Cities See Legislative Successes Despite the Capitol’s New Abnormal

Despite the three-month suspension of the General Assembly as a safety precaution to flatten the curve on the spread of COVID-19, cities celebrated several successes in the 2020 legislative session. First and foremost was the early passage of the Marketplace Facilitator bill. The legislation called for online platforms to collect and remit sales taxes for retailers who used the platforms to sell goods in the state.

“Fiscal notes predicted that this law would bring in around $13 million per month in sales taxes to state and local governments,” said GMA Senior Governmental Relations Associate Joel Wiggins, “Then the pandemic struck.”

This law became effective on April 1, just as many Georgians were exponentially increasing their online purchases during the shelter-in-place orders.

According to the Department of Revenue, the Marketplace Facilitator law generated $38.5 million in the month of April and is expected to grow as more vendors comply with the law.

“This exceeds the expectations that forecasters had predicted by over $25 million dollars,” Wiggins said.

Another GMA priority passed with overwhelming support, the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT). This legislation passed, which raised the municipal percentage of TAVT revenues from 23 percent to 28 percent in a city with a county school system and from 23 percent to 34 percent in a city with a city school district.

Several harmful preemption bills were proposed during the GMA legislative session, but they were all defeated thanks to the hard work of the legislative team, Legislative Policy Council members and city officials who contacted their legislative delegations.

“One of the worst proposals would have removed local governing authority over residential design standards,” said GMA Senior Governmental Relations Associate Charlotte Davis. “GMA’s message was simple—citizens should be allowed to make these core decisions in each community across the state rather than have this power removed by the General Assembly.”

Legislators by-and-large embraced the principles of home rule.

One of the last major pieces of business the Georgia General Assembly accomplished was the passage of bipartisan hate crimes legislation, House Bill 426.

This legislation establishes grounds for bias, prejudice or hate crimes, and increased sentencing for criminal defendants found guilty of crimes involving bias or prejudice. The legislation defines such bias or prejudice as based on perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

“This action was long overdue,” said GMA President Vince Williams. “It is an important step for our state to acknowledge that Georgians will not tolerate hate.”

GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson emphasized that GMA’s political strength comes from the ability to speak as cities with one voice.

“While each municipality is unique, on issues at the state Capitol we showed legislators that we are cities united,” he said.

“I encourage each of you to engage fully in the political process at the state and federal level,” said GMA Director of Governmental Relations Tom Gehl, “City officials are closest to the people, and one of their core duties is to talk with legislators and candidates for higher office to lobby for what our citizens need to make their lives better.”

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