ATLANTA — The House of Representatives voted Monday to defeat, for a second time, legislation that would have required forensic audits of city departments, authorities and contractors with budgets more than $500,000.
On Thursday, the House soundly defeated House Bill 1235, the Augusta-Richmond County Transparency in Government Act, but local delegation Chairman Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, served notice then of his intention to ask the House to reconsider its action on the next legislative day.
Monday was the next business day after being in recess Friday through Sunday. The House voted overwhelmingly to essentially erase Thursday’s decision and consider the measure again, a customary courtesy to a colleague wanting a second chance.
Monday’s vote came moments later, 54 for the bill to 93 against.
Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, sponsored the bill as a way to build public confidence in the financial operations of the city, he said. He told members of the House, “This local legislation seeks to create transparency.”
It’s the local version of a bill that passed the House overwhelmingly several years ago, he said.
Rep. Barbara Sims, the lone Augusta Republican and the only member of the local House delegation not co-sponsoring the bill, said she had met with her Augusta colleagues after Thursday’s defeat and remained unconvinced.
She also placed on every representative’s desk a memo from six members of the Augusta Commission opposing the bill.
“The cost of this forensic-audit requirement would ultimately cost the taxpayers of Augusta millions of dollars annually and amount to nothing more than a ‘hunt’ as these entities are already subject to independent audits,” wrote Commissioner Joe Bowles, who is a certified public accountant, and Commissioners Matt Aitken, Joe Jackson, Jerry Brigham, Wayne Guilfoyle and Grady Smith.
Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah, reminded her House colleagues there are four commissioners who didn’t put their names to the letter.