Legislative Update: Technical College Tuition Receives $33 Million

Legislative Update: Technical College Tuition Receives $33 Million

The Senate Finance Committee voted last week to give $33 million in lottery money to technical college tuition assistance. We had hoped to obtain the same $34 million budget for this important program that we had this year. Thank you for all your help in making this effort a success. Remember that we started this process with NO money allocated in the first budget presented to the House Ways and Means committee.

 

The full Senate will now take up the state budget and we do not expect any changes to the tech tuition assistance program. After that there will be a House and Senate conference committee to resolve differences between the two budgets passed by each body (the House voted only $27.8 million for this program).

 

Regulatory Reform Up In Subcommittee Again This Week

 

House Bill 3082, which will require an affirmative vote by a legislative subcommittee before any new state agency regulation can become law, will be back before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee this Thursday. The subcommittee wanted to address a possible constitutional problem with the bill before they sent it to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The passage of this bill is important because regulations can now go into effect without our elected officials in the Legislature approving them. The Small Business Chamber believes that state agencies should not be making laws.

Small Business Bulletin

 

SCE&G SEEKS ANOTHER ELECTRIC RATE HIKE

Small Business Chamber President to Intervene

 

SCE&G is asking the Public Service Commission for an overall 5.66% increase on electric rates, which would include a 3.3% hike on small businesses. In 2002, SCE&G was granted an 8% increase on small business rates after The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce intervened to protest the 14% hike the company originally requested. The president of the Small Business Chamber, Frank Knapp, will be intervening in the PSC hearing starting November 1 to question the need for the rate increase. Any reduction in the $81.2 million a year in additional revenue sought by SCE&G should mean a smaller rate increase for small businesses.

STATE AGENCY VOWS NOT TO COMPETE WITH PRIVATE BUSINESS

Sets Up Mechanism to Address Any Problems

 

This past legislative session, the Small Business Chamber shook up state agencies with its legislative push to curtail public entities from competing in the private sector with businesses. Many state agencies protested against the unsuccessful bill. However, one has stepped forward to forge a cooperative, not competitive, relationship with small businesses.

 

The SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department initiated a meeting with the Small Business Chamber to discuss this issue and followed up with a letter of understanding. In that letter, Commissioner Larry C. Bryant states that it is “essential that the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department maintain a positive working relationship with small businesses throughout the state. . . . It is never the intent of the Department to compete with private industry.”

 

Commissioner Bryant has committed his agency to meet with any business that believes it is facing competition from his Department. The purpose of the meeting would be to share information and discuss the matter to resolve the issue to both parties’ satisfaction. The Small Business Chamber will gladly act as a broker for such a meeting and attend the meeting to assist the concerned business. For more information call 803-252-5733.

 

 

WORKERS COMP PREMIUMS TARGET OF TASK FORCE

Small Business Chamber Takes Initiative

 

In September, the Small Business Chamber brought together experts on the Workers Compensation system in a workshop for Chamber members representing numerous trade associations. The goal was to educate the participants on the Workers Comp system and identify the cost drivers of premiums. A task force was created to develop a consensus plan before January to address the problem legislatively or otherwise. The task force met this week and has developed a list of issues needing attention. Approaches for resolving the identified issues will be developed before the task force meets again in November. The task force recommendations will then be presented to the Board of the Small Business Chamber for consideration as part of our legislative agenda.

 

A special thanks for helping with the workshop goes to the SC Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors, the SC Trial Lawyers Association and the Home Builders Association of SC.

 

 

GIVE SMALL BUSINESSES INCENTIVES TO SPUR RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

Faced with the daunting task of developing a plan for improving the economic plight of the state’s most distressed and under developed counties, a 10-member Ad Hoc House Task Force asked the Small Business Chamber for input. The Small Business Chamber has encouraged the Task Force to try approaches aimed at helping small businesses, not just big businesses. “One hundred new jobs created by 75 small businesses surely are just a valuable as the same number of new jobs created by only one business,” stressed Frank Knapp, president of the Small Business Chamber.

 

Specifically for designated rural counties, the Task Force was asked to consider job tax credits for small businesses that create any number of new jobs and job retraining credits to promote registered apprenticeships in small businesses. Both of these current programs are now essentially only available for big businesses. Other recommendations to help small businesses were for counties to enact procurement policies that result in more tax dollars staying in the community and state, better utilize federal Workforce Investment Act money, reduce local business taxes and fees and create Small Business Regulatory Review Committees. The letter and document provided to the Task Force can be found at http://www.scsbc.org/view_issue.asp?id=20.

 

 

COLUMBIA GIVES SMALL BUSINESS REGULATORY REVIEW

 

What’s good for the State might just work for local government also. That is how Columbia Mayor Bob Coble felt when he proposed that his city create a Small Business Regulatory Review Committee modeled after legislation passed by the General Assembly this past session. The purpose of the Regulatory Review Committee is to give small businesses a chance to look at proposed regulations and make recommendations as to how they might be changed to lessen any negative impact on small businesses.

