It was a busy day yesterday for the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. Two Senate subcommittees and the House Ways and Means Committee held meetings on legislation we supported. Unfortunately two of these bills did not get the favorable votes we wanted.
The morning started out with a Senate subcommittee on S.145, a bill that would outlaw most favored nation clauses in contracts between health insurance companies and healthcare providers. These contracts are used to guarantee that one carrier always gets the best provider reimbursement rates forcing the provider often to charge other insurance companies more for the same services. The result is that other insurance companies have a harder time competing with the company that has the most favored nation clauses in their contracts. This leads to lack of competition in our health insurance market which drives up rates for everyone.
One Senator totally bought into that BC-BS pitch and threw the free-market and reduced insurance rates for small businesses and individuals under the bus. The other Senator didn’t think the state should make any changes in our insurance laws until the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.
Then a Senate subcommittee met to discuss S.536, a bill that would make it legal for third parties to finance and own solar panels installed on homes and commercial buildings and sell the electricity produced to the occupant. This practice has worked well in other states and results in the financing company to make money and the building occupant to save money. After lengthy testimony, including mine, on the merits of allowing the free market to reign, the subcommittee voted to hold another public hearing. The reason—they wanted to hear from the energy companies (Duke, SCE&G and Progress Energy).
But there was a ray of sunshine yesterday. The House Ways and Means Committee voted to send H.3125, the Microenterprise Development Act, to the full House. This bill will empower our Department of Commerce to help our non-profit microloan organizations obtain more money to lend to very small businesses (4 or less employees).