In this Capitol Report, I want to tell you about a few important bills the House approved in March, just before we got buried under the budget debate.
One measure we approved is an economic development bill (H 4478), which is the most pro-business bill I’ve seen in my six-year tenure. The measure, which passed by a vote of 105-9, would spur the creation of jobs and attract large corporations to our state by offering a wide range of economic incentives and gradually eliminating the five percent corporate income tax over ten years.
I helped author a key provision that would exempt businesses from corporate income taxes if the business establishes or expands its headquarters in our state and adds at least 50 full-time jobs. This provision is based on a similar law in Ireland that has helped rejuvenate its economy.
The corporate income tax reduction would not be phased in until 2013, when the economy should be better. To ease the transition, the tax would be reduced very gradually, by one-half percent each year until the rate reaches zero in 2022. Eliminating the tax would give South Carolina the most competitive corporate tax environment in the Southeast and lead global companies to look at our state with new eyes. Companies already in our state would be able to reap considerable savings, enabling them to make capital improvements and greater investments and hire more employees.
Other provisions of the bill would:
n Provide tax incentives to companies in solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energies that are expanding or locating in South Carolina.
n Expand incentives for life sciences facilities (pharmaceutical, medical and lab instrument manufacturing and research and development).
n Allow commercial buildings to receive tax credits for installing solar energy technology (now available to homeowners).
n Allow counties to extend fees in lieu of taxes for 30 years, from the current 20; and allow them to reduce the minimum investment requirement from $10 million to $5 million.
n Add agribusiness to the list of businesses that can qualify to receive tax credits for the creation of new jobs.
n Require the heads of the Agriculture and Commerce Departments to meet and make recommendations by January 2010, on how to promote agribusiness and expand markets for state-grown crops.
Another measure to improve the state’s business climate was approved just before we took up the budget. The legislation (H 3489) would limit the amount of punitive damages that juries could award to punish a person or business for negligence. The damages would be capped at $350,000 or three times the rate of compensatory damages; whichever is greater. The limit on punitive damages would not apply to situations involving intentional conduct, felony convictions or intoxication.
Compensatory damages are payments that reimburse victims for the actually harm or loss he or she has suffered, such as for medical bills or lost wages. They contrast with punitive damages, which punish a defendant, serving as a deterrent to prevent the negligence from being repeated.
Another bill (H 4282) we approved would prevent motorists from texting while driving. The bill would authorize law enforcement officials to distribute $25 tickets to drivers caught sending or reading text messages. The police, however, could not confiscate cell phones to use the stops to search drivers or passengers. Funds from tickets would go towards Level One Trauma Centers, highway safety education programs and the S.C. State Trauma Care Fund. Studies show that people are 28 more times likely to get in an accident while texting.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me in Columbia at 803-734-2999, at 333A Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211 or call the Chesterfield County Legislative Delegation Office at 843-623-5001, at 200 West Main Street, Chesterfield, S.C. 29709.
Ted Vick is the representative of District No. 53, Chesterfield Co. for the South Carolina House of Representatives.