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Building Relationships in Washington

The Municipal Association of SC has expanded its focus on advocating for the interests of South Carolina’s cities and towns at the federal level, and already the effort has improved engagement with the state’s congressional delegation.

A key part of this effort has been the establishment of a dedicated congressional liaison — a role assigned to Erica Wright, who joined the Association’s staff as a legislative and public policy advocate in April 2020. She has since nurtured relationships with the staffs of both of South Carolina’s senators and each of its seven representatives.

“Having these direct relationships positions us to have a front-row seat and direct involvement in legislation that impacts cities and towns, and we already seeing this happen,” Wright said. “For example, Congressman Clyburn’s legislative team has welcomed our partnership in efforts to establish equitable broadband in all rural, underserved communities. The bottom line is that these relationships allow us to serve our members better.”

Association representatives met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, 
center, among others in Washington, D.C.

Outreach with municipalities
The passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, in March 2020 highlighted the need for strong federal relationships when many cities and towns brought questions about reimbursable expenses to the Association. 

In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, a massive emergency relief bill that provides $65.1 billion to municipal governments nationwide to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Municipal Association worked to help cities and towns understand the parameters that the law creates for using the funds, and it helped the SC Department of Administration obtain needed information from the municipalities designated as nonentitlement cities under the law so they could draw their funds from the state. 

In May, the Association partnered with the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to host an infrastructure briefing and listening session with South Carolina cities and towns. That session provided an opportunity for the state’s local leaders to learn about the American Jobs Plans, and share their local infrastructure needs and priorities with White House staff. 

Outreach with the congressional delegation 
In September, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, first vice president of the Municipal Association, the Association’s Executive Director Todd Glover and members of the Association’s advocacy staff traveled to Washington, D.C., for meetings with members of the congressional delegation. Association staff shared the Municipal Association’s purpose and its desire to serve as a resource and partner with legislators as they explore legislation impacting local government. The Association delegation met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Joe Wilson as well as staffers from other members’ offices. 

In 2022, the Association is planning quarterly meetings with the congressional delegation and it will host opportunities in each home congressional district for city and town officials to engage more directly with their senators and representatives. 

Hometown Legislative Action Day 
The Association’s Hometown Legislative Action Day, taking place February 1 in Columbia, will feature congressional delegation staff members joining in a panel discussion on federal advocacy. Learn more about all HLAD sessions and register for the event.