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Assembly fails to approve Douglas County hotel-motel tax hike, 911 privacy bills
by Tom Spigolon
tspigolon@neighbornewspapers.com
April 02, 2013 04:59 PM | 1224 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bills originating in Douglas County or directly affecting it both were approved and delayed until 2014 in the recently completed legislative session.

Lawmakers failed to give final approval to a Douglas County Commission-requested bill to increase the hotel-motel tax outside the cities to 8 percent — which is what motel customers inside Douglasville city limits pay.

The full House of Representatives approved it March 11 but a Senate committee did not act on it after District 35 State Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, chose to withhold support.

The Senate required both members of the county’s Senate delegation – James and District 30 State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton — to support the local legislation.

Only Dugan agreed to back the bill, which can be brought back up in 2014.

“I will wait to see what [county commissioners] want to do,” Dugan said.

James said she opposed the bill because a number of constituents contacted her to oppose an increase. She said she wanted more information before considering her stand on the bill but did not receive what she requested from supporters.

“I have to listen to the cry of the people,” she said.

James also sponsored a bill to change the method of appointing Douglas County election board members to give Democrats greater representation on the panel.

Republicans have four of the board’s five seats.

The Douglas County Commission opposed the bill, and James said the committee which would typically consider it would not put it on an agenda in time to be considered this year.

Legislation to make private some portions of audiotapes of 911 calls in Georgia failed to gain the Legislature’s backing amid opposition from the state’s press association and free speech advocates.

The bill, sponsored by District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, was authored by the Georgia 911 Directors Association.

Its president, Douglas County 911 Director Greg Whitaker, said he supported the bill after hearing graphic calls from 2009 flooding victims broadcast on Atlanta-area media outlets.

Other bills the Legislature did approve included House Bill 150, sponsored by District 61 State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, to prohibit the reproduction of arrest booking photographs on personal websites and requesting money to remove the photograph.

Bruce filed the bill after hearing a Douglas County domestic abuse victim’s experience with one website.

The bill will make it illegal to request money to remove headshots from a site.

It now awaits Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.

The bill sponsor said the legislation will help Georgians of all races and political persuasion because the websites have targeted all arrests regardless of the circumstances.

“I think that’s going to help a lot of people who have been victimized,” Bruce said.

Bruce’s district includes part of Douglas County. He serves as chairman of the Douglas County legislative delegation.
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