Beginning in January, 2012, state law will require cities to suspend or revoke the business license of businesses that violate South Carolina’s Immigration Reform Act. Historically, business license revocation has been a tool of last resort for cities and towns when dealing with a business that continually refuses to address identified problems that threaten the health and safety of city residents.
Under the Immigration Reform law, the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation will notify city officials if a business employs illegal immigrants. This notification will come only after LLR has completed its investigation and determined that the business has broken the law. According to state law, cities “immediately shall suspend or revoke” the offender’s business license.
When enforcing this new law, municipal officials must take care to follow the suspension and revocation procedures provided in their local business license ordinance.
State law requires the city to follow due process before revoking a license; however, state law does not offer a definition for what it considers “due process.” Many cities have adopted the Municipal Association’s model business license ordinance. The model ordinance requires a city to first suspend the business license then provide for a hearing before council if the license has been recommended for revocation. While suspension of a business license may happen immediately or at the discretion of the city’s business license official, revocation may only take place after proper notice to the person in control of the business and a hearing before council.
The business may appeal a council’s decision to revoke a business license to circuit court. The potential involvement of the judicial system underscores the importance of following and properly documenting the revocation process prescribed by ordinance.
Before January 2012, city officials should review their business license ordinances and ensure proper revocation procedures are in place. This will make all cities better prepared to adjudicate business license revocations no matter the reason they are brought before council.