Originally created 03/15/05

Commission vote bill fails

ATLANTA - Efforts to change the Augusta Commission's voting procedure are essentially dead for this session of the General Assembly.

An attempt Friday was defeated in the House. The bill, sponsored by lawmakers outside Augusta's legislative delegation, sought to make abstaining votes on the commission count as a "no" vote unless there is written notice in advance of a conflict of interest on the issue.

Legislation affecting cities or counties typically is handled internally by that area's lawmakers, but Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, has been unable to get enough support for similar changes during previous sessions.

The measure failed 63-86 after several representatives spoke out against having to consider legislation that would affect only Augusta.

"I don't have a dog in this fight, but do any of the people on this bill live in the affected area?" asked Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody. "If they don't, why are we taking this up?"

Rep. Henry Howard, D-Augusta, appealed to the House not to approve the bill and let the county handle its own government issues.

"Allow us to put the form of government we want to put together so that our voters have a say," he said. "I feel strongly that this is just a way to get the mayor a vote and a veto."

Ms. Burmeister signed onto an amendment to pitch the change to voters in a referendum, but even that concession was not enough.

"I believe the voters in the county have that right to decide ... their own way they want to operate," she said.

Bills affecting only one government can still be acted on until the last day of the session, as long as the local delegation agrees. But statewide bills, such as the one that failed Friday, are basically stalled, under House rules, until next year's session, except for those that have already passed one chamber of the General Assembly.

Mr. Howard said Monday that there is little likelihood of the delegation agreeing to a local bill before he convenes a meeting with community leaders in Augusta after the current session ends.


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