During each legislative session, SCPC’s policy analysts post brief analyses of each significant bill filed in the General Assembly. As briefly as possible, we tell you what the bill does and whether it furthers or impedes South Carolinians’ personal and economic freedom.
Regulating the Online Sale of Hearing Aids (Filed 2/26/14)
S.1056 effectively prevents non-licensed hearing aid specialists from selling hearing aids through the mail, internet, or ‘other means’. S.1056 also adds in language that will require licensed hearing aid specialists to provide for the fitting, sale, and delivery of all hearing aids. In addition, the bill establishes that if a person wants to purchase hearing aids from a non-licensed seller, they can only do so by obtaining a prescribed recommendation from a licensed hearing aid specialist. This bill violates both the economic liberty and well-being of all South Carolinians, as it prevents individuals from choosing, for themselves, among the many, and often times cheaper, alternatives to hearing aids purchased through licensed hearing aid specialists. This is a classic example of licensing laws run amok, as it serves to protect the economic interests of licensed hearing aid sellers, at the expense of non-licensed sellers and those who purchase hearing aids.
Deregulating Brewpubs and Changing Liquor laws (Filed 2/07/13, Amended 5/14/14)
H.3512 was originally written to allow the use of coupons in the purchase of alcoholic liquor and to prohibit sale of alcoholic liquor between retail dealers. The bill has since been amended to include the provisions of both S.1230, the “Stone” bill, (which would allow brewpubs to brew up to 500,000 barrels of beer annually and sell that beer to wholesale retailers) and H.3539 a bill that would allow the sale of alcohol on election days. While H.3512 contains some lamentable restrictions on commercial actions, the deregulating aspects of the bill are positive developments for the beer and liquor industries in South Carolina, and the larger South Carolina economy.
Clemson Enterprise Division Revised (Filed 3/19/13, Amended 5/15/14)
As originally written S.535 created an “Enterprise Division” within Clemson University that would have been exempt from various laws governing procurement, human resources, personnel, and disposition of property. Furthermore, the Enterprise Division would have had the power to acquire property under terms it considered appropriate, retain services of consultants and attorneys, issue bonds, enter relationships with non-profits, and even finance capital improvements, which wouldn’t be subject to normal procurement processes.
The current version of the bill has become far less objectionable via a strike and insert amendment. As it currently reads S.535 sets the standards by which the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) and the Budget and Control Board (soon to be renamed the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA)), review and approve university permanent improvement projects and leases. The level of oversight exercised by the JBRC and the SFAA depends on the cost of the proposed projects, the proposed funding sources, and the credit rating of the university proposing the project. Regardless of any of these factors however, universities must receive some form of approval from the JBRC and SFAA before they can carry out their proposed capital projects. In addition any language exempting Clemson or any other university from any other set procurement processes is absent from the current bill.
Violating the Constitution to Increase Legislative Power (Filed 4/09/2014)
H.5072 would allow the House and Senate to authorize a special prosecutor to investigate “alleged” violations of ethics laws by constitutional officers – for example, the Attorney General. (The prosecutorial appointee would also be empowered to investigate “other officers,” a term referring to the heads of several executive departments and members of other boards and commissions – it does not, as far as we can tell, include legislators.) If authorized, the special prosecutor would be appointed jointly by the Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker. The prosecutor would also be entitled to the full resources and use of the state grand jury.
This proposal would violate article 24, section 5 of the South Carolina constitution. That section says, in part, “The Attorney General shall be the chief prosecuting officer of the State with authority to supervise the prosecution of all criminal cases in courts of record.”
Amending the Constitution to Remove the Powers of the Attorney General (Filed 4/09/2014)
H.5073 would create a ballot proposition that if approved would amend the constitution to remove all the legal powers of the state Attorney General. This bill is intended to be coupled with H.5072, a bill that would hand over the powers of the Attorney General to the legislature. This is a clear attempt to violate the appropriate separation of powers where the legislative branch creates the law and the executive branch enforces it. South Carolina’s government is already dominated by its legislature; this would be a further step in the wrong direction.
H.5083 (Filed 4/09/2014) would establish regulations for surety bondsman including raising educational requirements from 20 hours to 80 hours.
H.5106 (Filed 4/10/2014) would allow the Department of Social Services to issue deficiency notices and impose penalties on family childcare homes for not complying with statutes or regulations, and for not correcting deficiencies once notified the exist.
H.5116 (Filed 4/10/2014) would raise the minimum fee bail bondsmen must charge for bond from $25 to $100, or 10%, whichever is greater, as well as require a minimum down payment of $100 or 5% for any payment agreement, which cannot be altered and must be paid within 18 months.
More Ways to Qualify for Job Tax Credits (Filed 4/10/2014)
H.5105 would allow service-related facilities that have a net increase of at least one thousand new full-time jobs at a single corporate campus, and the jobs have an average cash compensation level of more than one and one-half times the lower of state per capita income or per capital income in the county where the jobs are located to qualify for the job tax credit.
