Sunday, Sept. 26, 2004
More than candidates
on November ballots
SC Statehouse Report
26, 2004 -- A message from a reader this week led to a surprising
discovery: theres a constitutional referendum that made
its way onto the November ballot as quietly as a parent tiptoeing
past a sleeping child.
Call it the stealth referendum.
Amendment Question Two calls for the state constitution to
be amended to delete a limitation on the number of corporate
shareholders necessary to get a lower property tax assessment
rate on agricultural land. Currently, certain corporations
of 10 or fewer shareholders get a 4 percent rate, while agricultural
land owned by corporations owned by more than 10 people are
assessed at a 6 percent corporate rate.
Yes, its an arcane measure, admits Rep. Walt McLeod,
the Little Mountain Democrat who introduced the matter in
2003 and helped push for its approval in the waning days of
this years legislative session.
only a few more days that you're eligible to register
to vote in the November elections. More information: SC
But its an important change that will have two major
benefits. First, removing the limitation will allow the state
to simplify its tax code and conform with federal law, which
currently has a 75-shareholder limitation on S
corporations before a higher tax assessment kicks in.
Secondly, and more importantly, lowering the tax assessment
ratio for agricultural land should encourage more land sales
and raise property values, McLeod said. More sales, even with
a lower rate, eventually will result in higher tax collections
for counties, which are increasingly strapped for money.
Theres a silver lining to have real estate transfer
periodically, McLeod said. Any way you can elevate
the value of land, its in the best interest of the tax
collector and the seller.
In addition to important elections involving Republicans and
Democrats, this years ballots also contain a constitutional
referendum on liquor minibottles - - those tiny bottles that
tourists marvel at when they want a mixed drink in a South
WORLD: In memory of Jack Hensley
Who's up and down
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Amendment Question One would allow the General Assembly to
determine the size of containers in which alcoholic
liquors or beverages are sold and to delete the provision
requiring the sale of alcoholic liquors for consumption on
the premises only in sealed containers of two ounces or less.
If you read the question carefully, it wont get rid
of minibottles, which some opponents pointed out in heated
debates earlier this year. However, it will allow the General
Assembly to follow up next year with enabling legislation
to allow bars and restaurants to sell in bigger bottles -
- something other than minibottles.
Word on the street is if the amendment passes, a compromise
has been reached that would change liquor selections in retail
stores. Currently, consumers can purchase large bottles of
liquor in fifths (a fifth of a gallon) or liters. But liters
reportedly havent ever caught on much with consumers.
So state lawmakers, in an effort to keep up with how much
liquor is sold, reportedly would restrict liter-sized bottles
of liquor only to bars and restaurants. That way, revenue
agents could keep up easily with inventory and ensure the
state was getting its share of liquor taxes.
Interestingly, little media coverage has surrounded the so-called
minibottle referendum. Liquor distributors, many
of whom oppose the referendum, arent planning a campaign
against it, according to a story this month in the Myrtle
Beach Sun News. Meanwhile, supporters of free-pour liquor
are mounting a modest campaign, including club speeches, brochures
and a Web site (http://www.safesc.com).
Voters in counties across the state also will have some local
ballot measures to consider:
- Capital improvements. Voters in Charleston and
Beaufort counties will be asked to increase local sales
taxes by a half cent and whole cent, respectively, for capital
- Property tax relief. Voters in Georgetown and Spartanburg
counties will be asked to increase local sales taxes by
a cent and allow collections to offset property taxes.
- Schools. Voters in Horry County and Richland School
District 2 will be asked to make tax decisions to fund school
- Government. Officials in Chester County are debating
addition of a question will be included that asks voters
whether they want an elected supervisor to head county government.
These ballot questions arent as exciting as the often
heated back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans. But
because they have long-lasting impacts, its important
to vote on them and not take a pass.
9/26: In memory of Jack Hensley
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Majority leader race. Now that Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Columbia,
has stepped down as House majority leader, there's a race
on between at least three hopefuls -- Reps. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel
Island; Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca; and Rex Rice, R-Easley. Merrill
is thought to be ahead slightly in the early horse race.
Local governments. As evidenced by a strong push by
the S.C. Press Association, most of the state's bigger newspapers
believe local governments keep too many meetings secret and
often violate the state open meetings law. Bring in the sunshine.
Port/Corps. A continuing spat between the S.C. Ports
Authority and the U.S. Corps of Engineers isn't doing much
to get a new port facility built at the Navy base. Come on
guys -- check the egos and move it along.
Brown. Follow the latest on Rep. Henry Brown's troubles
with the U.S. Forest Service: www.abouthenrybrown.com
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
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In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::
Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary
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from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.
Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's
Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's
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McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected
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Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new
bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language
Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major
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Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for
the House, Senate and state agencies.
Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find
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