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GOP lawmakers emerge in support of stadium project

8:10 PM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
Atlanta Falcons fans wait outside to enter the Georgia Dome. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA -- The Georgia World Congress Center board room was mostly filled with Georgia lawmakers Thursday -- the people who will have to cast the votes necessary to replace the Georgia Dome with a new billion dollar stadium.

It was part of a series of closed-door meetings, designed to help sell the tax-supported project to lawmakers. 11Alive News attended a portion of Thursday's meeting.

Turns out, some lawmakers are already pretty sold.

"What the facts say is that this issue is really a no-brainer" in favor of the project, said Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell).

"I'm leaning toward being supportive," said Senator-elect Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna). "When you look at some of the financial aspects of the deal, I think we'll be able to get conservative support."

Among legislators who make up a solidly conservative Republican majority at the Capitol, the project to replace the Dome had a lot of support in this setting. $700 million-plus of the billion dollar project would be paid for by the Atlanta Falcons. $300 million of it would come from a hotel-motel tax paid mostly by visitors to Atlanta.

Senator Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) says it makes sense in his hometown. "Economic development in Georgia is important. And it's good any time, whether you're talking about the Ports of Savannah, or you're talking about the economic development in Atlanta. All of that is important in the state of Georgia," Carter said.

"There will be some who don't understand," said Geisinger. "It probably will be a tough sell with (them), but that's not what they sent us down here for."

A Democratic backer of the project said it appeared lawmakers of both parties were inclined to support it. "There's certainly some question about how you deal with it politically," said Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker). "But there seems to be a general desire to do it."

Lawmakers say they are very mindful of the fact that polls have shown that the new stadium project is very unpopular with voters. They expect to hear a lot more on both sides after the legislative session starts in mid-January.

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