Weekly Update 4.1.2011

This Week at the Statehouse
April 1st, 2011

Angel Investment

H.3779, The Bill Wylie Entrepreneurship Act, is on the House Ways & Means Committee agenda for next week. The committee is scheduled to meet on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 5th.

This legislation will allow “Angel Investors” to claim an income tax credit for providing funding to small business start-ups in our state.

Employment and Workforce

The Senate Finance Committee passed legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (Cherokee) that will provide tax credits to South Carolina businesses that hire previously out-of-work South Carolinians. The bill gives businesses a $100 tax credit per month per formerly unemployed South Carolina resident, for a maximum of $2,400 over a 24-month period. The tax credit cannot exceed the amount of taxes the business pays in a year, but any excess can be carried forward to the next year.

Port Update

The South Carolina State Ports Authority announced the state’s 2010 exports totaled more than $20 billion in goods sold to 192 countries around the world and ranked17th in the U.S. This represents a 23 percent increase over 2009.

The Port Oversight Commission met this week to discuss dual rail access solutions for the Port of Charleston. South Carolina Public Railways and Norfolk Southern gave a presentation on their plan to provide dual rail access. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, CSX and Shipyard Creek then presented their plan for dual rail access at the port. South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt closed the meeting by expressing the importance of the state moving forward with a dual rail access solution. Several Upstate users of the Port were there to show their support for finding a solution.

Redistricting

The South Carolina Senate Redistricting Subcommittee held an Upstate public input meeting concerning the 2011 redistricting of the state’s 46 S.C. Senate and U.S. Congressional Districts this week in Greenville. The subcommittee heard testimony from 25 citizens in front of the packed Council Chambers. Most of speakers at the meeting were upset at even the possibility of dividing the 4th Congressional District, which covers Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, and Northern Laurens counties. 

To take a closer look at the new Census data for South Carolina, please click here. In addition, the SC House and Senate have set up websites to update the public on the redistricting process. For more information visit http://redistricting.schouse.gov/ or http://redistricting.scsenate.gov/.

Secret Ballot Protection

This week, the Save Our Secret Ballot constitutional amendment was passed by the House and enrolled for ratification. Last November, more than 86 percent of South Carolina voters cast their ballots in favor of secret ballots in union elections. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce was a key partner in the amendment’s passage and public campaign.

Save Our Secret Ballot is in response to the dangerous and misnamed federal Employee Free Choice Act, or “card check,” legislation drafted by union supporters that would remove the right to vote by secret ballot in union elections and force businesses into unfair binding arbitration. As union membership numbers continue to decline at rapid rates across the nation, this type of “card check” style legislation is designed to make it easier for unions to organize.

Tort Reform

The Senate is set to debate H.3375 tort reform legislation next week. The business community urges the Senate to restore the legislation to versions introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (Cherokee), Senate Rules Committee Chairman Larry Martin (Pickens) and House Speaker Bobby Harrell (Charleston).

The current bill, which was amended in committee, has several provisions that are opposed by the business community. One specific provision is the amendment to the cap on punitive damages, which renders the cap essentially meaningless. S.C. is the only Southeastern state without a cap on punitive damages. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s version of the legislation renders the admissibility of the non-use of seat belts complicated and ineffective in most cases. The legislative repeal of the Branham v. Ford Motor Company decision is also strongly opposed and would place South Carolina in a small minority of states that employs the consumer expectations test.

Unemployment Insurance

Chairman Dan Cooper’s (Anderson) bill, H.3762 is on the agenda for the House Ways and Means Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 5th.  Currently there are over 18 bills that await consideration by the committee.

The Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, April 6th to discuss S. 478 introduced by Senator Greg Ryberg (Aiken).

Upcoming Events

The South Carolina House Redistricting Subcommittee will hold its Upstate public input meeting on the 2011 redistricting of the state’s 124 House and U.S. Congressional districts beginning at 5:30 p.m. on April 13th in the Greenville County Council Chambers, 301 University Ridge (County Square), Greenville.