Legislative wrangling, protocol keep hotel-motel bill bottled up

ATLANTA — With “Crossover Day” set for Friday at the Georgia General Assembly, chances continue to look bleak for Macon and Bibb County’s attempt to increase the local hotel-motel sales tax to help fund the sports and music halls of fame.

Friday is the last day for bills to pass either the House or Senate if they’re going to become law this year. That means that anything not on a debate calendar stands little chance of moving forward. There are some legislative gymnastics that can be used to get around this deadline, but not many.

And House Bill 993 — which would raise the hotel-motel tax a penny to fund the sports and music halls as well as the Douglass Theatre in downtown Macon — didn’t make the debate calendar cut Thursday.

Local legislators held out hope Thursday that the legislation could still move. The House Rules Committee sets the debate calendar, and committee Chairman Bill Hembree said there’s a chance the tax bill could be added to the calendar Friday.

But it’s clear that lobbyists against the bill have done a good job of bottling it up in Hembree’s committee. Convention and visitors bureaus across the state, as well as the hotel industry, have been working against the effort. They’re seeking to protect hotel-motel tax proceeds for the CVBs, which used the tax as their primary funding source.

Hembree had indicated earlier this week that he might put the bill on the calendar today, which was “Macon Day” at the Capitol. But, as today’s Rules Committee meeting wrapped up, he hadn’t.

“What about Macon Day?” state Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, called out as the meeting wrapped up.

Hembree didn’t respond, gaveling the meeting closed.

“I’m disappointed that it didn’t come out,” state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said after the meeting.

State Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, who sponsored the measure, has been pushing hard to get the bill to the House floor, where it would still be a battle to win passage.

“It ain’t over til Friday, 12 o’clock (midnight),” Lucas said.

To contact writer Travis Fain call 361-2702.