Post Tagged with: "Heather Ammons Crawford"

State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

December 15, 2019 7:32 AM
Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

As Horry County and the municipal councils prepare to vote on a proposed settlement agreement for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit Monday night, many questions remain about what really has taken place behind closed doors since the lawsuit was filed last March.

According to sources familiar with the settlement agreement, the basic proposal approved in a resolution by Horry County Council at its April 2, 2019 regular meeting and publicly rejected by Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune within a few days thereafter is the agreement that will be voted on Monday night?

The basic terms of that proposal as it was offered in April and will be considered Monday night are as follows: a) Horry County will continue to collect a 1.5% Hospitality Fee countywide; b) one-third of that fee (0.5%) will go toward funding I-73; c) the remaining two-thirds (1%) will be remitted to the respective taxing jurisdictions (unincorporated county or city) in which it was collected; d) Revenues from the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected between the date bonds for Ride I projects were paid off (sometime in February 2019) and June 30, 2019 will be remitted in a lump sum to the respective taxing jurisdiction in which those revenues were collected.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner sent a letter to each of the city mayors proposing that settlement on April 3, 2019.

The county was prohibited from collecting the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the city jurisdictions after June 30, 2019 by judge’s order. The sum collected within city jurisdictions between February 2019 and June 30, 2019 (currently held in escrow) and subject to lump sum payments back to the cities is approximately $19 million.

Why is a proposed settlement that was publicly and totally rejected by Bethune in April 2019 suddenly the terms for settlement? (See Gardner’s letter to the mayors and Bethune’s rejection letter at the links below)

The mayor’s main points of contention have not changed in the agreement to be voted on for approval Monday night: a) continued collection of the countywide hospitality fee is illegal; b) the city cannot delegate to the county the authority to control the disposition of revenues which are properly within the city’s authority to collect and manage and c) no benefit to city residents from that arrangement.

What has changed?

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Horry County Legislative Delegation Hospitality Bill Will Not Serve County Citizens Interests

November 25, 2019 3:35 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

A bill to amend South Carolina law on hospitality tax, pre-filed November 20, 2019 by four members of the Horry County legislative delegation, will not serve the general interests of Horry County citizens if it ever becomes law.

The bill, H 4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Heather Ammons Crawford, Russel Fry and Tim McGinnis, is specifically designed to collect approximately $43 million per year in hospitality fee revenue specifically for the Interstate 73 project.

The bill was pre-filed one day after Horry County Council voted unanimously to cancel its Financial Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The agreement would have funded I-73 at up to $25 million annually.4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

H 4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

Both bills are designed to allow Horry County to resume collecting the 1.5% ‘legacy’ hospitality fee. Horry County is the only county in the state that has continuously collected the 1.5% countywide ‘legacy’ hospitality fee until stopped by the lawsuit.

The need for the second bill appears to be that H. 4597 allows the 1.5% hospitality fee revenue to be used on all the tourism related purposes as defined in S.C. Code of Laws Section 6-1-730. Those purposes include police, fire, emergency medical services, roads, highways, streets and bridges and recreation facilities which are tourism related.

The second bill limits uses of the hospitality fee revenue to interstate infrastructure, interstate interchanges and roads that directly connect to an interstate until no viable interstate highway projects remaining in the county.

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Horry County Council Votes Unanimously to Cancel I-73 Contract

November 19, 2019 8:18 PM
Horry County Council Votes Unanimously to Cancel I-73 Contract

Horry County Council voted unanimously at its regular meeting Tuesday night to cancel the Financial Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation that would have provided funding for the Interstate 73 project.

The agreement was approved by council during a special meeting held on November 28, 2018 and signed by former county administrator Chris Eldridge on December 13, 2018. Former council chairman Mark Lazarus led the charge to get the agreement signed before he left office December 31, 2018. Lazarus and Eldridge were the two foremost proponents of having the county enter into the agreement with SCDOT.

In addition, Lazarus and Eldridge were instrumental in orchestrating the elimination of a sunset provision from the county’s hospitality fee legislation earlier in 2018 in order to direct revenue to I-73.

But it all began to fall apart in March 2019 when the City of Myrtle Beach sued Horry County over continued collection of hospitality fees after the bonds for the first RIDE projects were paid off, an action the city called illegal.

