Weekly Legislative Update. February 5 – 7, 2019

This week, lawmakers filed 130 new bills, 80 of which were congratulatory/honorary/sympathy resolutions. 60 individual resolutions honored boy scouts, and some of the other resolutions honored a school wrestling team, a retiring firefighter, an author, and a school softball team.

17 bills would add or amend regulations on individuals and businesses. S.472 would create a new occupational license for music therapy (and a new board to govern it); S.494 would give a special regulatory exemption to “a substance abuse treatment facility established and operating on the grounds of a rural hospital that closed before December 31, 2019.” This appears likely to be a regulatory favor aimed at one facility in particular.

Three bills have been filed to authorize online or electronic notaries, and include extensive regulations, education requirements, and registration fees. Another bill, S.489, creates a bounty program for coyote hunting ($75/coyote removed from the state).

By far the most concerning bill, however, is H.3934. This bill would give legislative delegations power to subpoena any state or local government agency, board, commission, etc. and/or their representatives and records. Legislative delegations already have far too much influence over local matters, and this bill would increase that influence by giving broad powers to legislative delegations to be wielded at their own discretion. (Read more here)

Finally, S.488 would allow local governments to establish “inclusionary zoning” programs, which would require developers to price portions of housing developments at a specified “affordable” level by means of zoning regulations and regulatory incentives. Using government force to ensure the supply of a particular commodity is bad policy and ignores the fact that the market is much better at governing supply and demand. More importantly, this type of zoning regulation is a blatant violation of property rights.

Bills to watch:

Companion bills S.309 and H.3595 would essentially increase the budget of the SC Research Authority, a state-owned venture capital firm by increasing the cap on available tax credits for the “Industry Partnership Trust Fund”. The Senate bill would increase the cap to $12 million (from $6 million), but decrease the individual tax credit from $2 million to $250,000 (the House bill would increase the cap to $9 million).  It would also prevent SCRA board members from receiving this credit, a conflict of interest that is currently legal.

Current law awards the tax credit on a first-come, first-served basis, but this bill also requires those individuals to “make a commitment satisfactory to the SCRA.” This vague language appears to allow the SCRA board broad discretion in who receives the tax credits.

The state should not have a tax funded venture capital firm at all, especially one as unaccountable and nontransparent as the SCRA, so doubling its budget through tax credits is a very concerning idea.

These bills passed their respective chambers this week.

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