A response to FITSNews commentary on voting rights legislation …
September 4, 2021
By Frank Knapp Jr.
I want to thank Will Folks for his recent commentary (8-23-2021) on the SC Small Business Chamber’s support for voting rights legislation.
While we might have differences of opinion, he did include several full statements I have made in explaining why we believe it is critical for the U.S. Senate to pass voting rights legislation to protect democracy and our vibrant entrepreneurial economy.
Unfortunately, he devoted much of this piece to criticizing H.R. 1, which is the far-ranging U.S. House bill passed to address voting rights and much more. He specifically says that my organization endorsed this bill.
That is not correct.
I’ll return to what we are supporting but first let me address his statement that my organization “rarely embraces pro-small business positions.”
Twenty-one years ago, I co-founded the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC). Our record of success for small businesses is lengthy:
- In 2000, we began a first-of-its kind campaign to reduce the income tax rate for small businesses from 7% to 5%, to equal the rate paid by corporations. We were the lead business organization on this effort. In 2005, the SC legislature passed and Governor Mark Sanford, Will’s former boss, signed a bill to give small businesses the tax relief we had worked to achieve.
- In the 2000s, workers compensation premiums for small businesses were a great concern and reached a fevered pitch in 2005 and 2007 when the insurance industry wanted 32.9 percent and 23.7 percent rate hikes respectively. Not only did the SCSBCC propose and see enacted in 2005 funds to enable the state to address insurance fraud, but it joined the SC Consumer Advocate in court to fight the proposed giant rate hikes with the help of pro-bono attorneys from the “left-of-center South Carolina trial lawyer community.” SCSBCC was the only business organization to oppose these rate hikes and convinced a judge to cut the requests by 44 percent and 58 percent respectively saving small businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance premiums. Finally, SCSBCC proposals for fixing the workers compensation rate making process were adopted by the legislature in 2007 and resulted in the insurance industry ceasing their efforts for giant premium increases.
- SCSBCC is recognized as the primary organization fighting on behalf of small businesses on all matters regarding electricity/gas rates that are regulated by the S.C. Public Service Commission (PSC). Since 2002, SCSBCC or me, as a customer, have intervened in every SCE&G/ Dominion Energy general rate hearing to oppose rate hikes. Our success in fighting the proposed 6 rate hikes has been amazing with the average cut to proposed increases being over 59 percent. This includes Dominion agreeing this year to reduce its desired 7.2 percent hike on small businesses to only 1.08 percent, an 85 percent decrease. No other small business organization has stepped up to take on the powerful utilities other than SCSBCC.
- SCSBCC also worked with the old SC Budget and Control Board to craft legislation passed in 2009 that promoted more state procurement dollars to go to in-state small businesses for goods and services.
- SCSBCC has a long list of successful efforts on workforce development and job creation that have benefited the state’s small businesses.
- Since 2015, SCSBCC has been the leading small business organization in the state and along the entire East Coast opposing offshore exploration and drilling for oil in the Atlantic, which has vast bi-partisan opposition in South Carolina. In 2018 SCSBCC and 16 SC coastal municipalities sued the Trump Administration, one of only two lawsuits filed on the issue, for approving preliminary permits needed for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic to look for oil, a process that would have harmed our commercial and recreational fishing industries. Our lawsuit was successful in stopping the final approval of the exploration process and thus offshore drilling.
SCSBCC has other small business success stories. However, today our principal issues are the nation’s 40-year low in new business startups. We are calling on Congress to, among other things, increase access to capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses and increase the number of small businesses receiving federal contracts. We are also advocating for common sense immigration reform to help address our labor shortage by allowing a higher level of legal immigration of people who want to work and create small businesses in our country.
And, of course, SCSBCC is also calling on the U.S. Senate to pass voting rights legislation. We fully expect that the vote will be for a bill supported by moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Today, no one knows exactly what will be in that bill, but it is safe to say that it will not be everything that is in H.R. 1.
We also support adding the 163rd exception to the Senate filibuster rule, if necessary, that will allow for a voting rights bill to pass with a simple majority if a bipartisan bill can’t pass. This carveout has been proposed by SC Congressman James Clyburn. Surely the rights given to all Americans by the Constitution, including the right to vote as specifically protected by the 15th Amendment, are just as important as a foreign trade deal to be enacted by a majority of Senators.
No, a Senate voting rights bill will not be the federal government taking over local elections. In fact, it will be protecting local governments’ ability to control their own elections by stopping state governments from dictating voting procedures and even having the power to nullify voting results.
Small businesses are very concerned about the current state of our economy and support voting rights legislation according to a survey by Small Business for America’s Future.
I’ll end with this.
A strong democracy is vital to a vibrant entrepreneurial economy in which people know that if they have a good idea and are willing to sacrifice and work diligently, their idea can be turned into a successful, profitable business for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Entrepreneurship and a nation’s entire economy suffer when electoral power is removed from the people allowing an autocratic, one-party government and the politically well-connected to control the business ventures of others for their own benefit.
SCSBCC unequivocally supports democracy and for passing voting rights legislation to protect it.
Frank Knapp Jr. is the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and Board member of the American Sustainable Business Council.