Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 Hometown Legislative Action Day is here

For the Municipal Association, the most remarkable thing about the start of the General Assembly session earlier this month is the action that legislators are taking on all three of the Association’s 2019 Advocacy Initiatives: 

  • Flexibility with hospitality and accommodations tax revenue: The introduction of H3132 and S217 means that both chambers are looking at allowing cities and towns to use this revenue for flooding and drainage at tourist destinations. S217 has already passed the Senate and is in the House Ways and Means Committee for debate by House members. 
  • Local Government Fund predictability: H3137 aims to create a more stable funding level. H3137 passed the full House Ways and Means Committee unanimously and is now on the House calendar for debate by the full House.
  • Reducing wait times for new hires at the Criminal Justice Academy: Subcommittees have received testimonies on budget needs from law enforcement, and Gov. Henry McMaster has proposed $9.7 million in recurring general budget funds for the Academy. 

All of this activity makes Hometown Legislative Action Day next week on February 5 an excellent time for cities and towns to talk to their legislators at the State House. Beyond those meetings and the briefing from the Association’s legislative team, the HLAD agenda has a number of highlights: 

  • A keynote address from Gov. McMaster. 
  • A panel on crisis communication with several city public safety leaders.
  • SC Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson’s discussion of emergency management for cities during the luncheon.
  • SC Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel’s talk on law enforcement practices. 

Details for attending 

Those attending HLAD or the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government sessions can find all the information they will need on the meeting app and Association’s website. To get the app, visit on your device and follow the instructions. You’ll be asked to install Yapp from the app store (if you don’t have it already). Open Yapp and tap the HLAD graphic. You can create personalized schedules from the agenda and connect with other attendees during the event. 

Limited parking for HLAD participants can be found in the parking garage behind the Marriott, with entrances on Hampton and Sumter streets. Parking in the garage costs $10 per day, payable by cash or credit card. Attendees and hotel guests may not park above level 4-A in this garage or they will be towed. 

There will be additional parking available in the nearby Cannon parking garage with shuttles available. See this Uptown article for more information.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Legislative pushes for 2019

The Municipal Association has three Advocacy Initiatives for 2019, developed with the input of hundreds of municipal officials during the 2018 Regional Advocacy Meetings:

  • Update the Local Government Fund formula to guarantee a reliable funding level that is fair to cities and towns of all sizes. The LGF brought stable revenue to cities and towns four a couple of decades leading up to the Great Recession, but has provided reduced revenue and unpredictable changes since then. In this session, a bipartisan group of House members are sponsoring H3137 to tackle this issue. This bill would require the LGF to increase each fiscal year by the same percentage that the state general fund is projected to increase, not to exceed five percent compared to the amount in the current fiscal year.
  • Expand flexibility for using accommodations and hospitality taxes to allow expenditures for infrastructure in tourist-related areas. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate addressing this: H3132 and S217. These types of tax revenue can be used for tourism-related expenditures, including advertising, building and maintaining cultural facilities and providing necessary city services for tourists and tourist facilities. Both of these bills add tourism-related site preparation, as well as flooding control and drainage for tourism-related areas, to the list of acceptable expenditures.
  • Reduce the wait time for local law enforcement hires to be admitted to the Criminal Justice Academy. Keeping police rosters filled is a key need for law enforcement agencies in South Carolina, and one which requires as much efficiency in graduating officers from the Academy as possible. By supporting the Criminal Justice Academy’s funding request, and supporting the effort to move the Academy off of unreliable fines and fee assessments to a more reliable, recurring source, the Association is also supporting an increase in Academy capacity that will result in much shorter wait times.
Cities and towns can’t push for legislative action unless they’ve cultivated relationships with their delegation. A recent Uptown article highlighted the ways local officials can get these relationships up and running, and what they should know about advocating for their needs effectively.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

MEO Institute course offerings are still expanding

"As soon as we began the Advanced MEO Institute, people began asking, ‘What’s next?’”

This is how Eric Budds, deputy executive director of the Municipal Association, describes the desire participants have expressed for additional education after they complete the Advanced Municipal Officials Institute of Government. The Association is now offering the Advanced Continuing Education track to help meet this demand.

In the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government, there’s the initial MEO Institute, and graduates of that program can move on to the Advanced MEO Institute. Finally, and this is the new part — graduates of the Advanced MEO Institute can participate in Advanced Continuing Education, an optional, self-directed track.

The Association has offered the MEO Institute for more than three decades. This first level covers many key parts of city and town governance that mayors and councilmembers need to know, like municipal finance, governance and economic development, and the SC Freedom of Information Act. There are seven courses in total, and all of them are required to complete the program.

The Advanced MEO Institute, established in 2014, allows officials to dig deeper into these topics and offers more learning flexibility. It features six courses in all, and participants can complete any four of their choosing in order to graduate.

There’s even more flexibility with Advanced Continuing Education. Advanced MEO graduates can pursue individual courses as they desire to reinforce ideas or get a refresher on critical knowledge.

The February 6, 2019 Advanced Continuing Education courses happening in Columbia have a registration deadline of January 22. The courses offered in this round are “FOIA: Making Transparency a Priority,” and “SC Ethics Act: Avoiding Common Pitfalls.” Specifics on additional courses in October will be announced later.

Find out more about all levels of the MEO Institute in its 2019 brochure.