Post Tagged with: "public tax dollars"

Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

February 5, 2018 8:03 AM
Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

It has been nearly four months since the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in the DomainsNewMedia.com v Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

The question before the court deals with whether the Chamber of Commerce is a public body and subject to the provisions of the S. C. Freedom of Information Act.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) filed an amicus curiae brief to the S. C. Supreme Court supporting the Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce position.

A Circuit Court judge in Bluffton County ruled in favor of Plaintiff DomainsNewMedia.com finding the Chamber is a public body within the definition of the law.

Actually, the law is quite straightforward. Section 30-4-20 of the S. C. Code of Laws defines a public body subject to the Freedom of Information Act as, “…any organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds…”

The Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce receives accommodations tax money from the towns of Hilton Head and Bluffton as well as Beaufort County. The Chamber is the designated marketing organization for these governmental entities to expend the tax funds collected for tourism promotion.

The Chamber claimed before the Court that being the designated marketing organization for those public agencies did not negate its status as a private non-profit corporation not subject to FOIA.

The Chamber does provide a marketing budget and quarterly and year end reports for the public money to the governments involved.

In answer to a question from Justice Few about how a member of the public could find out specific information about the line items in the Chamber’s budget, the attorney for the Chamber suggested they would have to file a FOIA request with the town, who would then go to the Chamber for the specific information.

The argument was not that the public did not have a right to the information, it just didn’t have the right to request the information directly from the agency expending the funds, which is ridiculous.

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No Renewal Yet on Tourism Tax

May 27, 2016 5:00 AM
No Renewal Yet on Tourism Tax

The decision on whether Myrtle Beach will be able to reimpose its tourism tax remains in question at this time.

The SC House adjourned debate on a bill (S1122) that would provide a means to reimpose the tourism tax if the bill passes.

Debate on the bill is now scheduled for Tuesday May 31, 2016.

The original bill passed the SC Senate unanimously, but the House amended the bill to eliminate a provision that would allow Myrtle Beach City Council to reimpose the tax by a supermajority vote of at least two-thirds of its members.

If the bill passes in its current, amended form, the tourism tax would have to pass a referendum of city voters in order to be reimposed.

Eighty percent of the revenue raised from the tax goes to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for marketing the Myrtle Beach tourism attractions out of area.

Since being approved in 2009, the city has transferred in excess of $120 million to the Chamber. This has allowed the private tourism corporations to reduce their marketing budgets by as much as 95%.

Such a transfer of wealth from a public tax to benefit private businesses should be subject to approval by a voter referendum. Actually, it shouldn’t happen at all, especially in an area that prides itself on being so free market capitalist and conservative Republican.

It’s obvious the conservative politicians and their capitalist buddies don’t have a problem imposing taxes and spending the resulting revenue, just so long as it doesn’t come from their pockets.

The bill still has a couple of hurdles. It must pass two more readings in the House. If it passes there in its amended form, a compromise will have to be worked out with the Senate on whether or not to only allow reimposition of the tax after a favorable referendum of the voters.

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Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

May 21, 2016 6:41 PM
Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

The effort to renew state legislation that allows the Myrtle Beach tourism tax hit a bump this week in the SC House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill, S1122, originally introduced in the SC Senate in February 2016 by local senators Greg Hembree, Ray Cleary and Luke Rankin breezed through the Senate without a single no vote.

The SC House reported the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee with an important amendment that could have an interesting overall impact on whether the current one-cent local sales tax for tourism promotion gets renewed.

The Ways and Means Committee struck the provision that the tourism tax could be renewed (reimposed) by “an ordinance adopted by a supermajority of the municipal council which must be at least two-thirds of the members of the municipal council.”

The only provision remaining in the bill for reimposition of the tax is the “approval of a majority of qualified electors voting in a referendum held pursuant to this section called by a majority of the members of the municipal council.”

Myrtle Beach City Council imposed the tax on the general public in 2009 with a supermajority vote of council. The tax was never put before the voters in a referendum, allegedly for fear it would not pass.

If the amended bill successfully passes vote of the full House, it will be interesting to see if the elimination of the supermajority option to renew the bill withstands conference committee.

When it was first passed through an ordinance approved by a supermajority vote of Myrtle Beach City Council in 2009, the local option tourism development fee became the first and only local option sales tax (that’s what it is) to be enacted in the history of the state without a referendum vote of approval.

The result of the tax is the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce receives over $20 million public tax dollars each year to spend on out of area tourism advertising.

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Coast RTA vs. MBREDC Funding

July 24, 2013 9:00 AM
Coast RTA vs. MBREDC Funding

While attending a meeting with several Coast RTA officials nearly a month ago, I was asked several times if I had an explanation for why funding from Horry County for Coast RTA is treated differently than funding for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

I had no other answer than the potential political clout of MBREDC board members compared to that of Coast RTA board members.

In the current fiscal year budget, Coast RTA is budgeted to receive $1.055 million from Horry County with some questions remaining about the upcoming May 1, 2014 fourth quarter payment of approximately $263,000.

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