By: Jimmy Gray, Director of Government Affairs
Some things change, some things stay the same. That’s the way we’re starting the last year of the second decade in the second millennium. State legislators are making their way back to the State House for a new session, poised to tackle the important issues facing our state. The Republicans remain in control in both the House and the Senate in Columbia, and Governor McMaster is just now starting his first full term. Things look a lot different 400 miles up I-95, where Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans held the Senate. With 2020 looming large, any real substantive work coming out of Washington, DC will take place in 2019.
With that in mind, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has prepared an aggressive advocacy agenda for 2019. Members of the MBACC Advocacy Council met early in fall 2018 to draft 2019 Legislative Priorities. Once finalized, these priorities were unanimously adopted by the Advocacy Council, before being ratified by the full Board of Directors later that fall. The full list of priorities is available at MyrtleBeachAreaChamber.com. Here’s a brief preview of what we have in store for 2019:
Now that local funds are committed, we will look to the state and federal governments for funding solutions for the completion of Interstate 73’s southern segment. This past year showed us the importance of this project as an evacuation need for our area. We’ll also seek funding for S.C. 31 to the North Carolina border. Less mentioned than I-73, but equally as important in terms of an evacuation lifeline is the Southern Evacuation Life Line (SELL). We’ll work with regional partners to seek an Environmental Impact Statement for the SELL. Protecting our beaches is one of the most important advocacy objectives of this Chamber. As such, we’ll continue to seek appropriate funding for beach renourishment and deep-water ocean outfalls. And as MYR continues to grow, we’ll continue to support creative funding methods to allow the airport to meet the needs of the passenger demand.
Year-over-year we continue to see hundreds of thousands first-time visitors to the Myrtle Beach Area. In 2017, a total of 19.6 million people visited our destination. The business community supports efforts to help bring more first-time visitors to our area to spend their money and enjoy a vacation in the beautiful place we call home. Programs like the Destination Specific Matching Grant, Accommodations Tax, Hospitality Tax and the Tourism Development Fee help us attract those first-time visitors and retain folks that have come to love our destination. We’ll also work to support efforts made by the City of Myrtle Beach to make our downtown more vibrant and family friendly, by activating outdoor spaces and creating new events.
We’ll continue to support needs-based funding for local post-secondary schools, specifically HGTC and CCU. It’s important to also fight for equity in funding and success measurements for public schools and publicly-funded charter schools. We’ll also support maintaining a sensible statewide school start date no earlier than the third Monday in August, with flexible testing windows.
The rising cost of healthcare impacts our entire community. We’ll continue to support public policy proposals that make it easier for our member-investors to offer healthcare to their employees. We’ll also support broadened use of industry-specific healthcare plans owned/operated by industry trade associations.
We will work with decision makers to ensure that they are providing our educational institutions with the tools they need to teach our workforce the skills our industries demand. This is a huge priority for our new CEO, Karen Riordan. We’re also prioritizing important visa programs like the H-2B, J1 and J2 visas. Too often these niche visa programs are lumped into the greater immigration/national security debate. The reality is that these are important programs that our local businesses depend on. They should not be a part of the heated immigration rhetoric coming out of Washington, DC.
Energy & Environment
Energy reform might end up being the biggest issued state lawmakers try to tackle in Columbia. While they work to wrap their heads around the nuclear debacle, we’ll continue to support a comprehensive energy plan for our state and area that takes advantage of renewable and alternative energy sources.
At the top of our Taxation priorities is the elimination of the state corporate income tax. This is not an efficient tax and its repeal will help make our state even more business friendly. We’ll also support efforts in Washington, DC to make permanent certain individual and business tax cuts and repatriation for profits. This was a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that we’re hoping Congress will act on to make permanent.
This aggressive agenda will require member-investor participation if we want to be successful. Grassroots advocacy is a cheap and effective method for accomplishing challenging public policy proposals. Moving in to 2019, you’ll start to see more email alerts and calls to action for you to reach out to your elected representatives directly. We hope that you’ll take advantage of this and help make 2019 a great year for the Myrtle Beach area business community.