed as follows:

.One school superintendent and two non-governmental appointees are selected  by the governor .One non-governmental appointee is selected by the Lt.  Governor; and .One non-governmental appointee is selected by the Speaker of the  House.

House Bill 277 of 2010 modified the structure of the regional governance  system in that there are now 12 special districts and 36 regional councils  managed by the Department of Community Affairs.  These regional commissions have  the taxing and eminent domain authority over the counties in their area.  They  also function as the regional planning entity for land use, environmental  conservation, transportation, and historic preservation.  Most of the  controversy surrounding these regional councils stems from a proposed  transportation project and corresponding sales tax increase.

Problems with Regionalism

Regional commissions: – are not accountable to the voting citizens in the  counties they preside over – can impose local taxes on counties for the  purpose of funding projects in other counties in that region (wealth  redistribution) – infringe on the authority and power of local governments  specifically granted in Georgia Constitution “Home Rule” (Article IX, Section  II) – add another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to Georgia’s  government

Sustainable Development – Sustainable development is another  facet to regionalism.  Because regional councils can supersede more localized  governments, the fear is that appointed commissioners on regional boards can  implement those kinds of schemes without much opposition or oversight.  Several  websites link regionalism to sustainable development and smart growth  initiatives.

Conclusion – Regionalism adds a 4th layer of government to  the local-state-federal system that lacks accountability to the people.   Pro-regionalists argue that the amalgamation of local governments creates  “economies of scale” within the governing system and would aid counties in  solving larger problems. This doesn’t seem to pass muster. When has more or  bigger government ever resulted in an efficient outcome?

The commissioners who comprise these regional bodies are not directly elected  to their positions and have power over elected local officials on several  issues.  These councils are often expensive, over-bearing bureaucracies that  lack a clear purpose and justification. Regionalism, as a concept, is  problematic at best and detrimental to the strength of representative government  that is efficient and accountable to Georgians.

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