Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Register today: Regional Advocacy Meetings start on August 14

By Casey Fields, Manager for Municipal Advocacy
 
Yes, we are serious. Attend a Regional Advocacy Meeting.

By now, you’ve hopefully read articles in Uptown
encouraging you to attend one of the ten Regional Advocacy Meetings coming up in August and September. You’ve seen the announcement in the weekly Uptown Update. You heard our executive director and board president reiterate at the Annual Meeting why you should attend.
 
If you are still wondering if you should attend your local Regional Advocacy Meeting, let me help you. YES. YOU SHOULD.
Casey Fields and Scott Slatton leading the discussion with mayors and councilmembers at a Regional Advocacy Meeting last year
The Regional Advocacy Meetings start on Tuesday, August 14, in Greenwood at the Arts Center. If you haven’t already registered for one of the ten, do it now. You don’t want to miss your opportunity to have your voice heard.

These meetings are designed for municipal officials to offer their input on the Association's Advocacy Initiatives for 2019.


We will go over laws passed during the 2018 session and how they affect you at the local level. We will talk about issues we know will return for the 2019 session (like the plastic bag ban) and, most importantly, we will hear from you. Your concerns and ideas on local issues that can be solved at the state level.

We will also share a good meal, great fellowship and talk a little about politics.

We have invited all current legislators to attend the Regional Advocacy Meetings this year to listen to local officials and share ideas on how to work together to solve problems.

This meeting is a discussion among the Association staff, you, your colleagues and your legislators. It’s designed to be fast-paced but thorough enough to walk away with some good information and next steps for the months leading up to the new session in January.

I know you are busy. I know you have a lot of other responsibilities including running your city and protecting your residents. I promise the Regional Advocacy Meeting will be time well spent.

So once again … register now for a Regional Advocacy Meeting. Never too soon to start planning our strategy to advocate for #StrongSCCities in our General Assembly.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Countdown: One week until the Annual Meeting

http://bit.ly/2qr74Jp
We’re a week out from the 2018 Annual Meeting, and the Association’s office is buzzing with last minute details.

More than 1,100 will attend the Annual Meeting next week. The agenda is jam packed with an inspiring keynote address, more than two dozen individual sessions and tech demos, lots of emphasis on ways to increase engagement, and many opportunities for local officials to learn from their peers.
 

Registration is up 13 percent over last year’s meeting which was up 6 percent from the previous year. Get all the details about the meeting here in addition to finding information about how to download the meeting app before the meeting, so you can get your schedule set in advance. 
This year, the app will feature links to meeting presentations and handouts in addition to articles and resources related to the session topics – all right in the palm of your hand.

The week leading up to the Annual Meeting is always a busy one at the Association to make sure all the details are in place.
 
Just about everyone on our staff has some role in the preparations – from proofing and stuffing name badges to polishing the silver award trophies to packing up the truck that carries the 1000+ registration packets, computers, publications, exhibitor packets and candy for the registration desk.

This year’s keynote speaker is Jennifer Pinckney, who lost her husband Rev. Dr. Clementia Pinckney in the Emmanuel Nine shootings. Read about her message of inspiration and engagement. 

Sen. Kevin Johnson will join us during the opening general session to receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award for his support of cities and towns in the General Assembly. Sen. Johnson is the former mayor of Manning and past president of the Municipal Association.

Meeting attendees will hear a lot about engagement at the Annual Meeting – engaging with each other, their residents, legislators and the Association. 


There will be many opportunities to learn about new ways to engage – including an emphasis on social media best practices. The opening session will feature a new way to use social media to help local officials share their good news stories about what’s happening in their cities and towns.
Participants will be able to get advice about using social media from the Association staff at the Social Media Bar as well as learn from “guest gurus” – mayors and councilmembers who are successfully using their social media accounts to engage their residents. Look for the guest guru schedule through the app at the meeting.

Meeting attendees can also pick up their own social media toolkit at the Social Media Bar that will give tips on how to get started with social media, policies and best practices, and transparency. 



 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of local businesses

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can require businesses with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax. The 5-4 decision determined that “economic and virtual contacts” are enough to create a “substantial nexus” for allowing the state to require collection.

“This decision is great news for our local businesses, especially those small businesses that are major employers in our cities and towns,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. “This change will help level the playing field for Main Street businesses by giving individual states the authority to streamline their sales tax laws and collect sales taxes directly from online retailers.This ruling recognizes the changing nature of commerce and the need to simplify the tax collection process.”

