State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said the legislative delegation and local officials had no trouble finding common ground.
“We have two former county commissioners serving now,” said Dempsey, who was a Rome city commissioner before her election to the state seat in 2006. “Their involvement and understanding is going to be very beneficial to how we serve.”
Chuck Hufstetler, the 52nd District state senator-elect, and Eddie Lumsden, who won the House District 12 seat in November, are both former Floyd County commissioners. The fourth delegate, state Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, had a meeting in Atlanta and couldn’t attend.
County Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell said the discussion covered issues ranging from transportation funding concerns to the per diem the state pays to house inmates in county jails.
“We also talked about giving the counties the ability to raise the 911 fee charged on phone bills, specifically to help fund the maintenance costs of our new emergency communications system,” Bagwell said.
The 2009 special purpose, local option sales tax package contained $26.7 million for construction of the countywide system, but there’s no additional money for upkeep, repairs and replacements.
Hufstetler said most of the issues, other than the 911 fee, were county priorities when he served on the board from 1999 to 2007.
He also added the push for local collection of sales taxes, saying that, right now, there’s no good way to verify that counties are receiving all the money merchants are collecting.
“Locally, we would know who is not paying sales tax and we’d be able to hunt those businesses up and get them to pay,” Hufstetler said. “If we don’t do local collections, at least we need more transparency. … It’s frustrating for cities and counties when sales tax figures don’t make sense but they don’t have any recourse. I think something needs to happen there.”
Lumsden, who stepped down from the County Commission to run for the state seat, said he’s familiar with what local governments need from the state Legislature but now he has to learn what the state needs.
“I’m not going down there with any other agenda than to keep my ears open and work for the best interests of our community,” he said.