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2021 Legislative Session Wraps Up

The first year of South Carolina’s 124th General Assembly brought legislative action on many issues important to cities and towns, with lawmakers carrying over some important bills to the second half of the two-year cycle in 2022. The session ended on May 13. Legislators plan to return to the State House in June to complete work on the state budget.

Advocacy Initiatives 
The Municipal Association’s Advocacy Initiatives for cities and towns during this session cover everything from enclave annexation to broadband, tax credits for economic development and benefits for firefighters. Several of these initiatives were addressed in 2021 either by passage of legislation, the state budget or work with stakeholders.
The Municipal Association’s 2021 – 2022 Advocacy Initiatives include these issues:  

  • Broadband expansion: Amend the newly adopted broadband expansion law to allow cities and towns to not only lay fiber, but also light the fiber or partner with a third party to light it.  
  • Enclave annexation: Allow cities and towns to close doughnut holes, or enclaves, in their municipal limits through a local annexation process.  
  • Law enforcement reform: Support reform measures to aspects of law enforcement training and duties. 
  • Code enforcement: Require code enforcement liens be billed and collected similar to property taxes.  
  • Abandoned buildings tax credits: Extend the current abandoned buildings tax credit until 2026 to allow for additional local economic development incentives.  
  • Local Government Fund: Support the Local Government Fund to be funded in accordance with current law.  
  • Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan: Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan. 
  • PTSD funding: Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment programs for first responders. 
  • Zero millage: Allow cities and towns with no property tax millage to impose a millage with certain limitations.  
  • Municipal Capital Projects Penny: Create a Municipal Capital Projects penny tax for municipal residents to approve for capital projects within the city limits. 
  • Expansion of naloxone: Expand the availability of naloxone, the medication used to revive individuals suffering from drug overdoses, to fire and emergency medical services first responders.  
  • Textiles Communities Revitalization Act: Amend the Textiles Communities Revitalization Act to include as one site those parts of abandoned mill properties that are separated by way of an intervening connector such as a railroad or waterway.  
Legislative action 
Several Advocacy Initiatives saw action this session, while others are still on the table for 2022.

Municipal elected officials worked to extend the Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Tax Credit, S271, until 2025. The current tax credit law would have ended in December 2021 unless the General Assembly passed the legislation to extend it. Included in S271 is new language that adds “roads and railroad rights of way” as intervening connectors defined by the law. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster and became effective on April 26. Learn more about how the tax credit works in action in the March 2021 Uptown article “Redeveloping With Abandoned Buildings.”

The state budget included several 2021 Advocacy Initiatives. Both the House and Senate versions of the budget include full funding of the Local Government Fund, funding of the Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan and PTSD funding for first responders. At the time of publication, the state budget was still in a conference committee, with this funding included in both versions of the budget.

Municipal Association staff worked with stakeholders and private companies to expand the availability of naloxone and bring lower costs for firefighters to purchase the life-saving drug. 

A bill that allows cities to adopt a millage when they do not have one, one that allows cities to annex enclaves within municipal boundaries, and one that offers reforms for some law enforcement practices have all been introduced and are in committees to be vetted by legislators. 

The Association’s legislative staff is discussing other issues impacting cities and towns with stakeholders, and writing bill language to accomplish the remaining advocacy initiatives for cities and towns. 

While the Association has seen positive legislative action on many of the 2021 Advocacy Initiatives, staff has pursued further work to help stop, amend or negotiate bills to prevent harmful effects for cities and towns. 

Look for a more detailed overview of the legislative session in the 2021 annual legislative report, which will be available at the Municipal Association’s Annual Meeting in July and online. Also, check out the list of dates and locations for the Municipal Association’s upcoming Regional Advocacy Meetings.