Last spring, Horry County Council approved a resolution to refund hospitality fee revenue collected within the municipal boundaries to the respective cities where it was collected. The resolution included a proposal for the municipalities and the county to provide some funding for I-73 with percentage contributions from each agency in line with the percentage of the total amount of hospitality fee revenue each city received.

The cities dismissed that resolution out of hand.

Now, the cities and the county are considering a settlement agreement to the lawsuit with virtually the same terms with the exception that the cities will be on the hook to pay their attorneys 33% of the refunded revenue, approximately $7 million.

The blame for the cancellation of the I-73 agreement can be laid directly at the feet of Myrtle Beach and the other cities that joined in the lawsuit and refused to accept virtually the same settlement they are now considering.

Several county council members, including Chairman Johnny Gardner and council members Harold Worley and Johnny Vaught made exactly the point that the cities could have had the same settlement without paying such large attorney fees by accepting the resolution in the spring. It must also be noted the I-73 contract would not have been cancelled if the cities had taken this action.

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County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

July 27, 2018 4:10 AM
County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.

Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.

The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.

A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.

County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.

When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.

This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.

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Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

July 18, 2018 7:16 AM
Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

Ken Richardson was the heavy favorite of voters Tuesday as he captured 71 percent of the vote in the Republican primary special election for Horry County School Board Chairman.

Incumbent school board member Janice Morreale gathered 20 percent of the vote to finish a distant second with former Patricia Milley completing the field at 9 percent.

Richardson will face political newcomer Democrat Heather Johnson in the November general election.

Richardson’s campaign centered on safety in the schools, transparency of board decisions and strict oversight of the school district budget.

The Richardson victory continues a recent trend of incumbents with serious opposition in the primaries falling by the wayside.

Last month challenger Johnny Gardner bested incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman and William Bailey defeated incumbent Greg Duckworth for the GOP nomination for  SC House District 104. The Richardson victory completed the Trifecta Tuesday night.

What is particularly interesting is all three incumbents had significant help from other incumbents during the primary campaigns.

Lazarus had the endorsement of at least 10 of his 11 fellow county council members as well as endorsements from the coastal mayors and members of the county legislative delegation. State legislators Heather Ammons Crawford and Russell Fry ran the Lazarus campaign.

Duckworth had the active support of fellow legislators Alan Clemmons, Greg Hembree, Fry and Ammons Crawford, as well as North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, contacting voters to push Duckworth reelection.

Morreale, the current school board member for District 5, had a group of her fellow school board incumbents actively contacting voters to push her candidacy.

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Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

June 10, 2018 7:37 AM
Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

The reactions surrounding Mark Lazarus walking out of the Burgess Community Forum Thursday night rather than face tough questions from the audience highlight the completely different approaches to governing of the two candidates for the Horry County Council chairman Republican nomination.

Lazarus and Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, a Lazarus campaign consultant, immediately attempted to label as “union thugs” those who put Lazarus on the spot with questions and jeered his walking out. Ammons Crawford even speculated they weren’t from Horry County, which just shows how little they are in touch with the constituents they presume to represent.

Let me tell you a little about the two “union thugs” who asked difficult questions that seemed to offend Lazarus and that he used as an excuse to not “stand here and be abused by these guys”:

One is Chad Caton, a former Horry County fire fighter/EMT who is now on disability from injuries suffered on the job. Caton is married and a resident of Horry County. He was a volunteer fire fighter for Horry County Fire Rescue for five years and a full time fire fighter for HCFR for three years before suffering injuries. Caton is not a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters local fraternal organization.

The other is Casey Canterbury, a veteran Horry County Police Department officer who is a native of Horry County and a graduate of Socastee High School. He has served approximately nine years as a police officer in Horry County, five of those years with HCPD. He is the President of the local Fraternal Order of Police fraternal organization.

Neither the IAFF nor the FOP are collective bargaining union organizations in Horry County or the State of South Carolina. Lazarus and Ammons Crawford know this. However, they apparently believe use of the term “union thug” will discredit the men in the eyes of the public and make the elected officials objects of sympathy.

In 2014, when he last ran for reelection as county council chairman, Lazarus sought and received the endorsements of both the IAFF and FOP.

This year, Lazarus again sought those endorsements but they went instead to his opponent Johnny Gardner. One presumes the act of not endorsing Lazarus this time around changes rank and file Horry County police officers and fire fighters from “nice guys” to “union thugs.”

