If you follow me on social media, you know that I, along with mayors and councilmembers from across this great state, were in Columbia this past week for the Municipal Association Hometown Legislative Action Day. Around 450 of us met and heard from state agency directors, state senators, and representatives about issues important to cities and towns.
One important issue that we spent a lot of time on was business license standardization. This is a topic we’ve been trying to work with the state legislature on for a couple of years.
Like most city officials, I agree that business license standardization will be good for businesses, good for South Carolina, and good for cities. For businesses, time is money. Implementing standardized business licensing practices saves businesses time and supports local economic growth.
Not long after we all returned home, Rep. Sandifer introduced The Business License Standardization Act (H.3650). Unfortunately, the bill, as it currently stands, contains several issues that would actually hurt cities like Simpsonville. Therefore, I cannot support this bill as is and will instead be imploring our legislators to revise and amend this bill to be fair to businesses and cities alike.
Here are the three key points we need our legislators to ensure the bill does:
- Keeps authority for licensing with cities.
- Eliminates special exemptions—an exemption for one business is a tax increase for another.
- Ensures a revenue neutral result for cities.
AUTHORITY: We cannot support any business license standardization bill unless authority for licensing remains with the cities. Language in the current version of H.3650 gives that authority to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has no experience or training in business licensing, but city business licensing people do—they get training through the Municipal Association of SC. We need a uniform statewide portal where business owners can submit licensing requirements online to multiple municipalities in the exact same format. The Municipal Association, with its wealth of experience in this area, has started working on such a portal. The Secretary of State doesn’t need to be involved in that—cities can handle city business–as we always have.
REVENUE NEUTRAL: Look—we rely on business license fees as revenue to keep our city running. But we’re not trying to raise those rates. We just can’t afford to lose money. And we don’t need the state deciding what our rates should be. We can all agree to a standard rate schedule (i.e. if you’re a 2 in Simpsonville, you’re a 2 in Mauldin, Greenville, and even Charleston!), but we can’t all have the same rates—that just doesn’t make sense.
We spoke to legislators about these issues while we were in Columbia, and we’re going to continue to advocate for what’s best for Simpsonville and our businesses.