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Close but no cigar for HB 335, the local option sales tax to support the arts

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Time ran out on Georgia House Bill 335 last night. The measure, which would have allowed voters in every county to spend up to one penny per dollar of sales tax to support arts and cultural activity in their communities, was passed by the Senate but did not make it to the floor of the House of Representatives before the 2010 legislative session ended.

The failure was bittersweet for the bill’s supporters. “We were disappointed…. It was a small amount of money that could have had a big impact,” said Virginia Hepner, chair of the Friends of Art and Culture Committee, which was formed to advocate for the measure. “But we are thrilled with how far we got. We had bipartisan support from across the state. The bill passed the Senate by a wide margin.”

The committee, of 30-some representatives of institutions, art councils and artists across the state, had worked hard to educate elected officials about the contribution of the $700 million arts and culture industry to Georgia’s economic well-being. “It was a matter of awareness,” Hepner said. “It hadn’t been done before.”

Flora Maria Garcia, chief executive officer of the Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition, believes the group will be in a good position to reintroduce the bill in 2011. In the meantime, it will work to elect candidates in upcoming elections, including for governor, who support it.

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