Thursday, February 4, 2016

Collaboration, a tornado and local's what happened at Hometown Legislative Action Day

Link directly to the City Quick Connect podcasts.

Hometown Legislative Action Day and the Municipal Elected Officials Institute brought a big crowd of more than 600 local officials to Columbia this week.

Tuesday’s MEO Institute sessions were almost at capacity with close to 300 officials attending both the basic and advanced institute sessions. Listen to a podcast with Greer Mayor Rick Danner who was interviewed right after the MEO Institute session he led on intergovernmental relations.

Two senators and three House members gave participants a sense of what to expect during the rest of the session focusing especially on infrastructure, the Local Government Fund and business licensing. Joining Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols who facilitated the panel were Representatives Laurie Funderburk, Jenny Horne and Todd Rutherford along with Senators Greg Hembree and Joel Lourie.

The legislators had diverse opinions on tax policy and where to get the money to fund maintenance for the state’s crumbling infrastructure. Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry) said he supports raising the gas tax and reducing the income tax noting South Carolina has the third lowest gas tax in the country.

Senator Joel Lourie (D-Richland) said he didn’t believe the income tax reduction was necessary. “Nobody comes up and talks to me about their tax bracket, they talk to me about their potholes,” said Lourie. “I can’t support funding tax relief while we are not funding needs already there.”

Following the legislative discussion, Cayce Mayor Elise Partin moderated a panel consisting of executives from three associations the Municipal Association partners with frequently to discuss the importance of collaboration on legislative issues.  

Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the SC Chamber of Commerce; Bill Rogers, executive director of the SC Press Association; and Bill Ross, executive director of SC Fix Our Roads discussed issues important to their organizations and reiterated the value of working together.

When asked to talk about the partnership between the Chamber and Municipal Association in working on business licensing legislation, Pitts said, “It’s important to first look at what we can agree on that will be good for business and good for local government. I’m very encouraged with where we are on this business licensing issue right now.” (listen to Pitts' January podcast interview about business licensing)

At lunch, Education Superintendent Molly Spearman talked with officials about ways schools and city governments need to work together. The point that resonated with many in attendance was the idea of cities using their summer recreation programs to work with schools to help students retain over the summer what they learned last year in school.

After lunch, tornado warnings and driving rain didn’t stop our city officials from making the trek down Main Street to the State House to talk with their legislators. The bad weather did force cancellation of the downtown Columbia tour.

A high point of the day was the new format of the legislative reception. With a theme of “Taste of South Carolina,” the reception offered favorites like boiled peanut hummas, chicken and waffles, a grits bar and pecan pie. Five craft breweries from around the state offered samplings of their beer.

Click the links below to get more information on topics covered at Hometown Legislative Action Day.

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