The Way Too Early Best and Worst of 2010: A Look at What’s Ahead in the Senate

Last week, we indicated which prefiled bills in the House deserved special mention. Now, we turn to the Senate. Perhaps because it’s an election year, or perhaps because they’ve been paying attention, senators prefiled a variety of good bills that merit consideration in 2010. Still, there are more than enough bad bills to be wary of.

 

Best Prefiled Senate Bills

 

S 986 – This bill is a perfect example of how free-market health care reform could make health insurance more affordable for all consumers. The legislation would enable consumers to purchase insurance from approved out-of-state insurers, thus ending the current monopoly enjoyed by S.C. providers. The reform could lower insurance costs by as much as 30 percent by indirectly eliminating costly coverage mandates (also see S 988 below).

 

S 898 – This bill would force state budget writers to implement a zero-based budgeting system, building the budget from the ground up each year rather than simply adding to the previous year’s total. It’s a long overdue idea, but the bill is short on specifics on how the reform would be implemented. In other states where zero-based budgeting has been tried, lawmakers have found it necessary to mandate that specific performance measures be used to justify each program and spending item.

 

S 1003 – The legislature routinely gets bogged down in mundane, inconsequential legislation. But this bill proposes requiring the General Assembly to convene once every two years, rather than every year. With less time in Columbia, politicians would (hopefully) focus on what is important to South Carolinians.

 

S 899 – This bill puts forward a series of constitutional amendments that, if passed, would allow the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket rather than being separately elected. This reform would be welcome as the current system encourages division, with the lieutenant governor jockeying for his own position and power within the executive branch.

 

S 902, S 942 – Without getting into the details of either of these bills, a Fair Tax would simplify the tax code, reduce enforcement costs and make it easier for taxpayers to see what they are actually paying. As indicated in Unleashing Capitalism, the tax could be made less regressive by providing an exemption on the first $15,000 of consumption spending. One caveat: taxes are already too high – so a “revenue neutral” Fair Tax reform is not enough. Fundamental tax reform must entail cutting taxes and reducing spending.

 

S 988 – This bill would require a review of proposed health coverage mandates, with specific attention paid to medical efficacy and fiscal impact, including the impact on small employers, medium sized employers, large employers and the state employees’ health benefit plan.

 

S 984 – Yes, it’s another government bureaucracy, but one aimed at cutting government bureaucracy. This bill would establish a Council on Efficient Government to conduct an ongoing review of whether goods or services provided by state agencies should be privatized. The bill provides for several mechanisms that would trigger a review, including a request from a private entity, as well as agency procurement requests of $10 million or more. For this reason, we are hoping this Council might prove more effective than the usual default to a study commission.

S 980 – This legislation amends the state constitution to protect the individual right to choose health care providers in the private market. See also S 987 and H 4181.

 

S 999 – Taxing unemployment benefits is foolish and inefficient. This proposal would exempt unemployment benefits from gross income calculations.

 

S 982 – Our Best & Worst of 2009 discusses the dangers of forced annexation and notes that H 3253 would address some of these. S 982, new for 2010, does the same.

 

S 989 – This bill requires state agencies that enter into a legal contract worth more than $1 million to submit the contract to a competitive sealed bidding process. This is a good idea, but it is arguable whether such contracts should then be submitted for review by a joint committee of the General Assembly.

S 936 – Although it’s a relatively low impact piece of legislation, this bill would eliminate any fees for sewer service to property owners who use their own sewer or septic system. Individuals should not be forced to pay the government for services they do not need. Next up? … How about health care coverage mandates consumers don’t use … see S 986 and S 988 above.

 

S 920 – This measure would require recipients of unemployment and certain other state benefits to submit to a drug screening test.

 

S 944 – As the Policy Council has reported, cap-and-trade legislation will cost the state thousands of jobs. This resolution encourages the state’s federal representatives to oppose the bills emerging from Washington. (But the measure’s push for state-level renewable energy portfolio standards is wrongheaded.)

 

S 965 – This bill exempts physicians trained in acupuncture from certain requirements stemming from the state Acupuncture Act. The real question is why is there a state Acupuncture Act? And why is it 3,359 words? More seriously, one of the best ways to lower health care costs is to eliminate burdensome licensing requirements for medical professionals. This act chips away at such requirements.

 

Worst Prefiled Senate Bills

 

S 897 – This bill creates yet another commission to look at ways to streamline government and reduce waste. Legislators seem to have forgotten that similar commissions (like the MAP Commission in 2003 or the GEAR Commission in 2007) have proven ineffective or only partially effective. While streamlining government is a great and necessary idea, do we really need another commission to study the idea? This bill appears to be less about moving forward with real reform, and more about delaying it for another year. The idea will sound good on the campaign trail, though.

 

S 900 – Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, as evidenced by this bill. S 900 requires that the S.C. Law Enforcement Division has “exclusive authority to provide security and protection” to the governor and lieutenant governor, and that such security cannot be “declined.” But the bill doesn’t specify what “cannot be declined” means. Political events? Family vacations? Trips to Argentina?

