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South Carolina Venue Crisis: State House Rally Scheduled

“South Carolina’s unbalanced liability laws equal fewer insurance carriers, higher premiums and businesses struggling to survive.”

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Last week, I reported on a press conference that’s been scheduled for next Tuesday (January 9, 2024) at the South Carolina State House on the issue of election reform. I also laid out some thoughts on this important issue. Several press conferences have been scheduled for next Tuesday – which is the first day of the 2024 session of the S.C. General Assembly.

With this being an election year – and with the ruling “Republican” party facing deep divisions within its caucus – fireworks are expected early and often from within the historic State House building in downtown Columbia, S.C. Constructed in 1875 (a process interrupted by the “late unpleasantness“), the blue granite walls of this classical revival building have seen plenty of drama over the decades – but precious little in the way of progress.

If anything, decisions made inside this building over the last century-and-a-half have held South Carolina and its citizens back from reaching their full potential – or even approaching it. From 1878-1994, generations of corrupt, self-serving white Democrats were exclusively to blame for the myriad problems plaguing the Palmetto State. Since 2001, however, legislative power has been held exclusively by white “Republicans” – many of whom simply flipped parties (albeit not governing philosophies) as a means of maintaining their power. Select black leaders have been invited to participate in the ongoing graft and corruption – creating a self-serving, self-perpetuating (and results-challenged) uni-party hick oligarchy.

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Against this backdrop, lawmakers will gather next week for the second full year of a “Republican” supermajority in both the S.C. House of Representatives and the State Senate. The GOP has controlled the House for thirty years and the Senate for 23 years … but now the party has an obstruction-proof majority in both chambers.

One of the most pressing issues they must face? A worsening “venue crisis” in the Palmetto State. As our Andy Fancher recently reported, state lawmakers passed (and governor Henry McMaster signed) a bill requiring all businesses serving alcohol after 5:00 p.m. ET to carry a minimum $1 million liquor liability insurance policy. While the measure was intended to help victims of impaired driving, S.C. Venue Crisis advocates believe exploitative lawsuits have caused insurance rates to skyrocket. 

Which … they have.

State representative Jay Kilmartin recently turned in the liquor license at his cigar store because the liability insurance for his storefront jumped from $1,500 annually to nearly $30,000 annually within months.

“This is a critical issue which is putting tremendous strain on small, mom-and-pop establishments who have a license issued by the state to serve adult beverages,” Kilmartin said last month as he surrendered his liquor license to the state due to the skyrocketing premiums.

As previously reported, South Carolina’s tort laws enable mom-and-pop businesses which bear as little as one percent fault in alcohol-related incidents to bear full financial responsibility for a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit. That’s also tremendously unfair.

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Several bills are advancing aimed at fixing the problem. In the Senate, the S.C. Justice Act (S.533) could reform liability laws by having business pay for their equivalent of fault in a civil lawsuit. Meanwhile in the House, the S.C. Save Our Venues Act (H. 4529) could remove businesses from civil liability brought by an intoxicated customer — so long as the business did not knowingly sell the person alcohol beyond an intoxicating limit. 

Fixing the current system is critical given the ongoing impact of this crisis on South Carolina’s struggling workforce – which is one of the nation’s smallest (as a percentage of the state’s working-age population).

Reformers will begin gathering at 8:30 a.m. EST next Tuesday (January 9, 2024) on the grounds of the S.C. State House. Speakers from various industries will begin addressing the group at 10:30 a.m. EST.

“South Carolina’s unbalanced liability laws equal fewer insurance carriers, higher premiums and businesses struggling to survive,” a flyer (.jpeg) for the event noted. “It’s time for change!”

I concur – and I plan on joining the fight for change even as some of those profiting from the current system spread false allegations about me and my media outlet behind the scenes as it relates to our advocacy on this front. Also, I would encourage everyone advocating on behalf of this issue to be leery of legislative double-speak regarding procedural hurdles (i.e. the whole “these things take time” argument).

Remember: Just last year lawmakers approved an ill-conceived $1.3 billion crony capitalist misadventure in record time – moving this massive bailout from draft legislation to a signed law in twelve days.

Bottom line? If lawmakers truly want to fix something … they can.

UPDATE |

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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2 comments

CongareeCatfish Top fan January 2, 2024 at 1:43 pm

The small-town Republican lawyer-legislator contingent has always been one of those curious contradictions in the so-called conservative party: socially very conservative, desires small government, low taxation, pro-2A, generally pro-life, etc…..pretty much conservative in all areas except one major glaring exception: the ability to engage in highly profitable tort claim lawfare against large- pocketed corporations and anyone with a sizeable insurance policy. This is how the small town lawyer keeps the lights on – everything else is trimmings around the roast. The battle for true apportionment of comparable fault has been going on for decades, and this little cadre has always found ways to quietly place one loophole or exception after another into these laws, rendering them basically neutered. Keep your expectations low on anything resulting from the latest reform efforts.

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Stop The Madness January 2, 2024 at 3:07 pm

Until organizations like MADD, aided at times by the media (to include FitsNews) and our dysfunctional legal system; drop the notion that every victim of DUI/BUI deserves a deep-pockets payday, there will be no justice for businesses like bars and convenience stores. I am not saying that victims of DUI/BUI and their families do not deserve compensation for losses and injuries, but to start going degrees away from the real culprit (the drunk driver or boater) so the victim or their family have deep or deeper pockets to pick, is just wrong. Who next, the automobile dealer who sold the car or boat to a person formerly convicted of DUI/BUI? The dealer who sold a car or boat to a person known to have at some time, had an alcohol or drug issue?
Where does it end?

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