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2022 Legislative Session Ends Session Brings Leadership Changes, Completion of More Advocacy Initiatives

The second year of South Carolina’s 124th General Assembly gaveled to a close at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 12. Legislators plan to return to Columbia in June to complete work on the state budget before the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30. 

This year’s legislative session was the last chance for Senate and House members to pass bills before the process begins anew in January for the next two-year session. Bills that did not pass this year will have to be reintroduced and start the legislative process from the beginning in order to become law. 

Leadership changes
This session saw changes in both the House and Senate leadership. The death of longtime Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Hugh Leatherman in November 2021 brought 
a new chairman to the committee: Sen. Harvey Peeler. With the resignation of Sen. Peeler as president of Senate, the members elected Sen. Thomas Alexander to the post in January. 

The House of Representatives saw the longtime Speaker of the House Rep. Jay Lucas resign as speaker after he announced he will not seek reelection to the House in 2022. Rep. Murrell Smith was elected as the new Speaker of the House in May. Other retirements in the House will lead to the election of new committee chairs, as well as a new House majority leader, since the current leader, Rep. Gary Simrill, will also not seek reelection in November. 

Advocacy Initiatives update
The Municipal Association’s board of directors adopted the 2021 – 2022 Advocacy Initiatives at the beginning of the two-year session, and several passed by the end of the regular 2022 session. Fully funding the Local Government Fund and a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program for first responders were both included in the state budget. The state allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act included funding for statewide broadband expansion, while Senate and House members approved legislation that reforms aspects of law enforcement. 

Several bills that Association staff negotiated on behalf of cities and towns passed and became law. The enabling legislation that distributes the opioid recovery settlement funds to cities, towns and counties passed, while legislation that allows cities to participate in county e-waste programs was sent to conference committee. 

While the Association has seen positive legislative action on many of the 2021 – 2022 Advocacy Initiatives, staff pursued further work to help stop, amend or negotiate bills to prevent harmful effects for cities and towns. That work included preserving local authority in bills that did everything from legalize medical cannabis to regulating the flavors and ingredients in vaping products.

There were several bills introduced addressing the Association’s Advocacy Initiatives that never received action beyond referral to a committee. A bill that would allow cities and towns to annex enclaves in their municipal boundaries and a bill that would allow cities and towns to produce a “less than” audit as a way of limiting auditing expenses were both introduced, but never received action in a subcommittee or committee. 

Look for a more detailed overview of the legislative session in the 2022 annual legislative report, which will be available at the Municipal Association’s Annual Meeting in July and online. Also, check out the list of dates and locations for the Municipal Association’s upcoming Regional Advocacy MeetingsThis article was written at the end of the regular session and is accurate as of May 13, 2022.