 

S 918 – While tax cuts are normally a good thing, they shouldn’t be narrowly constructed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That’s exactly what this bill does by offering a tax credit of 25 percent on the purchase of a geothermal heat pump system. If you don’t know what a geothermal heat pump system is, the bill graciously defines it for you.

 

S 906 – Solicitors and judges have a separate retirement system from other state employees. This bill allows judges and solicitors who leave their retirement system – before serving the requisite number of years to draw benefits – to transfer their years of service to the standard state employee retirement system. It’s a carve-out that doesn’t exist for regular state employees, and it will add yet another burden to the state’s grossly underfunded retirement system.

 

S 930 – Hard to say what is worse about this bill: the restrictions on personal liberty or the fact that it’s another stealth fee increase. S 930 limits the area within which golf carts may be operated and also increases the fee for doing so by requiring a new permit (cost: $5) every five years.

 

S 952 – This legislation would add yet another coverage mandate to the State Health Plan – for bariatric surgery. S 952 would also add yet another layer to our already bloated state government – a Bariatric Advisory Board.

 

S 955 – This measure would further restrict the housing and construction market by requiring all contractors to carry workers’ compensation coverage. A better option is to let individual workers decide whether they want to work for a contractor who does not carry such insurance and let the tort system deal with injuries caused by gross negligence.

 

S 937: This bill would dictate policy regarding physician rotations at hospitals that receive any kind of public funding, including Medicare and Medicaid. In effect, the bill requires physicians to treat patients who receive Medicare/Medicaid. Although the measure permits doctors to opt out, the real problem is government telling hospitals how to operate and doctors what patients they can see.

 

S 983, S 1006 – Granted, neither of these bills are among the absolute worst of the prefiles. S 983 provides for a property tax exemption in select cases for homeowners age 55 and older while S 1006 expands the homestead exemption for seniors and others from $50,000 to $100,000. But why not lower the tax rate for all homeowners instead of forcing younger homeowners to subsidize their (often more wealthy) elders?

 

S 917 – This bill would define as a public pier any pier, including those that are privately owned, that extends into the Atlantic Ocean. Is there something we are missing here, or is this simply a case of government taking property that doesn’t belong to it?

 

S 1004 – This bill would extend up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness to geriatric nurses who work in South Carolina for at least five years upon graduation. If Obamacare passes, expect many more such enticements, as the medical profession becomes less and less attractive to students.

S 997 – This bill would prohibit insurance companies from using a person’s credit history as a factor in determining whether to issue a policy or in setting premiums and fees. Question: Shouldn’t paying your bills on time (or at all) be a factor in just about any financial contract?

 

Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation.

 

Copyright 2010. South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

 

Last week, we indicated which prefiled bills in the House deserved special mention. Now, we turn to the Senate. Perhaps because it’s an election year, or perhaps because they’ve been paying attention, senators prefiled a variety of good bills that merit consideration in 2010. Still, there are more than enough bad bills to be wary of.

 

Best Prefiled Senate Bills

 

S 986 – This bill is a perfect example of how free-market health care reform could make health insurance more affordable for all consumers. The legislation would enable consumers to purchase insurance from approved out-of-state insurers, thus ending the current monopoly enjoyed by S.C. providers. The reform could lower insurance costs by as much as 30 percent by indirectly eliminating costly coverage mandates (also see S 988 below).

 

S 898 – This bill would force state budget writers to implement a zero-based budgeting system, building the budget from the ground up each year rather than simply adding to the previous year’s total. It’s a long overdue idea, but the bill is short on specifics on how the reform would be implemented. In other states where zero-based budgeting has been tried, lawmakers have found it necessary to mandate that specific performance measures be used to justify each program and spending item.

 

S 1003 – The legislature routinely gets bogged down in mundane, inconsequential legislation. But this bill proposes requiring the General Assembly to convene once every two years, rather than every year. With less time in Columbia, politicians would (hopefully) focus on what is important to South Carolinians.

 

S 899 – This bill puts forward a series of constitutional amendments that, if passed, would allow the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket rather than being separately elected. This reform would be welcome as the current system encourages division, with the lieutenant governor jockeying for his own position and power within the executive branch.

 

S 902, S 942 – Without getting into the details of either of these bills, a Fair Tax would simplify the tax code, reduce enforcement costs and make it easier for taxpayers to see what they are actually paying. As indicated in Unleashing Capitalism, the tax could be made less regressive by providing an exemption on the first $15,000 of consumption spending. One caveat: taxes are already too high – so a “revenue neutral” Fair Tax reform is not enough. Fundamental tax reform must entail cutting taxes and reducing spending.

 

S 988 – This bill would require a review of proposed health coverage mandates, with specific attention paid to medical efficacy and fiscal impact, including the impact on small employers, medium sized employers, large employers and the state employees’ health benefit plan.

 

S 984 – Yes, it’s another government bureaucracy, but one aimed at cutting government bureaucracy. This bill would establish a Council on Efficient Government to conduct an ongoing review of whether goods or services provided by state agencies should be privatized. The bill provides for several mechanisms that would trigger a review, including a request from a private entity, as well as agency procurement requests of $10 million or more. For this reason, we are hoping this Council might prove more effective than the usual default to a study commission.

