Friday, August 19, 2016

Great turnout for week one of the Regional Advocacy Meetings

The first week of the Regional Advocacy Meetings are history with more than 70 local officials representing 20 cities attending the two meetings in Surfside Beach and Moncks Corner.
These 10 sessions held around the state in August and September let local officials weigh in on challenges in their cities that could be solved through legislation. Plus they get a chance to hear from local legislators who share their perspective on issues that will likely be top priorities for the 2017 session. Read this blog post to hear from Casey Fields with details about how the meetings work.

Transportation, annexation, public safety (recruitment and training) and business licensing were hot topics at both meetings this week. 

Several legislators weighed in about how local officials can best make the case for city issues in the General Assembly.

"It's great to see you starting in August to talk about legislative issues," said Rep. David Mack at the Moncks Corner meeting. "Too often we hear from groups coming to us once the session has already started to tell us about their issues. It's nice to see you are getting started early."

Rep. Joe Danning encouraged local officials to stay in touch with their local delegation before they need something. "We need to hear from you all year long and know what's important to you."

Scott Slatton and Tiger Wells updated attendees on two bills from 2016. 

Prayer at public meetings. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case recently led to several changes to the South Carolina Public Invocation Act. First, prayers at meetings of public bodies must not seek to proselytize, advance or denigrate any one faith or belief. 

Second, a public invocation cannot coerce participation by observers of the invocation. Finally, it eliminated the need to rotate delivery of the invocation among the members of the public body. Instead, the body may appoint one of its members to deliver an invocation.

An invocation is one that is delivered for the benefit of the public body (this includes council and any public body appointed by the council), not members of the public attending the meeting. So anyone who delivers an invocation at a meeting of a public body should direct the prayer to the body in an effort to mitigate the possibility of running afoul of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Additionally, public bodies should incorporate in their rules of procedures a prayer policy that uses the Act as a guide. 

Statement of Economic Interests filing. Legislation that passed in May requires any official who already files a Statement of Economic Interests to now report the source and type of income they receive. This also includes disclosure of income that immediate family members receive. 

Meeting participants got a copy of this flow chart for a quick summary of these new requirements.

The staff and local officials have been actively tweeting this week from the RAMs with updates and photos. Keep up with what’s happening by following @muniassnsc on Twitter

Next week, the staff heads to Blackville and Sumter. It’s not too late to register!

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