Curbing Fee Increases

Earlier this year I asked Are all fee increases bad?

What prompted the question was that I had been named chairman of the Regulations Subcommittee (on the House Ag Committee ) and we quickly saw a fee increase request that a few of us were questioning if it was truly needed. In past years, these regulations were met with an easier path to being enacted; but this year it’s been a little different on our subcommittee. Previous years’ regulations would more than likely have seen debate adjourned in subcommittee (or full committee) and that “action” would then enable the fees to be implemented. (In political terms the regulations would have “timed out” – which sounds bad for the reg; but it actually means it becomes “law” when the date expires on the regulation)

Seems odd, huh? Instead of taking a vote to approve the regulations, the committee members could simply adjourn debate and none of the other 100 or so legislators in the House would even know.

After three hearings this year on this particular fee increase , the full committee voted it down 10-6. Opponents (me included) thought the regulation was “dead” and the fee increase killed. What we soon found out was, that according to our rules, a committee bill (which regulations are) must receive a 2/3 vote to be sent to the floor for debate. 10 against (out of 16 voting, and 18 total members of the committee) did not meet the 2/3 requirement. That meant the regulation would ultimately time out if another way to “kill” it wasn’t presented.

Could we convince enough members of the committee to kill it? Maybe? Maybe not.

Instead Representative Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville) came up with the idea to propose our own resolution (H. 3897: that doesn’t need a 2/3 requirement) and tomorrow that bill is on the House calendar to finally stop this particular fee increase from being enacted.

While that resolution tomorrow can stop one fee increase from passing, there are two other bills on the calendar that aim to curb fee increases passing without a full vote from all 124 members of the House Floor. Representative Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville)has H. 3226 (South Carolina Regulatory Reform Act) and Representative Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort) has H. 3051

Reforms like those will continue our path to change how government works in Columbia and hopefully, by the end of this week, all will clear the House and head to the Senate for their consideration.

While many can argue whether a particular fee increase is warranted or not; no one should argue that the entire General Assembly should have the debate and make that decision for the entire state, instead of only a handful of members on one committee.