Thursday, December 11, 2014

Expanded approach for advocacy initiatives in the 2015 session

It’s just a few weeks until the General Assembly reconvenes for the beginning of a new session. With elections in the House and new leadership in both bodies, changes at the State House are inevitable.

And change is good. For the upcoming session, the Municipal Association has made some changes to expand how we approach our work with the legislature with the goal of helping local officials in cities and towns better solve problems common to them.

The Regional Advocacy Meetings each fall give the Association’s staff more insight into the challenges facing cities and towns. Typically we have tried to address many of those challenges through a change in state law by initiating new legislation or supporting changes to existing state law that would help solve a problem.

This year, however, we have expanded that approach. Our advocacy initiatives for 2015 include more than just changes to state law or new legislation. In many cases the problems raised by local officials made us realize more training may also be needed on a particular topic…or maybe there are “best practices” in other states we could research that could solve a problem…or maybe we could collaborate with other organizations that face similar challenges.

The 2015 advocacy initiatives are
So as you look at the 2015 advocacy initiatives you will see an expansion of efforts beyond only a legislative agenda listing of bills to support or oppose. This new, more comprehensive, approach will better serve our local officials. At the same time, this approach will give our staff more opportunities to collaborate internally and with other organizations to meet the challenges all cities and towns face.

Read last week’s From the Dome to Your Home to get the latest update on progress related to these initiatives over the past several months.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Protect our hometown businesses

Did you shop online on CyberMonday this week? If so, did you pay the local and state sales tax on your purchase? By law, the consumer is supposed to pay the sales taxes owed on purchases bought from out-of-state online retailers on his income tax return as a use tax. However, there’s a good chance most consumers didn’t if they ordered from an out-of-state online retailer.

This puts our hometown brick and mortar businesses at a 5 to 10 percent competitive disadvantage to these out-of-state online retailers. Plus, millions of dollars in owed state and local sales taxes go uncollected annually. In South Carolina alone, that means more than $250 million in sales taxes owed by consumers but not collected annually.

There’s an answer to this situation that will level the playing field for our hometown brick-and-mortar businesses. The Marketplace Fairness Act could be considered in the U.S. House of Representatives this month. This legislation would grant states the authority to require out-of-state online and catalog retailers to collect sales taxes at the time of a transaction - exactly like our local retailers are already required to do.

Members of the state’s Congressional delegation need to know that this is an important issue for both our hometown businesses and our cities and towns. Make sure your Congressman sees the impact this legislation can have on his district. Click here to get more information about the MFA and details about how to contact your Congressman now.