The 2002 legislative session has ended. We are happy to report that The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce did very well on our legislative agenda. This e-newsletter gives you the scorecard. While not every bill we supported was passed, we can say that no initiative we opposed was enacted. Not a bad record for only our second full legislative session since we were founded in 2000.
Our success is due to your grass roots lobbying, our direct communications with the legislators and the alliances we formed with various other groups. And to be honest, we simply were on the right side of the issues we pursued.
We are building a strong reputation in the General Assembly as an effective advocacy organization for small businesses. As we grow in membership, our effectiveness will grow also. Thank you for your continued support.
Legislative Agenda and Results
The Small Business Chamber was actively supporting or opposing the following legislative initiatives this year. The following is a list of our successes and legislation which stalled in committees.
Technical College Tuition Assistance– After two years at the top of our legislative agenda as a vehicle to produce the technically skilled workers our small businesses need, the General Assembly allocated $34 million of lottery funds for technical college tuition assistance. While the funding level is not sufficient to achieve the free tech tuition we would have preferred, the money will reduce tuition by approximately 50%, thus enabling more South Carolinians to become better trained. Take pride in the fact that, of business organizations, we stood alone in our uncompromising support for funding technical colleges’ tuition assistance.
Mandatory Employee Wage Garnishment—When we first weighed in to oppose S.154, which would allow the court to order an employer to garnish the wages of a worker for the employee’s unpaid commercial debt, the bill had already passed the Senate and was in a House subcommittee. That’s where it was stopped as a result of our strong effort and the support of the Carolinas Association of General Contractors and the SC Bankers Association. When H.4212, which called for the garnishment of wages for collecting personal debt, was introduced this year, we immediately voiced our opposition and the bill did not advance. Thanks to our efforts, small businesses will not be forced to become debt collectors for others.
Increase in Bad-Check Fee—The fact that it took all this session, a considerable amount of personal communication with some legislators and complicated procedural maneuvering to obtain passage of a bill as simple as H.3286 demonstrates the need for the Small Business Chamber. The legislation increased the fee businesses can charge for bad checks of $100 or less from $25 to $30. The fee for bad checks over $100 was already $30. Misinformation about the bill, the bill’s importance to small businesses (we can now not lose quite as much money due to bad checks) and legislative politics would have killed the measure had it not been for our hard work and the assistance of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the SC Merchants Association.
DHEC Hog Farm Regulations—While not a proponent of large hog farms, the Small Business Chamber joined agribusiness organizations in opposing DHEC’s original regulations on this matter. We believed that even though the regulations were publicly popular, DHEC had usurped the authority of the General Assembly by doing through regulations what they couldn’t get done legislatively. Also, the initial regulations unnecessarily jeopardized all agribusiness in the state. After considerable negotiations, the regulations were revised to address our concerns and subsequently adopted.
Small Business Development Center Budget – Our office is constantly receiving calls from budding entrepreneurs looking for help. One source of free assistance is the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC, which operates out of four of our Universities, is always on our referral list. Supporting the SBDC budget is important to us. The final budget provided some relief from state budget cuts for the SBDC.
Voluntary and Fair Market Value Conservation—Businesses do not oppose conservation. We oppose being forced to give up our property rights and not being properly compensated for our land. This is why the Small Business Chamber joined many other business organizations to successfully support the creation of the SC Conservation Bank. Funds already collected by the state through deed recording fees will be used to purchase land deemed worthy of conservation. The landowners must voluntarily agree to sell their land and will receive fair market value for their property. Environmental groups found that it was better to work with the business community because the legislative result was hailed by the Sierra Club as “the most important piece of environmental legislation passed in South Carolina in a half-dozen years.”
Main Street development—Joining other business organizations, we successfully supported the Historic Rehabilitation Incentives Act. The state will now give tax incentives for the rehabilitation of historic buildings, which will translate into an economic stimulus effort for local small businesses.
Sales Tax Fairness— The Small Business Chamber believes that the state should not be encouraging the public to make purchases via the Internet instead of buying from South Carolina brick-and-mortar stores. Therefore, we opposed H.4027, which would unfairly exempt sales tax, or “use tax”, on Internet purchases of up to $10,000 per year for personal use. This would have given Internet stores a taxpayer funded pricing advantage. This bill did not advance out of sub-committee.
Legal Venue Change—Bobtailing is effort to attach legislation, which has not gone through the proper committee process, to a bill that is about to pass. With bobtailing, you don’t know what you get until it is too late. So when railroad interests tried to attach unseen legislation, which would have changed the legal venue laws, to a bill minutes away from being enacted, we joined an effort to stop it. There was no way we could tell if the proposed venue changes would be good or bad for small business. What could be good for a big business like the railroads might be bad for small business, which often turns to the legal system for justified action against big business. Thus, we had an interest in being able to thoroughly review the proposed venue changes and weigh in on them accordingly. The bobtailing effort failed.
Property Rights—The Small Business Chamber worked very closely with other business organizations to produce The SC Land Use Dispute Resolution Act. The bill, S.528 sponsored by Senator Glenn McConnell, would allow for faster resolution to property rights disputes between private entities and government. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of a Senate committee due to failed efforts to reach a compromise with the SC Municipal Association. Look for this initiative to be pushed again next year.
Reduce State Income Tax for Small Business—With the General Assembly cutting agency budgets this year due to revenue shortfalls, bills we supported (H.3454 and S.33) to reduce state income tax for small business (sole-proprietorships, partnerships, LLC’s and S-Corps) had no chance of passage. We will continue our effort next year to have the state income tax on small business reduced from 7% to 5%, the same rate C-Corps now pay.