Thursday, December 19, 2019

When Does a Council Action Require an Ordinance?

As city and town councils conduct business at their council meetings, they sometimes face the question of whether a specific action requires the passage of an ordinance. If the action does need an ordinance, that comes with the requirement of at least two readings, which take place on two separate days with at least six days in between them — and some local rules require three readings. 

In some cases, when councils wish to express a position on an issue or draw attention to a particular issue, passing a resolution using one reading and one vote is appropriate. Resolutions are not permanent local laws, as ordinances are.

South Carolina law requires the passage of ordinances for many specific actions. There are cases where the law does not require an ordinance, at which time councils can choose either an ordinance or a resolution. The law requires ordinances in these cases: 

Council operations 
Financial operations
Land use and regulation 
More resources 
Ordinances and Resolutions, a recent article in Uptown, take a look at the differences between the two. The article also addresses the requirements placed on how ordinances are handled after their adoption. 

The Municipal Association’s Handbook for Municipal Officials in South Carolina also discusses the difference between and ordinance and a resolution in Chapter 3, which also covers the correct processes for council meetings.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Countdown to Legislative Advocacy in 2020

In a few short weeks, lawmakers will return to Columbia to take up the business of South Carolina state government. The second half of the 2019 – 2020 legislative session brings with it the need for local leaders to engage with their legislators on issues crucial to supporting local authority to make local decisions. 

City and town officials walk to the State House during Hometown Legislative Action Day. 

There are several things that local elected officials and staff should do to help during the legislative session. 

Keep up with the action 

From the Dome to Your Home gives leaders a great way to learn more and stay engaged. This weekly recap email goes out on Fridays during the session, covering all the legislative activity that has the potential to impact South Carolina’s cities and towns. The content in From the Dome to Your Home also appears in the City Quick Connect podcast during the legislative session, along with added discussion from the legislative team. 

It’s also possible to follow specific legislation that is mentioned in the weekly legislative reports through the Legislative Tracking System. For example, H4431 is a much-talked-about business license bill that would cause a number of complications in how business license taxes are calculated and structured. 

Another example is S217, a bill which would give municipalities the ability to use revenue from hospitality and accommodations taxes to control and repair flooding in tourist-related areas. The bill represents the last of the Municipal Association’s advocacy initiatives that have not yet been completed in the current session. S217 has already been passed by the Senate and now waits for further action in the House Ways and Means Committee. 

Connect with legislators 

It’s not enough to know about the issues — city and town leaders need to remain in touch with their legislators so they can communicate about how particular bills would impact their communities. Building relationships and communicating effectively with legislators are skills that need to be honed. Those wanting to learn more about the process can check out the Municipal Association’s advocacy handbook, Raising Hometown Voices to a New Level of Influence

It’s also critical to know which legislators to contact, given that some municipalities fall within multiple House and Senate districts. The online South Carolina Municipal Officials and Legislative Directory now allows for searching municipalities by their representatives and senators. 

The Municipal Association’s Hometown Legislative Action Day, which will take place in Columbia on Tuesday, February 4, gives city and town officials a chance to meet with representatives and senators at the State House, and to learn more about legislative issues. Registration information is available on the Association’s website. Don’t wait until January 14 to call your legislators. If you haven’t already talked to them about important issues for 2020, do it now. 

Hometown Legislative Action Day attendees meet with their legislative delegations in the lobby of the State House.