After missing the January 9th swearing in ceremony in Raleigh due to medical reasons, I had been sworn in on January 18th at the Brunswick County courthouse by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis. After arriving in Raleigh last Tuesday, it was good to begin to get to know some of our new member colleagues and refresh acquaintances with veteran legislators. We will be working closely together every week at least through June. We say that every General Assembly is different, and the 2019 – 2020 session will be no exception.
My committee assignments for this session were confirmed after some discussion over the temporary assignments. I will be a Chairman of the Transportation Committee, Chairman of Appropriations for Transportation, and a Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. The other standing committees to which I am assigned are Education K-12, Environment, Commerce, and Insurance. By way of explanation, these standing committees handle the bills that are filed and assigned to the relative committee by the Speaker. Any bill with money appropriated must also go through the Appropriations Committee. The biggest bill the Appropriations Committee will handle will be the state budget, which this session will start in the House and then go to the Senate. We will spend a large amount of time on the budget.
We also began filing bills last week. Only a few were filed, but one which I filed is similar to one last session which did not pass. The new number and title are House Bill 17 – Local Option Meals Tax/Brunswick County Municipalities. The bill allows towns in Brunswick County to vote by referendum of the people or resolution of the governing board to tax prepared meals and beverages in restaurants to help pay for beach renourishment or infrastructure/facilities. It is ½ percent, which would amount to 10 cents on a $20 dollar tab.
Two of our towns had asked for this during the last session and several others have mentioned it. Many towns in our state and others have much larger meals taxes. Just in South Carolina you will pay up to 9 to 13 cents total tax in restaurants, whereas this will amount to up to 7 cents total sales and meals tax in our restaurants. This is an option for the towns, and does not impact businesses located in the county outside of town limits. It is evident that it will impact our tourist visitors, who enjoy our beaches and facilities, more than our permanent residents, who may eat out less than our visitors.
This in no way impacts one’s normal groceries. It will impact delicatessens in grocery stores that are selling prepared meals, but not any of the groceries off the shelf. There are many exceptions for meals served with a hotel room or B & B, meals provided at no charge to employees, vending machines, etc. One other idea that it has anything to do with an occupancy tax is incorrect.
A cursory reading of the short bill will answer most questions. It is available at www.ncleg.net , as are all the bills that are being filed both in this session and previous sessions.
We expect to be in session each week Monday through Thursday at least through June. I hope to continue these updates on a weekly basis, as I have since joining the House.