Friday, September 2, 2016

Roads, grants and a new affiliate for building officials...topics at Regional Advocacy Meetings this week

Darlington, Beaufort and Greenwood hosted this week’s Regional Advocacy Meetings where close to 100 local officials from 46 cities talked about issues and heard from local legislators.

One topic that bubbled up again this week is the idea of requiring that County Transportation Committees include municipal representation (the law current says only “fair” representation). In the 2016 session, language the Municipal Association proposed got into a House transportation bill that would have required at least three municipal officials sit on every CTC. This idea got very positive feedback from officials as a way for cities to have a better shot at getting their fair share of transportation dollars distributed through the CTCs.

At the Pee Dee area meeting at the Darlington Raceway, officials from several rural cities and towns noted the difficulty in finding funding for recreation projects. A representative from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s office was at the meeting and pointed out there are National Parks Service grants available to fund recreation projects related to preserving the history of civil rights. The grant deadline is Oct. 14. PRT also has funding available through the Park and Recreation Development Fund.

The topic of e-commerce and its effect on hometown businesses came up this week. Congress could consider a bill before the end of the 2016 session that would ensure online businesses are remitting the same sales taxes as brick-and-mortar businesses. Miriam noted that Sen. Graham has expressed support for this legislation while Sen. Scott is still considering his position.

Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort and Rep. Bill Bowers of Hampton joined the group of officials meeting at Beaufort City Hall. 

Sen. Davis was encouraging in his response to the idea of a municipal capital project sales tax intended for infrastructure. He noted his strong belief in pushing government power and accountability down as much as possible. “I would support anything to give you more flexibility,” said the Beaufort senator, noting the municipal capital project sales tax idea would have to include a referendum and sunset provision in order for him to support it.

Sen. Davis also shared his thoughts about devolving some state roads to local governments. He said that in South Carolina 63 percent of the roads are state-owned, while the national average is 18 percent. Turning over some state roads to local governments would have to be optional and accompanied by a long-term stable funding source, he said.

Rep. Bowers discussed his strong support for changing the make-up of representation on the SC Department of Transportation Commission. He said Congressional districts are too political, and district lines need to make “more geographic sense.”

In Greenwood, Miriam updated officials on the Association’s 13th affiliate organization, the Building Officials Association of SC. She noted that, by bringing BOASC under the umbrella of the Municipal Association, there can be uniform training for building officials statewide. Get more details about BOASC.

Sen. Floyd Nicholson joined officials in Greenwood. As former mayor of Greenwood and past president of the Municipal Association, the senator praised the gathered officials for their work on the “front lines of government.” He strongly encouraged everyone to build relationships with their legislators and make it an ongoing process rather than just making contact when action is needed on a bill. This is a familiar theme every legislator attending the RAMs has mentioned.

Read this article from the Greenwood Index Journal to get a summary of the conversations at the meeting.

Next week, Mauldin hosts the RAM for the cities in the Appalachian Regional Council of Governments area. Register and get directions.

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