ATLANTA (WRBL) — Harris County Republican Sen. Randy Robertson was right in the thick of it of a busy legislative day under the Gold Dome.
Robertson sponsored a bill that would have given residents of the Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta the chance to vote to form Buckhead City.
It was defeated soundly, 33-23, with 10 Republicans joining forces with Democrats.
“To say disappointed, I would say yes,” Robertson told WRBL after the vote and nearly two hours of debate. “But I think the important thing is we have been able to get the message out there about the Buckhead citizens who are feeling they have been ignored and neglected by the city of Atlanta.”
Robertson said despite the setback, getting the bill on the floor of the Senate moved “the conversation forward.
“We have put a big microscope on the city of Atlanta to get back to doing the job they are supposed to do that they have been neglecting to do for the past several years,” Robertson said.
Sen. Jason Esteves is an Atlanta Democrat whose district includes a large portion of Buckhead. Esteves said those supporting Buckhead City movement leader Bill White were placing a bad bet.
And he knows this legislation will likely be back in the General Assembly.
“You can never say it’s dead,” Esteves said. “But at least for now, it’s done. And I think given the fact that it lost as bad as it did I think it provides us the space to actually focus on working together to solve public safety and public works.”
Robertson was not surprised that 10 Republicans didn’t support the measure.
“Going into there, I knew where my colleagues were,” Robertson said.
Tuesday night Gov. Brian Kemp’s office put out a memo that outlined potential issues with the bill. Kemp is the state’s most powerful Republican. Esteves and other Democrats appreciated the support and were wearing Kemp pins on the Senate floor.
“The fact that he recognized a lot of the concerns that we have been talking about and raising for the last couple of years means a lot,” Esteves said of the governor.
Robertson said he was supporting the bill because Atlanta legislators had failed their Buckhead constituents.
“Those elected to represent Atlanta and in lockstep with city hall and they are not listening to their constituents and doing what the people who put them in office want them to do.”
Democratic Sen. Emanuel Jones, who grew up in Atlanta but represents Henry and Dekalb counties, questioned the intent of the bill.
“When it comes to this quote, proposed city of Buckhead,” Jones said. “We know what the intent is. That intent is to separate those who have from those who do not have. And it would polarize the city.”
Robertson was successful in another bill he sponsored on Thursday. He introduced a bill that would create an oversight commission for state solicitors and district attorneys.
The bill passed 32-24 mostly along party lines.
It would give the commission the power to remove DAs who are corrupt or refuse to prosecute crimes that are written into Georgia law.
Robertson pointed to former Chattahoochee Circuit DA Mark Jones, who was convicted of public corruption in 2021 and spent a year in prison.
“I think it was well needed,” Robertson said. “We found one part of the criminal justice system that lacked oversight. My constituents from the Chattahoochee Circuit suffered because of that oversight. And my friends in the Republican caucus stood with me today. And we passed a piece of legislation to correct that problem. And these are one of those rare days that you realize you solve a real problem that is impacting the lives and safety of the communities we serve.”
The bill now goes to the Georgia House, where a similar bill has been introduced. A bill must pass the House and the Senate and be signed by the governor to go into law.