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MARTA privatization bill looking deader by the day

A lesson in how not to win friends and influence senators

State Rep. Mike Jacobs' bill to privatize a host of MARTA functions passed the state House on Feb. 21, despite concerns by public-transit advocates that the move could end up costing the agency money and federal grants.

That was nearly a month ago. In the meantime, word spread around the Senate that the upper chamber doesn't share the House's zeal in telling metro Atlanta's transit agency how to run its operations.

Last week, Jacobs, a Brookhaven Republican, apparently ran out of patience waiting for the Senate Transportation Committee to take up his House Bill 264. As vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he added language from his MARTA legislation to two unrelated Senate bills in an attempted end-run around the Senate.

One of the amended bills, SB 168, which was originally designed to make it easier for companies to bid for public contracts, was suddenly expanded from 46 lines of text to 306 lines.

In doing so, say Gold Dome insiders, Jacobs has stirred up a hornets' nest of resentment among some very powerful players, including Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, a co-sponsor of the amended contracting bill; Transportation Chairman Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, whose committee Jacobs is seeking to circumvent; and even Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who doesn't appreciate upstart House members trying to cheat his chamber of its ability to review important legislation.

As a result, Jacobs' bill didn't come up in last week's Senate Transportation Committee meeting and, so far, hasn't appeared on tomorrow's meeting agenda — which, in quite a slap in the face, is limited to a couple of bridge renamings.

This year's General Assembly is scheduled to end next week. It's looking increasingly as if the MARTA bill has run out of gas in the Senate.