Hometown Legislative Action Day, the day for municipal officials to gather in Columbia to discuss how to engage with the legislative process and meet with members of the General Assembly, will return to an in-person format on February 1, 2022, at the Marriott Columbia for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the regular updates just ahead of the beginning of the second half of the 2021 – 2022 legislative session, participants will also hear about several key legislative issues involving first responders and public safety.
Law enforcement reform
Following high-profile policing events including the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, improvements to law enforcement training and procedures have developed as a widespread topic of concern. A panel discussion on reform efforts will feature House and Senate members who have sponsored legislation on this topic.
A key piece of active legislation filed in 2021, H3050, would require noncertified law enforcement officers to be accompanied by certified law enforcement officers in the course of their duty. This bill was amended to include penalties for officers failing to intervene when observing misconduct, a prohibition of unjustifiable chokeholds, minimum standards for local agencies and new mechanisms for enforcing standards. Most recently, this bill was passed by the House and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Assistance for first responders and the Open Carry with Training Act
The 2022 Hometown Legislative Action Day will introduce concurrent sessions during the afternoon. One of these sessions, featuring Adam Whitsett, general counsel for the SC Law Enforcement Division, and Ryan Alphin, the executive affairs director for SLED, will highlight a couple of underused programs designed to help with the mental health of first responders: the SC Law Enforcement Assistance Program and the SC First Responder Assistance and Support Team. The SC LEAP program provides behavioral health assistance to help first responders and their families manage trauma and stress, while the SC FAST program provides behavioral health awareness training for first responders.
The same session will review the Open Carry with Training Act, which went into effect last August and which allows the permitted open carry of firearms. Under the new law, local governments can establish open-carry restrictions during certain organized events as long as they follow signage requirements. A number of municipalities have now enacted ordinances to exercise this power.
Additional general and concurrent sessions will discuss civility in city and town council meetings as well as the implications of 2020 Census data trends.
After Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 1, the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government will take place on February 2 at the Marriott Columbia, offering Sessions A and B. The hotel reservations deadline for HLAD is Monday, January 10, and the preregistration day for HLAD and the MEO Institute is Friday, January 21.