Below is a review of The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce legislative agenda for 2005. The General Assembly completed the first half of a two-year session on June 2. The legislators will return again in January at which time our bills that were not passed this year will start from the point in the legislative process where they are indicated below.
The bills remaining on our agenda for next year are extremely important to small businesses. We fully anticipate that other pieces of legislation will be added. As important as our success has been this year, next year’s legislative session will be just as crucial to making South Carolina more small business friendly.
Small Business Income Tax Reduction–Starting with the 2006 tax year, the state income tax on profits of small businesses (S-Corps, Limited Liability Corporations, Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships) will be reduced from 7% to 5% over four years. STATUS–SIGNED INTO LAW
Job Tax Credits for Small Businesses–Businesses with less than 100 employees are eligible for job tax credits from the state for creating as few as two new jobs. STATUS–SIGNED INTO LAW
Workers Comp Reform–Increase speed and effectiveness of Workers Comp system by providing important new resources to the Workers Comp Commission, increasing small business oversight of rating bureau and establishing an insurance fraud unit in the Attorney General’s Office. STATUS–RATIFIED IN STATE BUDGET
Tort Reform–Restrict where civil lawsuits can be filed, limits liability of defendants found to be less than 50% at fault, reduces time limit for filing lawsuits related to real property, strengthens sanctions against frivolous lawsuits, requires Dept. of Insurance to assess whether insurance companies are passing on savings from tort reform to policy holders. STATUS–SIGNED INTO LAW
Technical College Tuition Assistance–Utilize $43 million in lottery money to pay for 70% of technical college tuition for qualified students seeking to acquire the technical skills needed by small businesses. STATUS–RATIFIED IN STATE BUDGET
Environmental Crimes–Give subpoena power to the State Grand Jury to investigate environmental crimes that reduce the property value of small businesses and cost tax dollars for clean up. STATUS–SIGNED INTO LAW
Blue Laws–Eliminate Blue Laws that result in small businesses losing revenue to other states and other counties within the state. STATUS–PASSED HOUSE AND IS SET FOR SECOND READING IN THE SENATE
Best Value Procurement–Use economic impact assessments on vendor bids in the award decision to encourage contractors to utilize in-state goods, services and labor. STATUS–PASSED HOUSE AND IS IN SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Affirmative Approval of Regulations–Require all promulgate regulations to be voted on and approved by elected officials. STATUS–PASSED HOUSE AND IS IN SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Check Cashing–Eliminate strict check cashing regulations on small businesses when these small businesses aren’t in the business of cashing checks but do so for the convenience of their customers. STATUS–PASSED HOUSE AND IS IN SENATE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE
Medical Equipment Sales Tax Exemption–Eliminate sales tax on durable medical equipment when paid with Medicare/Medicaid funds that do not allow for sales tax to be collected. STATUS–IN HOUSE WAYS & MEANS AND SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Universal Service Fund–Scale back and redirect this telephone tax costing small businesses and residents tens of millions every year. STATUS–IN SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Property Tax Relief–Achieve permanent property tax relief for small businesses and residents by replacing property tax for school operations with a two-cent increase in sales tax. STATUS–IN HOUSE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE
Natural Gas Rate Hike Hearing
South Carolina Electric & Gas Company has filed for an overall 7.09% natural gas rate increase. The SC Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a public hearing the week of September 19th on the matter. Frank Knapp, president of the Small Business Chamber, will formally intervene along with other parties in an effort to keep any rate increase as low as possible. The Office of Regulatory Staff is the new state office that will represent all consumers in this and all matters before the PSC.
The Legislature passed a law this year that will enable natural gas utilities like SCE&G to adjust their own rates yearly to maintain a PSC-approved rate of return without going through future public hearings.
Consequently, this public hearing is extremely important for all natural gas users because it will set the benchmark (rate of return) from which SCE&G will start adjusting their rates every year to achieve. The lower the rate of return approved by the PSC in this filing, the more money all businesses and residents will save in the future.