A measure which would have allowed Sanford to levy an occupancy tax on hotel room stays and use the proceeds to fund a tourism authority failed in the final hours of the legislature’s short session, the Rant has learned.
The Sanford Herald reported Saturday (subscription required) that Senate Bill 874 was headed toward a final vote sometime over the weekend, with proponents optimistic about its chances of passage. But by that time the legislature had decided the session was over before the bill reached the House floor.
The legislation has been controversial since its initial introduction by Sen. Ron Rabin (R-Harnett, Lee, Johnston) because it failed to meet uniform standards for occupancy taxes in its mandate that part of any funds raised be designated to pay for maintenance at Central Carolina Community College’s Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. An occupancy tax levied by the county already serves that function.
Later, various community leaders – including the community college’s board of trustees – sent Rabin a letter asking him to remove the civic center funding language from the bill to boost its chances of passage. Rabin responded by calling the letter’s signatories a “special interest” (subscription required) and refusing to make any changes.
Meanwhile, Rep. Robert Reives II (D-Chatham, Lee) and Rep. Brad Salmon (D-Harnett, Lee) had introduced a version of the bill in the House which did meet uniform standards for occupancy taxes. House Bill 1127 passed a first reading in the House back in May, but was not taken up by the Senate.
It appeared at one point that the language in Rabin’s bill had been rolled into House Bill 1039, which dealt with occupancy taxes in multiple other cities and counties. That language was apparently removed from the final document during the conference committee process in which members from both chambers of the legislature work out their differences on the text of the bill. Rabin was a member of that conference committee.
For his part, Rabin appears to have had deeper interest in topics with a much more tentative connection to his district – the recent nightclub shootings in Orlando, for example. In a lengthy post to his campaign website on June 22, Rabin used the tragedy to praise Donald Trump and blast President Obama, Hillary Clinton and someone named Barney Sanders.
Meanwhile, it’ll be another year before Sanford gets another opportunity to fund a tourism authority, which has been a longstanding goal (subscription required) of local leaders.