Arena authority bill dies

ATLANTA --- Legislation that would restructure the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority failed to pass on the final day of the 2008 General Assembly because members of the local delegation could not agree on the bill's wording.

As time ticked away Friday, Augusta legislators said they were waiting on others in the seven-member delegation to make the first move.

"Unfortunately, we haven't had any of our senators come by to talk about the bill," said delegation Chairman Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta. "This could have been worked out a long time ago."

Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said he had attended delegation meetings and raised his concerns then, though they weren't included in the House version of the bill.

"He has the resources to call a meeting and to field out those questions. Mr. Murphy has not contacted or communicated with me," Mr. Tarver said.

Failure to agree -- or even to do much negotiating or communicating -- torpedoed chances that the lawmakers would solve an issue under discussion since December.

The Augusta Commission had adopted and sent to the delegation a resolution requesting reform. The authority has come under repeated criticism for personality clashes, allegations of mismanagement and poorly attended events at James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium.

The House passed a bill that would have replaced the current 12 members with nine new ones with professional backgrounds in management, food service or entertainment. It would have also changed the name to the Entertainment Authority, opening up the possibility of it overseeing other venues, which might include a riverfront baseball stadium.

The Senate passed a different version Tuesday, one that changed the name to the Coliseum Commission and would have limited its scope and stripped it of its ability to issue bonds to raise money for construction projects. That version also would have given the delegation less say over the new board by giving the mayor an appointment and the other nine to the Augusta commissioners.

Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah, disagreed with giving up the legislative appointees.

"If we give up all of our appointments, then we really don't have any input any more and how if functions," she said. "My question is, why does the mayor need an appointment? And I have not heard from the mayor."