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State reps file bill on feud between Myrtle Beach, Horry County in effort to end dispute

I-73 funding depends on local municipalities working through tax allocations

Myrtle Beach City Council passed a motion Tuesday morning in support of I-73 and intergovernmental negotiations to fund the project from jurisdictions directly benefiting from construction of the interstate.
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Myrtle Beach City Council passed a motion Tuesday morning in support of I-73 and intergovernmental negotiations to fund the project from jurisdictions directly benefiting from construction of the interstate.

The Horry County delegation to the South Carolina Legislature is taking a side in the ongoing dispute between Myrtle Beach and the county over which will collect the hospitality fee.

In a bill submitted to the House of Representatives on Thursday, the cosigners are asking the state to make Horry County the agency to collect the 1.5 percent fee on all hospitality services. The county-wide fee brings in more than $40 million in revenue every year.

The bill would change the law statewide regarding the hospitality fee. It would allow all counties to collect the fee, which started in Horry County in the late 1990s.

“If a county hospitality fee applying in the county area was imposed or adopted as of December 31, 1996, and has been imposed in the county area at the same rate without interruption since its original imposition date, then the governing body of the county may continue to impose that fee in the same amount and the fee must be credited in the same manner as on December 31, 1996,” the bill said.

Horry County’s delegation members who signed include: Reps. Carl L. Anderson, Lucas Atkinson, William H. Bailey, Alan D. Clemmons, Heather Ammons Crawford, Russell W. Fry, Kevin Hardee, Jackie E. Hayes, Jeffrey E. Johnson and Timothy “Tim” A. McGinnis.

The bill was filed in the House of Representatives on Thursday evening. Fry, who’s the Republican Chief Majority, said the intent is ultimately to get both sides to the negotiating table.

For the SCGA, the legislative session ended on Thursday. The bill will not be voted on until 2020. Fry hopes the rift is settled before a vote is needed.

“It’s time for the games to stop. Refusing to meet with Horry County and suing them doesn’t really inspire a collaborative spirit. Myrtle Beach sat by for years and never raised any objection. Now they seek to change the rules,” Fry said. “I applaud Horry County Council for showing tremendous leadership in trying to work through these differences, and it is my hope that Myrtle Beach will finally agree to meet with them.”

Crawford, Clemmons and Bailey also released statements in the news release. All three said the leaders of Horry County need to work together and put citizens first.

For most of the year, the government agency that would continue to collect the hospitality fee has been in question. Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach introduced ordinances that said they would start collecting the fee in their borders instead of the county.

Horry County Council sent a response to Myrtle Beach asking the city to make any negotiations of the fee public. The county made an offer to give Myrtle Beach more of the money, but Horry would be the ones to collect it. Myrtle Beach rejected.

Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit against Horry County claiming the county was unlawfully collecting the hospitality fee. Until the lawsuit is resolved, Horry County cannot use the money in the budgeting process.

The bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee for further review.

“The bill, if enacted into law, would preclude the City of Myrtle Beach from collecting these tourism funds and help preserve vital infrastructure and public safety dollars, which are in jeopardy due to the city’s lawsuit,” a press release regarding the bill said.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune declined to comment. North Myrtle Beach Marilyn Hatley said that due to the ongoing lawsuit she cannot comment specifically to the bill.

“I will not comment at this time because there is pending litigation on this matter and we are still reaching out to the counties to sit down and negotiate on a contract that’s beneficial for all of us,” Hatley said

Staff Writer Anna Young contributed to this report.

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