Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 3 - Regional Advocacy Meetings

By Scott Slatton, Municipal Association's Legislative and Public Policy Advocate

This week’s Regional Advocacy Meetings took our staff to Port Royal, Orangeburg and Sumter with continued great turn-out by local officials and legislators. To date, 303 local officials have participated!  
In Sumter, we heard from Senators Thomas McElveen (left) and Kevin Johnson plus Representative David Weeks. All were supportive of finding a permanent solution to the Local Government Fund formula issue. 

In Port Royal, Representative Shannon Erickson reminded local officials of their essential role to keep their delegation informed of what’s important in their communities. 

At our stop in Orangeburg, Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Russell Ott and Lonnie Hosey fielded a number of questions regarding economic development. Rep. Cobb-Hunter reminded officials that economic development has to be a team effort, and Rep. Ott noted sustainable jobs should be the priority. Rep. Hosey serves on the House Transportation Study Committee, and he listened to many suggestions from local officials about streamlining DOT, fixing potholes and maintaining local roads.

Clearing blight has emerged as a priority we should continue to work on next year. In response, Association staff anticipates building on the progress we made in 2014 and pushing again for passage of the  Dilapidated Buildings Act. Also, Miriam Hair announced at the Orangeburg meeting this week that there will be a training session on code enforcement and blight mitigation issues at Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 4.

The DBA allows a circuit court judge to appoint a receiver to rehabilitate or redevelop blighted property after a town has exhausted existing code enforcement remedies to fix the problem property.

The DBA passed the state Senate in 2014 by a wide margin, but time ran out before it could pass the House. Though the bill didn’t pass, our efforts helped us build consensus among legislators so we can hit the ground running when the new legislative session begins in January.

We’ve already met with key sponsors and many of the legislators who suggested changes to the DBA, and they are satisfied with the bill that passed the Senate. In fact, several who have attended our Regional Advocacy Meetings have pledged their support for the DBA in 2015.

Clearing blight is clearly a priority for cities and towns across the state. Along with existing ordinances and rigorous enforcement of them, the DBA could be the additional tool that makes a difference in your community.

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