The 125th General Assembly convenes in January to begin a new two-year session in Columbia. With 27 new members in the House of Representatives, legislators have until their mid-May 2023 adjournment date to tackle important issues that are critical to South Carolinians. Since this is the beginning of a two-year session, bills that are not passed by May will still be active for the 2024 legislative session.
During September and October 2022, mayors, councilmembers and city staff met with the Municipal Association’s legislative team in ten Regional Advocacy Meetings around the state to discuss important legislative solutions related to the effective and efficient operation of cities and towns. From issues like annexation that have been around since the inception of the Association, to regulation of short-term rentals, which is a fairly new topic for local leaders, colleagues shared problems and solutions to help municipal officials govern better.
The Association’s legislative committee met in October and adopted 11 advocacy initiatives for 2023 – 2024. The chairman of the legislative committee, City of Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy, presented the advocacy initiatives to the Association’s board of directors in December where they were unanimously adopted. Cities and towns have the opportunity to show support for the advocacy initiatives by adopting the proclamation found on the Association’s website at www.masc.sc (keyword: Advocacy Initiatives).
The Municipal Association’s 2023 – 2024 advocacy initiatives include these items:
- Protect the authority of cities and towns to regulate short-term rentals within municipal boundaries.
Local leaders, working with residents, neighborhoods and businesses, know best how to regulate and manage the challenges presented by short-term rentals. A one-size-fits-all statewide approach to managing short-term rentals in diverse South Carolina cities and towns is not the solution.
- Expand local economic development incentives to cities and towns to allow municipal officials to increase the number of small businesses in downtowns.
Broader local economic development incentives would allow cities and towns to attract more small businesses to downtown hubs and expand opportunities for business owners and residents.
- Support traffic safety measures including a ban on “squat trucks” and other local safety ordinances.
Local police departments need to maintain and enhance the tools necessary to protect residents and visitors.
- Support statewide hate crimes legislation.
Because South Carolina is one of only two states that have not enacted statewide hate crimes legislation, companies are choosing not to locate in the state or host events at municipal venues, causing cities and towns to lose valuable economic development opportunities.
- Allow cities and towns under a certain revenue threshold to complete a compilation of financial statements instead of a full audit.
Applying mostly to small towns with limited budgets, this initiative would require a town under a certain size to complete a less than a traditional audit.
- Allow cities and towns to close doughnut holes, or enclaves, in their municipal limits through a local annexation process.
This would give cities and towns another tool in the toolbox to increase efficiency in service delivery and public safety.
- Require code enforcement liens to be billed and collected by cities, towns and counties in a method similar to what is used for property taxes.
Abandoned and derelict buildings are a problem for cities and towns. This would require code enforcement liens to be collected similar to property taxes.
- Allow cities and towns with no property tax millage to impose a millage with certain limitations.
This legislation would clarify that cities and towns without an operating millage may impose a millage within certain limitations.
- Create an option for municipal residents to approve a Municipal Option Sales Tax penny tax for capital projects within the city limits.
Allow city and town councils to place a referendum on the ballot for a capital penny for improvement projects within the municipal limits.
- Support stronger penalties for illegal fentanyl trafficking and possession.
Cities and towns are seeing increased cases of fentanyl overdoses and need additional penalties for trafficking and possession.
- Clarify how state U.S. Census population estimates for cities and towns are determined, and create an appeals process for resolving potential differences in the estimates between the state and municipalities.
This legislation would create an appeals process for cities and towns whose population estimates differ dramatically from their decennial U.S. Census number.
For more information on the Advocacy Initiatives. During the session, subscribe to From the Dome to Your Home and listen to the City Quick Connect podcast for more updates.