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2024 Legislative Session Begins in January

The new year will bring with it the second half of the 2023 – 2024 session of the 125th South Carolina General Assembly. Although legislators have met in Columbia off and on in recent months on various issues from high school sports to energy to election policy, these have only been subcommittee and committee meetings — the full General Assembly will have the chance to take up these issues and more when they convene in January for regular session. 

Bills from the 2023 session are still active and remain in their positions — whether in subcommittee or committee, or on the calendar for debate — that they were last in when legislators adjourned in June. Lawmakers introduced new bills in the House and Senate during the prefiling period before the 2024 session begins, and new bills can be introduced any time during the session. The Municipal Association of SC tracks all legislation that could affect cities and towns, and uses a legislative tracking system to update local officials on bill action.

Elections changing the makeup of the House and Senate, as well as divisive social issues, national politics and other considerations will lead to an interesting session.

Elections take center stage

Along with a presidential election, 2024 will also serve as an election year for members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Representatives run for election every two years and senators run every four years.

During the filing period that runs from March 16 until March 30, incumbent legislators will have to file to run for their current seats or choose to retire. Primaries will take place in June, followed by the general election in November. With the newly formed SC House Freedom Caucus allowed by a court ruling to fundraise and support candidates, primaries will be the focus in June. 

Some senators and House members have already announced their retirement, while one Senate seat has been impacted by an early retirement and another by the death of Sen. John Scott. With all of these changes, the membership makeup of committees will change as well. 

Committees are a key part of the legislative process, serving as the place where legislation is vetted and debated among a small group of lawmakers. Committee changes have the potential to have a big impact on policymaking.

The Municipal Association's advocacy team includes, from left: Scott Slatton, Casey Fields, Erica Wright and Joannie Nickel. They will discuss the coming session during Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 6.
The Municipal Association's advocacy team includes, from left: Scott Slatton, Casey Fields, Erica Wright and Joannie Nickel. They will discuss the coming session during Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 6.

Municipal Association Advocacy Initiatives

The Municipal Association board of directors adopted the 2023 – 2024 Advocacy Initiatives last year to work on issues that are designed to run through the two-year session. A ban on squat trucks, a new municipal audit option and increased penalties for fentanyl trafficking were all passed in 2023, but there is still work to do. 

The Municipal Association advocacy team has already been working on legislation to allow cities and towns with zero millage to impose an operating millage. Association staff partnered with stakeholders to propose an extension to the Abandoned Buildings Tax Credit for developers in cities and towns.

Municipal officials continue to advocate for the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives and is being blocked from debate by two senators from the Upstate. 

Legislation preempting local officials from regulating short-term rental vacation homes looms in subcommittee after two hearings in the 2023 legislative session. 

New issues

The second half of the session will bring new issues to the forefront as well. While municipal officials have stressed that working on hate crimes legislation and short-term rental legislation are two priorities, other legislation is always possible. 

Legislators must pass a yearly budget that distributes revenues to state agencies and programs. Work on the state budget has already begun in the House Ways and Means Committee and will pick up speed in January. 

Because 2024 is a national election year along with a legislative election year, social issues like gun ownership and abortion will make an appearance. Those controversial issues take up time and space on the calendar and can slow down debate on proactive municipal legislation.

As local officials gear up for the start of the second half of the 2023 – 2024 session, take time to contact legislative delegation members. Never assume someone else will make the critical contact on an issue. The tipping point for passage could be a single phone call. 

Stay connected

City and town officials have several ways to stay connected with the Municipal Association legislative team during the legislative session. 

  • Tune into the From the Dome to your Home podcast on Fridays for the Association’s take on the week’s legislative activity and news for the week ahead. 
  • Read the From the Dome to Your Home email every Friday, during the legislative session for action alerts and explanation of action taken by lawmakers. 
  • Read Uptown every month during the session for background articles on legislative issues and other important information on municipal government.
  • Follow our social media channels, including Facebook and X, for updates from the State House by the advocacy team.