Legislative assembly

Savannah officials prepare agendas ahead of Georgia General Assembly

This is the City Talk column from Bill Dawers, a longtime contributor to the Savannah Morning News.

As state lawmakers set to begin the 2022 session on January 10, Mayor Van Johnson and other members of Savannah City Council are expected to seek victories as they finalize the legislative agenda that will guide lobbying efforts.

The 2022 session will likely be even more obscured than most sessions by politics, with plenty of postures to shore up the groundwork ahead of the November election, so city leaders should prioritize policies that are likely to attract support. bipartite.

For example, Savannah is currently grandfathered under a state law that allows a 6% hotel and motel tax, but the local delegation had prepared a year ago to support the transfer. of the city into a different category so that the mayor and city council can authorize a tax of up to 8%.

That effort was scuttled due to dissension within the board over plans for spending additional income, but signs are more promising this year. A modest increase in the tax, part of which is to be used for certain tourism-related purposes, could provide crucial funding for the renovation of historic waterworks into a community market, for trail networks and for other elements of the neighborhood. of the canal around the new arena.

Governor Brian Kemp and state lawmakers could also support skills training and other investments in the logistics technology corridor. This lobbying effort could be aligned with the legislative agenda of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce.

Savannah and the House are also calling on the state to take action to support affordable housing. City employees have identified several policies that could strengthen the recommendations of the Housing Savannah task force, including expanding corporate zones with incentives to create housing for the workforce.

Learn more about the Housing Savannah task force:A group proposes a “community” plan and not a “municipal government” plan

The city has another important initiative that could easily get lost in the legislative overhaul. Local officials need state approval to reduce the number of Savannah Development and Renewal Authority board members from 25 to 17, which is more manageable. The SDRA has been silent in recent years, but could provide essential advice on important long-term projects.

Several other city priorities seem unlikely to find their way into law, although it can obviously be important to take a stand as a matter of principle even when politics are intimidating.

A recent Savannah City Council workshop revealed considerable support for changing state law to give local governments the ability to destroy rather than auction guns that have been confiscated by police. I doubt the effort will gain traction in Atlanta in 2022, but sometimes it’s worth playing the long game, especially on an issue that enjoys such support in cities across the state.

More talk about the city:What will the next wave of COVID-19 look like?

Kemp and other prominent Republicans also seem unlikely to support more local control of monuments. Several municipalities in Georgia have moved or removed Confederate monuments under the state’s current restrictive law, but Savannah city leaders have so far ruled that they cannot make recommended changes to the monument. Forsyth Park unless the law is changed.

Bill dawers

Local leaders also plan to continue to lobby if necessary to maintain “home rule” on issues such as the regulation of short-term vacation rentals – a critical issue in a tourist mecca like Savannah.

The legislative agenda will be on the council agenda for the December 9 council meeting.

Contact Dawers via @billdawers on Twitter and [email protected]

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