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Legislative Session Returns in January Defensive Advocacy Work to Play Key Role

January 11, 2022, welcomes the second half of the 2021 – 2022 legislative session of the South Carolina General Assembly.  The state’s 170 legislators will be back in Columbia to debate issues left over from the 2021 session and new issues introduced for the 2022 session. 

Legislators must, as always, introduce and adopt a state budget. In this session, legislators will be faced with allocating federal American Rescue Plan dollars to state projects, distributing Savannah River Site lawsuit settlement dollars and adopting redistricting plans to redraw House and Senate district lines based on the 2020 Census. Lawmakers will have to address all these major items in addition to working on bills still in process from 2021, and new bills pre-filed by House and Senate members in November and December. 

The Municipal Association’s legislative tracking system tracked more than 300 bills for the 2021 session. This count will almost double in size by the end of the 2022 session. Once the session is over, all the bills that the General Assembly did not pass into law will only be able to advance if they are reintroduced for the 2023 session, beginning the legislative process anew.
 
In addition to crafting policy during 2022, all 124 House members will be up for reelection, with the deadline to file to run for office coming on March 31. All statewide constitutional officers, including the governor, attorney general, secretary of state and others are also up for reelection. After filing, partisan primary elections will take place in June with the general election in November.

While the Association develops, writes, advocates for and works on proactive legislation for cities and towns, it’s inevitable that issues arise requiring the Association to take a defensive stance. The Association’s legislative team considers defensive issues those that could harm cities and towns and preempt local authority and decision making. 

The bills below are examples of defensive issues that were introduced last session. Other defensive bills can be introduced at any time during prefiling or the regular session, and can be found in the Association’s legislative tracking system.  A list of proactive bills contained in the Association’s 2021 – 2022 Advocacy Initiatives can also be found on the Association’s website. 

Attack on business licensing 

H4387 would exempt from the business license tax some businesses that are owned by the same owner or owners. This bill was introduced by Rep. Jay Jordan (R-Florence), the same House member who sponsored Act 176, and is cosponsored by 34 other House members. This bill was introduced on the last day of the 2021 session and would affect Act 176, a new law that does not go into effect until January 1, 2022. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Attack on tree ordinances

H3989, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Johnson (R-Horry) prohibits a political subdivision such as a city or town from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or resolution that restricts the removal of trees on private property. This bill was introduced in March 2021 and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The House Judiciary Special Laws subcommittee held a 15-minute hearing on the bill the day before the 2021 session was over. Subcommittee members received testimony overwhelmingly against the bill. Nevertheless, the bill was given a favorable report by the subcommittee and sent to the full House Judiciary Committee for review in January 2022.

Attack on out-of-city water rates

H3195, sponsored by Rep. Tim McGinnis (R-Horry) prohibits a municipality from charging water customers who live outside of the corporate limits more than it charges municipal residents. This bill was pre-filed in the House in December 2020 and referred to the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. This bill has not received a committee hearing yet. 
These are only three example of defensive issues that negatively affect cities and towns and the ability of local leaders to make local decisions.

Stay in the Know During the Legislative Session 

City and town officials can learn about many issues of the upcoming session during the 2022 Hometown Legislative Action Day in Columbia on February 1.

Plenty of information on the Municipal Association’s website, under the “Advocacy & Legislation” tab, can also help local officials advocate more effectively. Here are some of the resources:

Archives of From the Dome to Your Home, the weekly email sent during the legislative session recapping the week’s major legislative events and previewing the upcoming week’s activities. The legislative team expands on the report with additional information through regular episodes of the City Quick Connect podcast. The email report returns in December and begins its regular weekly schedule in January.