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Guest column: Session eventful
Guest columnist

By State Rep. Ron Stephens.

The 2021 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die March 31. It was an eventful session which included meaningful legislation sent to the Governor for his signature or his veto. Next week, I will address the highlights but this week I focus on the bills that passed in the final two days of the session.

Two bills regarding the use of hotel/motel taxation on organized vacation rentals by owners included House Bill 317, legislation I introduced. We passed legislation for the state which we accomplished through H.B. 317 which expands the definition of “innkeeper” to include any dealer that is required to collect and remit sales tax as a marketplace facilitator for facilitating the sale of rooms, lodgings, or accommodations. The definition expansion requires the innkeepers acting as marketplace facilitators to collect and remit the local excise taxes due on rooms, lodgings, or accommodations. This bill is designed to make hotels and motels competitive with VRBOs when it comes to state and local taxes. We also passed local legislation, H.B. 759, which essentially allows the Town of Thunderbolt the ability to levy a hotel/motel tax on VRBOs in that town. Thunderbolt, at this time does not have any hotels or motels but the use and advertising of VRBOs has increased recently.

One important piece of legislation that impacts border areas such as Chatham and Bryan Counties is S.B. 255 which is a grant program to support border region retail and tourism projects. Under the OneGeorgia Authority, the grant program called the Border Region Retail Tourism Development Program is designed to help areas on a “border region” engage in commerce within 25 miles of the Georgia border. I thank local Savannahian Ruel Joyner, a commissioner on the OneGeorgia Authority, for his work on this issue The House passed S.B. 100, legislation that would move the state to a year-round observation of daylight savings time year-round as the standard time. The key to this legislation is tied to the U.S. Congress that is considering legislation that authorizes states to keep daylight savings time year-round. As Senator Ben Watson noted, the disruption of sleep schedules during the switch from standard savings time to daylights savings time leads to a sharp increase in heart attacks.

One bill that I gladly supported was H.B. 286, legislation that prohibits counties and municipalities from reducing their police force budgetary appropriations by more than five percent unless specified conditions exist. This legislation was unfortunately necessary as we watched many liberal-led cities rush to condemn their police forces and work to defund and disband them. It is a ridiculous notion that our streets are safer without police. We know they’re not and the criminals know they’re not.

While the 2021 session may be over, we expect to be called back in for a Special Session to work on the reapportionment and redistricting process resulting from the 2020 Census.

I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community.

I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is ron.stephens@house. I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.

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