S 980 – This legislation amends the state constitution to protect the individual right to choose health care providers in the private market. See also S 987 and H 4181.

 

S 999 – Taxing unemployment benefits is foolish and inefficient. This proposal would exempt unemployment benefits from gross income calculations.

 

S 982 – Our Best & Worst of 2009 discusses the dangers of forced annexation and notes that H 3253 would address some of these. S 982, new for 2010, does the same.

 

S 989 – This bill requires state agencies that enter into a legal contract worth more than $1 million to submit the contract to a competitive sealed bidding process. This is a good idea, but it is arguable whether such contracts should then be submitted for review by a joint committee of the General Assembly.

S 936 – Although it’s a relatively low impact piece of legislation, this bill would eliminate any fees for sewer service to property owners who use their own sewer or septic system. Individuals should not be forced to pay the government for services they do not need. Next up? … How about health care coverage mandates consumers don’t use … see S 986 and S 988 above.

 

S 920 – This measure would require recipients of unemployment and certain other state benefits to submit to a drug screening test.

 

S 944 – As the Policy Council has reported, cap-and-trade legislation will cost the state thousands of jobs. This resolution encourages the state’s federal representatives to oppose the bills emerging from Washington. (But the measure’s push for state-level renewable energy portfolio standards is wrongheaded.)

 

S 965 – This bill exempts physicians trained in acupuncture from certain requirements stemming from the state Acupuncture Act. The real question is why is there a state Acupuncture Act? And why is it 3,359 words? More seriously, one of the best ways to lower health care costs is to eliminate burdensome licensing requirements for medical professionals. This act chips away at such requirements.

 

Worst Prefiled Senate Bills

 

S 897 – This bill creates yet another commission to look at ways to streamline government and reduce waste. Legislators seem to have forgotten that similar commissions (like the MAP Commission in 2003 or the GEAR Commission in 2007) have proven ineffective or only partially effective. While streamlining government is a great and necessary idea, do we really need another commission to study the idea? This bill appears to be less about moving forward with real reform, and more about delaying it for another year. The idea will sound good on the campaign trail, though.

 

S 900 – Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, as evidenced by this bill. S 900 requires that the S.C. Law Enforcement Division has “exclusive authority to provide security and protection” to the governor and lieutenant governor, and that such security cannot be “declined.” But the bill doesn’t specify what “cannot be declined” means. Political events? Family vacations? Trips to Argentina?

 

S 918 – While tax cuts are normally a good thing, they shouldn’t be narrowly constructed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That’s exactly what this bill does by offering a tax credit of 25 percent on the purchase of a geothermal heat pump system. If you don’t know what a geothermal heat pump system is, the bill graciously defines it for you.

 

S 906 – Solicitors and judges have a separate retirement system from other state employees. This bill allows judges and solicitors who leave their retirement system – before serving the requisite number of years to draw benefits – to transfer their years of service to the standard state employee retirement system. It’s a carve-out that doesn’t exist for regular state employees, and it will add yet another burden to the state’s grossly underfunded retirement system.

 

S 930 – Hard to say what is worse about this bill: the restrictions on personal liberty or the fact that it’s another stealth fee increase. S 930 limits the area within which golf carts may be operated and also increases the fee for doing so by requiring a new permit (cost: $5) every five years.

 

S 952 – This legislation would add yet another coverage mandate to the State Health Plan – for bariatric surgery. S 952 would also add yet another layer to our already bloated state government – a Bariatric Advisory Board.

 

S 955 – This measure would further restrict the housing and construction market by requiring all contractors to carry workers’ compensation coverage. A better option is to let individual workers decide whether they want to work for a contractor who does not carry such insurance and let the tort system deal with injuries caused by gross negligence.

 

S 937: This bill would dictate policy regarding physician rotations at hospitals that receive any kind of public funding, including Medicare and Medicaid. In effect, the bill requires physicians to treat patients who receive Medicare/Medicaid. Although the measure permits doctors to opt out, the real problem is government telling hospitals how to operate and doctors what patients they can see.

 

S 983, S 1006 – Granted, neither of these bills are among the absolute worst of the prefiles. S 983 provides for a property tax exemption in select cases for homeowners age 55 and older while S 1006 expands the homestead exemption for seniors and others from $50,000 to $100,000. But why not lower the tax rate for all homeowners instead of forcing younger homeowners to subsidize their (often more wealthy) elders?

 

S 917 – This bill would define as a public pier any pier, including those that are privately owned, that extends into the Atlantic Ocean. Is there something we are missing here, or is this simply a case of government taking property that doesn’t belong to it?

 

S 1004 – This bill would extend up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness to geriatric nurses who work in South Carolina for at least five years upon graduation. If Obamacare passes, expect many more such enticements, as the medical profession becomes less and less attractive to students.

S 997 – This bill would prohibit insurance companies from using a person’s credit history as a factor in determining whether to issue a policy or in setting premiums and fees. Question: Shouldn’t paying your bills on time (or at all) be a factor in just about any financial contract?

 

Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation.

 

Copyright 2010. South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Research · Tags: