Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Rewind

The U.S. House debate over changes to the Biggert-Waters flood insurance legislation has moved into next week to give Congressional leadership time to make adjustments to the bill. Read the earlier City Connect post to get details on the bill and information about contacting your Congressman to support it.

Travelers Rest continues to get national attention for its "cool factor" being named by Budget Travel magazine as the fourth coolest small town in the country. This economic growth in TR is driven in large part by the huge success of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Read more here about what city leaders did to encourage this growth.

The Northeast SC Regional Alliance's executive director, Jeff McKay, wrote in the February Uptown about the important role cities play in statewide economic development. McKay is also president of the SC Economic Developers Association. Read his article here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Distracted Driving Gets Attention This Week

Distracted driving has become a real concern in recent years with the proliferation of mobile devices taking drivers’ attention from the road.

While 15 municipalities have already passed their own texting bans, three bills saw action in the General Assembly this week to implement a statewide ban. The Senate Judiciary committee voted out S416 and S459, and both bills now move to the full Senate. The House Education and Public Works Transportation subcommittee approved H4386. Next, this bill will be on the full House Education and Public Works committee agenda. Read Friday's From the Dome to Your Home for details.

The City of Greenville, the first city to pass a hands-free distracted driving ordinance, is partnering a Michelin North America, Inc. and SIMON Property Group to bring the national "Save A Life Tour" to a local mall this week-end. The tour features a distracted driving program and includes a state-of-the-art distracted driving simulator. The tour also serves as a reminder to Greenville residents about the April 1 effective date of the distracted driving ordinance.

The Municipal Association’s self-insured workers’ compensation and property and liability insurance pools recently offered members a 4-hour defensive driving training that focused in large part on how cell phone use contributes to distracted and impaired driving.

Participants learned that while many activities cause one or two types of distraction, cell phone use causes all three. The three types of distractions are manual distractions, which take drivers’ hands off the wheel; visual distractions, which take their eyes off the road; and cognitive distractions, which take their minds off the road. 

In this video, David Teater of the National Safety Council explains the research on cognitive distraction.

Also, two studies concluded that cell phone users are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Incredibly, cell phone users reacted slower to a vehicle braking in front of them than someone with a blood alcohol content of .08.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

U. S. House to Consider Bill Halting Flood Insurance Rate Increases

A modified version of the “The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act,” H.R. 3370, has been introduced in the U.S. House to ensure that flood insurance rate increases do not adversely impact local communities and to promote the solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program

This legislation is in response to major flood insurance rate increases resulting from the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act. Cities with properties experiencing these rate increases should contact their congressmen to ask for their support of this bill. Read how Biggert-Waters is affecting SC cities.

This updated version of H.R. 3370 is expected to be considered by the full House later this week under a “suspension of the rules” which means it will need a 2/3 majority (287 in favor) to pass. Using this procedure also means the legislation is not subject to amendments. 

Assuming the House bill does pass, it will need to be reconciled through a conference committee with S. 1926 that the Senate passed earlier this year. Senators Graham and Scott voted in favor of the Senate bill. The Senate measure calls for a four year delay in the rate increases pending the completion of the affordability study

A summary of the modified House bill is below:

·   Reinstates the grandfathering of properties by repealing Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act. This means that all post Flood Insurance Rate Map properties built to code at the time of construction will have protection from rate spikes due to new mapping. By reinstating the grandfathering of properties, there is no longer a need to delay the rate increases. 

·  Prevents FEMA from increasing premiums within a single property class beyond 15 percent per year.

·  Requires a 5 percent minimum annual increase on pre-FIRM primary residence policies that are not at full risk.

·  Refunds policyholders who purchased pre-FIRM homes after Biggert-Waters (7.6.12) and were subsequently charged higher rates.

·  Removes the rate increase trigger for properties sold after 7.6.2012 and treats the new property owner as the same as the previous property owner.

·  Applies an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences and $250 for second homes and businesses to all policies. All revenue from these assessments would be placed in the NFIP reserve fund which was established to ensure funds are available for meeting the expected future obligations of the NFIP.

·  Funds the affordability study required by Biggert-Waters Act and mandates its completion in two years.

·  Requires FEMA to reimburse policy holders and communities for successful map appeals.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Rewind

It was a busy week in the General Assembly with the House Ways and Means committee working on the budget and the Senate continuing to work on ethics legislation. Catch up on the week's activities in this week's From the Dome to Your Home.

Rep. Bill Herbkersman from Beaufort County gave a nice shout-out to area municipal officials in his report last week in Bluffton Today noting how well they work together with each other and state officials. 

Think a computer breach won't happen to your city? It's probably more a question of when it will happen than if it will happen. Read about how cities can protect themselves against the risk of being hacked in the February Uptown.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Great GASB….Evaluating GASB Statement 34

By Heather Ricard - Director of Risk Management Services, Municipal Association of SC

In this context, the “Great GASB” is not F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character, but rather the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the non-profit entity that sets required standards in government accounting. GASB issues statements to guide how government bodies report accounting information.

Fifteen years ago, GASB issued Statement No. 34, Basic Financial Statements-and Management’s Discussion and Analysis-for State and Local Governments. The statement was a dramatic change for preparers and users of government audited financial statements. It gave government officials a new and more comprehensive way to demonstrate their stewardship in the long term beyond the existing short term processes already in place at the time.

Now that GASB Statement 34 has been used for 15 years, the Board plans to revisit the statement and any related statements that have been issued since then. They will be asking questions such as has the statement improved the understanding of local government audited financial statements? How are the reports being used? How have the costs of applying the statements compared with the benefits?

GASB posted an interesting article on “What You Need to Know About: Reexamining the Financial Reporting Model” last week. There is also a good summary of GASB 34 on its website.

GASB has already conducted some preliminary research and will identify areas that may require  additional research. Cities and towns should be on the lookout for surveys to gather input from the users and preparers of their financial statements. More information is available about this project at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Busy Budget Week in the House

It’s budget week for the House Ways and Means committee and that means circumstances change minute-by-minute on issues related to spending state money. You can watch today’s committee proceedings online when members are scheduled to reconvene at 2:15 p.m.

The Association's legislative team has been very focused on restoring dollars to the Local Government Fund and working on provisos that require substantial attention. Provisos are one-year provisions in the state budget that drive how dollars are spent or require specific action.
Several provisos were addressed by the committee on Tuesday that could cause concern for cities and towns. There were articles in two newspapers today about these…one deals with voluntary acceptance of state roads by local governments. Another keeps local governments from collecting a convenience fee on credit card transactions.
These provisos are still in play until the committee makes its final vote on the budget, so read Friday’s From the Dome to Your Home for finalized details on these and other provisos and the Ways and Means committee’s recommendation for the Local Government Fund allocation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Audit of dependent health insurance coverage

In the world of government, there are many types of audits. There’s the financial audit required by state law to be submitted to the state treasurer annually. There are audits related to grants. And occasionally there is an audit conducted by the Public Employee Benefit Authority to ensure all dependents covered by the state health plan are qualified to receive the benefits.

PEBA is in the process of conducting this periodic audit, and officials in SC cities and towns need to make sure their employees are prepared with accurate documentation to verify their dependents qualify for state health benefits.