Casino gambling referendum, eliminating Marshal’s Office top Columbus legislative agenda

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Columbus city officials made a wide-ranging series of legislative requests to the local General Assembly delegation Thursday afternoon.

In the annual legislative luncheon, Mayor Skip Henderson, City Manager Isaiah Hugley and the council asked for legislation to eliminate the Marshal’s Office and to promote legislation that would allow casino gambling in Columbus.

Everything the city is asking local Senate and House members to support requires state action.

“This list has not been prioritized,” Hugley said. “Council overwhelmingly supported resolutions for 10 items, so they are all important.”

Rep. Richard Smith, a Columbus Republican, has sat on both sides of this table. He was a longtime city councilor before being elected to the General Assembly 15 years ago.

He would like to see more conversation between the state lawmakers and the city on many of these issues.

“One of the things that we really need to do is spend more time versus just giving us a list,” Smith said. “You know, let’s sit down and talk two or three hours about a particular issue that we have. It’s great to meet like this but I would really like to spend a whole lot of time.”

The city’s wish list includes:

— Legislation that would alter the Erosion and Sedimentation Act of 1975. City officials say changes would better protect reservoirs like Lake Oliver, which provides Columbus’ drinking water supply.

— Consolidation of the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office into the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office. This has been long talked about, but Hugley said there is an opportunity to do this now because Marshal Greg Countryman has indicated he won’t seek re-election so he can run for sheriff against incumbent Donna Tompkins.

— Tax breaks for touring theatrical companies doing business in Georgia. Filmmakers have tax incentives to produce in Georgia. The RiverCenter for the Performing Arts has found a niche to bring theatrical companies into the facility to put a show together before taking it on the road. Having state incentives would allow the RiverCenter to expand that business.

— Altering the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to allow 5 percent of the revenue to be held back in a reserve fund for maintenance of the projects built with the tax revenue.

— Legislation similar to what has passed in Tennessee to assist banks, credit unions and other financial institutions in fighting financial abuse of senior citizens.

— City officials would like state lawmakers to advocate against legislation that would preempt local building design standards.

— Asking local lawmakers to support legislation that would allow a statewide referendum to allow a vote on whether or not casino gambling should be allowed in the state. If a constitutional amendment is adopted, they are asking lawmakers to allow a vote on casino gambling in Muscogee County.

— Council would like to see statewide legislation that would require state notification of city departments of licensing or licensing changes of child-care institutions, foster-care homes, and personal-care homes.

— A statewide law that would require two trained supervisors or managers at child-care institutions, foster-care homes and personal-care homes between the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

— Change the requirements for being a Hospice administrator.

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