Thursday, February 24, 2022

Statements of Economic Interest Due March 30

The State Ethics Commission requires municipal elected officials and others to annually complete Statement of Economic Interests forms that aim for transparency on any potential personal benefit that a public position could create. 

In a significant change for 2022, the commission has released a new electronic filing portal that allows users to submit their cell phone numbers to receive text messaging notifications if they miss the March 30 deadline. Completing the form by the deadline is critical for officials and others who are required to do so because once the SEI becomes overdue, fines can start increasing daily until they hit maximum amounts. 

The State Ethics Commission’s website offers guidance on the forms. Here are some of the basics of what it covers and who must complete it: 

What is an economic interest? 
The Ethics Reform Act, found at SC Code Section 8-13-100(11)(a), defines an economic interest as "an interest distinct from that of the general public” in a transaction in an amount where the public official or employee gains an economic benefit of at least $50. It could be a 
  • purchase, 
  • sale, 
  • lease, 
  • contract, 
  • option, or 
  • “other form of transaction or arrangement involving property or services.”

Who must complete an SEI form? 
  • Elected officials 
  • Candidates for office 
  • Chief administrative officials, including for water and sewer districts 
  • Chief finance and chief purchasing officers
What family members should be included when reporting income?
  • Spouses
  • Children who reside in the household 
  • Anyone else claimed as a dependent
Reportable income includes anything of value reported on an IRS form. 

What economic interests should be reported? 
  • Real estate interests, including those of immediate family members, if it could create a conflict of interest 
  • Public improvements (streets, lighting, water systems) valued at $200 for personal property or adjoining property
  • Real or personal property sold, leased or rented to a public entity What business relationships must be reported?
  • Every business or other entity in which the official or immediate family member has a 5% or greater interest in the value, so long as the value of the interest exceeds $100,000 
  • Any compensation received from a business that contracts with the municipality

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Civility, Relationships the Focus of 2022 Hometown Legislative Action Day

Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 1, bringing together representatives from South Carolina’s cities and towns in person for the first time since 2020, focused many of its sessions on the value of relationships. HLAD sessions always stress the importance of maintaining open lines of dialogue between local leaders and their State House delegations. This year’s sessions added an emphasis on the relationships among the members of a city council, and their relationship with their residents. 

Civility and managing conflict 
At a time when productive discourse seems to be eroding across many levels of government, the Municipal Association of SC is focusing many of its efforts in 2022 on a renewed emphasis on civility in government

In a key HLAD session, Matt Lehrman of Social Prosperity Partners discussed how to identify a community’s shared values and make people feel heard, respected and empowered. Building a career on the idea that disagreement is often not “only natural, it’s necessary,” Lehrman has said that “it should always be possible to address sensitive and complex issues in ways that strengthen communitywide feelings of inclusion and trust.” 

The evening before HLAD, Lehrman also recorded a podcast with Municipal Association Director of Advocacy and Communications Scott Slatton about how to move conflicts in city government discourse to a point where productive conversation is possible. 

Legislative panels 
Each year, advocacy lies at the heart of the Hometown Legislative Action Day, and this year’s agenda featured numerous panel discussions on current legislative issues. 
  • In the law enforcement reform legislative panel, Reps. Chandra Dillard, Tommy Pope and Chris Wooten, and Sen. Shane Massey discussed current law enforcement reform proposals, such as those in H3050
  • The Municipal Association has recently expanded its focus on advocating for the interests of South Carolina’s cities and towns at the federal level. At HLAD, a federal advocacy panel discussion brought together Alyssa Leigh Richardson, state director and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, as well as David O’Neal, district director for U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. The panel discussed how local government leaders can foster strong relationships with the congressional representatives. 
  • During the HLAD political outlook panel discussion, veteran political experts from both sides of the aisle talked about upcoming election cycles. The panel featured Reagan Kelley, director of communications and legislative policy for the South Carolina Senate Majority Caucus, and Antjuan Seawright of Blueprint Strategy, LLC. 
  • Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon offered the report of the Municipal Association’s legislative committee, after which the Association’s advocacy team talked through numerous key issues currently debated at the State House. Scott Slatton, director of advocacy and communications, as well as Legislative and Public Policy Advocates Joannie Nickel and Erica Wright briefed attendees on the legislative initiatives that the Municipal Association is following at the State House. 
Messages from Municipal Association leadership 
In her remarks as the president of the Municipal Association, City of Rock Hill Councilmember Kathy Pender praised the ways that South Carolina’s cities and towns have risen to the challenges of the pandemic, and what will come next for the state’s municipalities.

Pender quoted the recently deceased Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” 

“Be that light to your community and to South Carolina,” Pender said. “Be that light to your colleagues, staff and legislators.” 

In his remarks, Todd Glover, executive director of the Municipal Association of SC, highlighted the impact of legislative advocacy for South Carolina’s cities and towns, and described the Association’s strategic plan for the coming years: economic development, workforce and civility in government. 

2020 Census results 
Demographer Jerome McKibben presented an analysis of what the 2020 Census means to South Carolina. The state’s population, while growing by 10.7% from 2010 to 2020, is still experiencing a slowdown of growth — the growth was 15.3% in 2010. He attributed the slowdown to a slowing rate of net in-migration, and a shrinking level of natural increase — the excess of births over deaths. About half of South Carolina’s counties, 24 in total, experienced declining populations.