Thursday, December 3, 2020

Get Ready to Advocate in the New Legislative Session

In January, lawmakers will return to Columbia to begin the first year of a two-year legislative session, debating and passing the laws that govern South Carolina. 

The South Carolina House of Representatives counts 124 members while the South Carolina Senate has 46. Between the two chambers, the 2020 election led to 21 new faces coming in for the new session. For both the old and new faces at the State House, local elected officials must keep open lines of communication to discuss the Association’s new Advocacy Initiatives and advance the best interests of their cities and towns. 

The Municipal Association has a handbook to help officials work with their legislative delegation — Raising Hometown Voices to a New Level of Influence. It explains the value of building an ongoing relationship with legislators well in advance of asking for anything, by keeping them involved in council meetings, ribbon cuttings and other special events. The guide addresses the basics of legislator communication:
  • Build grassroots support.
  • Don’t be a stranger.
  • Remember you serve the same people.
  • Know both sides of the issue.
  • Understand the legislative process.
  • Express your opinion.
  • Stay on message.
  • All politics is local.
  • Timing is everything. 
The guide also delves into the way local officials can keep their outreach personal and productive, such as in-person meetings and phone calls when possible, writing follow-up letters with specific requests, and always tracking down requested information. 

For those wanting to learn more about the workings of the General Assembly, the guide also explains the structure of the Senate and House of Representatives, including their standing committees. 

Stay informed in the new session 

The Municipal Association provides local leaders with several vital ways to know what’s going on and get involved with their legislators:
  • Hometown Legislative Action Week, taking place February 1 – 5, will replace the regularly scheduled Hometown Legislative Action Day with a full week of virtual content, with videos from the Association’s advocacy team as well as state and federal legislators. 
  • From the Dome to Your Home is a weekly recap email on Friday during the legislative session on all legislative activity that can impact municipalities, including suggested action steps. The website provides subscription signup and an archive of past issues. 
  • The City Quick Connect podcast also includes From the Dome to Your Home content with added discussion from the legislative team available every Monday during the legislative session. 
  • The online South Carolina Municipal Officials and Legislative Directory allows for searching for municipality by representative and senator, showing which municipalities are in the district of each legislator.