By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
It’s been almost a year since Gov. Henry McMaster put his signature on S. 40, legislation that gave the South Carolina Department of Transportation the authority to decide where visitors to four Lowcountry beaches can park on state roads. And how much, if anything, they’ll have to pay.
At their regularly scheduled meeting April 26, the Isle of Palms City Council decided to do more than simply pass a resolution condemning the legislation as a violation of the Home Rule Act.
Responding to a letter written by Council Member Blair Hahn, IOP’s governing body voted unanimously to hire an attorney with expertise in constitutional law to determine what the city can do about the legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Larry Grooms and signed into law by McMaster on May 24, 2021. “The purpose was to educate the Council,” Hahn said, explaining why he wrote the letter. “Some of them don’t understand the importance of what has happened.
Our South Carolina Legislature literally turned its back on the constitution.” Hahn pointed out that S. 40 violates the state constitution in four specific ways: it ignores the concept of home rule; it forces IOP to provide free parking and all the services that go along with it; the bill allows the state to take IOP’s resources “without our consent;” and it ignores the equal protection clause of the constitution because it applies only to municipalities that take beach nourishment money. “It’s important because that’s the foundation of our government,” Hahn continued. “We have no government if politicians can do what they think is politically expedient and not follow the rule of law. Either our legislature is ignorant of the constitution or they purposely turned their back on the constitution for political gain.” Hahn, who is an attorney, said his goal is “to embarrass every politician who voted for S. 40,” adding that he is confident that if the law is challenged in the S.C Supreme Court, “it will be recognized as unconstitutional and be repealed.” In his letter, Hahn pointed out that “This is not about parking. This is about the right of this duly elected body to represent and govern this municipality… I swore an oath, as did each one of us, to uphold the constitution and I, for one, take that oath seriously. Each one of our state legislators, as well as our governor, took that same oath. They have chosen to turn their backs on our constitution and the rule of law to pander to a small group of voters.”
Council Members Katie Miars and Rusty Streetman agreed with Hahn, and John Bogosian suggested that the city hire an expert in constitutional law, an idea that received unanimous approval. In other action, on April 26, the Council approved the city’s 2022- 2023 budget, with approximately $22.5 million in revenue and just under $24 million in expenses. Mayor Phillip Pounds said the difference of around $1.5 million would come from reserves and that there would be no property tax increase. The Council also passed an ordinance temporarily suspending meetings of standing committees from July 1 through Dec. 31. Instead, during that six-month period, Council members will attend regular workshop meetings “in order to increase expediency for transaction of the city’s business.” The ordinance and the resolution adopting rules and procedures for the workshops both passed by a 7-2 margin, with Council Members Kevin Popson and Jimmy Ward voting against the measures.
In addition, the Council approved proclamations declaring May 15 Peace Officers’ Memorial Day and May 21 through May 27 National Safe Boating Week. The Council also cited The Windjammer’s 50th anniversary on the island.