Friday Follies: Prefiled House Legislation

It’s a new year in the Palmetto State, and that means the South Carolina’s legislative session is about to begin – on January 9 to be exact. Despite the changes a new year can bring, a common theme in South Carolina state government is that much of the proposed legislation would do more harm than good. Unfortunately, if recent prefiled legislation (bills filed in advance for the upcoming year) is any indication, 2018 will be more of the same.

While some proposals seem well-thought-out in their approach, others simply lack all signs of common sense. Here is a quick rundown of some of the more ridiculous prefile bills from the House alone.

There’s H.4385, which would require every public K-12 classroom in the state to display a poster that includes the national motto and the motto of South Carolina.

Considering that South Carolina’s education system ranks as one of the worst in the country, it’s odd that legislators would be focused on is what posters teachers hang in their classroom. In fact, teachers are fully capable of deciding which learning materials foster a productive learning environment. And it’s entirely unnecessary. Students already participate in the pledge of allegiance every day – they aren’t going to forget what country they’re in because there isn’t a poster there to remind them.

And the unnecessary regulation doesn’t stop in the classroom. Enter H.4426. This bill would allow the Department of Health and Environmental Control to fine a person or body piercing facility that operates without a license. The simple fact is that this sort of industry is better equipped than government to develop meaningful quality-control criteria, and customers are more than capable of weighing the risks of using a reputable facility versus their cousin’s garage.

Unfortunately, these burdensome licensing and regulatory laws are all too common in South Carolina. For instance, in the 2017 session alone, lawmakers attempted to license mobile barber shop owners and sign language interpreters.

One bill that seems to have been introduced with good intention is H.4386. This law would require that metal detectors be installed at the public entrances of every public school in the state. While we certainly applaud the goal of keeping students safe, the fact is that good intentions do not always equate to fiscal responsibility, nor do they necessarily produce good results.

For instance, moderately priced metal detectors are roughly $4,500. Considering that there are over 1,200 public schools in South Carolina, each of them with several public entrances, a conservative estimate places the fiscal impact of this single piece of legislation at over $10 million.

Moreover, a “one size fits all” mandate from Columbia is not how security should be approached. Meaning, perhaps not every school needs metal detectors and local districts should have the flexibility to develop individual security approaches that will keep their own schools safe.

And finally, there’s H.4406, a bill that would penalize anyone who operates a golf cart at nighttime. With legislation this specific, lawmakers might as well just name the law after the troublesome neighborhood kids who inspired their bill. And then there’s the enforcement issue: Would individuals who live in isolated rural areas driving on their own property be fined, or only those in crowded neighborhoods? The law does not specify.

These examples are just the beginning of the perplexing bills lawmakers will likely introduce in 2018. And as they do, we will be here to explain them in plain English, deconstructing their proposals one at a time.

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