Talks of hotel/motel occupancy tax continue in Sullivan, Washington Counties

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NORTHEAST TENNESSEE (WJHL) – As talks continue of two Northeast Tennessee counties levying a hotel/motel tax in municipalities that already have that tax, things got a little tricky.

In November of 2020, Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable approached a county commissioner about sponsoring a resolution asking the state General Assembly to allow the county to collect hotel occupancy taxes in Kingsport and Bristol.

“There will be some controversy because it’ll be increasing taxes inside the city, that the city won’t get,” Venable said.

Both cities already have such a tax, with Bristol at 5% and Kingsport at 7%.

That resolution was withdrawn at a Sullivan County Commission meeting this week, as it appeared Washington County also wanted in.

However, Venable told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that Washington County leadership went straight to the state legislation instead of going the route of the county commission as he had.

“[Washington County] Mayor Grandy had approached me and said we’d like to do that too… and rather than possibly try to fit something in under the current statute, Mayor [Joe] Grandy decided to go the legislative route,” Venable said.

Thus, Tennessee Senate Bill 1176, and House Bill 1224, were filed to include both Sullivan and Washington Counties.

As news spread of this legislation filed by State Senator Rusty Crowe and State Representative Tim Hicks, both representing Washington County, things slowed down in Sullivan County.

Venable said this legislation had to be filed by the cutoff date of February 11 at the state level, so he did not have time to tip off his state representatives of this measure.

State Senator Jon Lundberg of Sullivan County told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he had not been given a heads up that this legislation impacting his district would be filed, a point Venable said he apologized for.

Venable said much must still be done before everyone can be appeased.

“So much more has to happen, the General Assembly would have to pass that bill, and then Sullivan County and Washington County separately would have to file for a private act,” he said.

State Representative Hicks told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais Sunday that the legislation is being reworded at the state level to accommodate local needs.

Lundberg said he has requested that Sullivan County be removed from the bill entirely.

“I have asked Senator Crowe to remove Sullivan County from his legislation, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.

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