Study Committee to Research Impact of Dependence on Federal Funds (Filed 4/10/2014)
H.5119 would create the South Carolina Federal Funds Study Committee which would assess the financial stability of the federal government, the level of dependency the State and local governments have on federal funds, and how a reduction of federal funds would affect the State and local governments. The committee is also to make recommendations to reduce the state’s dependency on the receipt of federal funds to the legislature and Governor by October 31, 2015.
Federal funds come with strings attached that coerce states into enacting polices the federal government prefers. For South Carolina to be the freest state in the nation, it needs to regain our fiscal sovereignty over policy areas like healthcare and education, and transportation (just to name a few). Unfortunately, the findings of study committees are rarely taken action upon by the legislature. We already know our state is too dependent on federal funds, and it will take more than just the findings of a study committee to cut off our state’s dependence.
(Slightly) More Transparency in Income Disclosure (Filed 4/10/2014)
H.5113 would require public officials to report compensation they receive from their employer if it subcontracts with the government entity the public official is associated with for various work. Public officials already have to report compensation received if their employer contracts with the government entity they are associated with, so this bill closes the potential loophole public officials could use to not report compensation received from subcontracting that conflicts with their role as a public official. Further transparency of income sources for lawmakers in South Carolina is crucial to expose potential conflicts of interest, which is something the Policy Council’s Project Conflict Watch aims to achieve.
Deleting all Hair Braiding Licensure Laws (Filed 4/08/2014)
H.5063 would remove all licensure and registration requirements for those who wish to engage in hair braiding. Licensure requirements like those governing hair braiding help to stifle economic mobility and prevent financial independence for many who wish to use their skills. This would be an excellent change in law that would remove significant barriers to would be entrepreneurs.
Loosening Regulations on Retail Sale Outlets Selling Funeral Merchandise (Filed 4/08/2014)
H.5067 would remove requirements that any retail sales outlet selling funeral merchandise (such as caskets) be licensed/have a permit from the Board of Funeral Services to perform funeral services. In place of a funeral services permit retail sales outlets would register with the board biannually as sale outlets for a $100 fee. This is a laudable attempt to lower both the costs of doing business for entrepreneurs and the price of goods for consumers. This bill also represents a positive mindset change, at least among some legislators, in the regulation of the funeral industry. Regulators have up to this point been intransigent when it comes to reform, despite recommendations from the Governor’s Regulatory Task Force.
Creating Health Enterprise Zones (Filed 4/02/2014)
H.5026 would allow the Director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to designate select areas in the state as “health enterprise zones”. Medical practitioners in health enterprise zones would be eligible for income tax credits, and loan repayment assistance. Non-profits and local government agencies who apply for an area to qualify as a health enterprise zone would be eligible to receive grants from DHEC.
Evidently the state believes the market is completely incapable of determining the need or demand for medical services and facilities. The state already prohibits the creation of new healthcare facilities in select locations under the Certificate of Need law, and now it wants to encourage the creation of health care facilities in other areas. Markets respond to demand with products and services, the sooner legislators realize this, the better off healthcare consumers will be.
Compensating Landowners for Government Caused Decrease in Property Value (Filed 4/02/2014)
H.5028 would stipulate that right of way acquisition cost for government bodies exercising eminent domain include compensation to landowners within 1000 feet of the right of way who have seen their property values fall due to the location of the right of way. This is a sensible bill that recognizes property owners don’t have to have their property taken to be harmed by eminent domain. It is only just that property owners who lose wealth due to the forceful takings of government by compensated for that loss.
Disclosure of Private Income Sources Worth more than $2,500 (Filed 4/02/2014)
H.5038 is identical to the provision on public official private source income disclosure in the House Version of the ethics bill, H.3945. While the provision is much stronger than current law which requires no private source income disclosure it includes some classes of income that don’t have to be disclosed such as court order income, interest from banking accounts, mutual funds. More importantly, the bill exempts the disclosure of sources of income if that income was less than $2,500. This is a fairly large loophole. A standalone income source disclosure bill is far from a bad thing but it should include all sources of private income regardless of the amount of that income.
More Cost Recovery for Utilities (Filed 4/02/2014)
S.1189 is near identical to the amended version of S.536. Each bill allows a limited amount of solar leasing by companies that hold a certificate from the Office of Regulatory Staff. Each bill also allows utilities to receive more cost recovery (Public Service Commission approved price hikes) when they participate in a “Distributed Energy Resource Program” by buying or making investments in renewable energy. While it is absurd that solar leasing is currently illegal, this bill which purports to change that causes as many problems as it fixes. Solar leasing should be legal without certificates, and the last thing consumers need is more avenues for utility cost recovery.
Historic Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credits (Filed 4/03/2014)
S.1200 would provide new larger state tax credits for taxpayers who make qualified rehabilitation expenditures in certified historic structures in South Carolina.