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Changing the Guard in Horry County Republican Politics

March 28, 2016 5:04 AM
Changing the Guard in Horry County Republican Politics

We are seeing a changing of the guard in Republican politics in Horry County. The last election cycle brought some new faces to the fore as some of our older incumbents chose to retire.

That trend is continuing in 2016.

I asked my good friend and former television partner John Bonsignor to help me produce eight thumbnail sketches of some up and coming office holders and candidates in the Republican Party.

The Republican party is beginning to welcome with open arms, into the political arena, young, talented, and desirable new faces to replace their old guard. As many of the elected old timers, having been in office for many years, feel it’s time to move on and give way to the new blood of talented candidates coming up.

Jeff Johnson – completing his first term as representative for SC House District 58, Johnson has consistently supported small government, conservative issues. He is a strong believer in family values and believes the state has an obligation to maintain its existing infrastructure that is so vital to small business.

Heather Ammons Crawford – finishing her second full term as representative for SC House District 68, fiscal responsibility, pro life and second amendment issues are at the top of her goals. Ammons Crawford is also South Carolina National Committeewoman for the Young Republican National Federation engaging young people across the country.

Russell Fry – our newest representative to the SC House, he has served SC House District 106 since winning a special election to fill an unexpired term last fall. Fry’s goals are working for a “prosperous South Carolina for our kids, ensuring they got a good education and a strong foundation.”

Tyler Servant – representing Horry County Council District 5 since January 2015, Servant seeks to bring new and innovative thinking to Horry County Council including waste cutting plans. He looks hard at road improvements needed in District 5 and has been successful in acquiring a federal grant for beach renourishment on the South Strand.

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Cam Crawford Wins County Council Primary

June 30, 2015 9:00 PM
Cam Crawford Wins County Council Primary

Cam Crawford won the Republican primary special election for the Horry County Council District 6 nomination.

Crawford gathered 547 votes (53%) to 482 votes (47%) for opponent Kirk Hanna. The totals are uncertified at this point. They will be certified by the Horry County Election Commission Thursday July 2, 2015 at 10 a.m.

Hanna topped Crawford by 31 votes in the first round of the primary two weeks ago, but Crawford reversed that result to win by 65 votes in the election that counted.

Still to come is the special general election on August 4, 2015 where Crawford will be the only name on the ballot as there is no Democratic nominee. However, a write-in challenge to Crawford is always possible.

However, a successful write-in campaign is extremely unlikely, which means Cam Crawford should be the next Horry County Council member from District 6 after the August election formalities.

The election heated up in the last few days as revelations that Peter Bishop, a one-time employee of Hanna’s construction company Hanco of SC, was arrested on June 11, 2015 for submitting nine fabricated and forged soil compaction reports to Horry County Code Enforcement while working at Hanco.

Over the last 36 hours of the campaign, a mail piece intended to be negative to Cam Crawford, surfaced in some District 6 mailboxes.

Both campaigns denied any knowledge of the large postcard size mailer. However, as the alleged sender, the LGBT Association of Horry County, does not exist, those claims, for one camp, appear to be false.

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Towering Political Egos

June 14, 2015 5:10 AM
Towering Political Egos

Towering political egos are the bane of sensible political discussion and of the ability of a politician to take a reflective look at him or herself.

It doesn’t take long for the average politician to believe that anyone criticizing them is wrong by definition and that any criticism of them is a mean-spirited personal attack.

Too often this attitude is the result of an inner insecurity that is masked by a false confidence and arrogance.

No, this isn’t meant to be a column on the psychology of politicians. The above is merely an expression of my conclusions over many years of observing the political scene, criticizing many statements, decisions and votes and watching the reactions of those politicians involved.

Word has reached me that I bruised a few egos again this week.

Evidently I hurt some feelings when I called Cam Crawford the stealth candidate for dodging candidate forums in the current Horry County Council District 6 Republican special primary campaign.

I have even been told Crawford’s wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, was making statements about being mad not only at me, but also at political consultant Donald Smith.

Mad at me for writing that Cam should not be a political candidate if he was unwilling to answer questions from the public and engage voters and the other candidates and mad at Smith for not stopping me from writing those statements.

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