Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Look Back on My Year as President of the National League of Cities

By NLC Immediate Past President Kathy Maness, councilmember from the Town of Lexington, SC 

Kathy Maness speaks at the Congressional City Conference as the NLC president. 

Since March of 2020, a multitude of crises have converged on municipalities including weather disasters, the economic downturn and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As a councilwoman from Lexington, I know just how challenging it can be to tackle these issues in my community and I was glad for the state and national support we received from the Municipal Association of SC and the National League of Cities

NLC is the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy organization, serving as the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country.

In November 2020, I was elected as the first person from South Carolina to serve as president of the National League of Cities. During this year, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down. 

And as President, I made sure that NLC worked hand-in-hand with the Municipal Association of SC and other municipal leagues across the country to help our cities and towns respond, recover and rebuild from the impact of the pandemic. 

Immediately following NLC’s Congressional City Conference in March 2020, stay-at-home orders were issued across the country. 

Throughout the pandemic, municipal leaders took action for their residents and continued the important work of running our communities. In Lexington, we stablished a $1 million loan program to aid in-town businesses impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also provided a rebate program aimed at investing $250,000 back into small businesses in 30 days. 

From helping small businesses, supporting food banks and giving critical support to residents, the work and leadership of local officials from across the nation and especially in South Carolina were critical in keeping our residents moving forward – but we couldn’t do it alone.

I am so proud of all the work that the National League of Cities, in close partnership with state municipal leagues such as Municipal Association of SC, did to support local leaders and ensure federal relief for our communities during my year as president. It took more than a year of lobbying and making our case that Cities Are Essential to the media, but, in the end, we delivered for municipalities in South Carolina and across the country. 

In March of 2021, American Rescue Plan Act delivered $65.1 billion dollars in federal relief to cities, towns and villages across America. More than $620 million went directly to municipalities in South Carolina. 

Last month, the BIPARTISAN infrastructure bill was passed marking an important turning point for our nation’s infrastructure, with historic investments supporting South Carolina communities rebuild with more than $6 billion for much needed improvements to our roads, bridges, water and broadband. 

That past year has been truly challenging and it has taught us that we all will always have both new and old issues to address. However, I’m grateful it has also shown us all we can accomplish together and that we are never alone in facing the obstacles ahead.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Monthly Business Licensing Virtual Trainings Begin in January

Each month in 2022, the Municipal Association’s Local Revenue Services will host “Business Licensing Essentials,” a series of virtual meetings, each tackling one element of the business licensing process. The first session, covering renewal notices, will take place Wednesday, January 12 from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Act 176, the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act, created a new statewide business license year beginning May 1 and ending the following April 30. As a result, those cities and others should issue their license renewal notices earlier than in the past. 

For the first year under this new schedule, cities and towns should, as a best practice, send out renewal notices in January or February 2022. The notice should feature explanations of the new law, including how it works as a solution to longstanding business concerns about the licensing process, how it standardizes many of the practices, and how it established the online Local Business License Renewal Center. The notice should also include the locally-determined penalty date and penalty amount for business that do not renew their licenses on time. 

As 2022 progresses, the Local Revenue Services training sessions will focus on topics such as manufacturers, calculating business license rates correctly and records retention. The aim for these sessions is to allow business licensing expertise to be shared from the Municipal Association staff and for business licensing professionals to share knowledge and ask questions in a monthly forum. While each session will have a topic, attendees will also be able to ask questions of the Local Revenue Services staff. 

Act 176 streamlines the business license process for all jurisdictions across the state. The Municipal Association staff produced a wealth of information about the new law and how to comply with it. 

Sign up for January’s Business Licensing Essentials event on the Municipal Association’s training calendar.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Impacts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal in South Carolina

In November, Congress passed the $550 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, a major piece of legislation which will impact South Carolina in many ways. The Municipal Association of SC is participating in the White House briefing sessions to understand how the BID will work locally.

Information is still limited and subject to change in 2022, but there is some information available now. 
  • Roads and bridges – Under preliminary estimates, South Carolina can expect to receive $4.6 billion in federal aid for highway programs and $274 million for repairing and replacing bridges, all during a five-year period, likely beginning once the funds have been allocated. 
  • Public transportation – Current formula funding indicates that South Carolina may receive $366 million for public transportation improvements — for vehicle replacements, electric vehicles and accessibility upgrades — over five years. 
  • Electric vehicle network – South Carolina may receive $70 million over five years for expanding the state’s EV charging network. 
  • Broadband – South Carolina will receive at least $100 million to help establish broadband coverage across the state. 
  • Climate change and cybersecurity – Based on historical formula funding levels, South Carolina can expect to receive $15 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $18.3 million to protect against cyberattacks.   
  • Water infrastructure – Based on the traditional State Revolving Fund formula, South Carolina will expect to receive $510 million over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state.  
  • Airports – South Carolina airports can expect to receive approximately $161 million for airport infrastructure development over five years for repair, maintenance, and the reduction of congestion and emissions. 

The White House’s Executive Order on Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — the former name of the BID — established an Infrastructure Implementation Task Force to coordinate the law’s implementation. The co-chair of the task force is encouraging states and local governments to establish an infrastructure coordinator role for BID project management.

Find more information about local impacts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal here. The Municipal Association will share additional federal guidance as it becomes available. 

The Municipal Association has recently expanded its focus on advocating for the interests of South Carolina’s cities and towns at the federal level. A recent podcast brought together Erica Wright, the member of the advocacy team tasked with federal outreach, with Director of Advocacy and Communications Scott Slatton and Manager for Municipal Advocacy Casey Fields to talk about how federal advocacy benefits South Carolina cities and towns.