The Municipal Association has long supported Congressional attempts to give states the authority to require businesses to collect this sales tax. The Association’s board has twice adopted resolutions urging Congressional action to make this change.

By law, the consumer is supposed to pay the sales taxes owed on purchases bought from out-of-state online retailers on his income tax return as a use tax. However, there’s a good chance most consumers didn’t if they ordered from an out-of-state online retailer.

This puts South Carolina’s hometown brick and mortar businesses at a 5 to 10 percent competitive disadvantage to these out-of-state online retailers. Plus, millions of dollars in owed state and local sales taxes goes uncollected annually.

In November 2017, a Government Accountability Office report estimated that states and local governments could "gain from about $8 billion to about $13 billion in 2017 if states were given authority to require sales tax collection from all remote sellers."

According to report, if state and local governments had been allowed to require all remote sellers — companies located outside the state — to collect taxes on all remote sales last year, South Carolina could have seen between $132 million and $193 million in revenue.

This report also found that nearly half of those potential revenue gains to state and local governments would have resulted from collecting sales taxes on all e-marketplace sales, transactions on sites such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon Marketplace. The current dynamic also works against local brick-and-mortar businesses that lose out on sales when customers visit to try on or try out a product only to go home and purchase the item online state-tax free.

Read more about the specifics of the case and its history from the State and Local Legal Center.


UPDATE on June 22. Governing magazine article 

UPDATE on June 24. National League of Cities' blog post that outlines more specifics about the decision.

For additional information, contact Reba Campbell at rcampbell@masc.sc or 803.933.1245.

Monday, May 7, 2018

General Assembly designates May 6 - 12 as Municipal Clerks Week

It's Municipal Clerks Week in South Carolina! The General Assembly deemed it so with resolutions recently passed by the House and Senate. Goose Creek Rep. Joe Daning (former city councilmember) and Manning Senator Kevin Johnson (former mayor and former president of the Municipal Association) introduced the resolutions.


There's also an article in this month's Columbia and Greenville Business Monthly magazines touting the good work of municipal clerks.

The position of city clerk is the only municipal staff role that is required by state law, regardless of a municipality’s size or form of government. All 271 cities and towns in the state are required to have a clerk. Read this Uptown article for more background on the role of a city clerk.

And while the title “clerk” may conjure up an outdated vision of an old style secretary, nothing could be further from the reality in today’s complex world of local government. Municipal clerks play a critical and varied role to support the mayor, city council, and city manager or administrator.

The clerk’s responsibilities under state law include giving notice of meetings to council members and the public, keeping minutes of its proceedings, and performing other duties as assigned by council. A combined municipal clerk and finance officer role, referred as clerk/treasurer, is common in small to midsize cities. In larger cities, a standalone municipal clerk position usually exists.

Regardless of city size, clerks have seen their roles and responsibilities keep pace with changing times. The state’s only professional organization serving city clerks has played a critical training role as the clerk role has expanded over the years. The South Carolina Municipal Finance Officers and Clerk Treasurers Association, an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association of SC, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

With more than 250 members statewide, MFOCTA trains clerks and clerk/treasurers on the complexities of running a local government.


A number of cities have passed resolutions in honor of their city clerk.



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Orientation class draws newly elected mayors and councilmembers from around S.C.

More than 40 newly elected mayors and councilmembers gathered at the Municipal Association of South Carolina this week for an orientation class on local government issues.

Officials from 33 cities representing diverse sizes and locations participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest. Plus, the entire council from the Town of Pelzer participated.

“People often run for office on a specific issue. But when campaigning turns to governing, things are different,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. Wayne is a former mayor and councilmember in Mullins, S.C. “Most newly elected officials don’t come to the office with a deep knowledge of municipal budgets, forms of government and general city administration. Today’s session helped get them off to the right start.”

The session that got the most questions was on the topic of the Freedom of Information Act and ethics. “Typically these topics draw a lot of questions during Association training sessions,” said Tiger Wells, who led the session. Tiger is the Association’s government affairs liaison and staff expert on FOIA and ethics issues.

Tiger supplied the meeting participants with resources available on the Association’s website to help answer questions about FOIA and ethics, including the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook.

Tiger noted that the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, Meghan Walker, recently met with Association staff to discuss ethics questions often posed by local officials. Tiger passed on Meghan’s advice about contacting the Ethics Commission with questions: “Always ask first when you have questions about a certain activity.” She strongly encouraged local officials to ask questions and assured the Association staff that the commission’s staff will be responsive.

