Thursday, November 18, 2021

Building Congressional Relationships for SC Cities and Towns

The Municipal Association of SC has expanded its focus on advocating for the interests of South Carolina’s cities and towns at the federal level, and already the effort has improved engagement with the state’s congressional delegation. 

A key part of this effort has been the establishment of a dedicated congressional liaison — a role assigned to Erica Wright, who joined the Association’s staff as a legislative and public policy advocate in April 2020. She has since nurtured relationships with the staffs of both of South Carolina’s senators and each of its seven representatives. 

A recent podcast brought together Erica Wright with Director of Advocacy and Communications Scott Slatton and Manager for Municipal Advocacy Casey Fields to talk about how these congressional relationships have unfolded and how they benefit cities and towns in South Carolina. 

Here are some highlights from the recent efforts: 

Outreach with municipalities 
The passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, in March 2020 highlighted the need for strong federal relationships when many cities and towns brought questions about reimbursable expenses to the Association. 

In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, a massive emergency relief bill that provides $65.1 billion to municipal governments nationwide to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Municipal Association worked to help cities and towns understand the parameters that the law creates for using the funds, and it helped the SC Department of Administration obtain needed information from the nonentitlement cities so they could draw their funds from the state. 

Outreach with the congressional delegation 
In September, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, first vice president of the Municipal Association, the Association’s Executive Director Todd Glover and members of the Association’s advocacy staff traveled to Washington, D.C., for meetings with members of the congressional delegation. Association staff shared the Municipal Association’s purpose and its desire to serve as a resource and partner with federal legislators as they explore legislation impacting local government. They met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Joe Wilson as well as staffers from the delegation’s offices. 

Municipal Association officials meet with Rep. Jim Clyburn, at center. 

In 2022, the Association is planning quarterly meetings with the congressional delegation, and it will host opportunities in each home congressional district for city and town officials to engage more directly with their representatives. 

Hometown Legislative Action Day 
The Association’s Hometown Legislative Action Day, taking place February 1 in Columbia, will feature congressional delegation staff members joining in a panel discussion on federal advocacy. Learn more about all HLAD sessions and register here.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Business License Processes Changing for Municipal Councils and Staff in 2022

The compliance deadline for most of the provisions of the South Carolina Business License Tax Standardization Act, or Act 176, begins on January 1, 2022. The law requires a standard business license year among all taxing jurisdictions around the state, standard deadlines for payment due dates and refunds, acceptance of a standardized license application, a standard class schedule, appeals process, and a requirement that cities and towns accept renewal payments through the new Local Business License Renewal Center. 

As result of all the changes, the business licensing process will look different both for local policymakers and for municipal staff. In a recent episode of the City Quick Connect podcast, the Municipal Association’s Scott Slatton and Caitlin Cothran discuss the new normal for business licensing. 

What does Act 176 mean for city or town council decisions? 
After Act 176’s January 1, 2022, effective date, elected councils will maintain the authority to 
The law preserves existing agreements and provides for future agreements that cities create with a certain business for the calculation of business license tax. 

Cities and towns may also continue to contract with third-party companies to identify businesses that do not comply with business license tax ordinances. But Act 176 restricts third parties’ contact with businesses that do not comply with license requirements. 

What does Act 176 mean for business license staff in 2022 and afterward? 
Because Act 176 likely changes many jurisdictions’ business license deadlines, municipal staff should adjust their internal administrative practices. 
  • Applications – All taxing jurisdictions must now accept the statewide standard business license application. Municipalities may still use their own application, but must also accept the standard application.
  • Class schedules – When first setting up a business license, cities and towns must assign the business a six-digit North American Industry Classification System code, or NAICS code. Act 176 establishes a standard class schedule, where businesses are placed into classes using the latest edition of NAICS based on profitability. 
  • Rates – Cities and towns must calculate the business license tax using the business’s gross income for the previous calendar year or its previous fiscal year. 
  • Renewals – Business license staff must now make the Local Business License Renewal Center available as a payment option for businesses. The renewal center allows businesses to renew their licenses with every jurisdiction in the state. The standard license year of May 1 to April 30 means that licensing officials should issue renewal notices in January or February — earlier than in the past. This can help ensure that cities and towns have their business’s information to load into the renewal center software. 
  • Appeals – Act 176 outlines a standard appeals process including deadlines for appeals and responses. The appeals hearing must take place within 30 days of the city receiving the appeal form. 

Learn more about Act 176 and the seven-step compliance process that cities and towns should complete before the end of 2021.