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Constitutional – Home Rule – Fire District – Crossing County Line

Holding: The General Assembly created a fire district that is almost entirely in Florence County but includes 0.1 square miles in Darlington County. Home Rule – S.C. Const. art. VIII, § 7 – precludes such local legislation.

We affirm the circuit court’s judgment in favor of the county and remand.

The citizens of West Florence were unhappy about an upcoming hike in the tax rate they paid for fire protection services. They went to their representatives in the General Assembly, who then created the West Florence Fire District. The new district was mostly in Florence County, with a few parcels lying in Darlington County.

Florence County challenges the West Florence Fire District under S.C. Const. art. VIII, § 7. Thereunder, the General Assembly is barred from enacting legislation relating to a specific county which relates to those powers, duties, functions and responsibilities which, under the home rule system of government, are set aside for counties.

A special purpose district limited to one county clearly violates home rule. Here, the vast majority of the challenged district is located in one county and only a comparatively small portion is located in an adjacent county.

Home rule precludes local legislation – such as fire protection services – specific to West Florence. Therefore, it follows the General Assembly cannot indirectly accomplish the same goal merely by adding a small amount of acreage of another county; to do so would render Article VIII, § 7 meaningless.

Where the legislation’s function is local and within a county, home rule mandates the county is the proper body to address the matter rather than the General Assembly. The act creating the West Florence Fire District violates home rule.

Affirmed and remanded.

County of Florence v. West Florence Fire District (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-024-18, 8 pp.) (Kaye Hearn, J.) Appealed from Florence County Circuit Court (J. C. Nicholson Jr., J.) Blake Hewitt and Wallace H. Jordan, Jr. for Appellants; Steve Matthews and D. Malloy McEachin Jr. for Respondents; Alan Wilson and J. Emory Smith Jr., for the state. S.C. S. Ct.


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