Dear Chamber Members,
This week’s business update compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: It’s Time to Get Business License Tax Reform Across the Finish Line, Liability Protections Update, and SC’s Latest Unemployment Numbers
1. It’s Time to Get Business License Tax Reform Across the Finish Line
As the September 15th legislative session approaches, Chambers of Commerce in South Carolina in partnership with the SC Chamber of Commerce are renewing our call for legislators to pass H.4431, the Business License Tax Reform Act. You may recall that this bill was introduced by Representative Jay Jordan in the House in 2019. The bill went through the vetting process and was passed unanimously by the full House of Representatives in February of this year. It then quickly passed out of a Senate Finance subcommittee in March and was set to go to the full Finance Committee when session was cut short due to COVID-19.
The September 15th session is likely our last chance to get H.4431 passed by the Senate. 2020 marks the end of a two-year session, so any legislation not passed by the end of the year will have to start the process all over again (i.e. another bill would have to be introduced next year, and it would have to pass both bodies).
For nearly a decade, the business community – with small businesses leading the charge – have urged the General Assembly to simplify and standardize how local governments assess the business license tax. We’re calling for the Senate to take this bill to a vote and pass the bill, bringing much-needed simplification, standardization, and transparency to this business-unfriendly system.
Southeastern States: As of last week, all of our neighboring states have passed a liability protections bill – Georgia’s governor signed their bill in early August, Tennessee passed a bill last week, and North Carolina has now passed two bills since May. In total, six Southeastern states have passed some type of liability protection legislation: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Three other Southeastern state Governors have issued at least one executive order: Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia. That leaves only South Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia as the only Southeastern states who have yet to pass or enact some form of protection.
State Level: Last week, the SC Chamber sent two letters, one to House Speaker Jay Lucas and one to Senate President Harvey Peeler calling for the House and the Senate to take a state liability protection bill to the floor for a vote when the General Assembly returns for session on September 15th. We reiterated to Speaker Lucas we are fully supportive of the current House Bill (H.5527) and that is the version we would like to see move forward. Both letters were endorsed by local Chambers of Commerce in South Carolina.
Federal Level: In a webinar with Senator Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott on Tuesday this week, we heard that there are three major sticking points in the negotiations over a Phase IV COVID-19 Relief Bill – one of those sticking points is liability. Luckily, we continue hearing that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still standing firm and saying that liability is a “line in the sand” in negotiations. We expect Congress to return around September 8th to resume work on this legislation.
Advocacy Efforts: Last week, the SC Chamber launched an advocacy campaign to include a social media video and a grassroots tool: text “SCLiability “ to (833) 709-0965 to learn how you can help on both the federal and state level. In addition, we are encouraging individuals and businesses to use the Liability Protection Website, which allows individuals to submit letters to their state senator and representative.
The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) released updated weekly unemployment numbers today:
- For the week ending August 15th, the initial claims filed were 7,255.
- This is an increase of 1,334 initial claims from the week prior.
- This is the first weekly increase in the last five weeks.
- In the last 22 weeks, the total number of initial claims received is 719,704.
- Since March 15th, the agency has paid more than $3.81 billion in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal CARES Act programs.
Have a great day,
Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce