The Good, the Bad, the Improvable, & the Shockingly Egregious
PRE-FILED LEGISLATION, ROUND 1
GOOD: Prohibiting Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
H.3152 would make it unlawful for a state entity to spend public money on a lobbyist. Taxpayer-funded lobbying is one of the key drivers of budget increases as it essentially gives money to people who in turn use that money to try to influence an increase in a section of the budget. If passed, taxpayer money could no longer be used to fund consulting firms like, for example, this one. As the bill stands now, “public funds” means all public funds, not just General Fund dollars (as distinct from fine and fee revenue).
GOOD: Rejecting State Healthcare Exchange
H.3096 would mandate that the state not establish or operate an American Health Benefit Exchange as provided in the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Creating an exchange would not give our state any real flexibility in healthcare. Furthermore, since South Carolina’s biggest insurer already controls 65 percent of the entire market, more regulation will only hurt other competing insurance companies, giving patients fewer choices and, therefore, higher prices. The governor has indicated that she will not pursue the option of using state resources on an exchange, but a law to solidify that decision seems wise.
IMPROVABLE: Shortening Session (Somewhat)
H.3094 would force the General Assembly to adjourn on the last Thursday before Memorial Day in May, rather than the first Thursday in June, shortening session by two weeks. Moreover, it deletes their authority to extend the session past that day. The longer your lawmakers are in session, the more time they have to spend your money on superfluous programs, listen to lobbyists and consultants, make decent legislation egregious, and congratulate holes-in-one at exclusive golf clubs. The bill would be a step in the right direction, but a step is just a step, and there’s no reason why session South Carolina’s session, among the longest in the country, shouldn’t be substantially shorter.
IMPROVABLE: Expanding Income Disclosure Requirements
H.3083 would require a slightly more stringent level of income disclosure. Lawmakers would have to disclose income from all governmental sources, including the federal government, compensation received from lobbyists, and compensation from vendors who hold contracts with the state. While this would shine some light on the many ties between lobbyist and politicians, we would argue for further expansion of disclosure, including sources of private income.
GOOD: Protecting Property Rights
H.3040 would prevent the indefinite holding of citizens’ property by law enforcement agencies. All property seized would have to be returned to its rightful owner within thirty days unless a court finds probable cause.
GOOD: Removing Mandatory Minimums
H.3060 would remove mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and allow individuals convicted of these offenses to be pardoned and put into community service and work release programs. This bill would also create a committee to examine South Carolina’s drug laws. An important distinction is made by the bill between violent and non-violent offenders and would require the latter to be treated with less severity. It would also ease the financial burden on our state corrections system by shortening the sentences of non-violent offenders.
BAD: Wrapping Red Tape around Charitable Raffles
It’s hard to believe that, with ever-expanding state and federal governments and laws so numerous and confusing no normal person can understand them, some South Carolina lawmakers feel it’s a high priority to authorize the “terms, conditions, procedures, and requirements under which charitable raffles may be conducted.” H.3079, which is 1,688 words long, gives highly specific regulations to charitable raffles. Among them: forcing charitable organizations to preserve their raffle records for three years and limiting the number of raffles to four times per year.
BAD: Allocating all extra revenues to the Highway Fund
H.3017 will ensure that if state revenue projections were revised upward after the third reading of the budget, all the additional revenue would go towards the state highway fund. Instead of quickly throwing any additional revenue towards one or multiple agencies, the state should return them to the overcharged taxpayers.
BAD: Promoting more Cronyism in the Department of Commerce
H.3095, the “Bill Wylie Entrepreneurship Act of 2013,” would give the Department of Commerce power to allocate income tax credits for investments in favored sectors – among them manufacturing, processing, warehousing, wholesaling. It is not the function of government at any level to “invest” taxpayer dollars or to favor some industries over others. Instead, corporate and business taxes should be reduced or eliminated for all, not just those favored by politicians and bureaucrats.
SHOCKINGLY EGREGIOUS: Raises for Legislators
H.3108 would raise legislators’ salaries to $50,000 a year starting in 2015. We have long expressed the need for a citizen legislature. Legislators should spend less time in the capital using up fewer state resources and allowing themselves to earn more income from other professions outside politics. Raising legislative salaries would further entrench the concept of the professional legislator and would move more resources to both House and Senate, which have been already raising their respective budgets in recent years.