Controversial Bill awaits Senate approval - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Controversial Bill awaits Senate approval

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Albany - House Bill 218 would allow closed door sessions for negotiations for economic development, allowing recruiters to entice prospective businesses without the public's knowledge.

Procter and Gamble, and Miller Brewing company could have chosen anywhere in the world to set up shop, but they chose Albany. Many other businesses are choosing the "Good Life City" as well, but there's stiff competition to get them here.

Tim Martin says, "The way it stands now, we're at a competitive disadvantage. We're forced to play this important game with our cards face up, and other states aren't." Competing against other states to attract new businesses.

That's why economic developers like Tim Martin want House Bill 218 to become law. He says, "House Bill 218 does not take anything at all away from public hearings for zoning or ledges planning or environmental permitting. All it does is provide us a climate where conditional negotiations can take place."

Conditional being the key word. Once a business decides to locate in Georgia, they would still be subject to public hearings for zoning, land use, environmental permitting, and bond validations, so the public wouldn't be completely out of the loop, but it would leave others out. "Other states principally," says Martin. "We're competing against Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and other states. They can call and ask for information. What our incentives are, what our negotiations are revealing, and in many instances, these could reveal trade secrets from the private sector."

And Martin believes by protecting the private sector, the public will benefit. He says, "Well, I think the tax-payers interest in this is a job, and the nameless, faceless individuals involved in this are those people who want a job, need a job, cannot get a job, because these companies go some place else, instead of locating in Georgia."

Critics say the bill could allow something like a chemical plant to open near your neighborhood that could be exempt from paying the same taxes you're required to pay. And you'd never know about it until the plant was reality. But supporters say the bottom line is the bill would mean more jobs for Georgia.

Representatives Ed Rynders of Lee County and Freddie Powell Sims of Albany, both voted against the bill. They were not available for comment.

posted by karen.collier@walb.com