You may ask yourself, “Why should I, as a business leader in South Carolina, care about what is going on this year in the S.C. General Assembly?” I feel certain that when it comes to politics and government, many people just try to tune it out. The extreme partisanship that has developed at the state and national levels turns many Americans off. Combine this distaste for partisanship with the fact that most business leaders have busy schedules and we are often left with a business community that is not engaged in what’s taking place in Columbia.
Constitutionally in South Carolina, our legislative sessions run from the first Tuesday in January until the first Tuesday in June. That’s six months a year in which a lot of things can happen that directly or indirectly impact you and your business. Our legislature is made up of dedicated men and women, many of whom have full-time jobs back in their respective districts. They are public servants who are trying to do what they believe is in the best interest of our state. However, there are many issues that arise during the legislative session where input from the business community is critical. Input from the business community can significantly influence representatives’ decisions regarding important legislation.
Below, I have listed six issues that may be important for you to pay close attention to and to consider getting involved with this year at the statehouse:
Infrastructure: South Carolina’s highway system includes nearly 41,500 highway miles and 8,400 bridges. We have the nation’s fourth-largest highway system, funded in large part by the nation’s fourth-lowest fuel tax. Many of our roads are deteriorating. Of the state’s 8,400 bridges, nearly 900 are rated in poor condition and over 400 have weight restrictions for crossing. For economic development and safety reasons, we need to address our infrastructure funding needs now.
Workforce development: Companies across South Carolina have continuously expressed concerns about the aging workforce and companies’ ability to recruit a skilled workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. There are several bills being introduced this session related to this critical issue.
Regulatory reform: Governor Haley has signed an executive order establishing a Regulatory Review Task Force, an 11-member group set to review and reduce government overreach on businesses and create a more simplified and market-friendly regulatory system. The executive order requires all cabinet agencies to comprehensively review all current and proposed statutes, rules, regulations and processes to assess their impact on South Carolina's economy and determine whether their costs to businesses outweigh their intended benefits. The task force will develop a report by November 15, 2013 that evaluates South Carolina's current regulatory burdens on all types and sizes of businesses and proposes recommendations to relieve those burdens.
Economic Development: High-impact, fast-growth companies account for two-thirds of all new job growth in South Carolina. At least 33 states have passed or are pursuing angel investment tax credit programs. Both the S.C. House and Senate have introduced bills in an attempt to help incentivize S.C. investors to help these start-ups find much needed access to capital. If just one percent of eligible South Carolina investors allocated five percent of their assets to angel investing, it would represent more than $57 million for South Carolina start-up companies.
Education: Legislation addressing early childhood education and equitable funding for K-12 education has been introduced and is already being debated.
Tax Reform: The legislature needs to modernize the state’s tax code to reflect a tax strategy that is competitive and that supports a vision of long-term economic prosperity, including mechanisms for funding critical needs such as education and infrastructure. Tax reform has been discussed for several years and there is a genuine interest, by some, to finally get something done.
These are just a few of the many issues being debated each week during this legislative session. As a business leader, you have a powerful voice and can truly make a difference. Your elected officials in Columbia want to hear from you. Too often, the business community waits until after a bill or law is passed before they become engaged. I think it is vitally important for you to pay attention and to proactively become engaged in the process now.
If you’re unsure of how you can become involved, I encourage you to contact your local Chamber of Commerce, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, or your industry’s association. I’m sure they will be more than happy to plug you in and provide you with information on legislation and the legislative process. With your help, we can make South Carolina the best place in the nation to do business.