Despite the Madison Mayor and City Council narrowly passing a two percent increase to the Hotel/Motel tax this month, Morgan County’s delegation, State Representative Dave Belton and Senator Burt Jones are refusing to present the measure to the state legislature to enact.
Belton was pressed on the matter during a public legislative session in Madison on Tuesday, January 15.
According to Belton, both he and Senator Jones agree that the locally approved Hotel/Motel tax increase from 5 percent to 7 percent should not be brought for the state legislature this session.
“The state legislature does not take up these issues without a unanimous, or near unanimous vote,” said Belton. “It is my understanding that the people involved who created the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) wanted to table this for a year to look at it. With a 3-to-2 vote, that’s not even near unanimous…You can hold another vote and when we have a broader consensus we can move forward on this.”
But Belton received some pushback about his claims.
“I have never heard of that,” chimed in Madison City Councilwoman Chris Hodges in response to Belton’s claim that the state legislature requires a “near unanimous” vote to enact a locally-approved measure.
Ellen Sims, director of the Madison-Morgan CVB, also took issue with Belton’s explanation. Sims reached out to the Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) after learning the Hotel/Motel tax increase would not go before the state legislature.
“I spoke with the DCA on Friday and they have not heard of this,” said Sims. “They had no knowledge of what you are saying that is has to be like this…they were not aware of any legislator not pushing it through after it passed locally.”
Belton maintained that this was a standard practice in the state legislature, and although he admitted it has never happened in Morgan County before, he said a similar issue came up in Newton County.
“Legislators almost always want an unanimous or a near unanimous vote for any kind of local legislative action like this,” insisted Belton.
Councilwoman Hodges was displeased with the decision.
“We are going to discuss this at our next work session,” said Hodges. “I don’t think it’s right. When you give local government the authority to make a decision, you should honor that. It was a majority vote in favor of this. If he was only going to consider it with a unanimous vote, why even consider it at all. That’s taking things out of local control.”
For now, it looks as though the Hotel/Motel Tax increase will remain in limbo until the Madison Mayor and City Council takes another vote on the matter or convinces state legislators to enact it.