ATLANTA — A bill that was originally passed by the Georgia House of Representatives but then lumped into a package that was up for reconsideration Monday has now been tabled by lawmakers in a move one local representative says is akin to holding all of the state's local legislation "hostage."
House Bill 233 would allow the city of Albany to raise the hotel/motel excise tax from 7 percent to 8 percent — a move that would generate roughly $200,000 for the city each year.
But after Monday's move by lawmakers, that bill — along with every other bill dealing with local matters, from granting judgeships in some Georgia counties to extending city limits — has halted.
"All they're doing is stalling so that they can try and convince someone on the Democratic side to vote for the (Fulton County) bill," Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, said. "They're essentially holding local legislation hostage until they get what they want."
Rep. Ed Lindsey, the House Majority Whip and an Atlanta Republican, led Monday's effort to table the local legislation. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his intention isn't to kill all of the local bills, but to get Democratic lawmakers to "respect" the residents of Fulton County's wishes.
"All we’re asking is to have local legislation in Fulton County, that is important to the long-term health of our county, to be respected by the body,” Lindsey told the AJC. "The vote was to make sure all those local bills are still in play while we talk to our friends on the Democratic side to restore the respect that has been shown to representatives of local delegations,” he said.
Albany City Manager James Taylor said Tuesday that news of the local legislation's struggles is disheartening given the city's budget issues.
"I'm not saying that we can't put together a balanced budget without this bill passing, but it would be a challenge and we'd have to take a new look at the budget," Taylor said.
Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, said that local legislation traditionally sails through the House without lawmakers getting involved, but that, in this instance, when a Democratic stronghold is involved, the concept of local control is being sacrificed.
"Historically we stay out of local issues, so why is this time any different?" Rynders said. "The Democrats chose to intervene in a local matter in Fulton County. We wouldn't want someone from Fulton or DeKalb County getting involved in our issues so we shouldn't get involved in theirs."
Monday morning, a vote was called to remove HB 233 from the table and bring it up for a formal vote. That measure died 96-54.
A bill similar to the Fulton County homestead tax exemption bill sailed through the House with bipartisan support on Monday. That bill increases the homestead tax exemption in Tift County for people over the age of 65.