February 15, 2021 - Your Georgia General Assembly is now in full swing as we move closer to “crossover day” or the 28th day of the General Assembly session. This week, the House of Representatives mainly completed what we call departmental bills or bills that seek to update operations at the states’ various departments and agencies and ensure compliance with federal laws.

Too that point, the House passed two pieces of legislation that kept Georgia law parallel to federal law. The first bill, House Bill 174 updated federal regulations regarding safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles. House Bill 174 is the annual update to the 'Uniform Carriers Act.' It updates the effective date from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021 to comply with federal law.

The House also passed H.B. 265, legislation updating the Georgia Revenue Code and matching it to the federal Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986. H.B. 265 provides the annual Internal Revenue Code update to O.C.G.A. 48-8- 2, which includes an increase in the deductibility of medical expenses, charitable contributions, and business meals as well as clarification of the tax treatment of loan forgiveness from the 'Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.' This is especially important as accountants across the state start preparing tax returns for filing with the federal Internal Revenue Service and the GA Department of Revenue.

We also extended immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 with the passage of H.B. 112. This legislation extends the protections provided for by the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act from July 14, 2021, to July 14, 2022. This protects our businesses by allowing the business of safeguards from lawsuits of claimants seeking compensation from a business by claiming they contracted the Coronavirus at the said business.

One bill that I expect to see on the House floor shortly is legislation I introduced to collect a tax that is already on the books but just is not being collected. H.B. 317 deals with Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) and other long-term accommodations advertised by third-party marketing organizations. This legislation will require that innkeepers collect and bill customers for all taxes levied or imposed by this legislation on transactions facilitated by any marketplace innkeeper. This clamping down on VRBOs and other long-term rental accommodations will even the playing field of our many innkeepers and hoteliers in the greater Savannah area as they try to keep up with pandemic losses.

We will return to the State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 16, for Legislative Day 17. 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.ga.gov. I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.

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