By Paul Gable
Several prefiled bills for the upcoming legislative session in the S.C. General Assembly propose to establish term limits for legislators serving in the two houses of the body.
The most popular limits, prefiled in both Houses, are six terms for representatives and four terms for senators. The proposed limits in both Houses would be sufficient to allow legislators to be fully vested for retirement and health benefits.
A bill calling for shorter limits of four terms in the House and two terms in the Senate has also been prefiled. In a state where over 90 percent of incumbents who run for re-election are returned each election cycle, this may be the only way of guaranteeing significant changes in the General Assembly makeup.
Two bills we support for passage deal with lobbying activity. One would restrict legislators from becoming lobbyists for a period of 20 years after they leave office. The other would make it illegal to use public money to pay lobbyists ending what we have always considered the ridiculous practice of one government agency lobbying another with the people’s money paying the bills.
A prefiled bill in the House would make it illegal for a member of the governor’s staff to enter the chamber when the body is in session. This is the same restriction already in place on paid lobbyists and seems a proper restriction.
Separate bills proposing to change the state constitution to change the Secretary of State, Adjutant General, Comptroller General, Superintendent of Education and Commissioner of Agriculture from elected positions to appointment by the governor have been prefiled. While all of these offices may not be changed, breaking them up for individual legislative action seems to almost guarantee that some will see a change in status.
Several bills dealing with taxes have been prefiled. One would eliminate property tax on owner-occupied homes for taxpayers 65 and over.
Another proposes allowing a local option user fee of two cents to be charged on each gallon of gasoline sold within a county. Establishment of the new fee would require a county ordinance and majority approval of a referendum by voters in the county. The revenue generated by the fee must be used for road maintenance within the county.
An interesting proposal would replace state income and sales tax with a new Fair Tax Act. We have not reviewed all of the provisions of the new fair tax at this time, but will be writing more about it as the legislative year goes along.
To review all prefiled bills in both the House and Senate, go to: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/prefil13.php