The SC General Assembly goes back into session tomorrow and The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce will be at work promoting an agenda that will benefit all small businesses. Not only will you be kept informed of progress on our legislative agenda, you will also be asked to contact your legislators to encourage them to support our efforts. Your participation in grass roots lobbying is an important ingredient for our success.
While other issues and legislation may be added during the session, here is a brief overview of your Small Business Chamber’s 2004 legislative agenda.
Regulatory Process: Every state agency promulgating a regulation should develop an economic impact statement to determine how the regulation will affect small businesses (H.4130/S.758) and have that regulation affirmatively approved by the Legislature (H.3082). The Public Service Commission should be reformed to better protect small business interests through better oversight by the General Assembly, a PSC-independent public advocate and stronger prohibitions against ex parte communication between Commissioners and the big businesses they regulate (S.208).
Taxes: The 7% state income tax rate paid by small businesses should be reduced to the 5% level paid by C-corporations (S.173/H.3314). Eliminate the need for local government to audit the financial records of small businesses by requiring all local option taxes to be collected by the State and remitted back to the local government (S.476). Require that when the Legislature is recommended not to conform to a Federal Tax code, that recommendation be presented apart from other recommendations and contain an analysis of the financial impact to small businesses for nonconformity (bill being drafted).
State Procurement: The state procurement system, which now sends 42% of our tax dollars ($1.3 billion) out of state for goods and services, should adopt a “best value” approach to awarding contracts. Contracts that leave more money in our state (utilizing our small businesses, workers and products) would be given a higher “best value” score (bill being drafted).
Government Competition: In general, public agencies should be prohibited from competing with the private sector when goods and services are already in the market place (bill being drafted). Some exceptions would be permitted (ex. state inmates growing food for their own consumption). Specifically, institutions of higher learning, their foundations and political subdivisions should be prohibited from owning or operating a hotel or resort (S.403/H.3866).
Workforce Development: The Technical College Lottery Tuition Assistance Program should receive lottery money funding to cover 75% of the tuition of eligible students ($34 million in the 2004 budget). Education reform should enable a seamless transition between K-12 and the world of employment, technical education or 4-year universities as well as reduce the 30+% high school dropout rate (S.462).
Health Insurance: Small businesses should be enabled to use their numbers to control premiums by the State creating a vehicle for small businesses to come together for the purpose of acquiring group health insurance.
Tort Reform: Changes in the state’s tort laws should be sought that would benefit, not harm, small businesses (H.3744/S.446). Small businesses should be allowed to access the judicial system for civil actions from the county where their businesses are located (H.4457). Information on the extent of the frivolous lawsuits problem should be collected and all parties in civil suits should be given information as to how to fight frivolous lawsuits under the current law and rules (effort underway with Court Administration).
Property Rights: Owners of real property should receive monetary compensation from local government when the property is rezoned to be nonconforming (S.280). Local government should not be allowed to enact ordinances that supersede or impose a more stringent standard than the standards established by the General Assembly relating to the production of livestock and poultry (H.3555).
Bad Checks: A business should be allowed to charge a fee of $50 for all bad checks received (S.191).
Chamber Membership Grows
The Small Business Chamber starts off 2004 with four new trade association members pushing the organization’s trade association members to 14 and total membership to over 10,000 small businesses across the state. The new trade associations are the SC Association of Personnel & Staffing, SC Hotel/Motel Association, SC Nursery & Landscape Association and SEAMS (representing the sewn-products industry). In announcing his association joining the Small Business Chamber, Bill Ellen of the SC Hotel/Motel Association said, “Your organization has demonstrated that it truly represents the interest of small business and your efforts and philosophy ‘can not be bought’”.
The Small Business Chamber has added a Membership Development Director, Mike Pickett, who will be calling on individual small businesses to solicit their support. Mr. Pickett comes to the Small Business Chamber from the NFIB where he provided similar services.
Governor Fulfills Goal of Small Business Chamber
Governor Mark Sanford’s Department of Commerce has created a new position—Small Business Ombudsman. Since our inception, the Small Business Chamber has called for such a position in state government. Chuck Bundy, a 14-year veteran at Commerce, will be the point of contact for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are looking for government resources or assistance in resolving problems. He can be reached at (803) 737-0440.
Toole Joins Board
Lexington County Representative Mac Toole has joined the Small Business Chambers’ Board of Directors as a Legislative Director. Also serving with Rep. Toole on the Board is Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, Senator Glenn Reese, Senator Jake Knotts and Rep. John Scott.
Radio Program Hosted by Small Business Chamber
Every Monday morning at 8 a.m., Frank Knapp, Jr., the Small Business Chamber’s president and CEO, hosts a one-hour program on Columbia’s WCEO (840-AM) radio station. The program, called the Small Business Forum, features interviews with small business leaders and elected officials on topics of interest to the business community. The 50,000-watt talk-radio station provides the time as a part of its community service.
Small Business Encouraged to Use Tech Tuition Program
The Small Business Chamber fought hard to create and fund the Technical College Lottery Tuition Assistance (LTA) Program in 2002. Since then over 28 thousands South Carolinians have benefited from the program by having about 78% of their tuition covered.
However, the real payoff of the LTA Program is that it affords small businesses a unique opportunity for employee development that doesn’t exist in most states. The sheer cost of higher education in general is so prohibitive to the average working person — let alone to the owners of most small businesses and small business employees — as to render it generally unavailable without weighty financing and debt planning.
That’s why the South Carolina Education Lottery is inherently small business-friendly. Owners of small, independent businesses often find it necessary for their employees to further their skills training, update their certifications or otherwise continue their education for any number of reasons. These business owners and managers can take advantage of South Carolina’s unique lottery-funded tuition assistance program to finance this kind of employee development.
Wise small business owners can essentially co-opt the LTA program to create their own employee-based incentive packages, offering continuing training for employees who merit such consideration and in turn maximizing their employees’ — and their businesses’ — effectiveness.
To find out how your business can grow its own skilled-workforce by using the LTA Program, contact your local technical college. Contact information on each institution can be found at www.sctechsystem.com or call the Small Business Chamber at (803) 252-5733.
The USC Small Business Development Center has an opening for a part-time business consultant. Duties will include feasibility assessment, business planning, loan package preparation and seminar presentation. Degree in business administration, engineering, economics or related field and 4 years experience in business management or economic development required. Send letter and resume to: USC Small Business Development Center, Moore School of Business, Columbia, SC 29208.