 

At Mayor Coble’s request, the Small Business Chamber, which had worked to pass the state legislation, provided information on how the City of Columbia could establish the Regulatory Review Committee. Frank Knapp, president of the Small Business Chamber, spoke in favor of the proposal at a City Council meeting, after which the Council voted to create the Regulatory Review Committee. Columbia is the first South Carolina local government to formally establish such a Committee to help small businesses.

 

 

SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER OFFERS FALL SEMINARS

 

The SC Small Business Development Center is holding seminars this fall that may be of interest. Area offices offer seminars and training courses on numerous topics. These courses are taught by faculty, staff, and professionals in industry and government. Some courses have a minimal registration fee, others are free of charge. For more information go to: http://mooreschool.sc.edu/moore/usc-dc/seminars/seminars.htm

 

ted by state agencies should have an economic impact statement performed to determine the implementation costs to small businesses and non-profits. This information will be presented to the General Assembly to help them in their decision making process and to protect small businesses from unnecessary regulatory requirements.

 

Unfortunately, our two-year effort to require affirmative legislative approval of new regulations did not pass the Senate. The bill passed the House and went through the Senate Committee process. At the request of the Small Business Chamber the bill was even placed on Special Order on the Senate calendar to give it high priority. However, the Senate was not inclined to be engaged in a potential filibuster on the bill after spending weeks on the seatbelt bill. Negotiations to amend the bill to secure a successful vote and

The Small Business Chamber worked to develop a “Best Value” proposal to be adopted in our state procurement process. Unfortunately, it was too late in the session to introduce the legislation when it was ready. A “Best Value” procurement approach would require an economic impact analysis of proposed contracts to determine which would leave more money in our state with our small businesses and workers and thus be more valuable in promoting economic development. We demonstrated the benefits of this approach on the recent statewide voting machine contract showing that one the contract offered by an unsuccessful vendor would have provided a $51 million economic benefit to the state versus the selected vendor’s $820 thousand benefit. Fortunately, the State Procurement Officer has called for new proposals and we hope to make sure that “Best Value” is a consideration. We have also begun working with three local units of government who are interested in possibly pursuing the “Best Value” procurement process.

 

Government Competition

To deal with the growing problem of state agencies competing with business in the private sector, the Small Business Chamber helped craft legislation offered by Rep. Mac Toole with 28 co-sponsors in the House and introduced in the Senate by Glenn Reese, Jake Knotts, John Drummond, John Kuhn and Arthur Ravenel. The legislation required agencies to get approval from the Budget & Control Board in order to produce goods and services and offer them to the private sector in competition with business. After many House Judiciary Subcommittee and full Committee meetings, the bill failed due to complaints from state agencies and concerns from legislators. However, the effort paid off in the development of a possible new approach to the issue. New legislation will be introduced in January.

 

At the local level, the Small Business Chamber took a leadership role in opposing the City of Columbia’s plans to finance a convention center hotel instead of allowing the private sector developer to fulfill the need. In March, Columbia City Council decided to re-bid the hotel project to find a private developer.

 

Property Rights

The Small Business Chamber supported a bill that would have prohibited local governments from imposing more stringent standards than those established by the state in regards to production of livestock and poultry. We sought to include the same protection to other types of businesses in the bill, which passed the House but failed in the Senate.

 

Enabling the SC Attorney General’s Office to effectively prosecute environmental crimes, which can destroy the property value of effected small businesses and cost tax dollars for clean-up, was also supported by the Small Business Chamber. The bill would have given subpoena power to the state grand jury to investigate this type of white-collar crime. The bill passed the House but failed to be voted on in the Senate as time ran out in the session.

 

Taxes

The Small Business Chamber supported legislation that would have reduced the state income tax rate on all small businesses (sole proprietors, partnerships, S-corporations and limited liability corporations) from 7% to 5%, the same rate paid by C-corporations. The legislation was not successful but the issue arose during the debate in the Senate on Governor’s Sanford’s tax reform bill, which called for reducing the state income tax on everyone to less than 5% over a number of years. The Governor’s plan also failed.

Small Business Bulletin

 

Small Business Under Attack from Regulated Industries

Small Business Chamber Fighting Back

 

Look out small businesses! Telephone, electricity and workers comp insurance costs will all be going up soon. This Bulletin tells you what these regulated industries are up to and how The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce is working to keep your business costs down.

 

Telephone Rates

 

Small businesses are about to get hit with a one-two punch from the giant monopolistic telephone companies like BellSouth. First, in a recent federal court ruling, BellSouth and its Baby Bell cousins got approval to be free of state regulatory oversight on how much they charge competitors like AT&T and MCI to lease local telephone lines. In an effort to promote healthy competition in local phone service, the SC Public Service Commission has been responsible for making sure that BellSouth and other giants that exclusively control local phone lines were not gauging their would-be competitors for access to these lines. The result has been spirited competition for local phone service that has kept costs down for small businesses. This will now change.