More ‘Official’ Time-Wasters


South Carolina faces many problems. The fact that graphic designs of palmetto trees aren’t standardized is not one of them. Nonetheless, H.4201 – co-sponsored by Reps. Martin, Pope, Delleney, and Huggins – addresses this non-problem.

The bill would task the director of the Department of Administration to solicit public input on the appropriate design for the palmetto tree on official state depictions. Once this design is agreed upon, it would be sent it to the General Assembly for ratification. And once this happened, the official design would be “the approved design of the palmetto tree for official purposes and [would be] considered to be the approved official design of the palmetto tree for inclusion on the State Flag flown over the State House and used for other public purposes.”

Nothing good can come from such a regulation. First, it’s needless. Granted, some standardization may be in order, but why must the standardization go into the state law code? Why can’t some widely recognized organization in the private or nonprofit sector serve as the unofficial/official authority?

A palmetto tree coaster that may one day fall afoul of the law

Second, these regulations often result in lawsuits. Despite what appears to be a sentence disavowing any intention to crack down on private companies using the palmetto logo – “Nothing in this subsection authorizes the director or the General Assembly to infringe on any trademarked designs of a palmetto tree held by a private party” – it doesn’t cover non-trademarked designs. The image of the palmetto is ubiquitous in South Carolina: every conceivable business has at least one firm named with the palmetto (Palmetto Flooring, Palmetto Pest Control, etc., etc.). How long before one of these businesses, which haven’t gone to the trouble of trademarking their insignia, get a letter from some state authority requiring them to alter its image in some way, or cease and desist from using it?

True, the bill went nowhere in 2017 (though it’s still alive for next year). But scores of these pointless, microscopic regulations are introduced every year, and often enough they pass – which is why South Carolina has an official state animal, official state horse (not the same as the animal), official state popular music, official state dance, official state waltz (not the same as the dance), official state beverage, and many more official state things.

These bills may give emotional satisfaction to some constituency or other. But some of them seem to be favors to particular groups and industries – for example, the state’s dairy industry. Moreover they waste public officials’ time, waste taxpayer resources, and establish the possibility of lawsuits in the future. An official moratorium is in order.

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