Other issues covered in the orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.

Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The institute offers both in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election. The next MEOI session is on May 18 covering the Freedom of Information Act and Municipal Governance/Policy.

At the conclusion of the training, Wayne left the group with some sound advice from his years as mayor in Mullins: "Invite your legislators to visit your city so they understand the challenges you face before you need to ask them for a vote" and "Hold regular council retreats to establish your priorities and take time to understand each other's perspectives."

A copy of the Power Point presentations and all of the resources shared during the session are here.









Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Orientation class draws newly elected mayors and councilmembers from around S.C.

More than 40 newly elected mayors and councilmembers gathered at the Municipal Association of South Carolina today for an orientation class on local government issues.

Officials from 33 cities from all over the state and from all population sizes participated in the class. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie represented the largest city and Govan Mayor Wilma Edmonds represented the smallest.

“People often run for office on a specific issue. But when campaigning turns to governing, things are different,” said Wayne George, executive director of the Municipal Association. George is a former mayor and councilmember in Mullins, S.C. “Most newly elected officials don’t come to the office with a deep knowledge of municipal budgets, forms of government and general city administration. Today’s session helped get them off to the right start.”

The session that got the most questions was on the topic of the Freedom of Information Act and ethics. “Typically these topics draw a lot of questions during Association training sessions,” said Tiger Wells, who led the session. Tiger is the Association’s government affairs liaison and staff expert on FOIA and ethics issues.

Tiger supplied the meeting participants with resources available on the Association’s website to help answer questions about FOIA and ethics, including the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook.

Tiger noted that the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, Meghan Walker, recently met with Association staff to discuss ethics questions often posed by local officials. Tiger passed on Meghan’s advice about contacting the Ethics Commission with questions: “Always ask first when you have questions about a certain activity.” She strongly encouraged local officials to ask questions and assured the Association staff that the commission’s staff will be responsive.

Local officials also learned about participating in the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government that includes in-person and online training. Mayors and councilmembers can enroll in the classes immediately upon election.

Other issues covered in today’s orientation class included leadership, advocacy, risk management, budgeting, forms of government and general city administration.

At the conclusion of the training, Wayne left the group with some sound advice from his years as mayor in Mullins: "Invite your legislators to visit your city so they understand the challenges you face before you need to ask them for a vote" and "Hold regular council retreats to establish your priorities and take time to understand each other's perspectives."

A copy of the Power Point presentations and all of the resources shared during the session are here.









Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lineman competition honors Easley, Greenwood and Laurens utility workers

Linemen who work for the state's municipal electric utilities participated in an annual training and competition hosted by the South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems  on April 18 and 19. April 18 was National Lineman Appreciation Day. SCAMPS is an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association.

Fourteen of the 21 SCAMPS members attended the training, and 11 utilities competed in events, such as the crossarm changeout, knot tying, hurtman rescue, speed climbing and others. The events are timed and judged on how well participants follow proper procedures.

Easley Combined Utilities took nine first place awards while Greenwood Commission of Public Works received two and Laurens Commission of Public Works received one. Get the full list of awards here.


"Through this competition, we are promoting safe work habits and proper procedures," said Eric Budds, deputy executive director for the Municipal Association.

"This also supports one of SCAMPS' core missions of providing mutual aid during times of disaster. The linemen have a chance to get to know one another before they have to work together under post-emergency conditions."

SCAMPS member utilities not only provide mutual aid for in-state emergencies, but they also work with utilities around the southeast when disaster strikes. Read this Uptown article to learn more about how SCAMPS members in Rock Hill and Orangeburg lent a hand in other states last fall.

Municipal power systems can offer distinct benefits to cities and their residents — from the power of teamwork after a storm to lower rates to economic development support. In South Carolina, 170,000 residential and business customers in 21 cities and towns receive their power from municipal power systems, which range in size from 360 to 37,000 customers. All 21 municipal power systems are members of SCAMPS.

In municipalities operating power systems in South Carolina, the voters in the city elect the council or governing board responsible for operating the electric utility. Because of the local nature of municipal power systems, customers get quick responses to issues. And since public power utilities operate under the state's open government laws, customers can bring any opinions or concerns to an open meeting of the municipal council or governing board.


Teams participate in the crossarm changeout competition. Each event is timed and judged using specific guidelines. Participants can receive infractions for improper use of tools and failing to follow safety protocols.