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Lawmakers appear to want compromise on Douglas elections board, hotel-motel tax changes
by Tom Spigolon
September 10, 2013 03:07 PM | 2359 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Tom Spigolon<br>From left, State Sen. Donzella James, D-College Park, speaks with Douglasville City Councilman Carl Pope.
Staff / Tom Spigolon
From left, State Sen. Donzella James, D-College Park, speaks with Douglasville City Councilman Carl Pope.
Most Douglas County representatives to county and state governing bodies last week appeared ready to compromise on proposed changes to the county’s election board and increasing the hotel-motel tax before the Georgia General Assembly begins its 2014 session in January.

During last week’s sometimes heated meeting between Douglas County legislators and commissioners at the county courthouse, District 66 State Rep. Kim Alexander, D-Douglasville, said she and District 35 State Sen. Donzella James, D-College Park, had agreed on legislation Alexander had sponsored this year for a board with two members each appointed by the county Democratic and Republican parties and one appointed by the Republican-controlled county commission.

Commission Chairman Tom Worthan said his concern was the board change proposal was “too political” because of an emphasis on party membership.

“I think it should be fair and impartial,” he said. “It shouldn’t be based on what party you’re in.”

A 2008 law sets the five-member board at one member each appointed by the two major political parties, senior superior court judge, the “chairperson of the county governing authority” and the “county governing authority.”

However, Worthan proposed to lawmakers a five-person board with the two parties’ picks and only a judicial appointment.

District 68 State Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton; District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville; District 61 State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta; and District 62 State Rep. LaDawn Jones, D-Atlanta, also gave differing five-person proposals.

Earlier this year the county commission asked the Democrat-dominated Douglas legislative delegation to support a bill increasing the tax on room rates at the three motels in unincorporated Douglas County from 5 percent to 8 percent – equal to the room rate inside the Douglasville city limits. The extra funding would be used to open a full-time history museum and hire someone to promote the county’s cultural attractions.

The county’s Democratic Party then asked legislators to increase the number of Democrats on the Board of Elections and Registration, which has a 4-1 Republican majority

The Republican-dominated county commission voted to oppose the move, and legislative Democrats responded by delaying the hotel-motel tax increase until 2014.

Hightower praised Alexander for waiting to seek approval for her bill this year until a compromise could be reached between both parties.

“She has done exactly what she said she would do,” he said.

James had sponsored a similar bill earlier this year, though a fifth member would have been appointed by the Democrat-dominated legislative delegation.

She said she supported Alexander’s plan but still believed her original plan was best because of complaints she received after every county-level election in recent years about alleged voting system irregularities.

James also said she was unhappy with other elected officials at the state and county levels because of criticism for sponsoring her election board bill without first telling other area leaders.

“I’m insulted that I’ve been spanked like I’m some kind of child,” she said.

Bruce, the legislative delegation’s chairman, asked lawmakers to come to agreement on one plan before January.

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