Myrtle Beach has hired a lobbyist for $60,000.
Mayor Brenda Bethune said Denny Public Affairs will reach out to state lawmakers in the upcoming session on key issues that could impact the city.
Some of the issues likely to be discussed in Columbia include small cell deployment, business license fee tax reform, affordable and workforce housing legislation, issues involving home rule and “the need for flexibility with hospitality fees and related hospitality tax bills,” according to a letter from Tony Denny of the firm.
“Even though we were the faces that build relationships with the legislators, we need more representation during the times we are not there,” Bethune said of the lobbyist keeping city leaders updated with key issues, when committees meet and opportunities to testify.
Councilman Phil Render was the lone dissenter in hiring the Denny firm.
Render was part of a committee to review applications from four lobbyists along with Bethune and fellow councilman Gregg Smith.
While not opposed to hiring a lobbyist for the city, Render said he had “more confidence in another firm.”
Render agreed the state representatives’ duties include being a voice for their districts, but hiring a lobbyist is necessary to ensure the municipalities’ concerns are at the forefront.
“I don’t think there are simple enough hours in the day for even sitting lawmakers to keep up with all that’s thrust on them,” he said.
Other municipalities in the state contract with lobbyists including Horry County’s federal lobbyist John Napier. Napier is paid $70,000-$80,000 annually.
Charleston, Columbia and Greenville are each contracted with a state and federal lobbyist.
Prior to starting the Denny firm, Tony Denny was a political advisor and staff to such state leaders as the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, the late former Gov. Carroll Campbell and former Gov. David Beasley.
Denny Public Affairs will be paid $5,000 monthly for the annual contract.
Bethune said the firm fit the needs of the city for this legislative session and it is “not uncommon to change firms depending on the needs in the future.”
She said Denny will be in Myrtle Beach next week to meet with her about the issues being discussed in the state legislature. She added he will report regularly to city leaders and city staff about his work for the city.