Legislative session wraps up

The second year of the 2017 – 2018 regular session of the 122nd General Assembly was gaveled to a close on May 10. Key focus areas this session were utilities, spending flexibility and construction processes.

From the V.C. Summer nuclear plant debacle to increasing the use of solar energy in the state, legislators trained their attention on utilities throughout most of the session. Senate and House members held special ad hoc committee meetings to study what went wrong with the Fairfield nuclear project, heard from ratepayers and executives from SCANA and Santee Cooper, and debated bills that dealt with everything from electric rates to the S.C. Public Service Commission.

While this issue didn't directly impact municipal government, there were several bills related to solar energy that included language impacting municipal electric utilities. Those bills were amended to exclude electric cities and later died on the floor.

Although business licensing was a quiet issue this session for cities and towns, lawmakers carried some issues over from the 2017 session and introduced new ones. Issues for cities this session included ways to pay for the relocation of utilities to facilitate road projects, whether local councils should be able to ban plastic bags, the state budget and illegal immigration.

Legislators also considered building codes bills and whether to grant local governments flexibility with how they spend hospitality and accommodations tax revenue. Abandoned buildings, nuisance suits, municipal tax relief and enclave annexation also figured into legislative debates.

The Association hosted legislators at two events this session. A late January welcome reception for the Association's new executive director, Wayne George, brought many of his former legislative colleagues to the Association's building. Hometown Legislative Action Day saw a record number of legislators attend the reception.

Representatives Craig Gagnon, R – Abbeville; Todd Rutherford, D – Columbia; Mike Sottile, R – Isle of Palms; Kirkman Finlay, R – Columbia; Mike Anthony, D – Union; Jeff Bradley, R – Hilton Head Island; and Sen. John Scott, D – Columbia, shared their thoughts on municipal issues during the day at the conference.

House members and state constitutional officers are up for re-election this year, while senators do not face voters at the ballot box for another two years.

Building officials speak up

In 2017, the Building Officials Association of SC became an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association. This new relationship has brought increased attention to legislative issues regarding building codes.

During the 2018 legislative session, BOASC members advocated for safety — of life, health and property — communicating the message of municipal officials who administer and enforce building and related codes.

H3846 for efficiency
The Building Officials Association of SC worked closely with the Homebuilders Association of SC to amend H3846 to clarify what type of work a homeowner may perform on his home without the need for a building permit. BOASC worked with other stakeholders, including the South Carolina Realtors and the SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Registration

The Engineers Practice Act
Act 138 went into effect in March. It clarifies for the construction industry and local building officials when an engineer's seal is needed on construction documents. The Building Officials Association of SC worked closely with Rep. Heather Crawford, R – Myrtle Beach, to amend the bill to ensure its effectiveness. To adhere to the new law, municipal and county building officials should return to requiring engineer stamps for nonresidential structures — just as they did before 2016.

Averting the adverse
The Building Officials Association of SC worked with a variety of interest groups to make changes to S579, which sought to create a unique state building code. BOASC worked with the Homebuilders Association of SC, the Association of General Contractors, the SC Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the SC Office of the State Fire Marshal

Look for a more detailed overview of legislative session in the July issue of Uptown, along with the 2018 Year End Review, which will be available at the Municipal Association's Annual Meeting in July and online.