Legislature takes action on Boeing and raffles

  • Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rep. Jim Merrill

With the initial House budget now complete, attention turns to committee work and legislation that has been waiting for debate by the full body. Last week was indicative of the schedule that will be maintained through June and the daily calendar comprised a wide range of issues.

Most significant was the news that Boeing will increase its investment in South Carolina.

According to information provided by the Department of Commerce and Boeing, the airplane manufacturer will add at least 2,000 new jobs and invest another $1 billion in its North Charleston plant. Through a collaborative effort by state and local officials the company will receive financial support through the state’s bonding capabilities, the majority of which will go to infrastructure improvements at the site and throughout the local impact area.

Though some do not believe in incentivizing large companies, the cost benefit analysis for this project is a positive for the state and community. It is interesting to note that Boeing has a history of “under promising” and “over producing.” Originally, the company promised approximately 3,800 jobs when it planted its flag in South Carolina. But the company ended up generating more than 6,000 positions during its build out phase.

The expectation is that the 2,000 new jobs from this announcement will be just the tip of the iceberg, and the size of its land acquisition indicates that that expectation is not unrealistic. Furthermore, the Department of Commerce reports that it is experiencing increased interest from suppliers and support businesses that are looking at expansion or relocation to areas throughout the state.

The House and Senate “fast tracked” legislation that sends a tremendous signal to Boeing and other companies that South Carolina is a business-friendly state committed to providing jobs and improving the quality of life for its residents. To paraphrase the line from “Casablanca,” the partnership between Boeing and South Carolina is clearly “the start of a beautiful friendship.”

On a different subject, for a number of years Lt Governor McConnell and I have worked to clear up the laws surrounding gaming. The most egregious examples of antiquated legislation have been the stories of friends being arrested for playing cards in their home, and of authorities telling non-profit organizations and church groups that they can be prosecuted for conducting raffles.

I like to think that common sense would rule the day and the existing laws could be easily amended or deleted. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case for any statute or constitutional provision that addresses one of the “sin” issues, i.e. gambling, drinking, “blue laws”, etc.

Attempts to address a multitude of conflicting laws in a comprehensive bill have died under their own weight; so it has become apparent that these issues must be taken up individually and they usually require a multi-year vetting process.

The provisions reforming Sunday laws that prohibit businesses, stores or restaurants from opening, or serving beer or wine, is one small example. It took me a number of years to gain enough support for legislative changes that enabled businesses like the Battery soccer club to host successful weekend concerts; the Family Circle Cup to operate efficiently over successive weekends and even for local micro-breweries to hold on site events or “tastings.”

I think most would agree that these businesses do much to contribute to our community and provide needed jobs and revenue. But I digress.

After quite a few years and lengthy negotiation, we have finally passed legislation that will allow non-profit organizations to conduct charitable raffles. Permits are to be regulated by the Secretary of State and there are award limits and tight restrictions on the actual operation of the raffle. After the law is ratified in the next few weeks, the specifics will be posted on the Secretary of State website. But the bottom line is that the bill is now heading to the governor for her signature and local “duck drops,” cake walks and church raffles will be in compliance with South Carolina law.

(One final note on raffles: Since there is the need for a Constitutional change, there is also a second bill that requires a vote to be held during the next general election. Unless something very strange happens that referendum question should pass without controversy.)

The next few weeks will feature debate on “nullification” of the Affordable Healthcare Act (which apparently passed out of the Judiciary Committee); an attempt to provide higher education institutions with “authority” status (which would essentially take them “off line” from oversight requirements); a litany of gun legislation; and a smorgasbord of tax and education bills that have been filed under the guise of “reform.”

It should be an interesting, and probably perplexing, couple of weeks.

Rep. Jim Merrill (R) is the former Majority Leader of the S.C. House of Representatives and represents District 99 which covers parts of Hanahan, Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant, Goose Creek, Cainhoy and North Charleston.

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