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Task force key to business license bill

The Business License Tax Standardization Act, H5109, introduced in March, was a long time coming after months of research, collaboration and study by a variety of stakeholders.

Representatives of stakeholders in the business community, attorneys, CPAs, municipal officials and Association staff spent many hours poring over details of the legislation before it was introduced by Representative Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington) on March 15.

Another key player in the process was a business license task force formed to help ensure proposed legislation took into account the day-to-day aspects of administering a local business license ordinance. Fifteen business licensing professionals, finance staff and city managers serve on the task force.

Steffanie Dorn, veteran business licensing official and chief financial officer in Greenwood, serves on the task force. She observed, "Despite my many years of working with business licensing officials across the state, I am still amazed at how different each of our local ordinances are."

She agreed with other task force members that working on this legislation has made them realize that the standardization process is important for many reasons—but primarily to help businesses more easily navigate the licensing process in cities and towns.

Task force members, most of whom had not previously been involved with the details of writing or advocating for a bill, quickly discovered just how complicated and meticulous the process can be, explained Reba Campbell, the Association’s deputy executive director.

Nicole Combs, business licensing officer in the City of Spartanburg said, "Working on the draft bill language with the task force has been a potent reminder of just how much room there is for interpretation of language when you strip away what you think you know and consider the wording from multiple points of view."

Teddy Luckadoo, city manager in Batesburg-Leesville, represented city managers on the task force. He said, "I learned that the legislative process requires doing a substantial amount of work between meetings, drafting the bill, seeking support from legislators, and seeing it through from introduction to implementation. Trying to satisfy everyone and find common solutions are difficult tasks."

Meetings, conference calls and time spent researching the potential impact of the legislation represented a substantial time commitment for the task force members; however, all agreed their investment of time was well worth the effort.

Luckadoo said, "Without the task force meetings, there could have been things missed, such as how changes would have impacted economic development incentives and unique rate structures already in place."

The task force spent much of its time diving into the fine points of how the business license tax is administered in cities of all sizes. This detailed process included looking at everything from rate structures and customer service to economic development incentives and demands on city services.

Dorn agreed the time invested in vetting all the perspectives and details was well worth the effort. "Everyone looks at things differently, mostly due to the way their municipality or county handles situations or their size. Putting all of these ideas together into one cohesive bill is hopefully creating a product that will work for everyone."

The task force will continue serving as a resource and sounding board as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.