SC employers learn about new immigration law
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina employers who attended a Wednesday training session on the state's new law to stem illegal immigration said complying should be painless.
About 50 people attended the seminar sponsored by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The meeting in West Columbia was among more than a dozen to be held across the state to educate employers.
The law passed last June requires all businesses to verify their new hires are in the U.S. legally or face civil fines of up to $1,000 per worker. The state can also temporarily shut down businesses if their owners knowingly employ illegal workers: up to a month for the first violation and at least five years on the fourth.
"The penalties are extremely severe," employment attorney Chris Lauderdale told attendees. He called the shutdown provision "really kind of bizarre."
But the solution is easy, he said. The Greenville labor lawyer recommended all businesses use the federal online database E-Verify.
"I wouldn't do it any other way. If you run someone through E-Verify and they clear, you're OK," he said. "It's almost idiot-proof."
SC tax agency dealing with cuts without layoffs
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's top tax collection officer said Wednesday he'll manage budget cuts without layoffs that would leave some scofflaws with fewer audit fears.
That was the first concern raised by legislators beginning to write the state's $6 billion budget and holding hearings Wednesday from state agencies that collect and spend that cash.
"I do worry about the Department of Revenue," said Rep. Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville as the agency began talking about how it's managing budget cuts during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. "You get to the point where cut an agency like the Department of Revenue and at some point it's going to end up costing the state money."
Revenue Director Ray Stevens told Lucas' subcommittee that it raises 95 percent of the $6.1 billion that will flow into the state's general fund accounts this year. In the fiscal year that ended in June, he ran an agency with a budget of $40 million. Budget cuts since July have slashed that to $31.4 million, with more than half of that in midyear cuts since July.
SC governor moves up State of the State
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is moving his state of the state speech up a week and out of the shadow of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor will give his annual speech Jan. 14 on what the state needs and what legislators can do to bring that about.
The speech will come a day after legislators return to Columbia to start their January to June session. Sanford usually schedules his speech a week or two after lawmakers return.
Sawyer said legislators' plans to attend Obama's Jan. 20 inaugural events were a factor in rescheduling his speech.
SC organizations choose sides on power plants
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Conservationists and business leaders are taking sides as the state's utilities pitch several new power plants, both coal- and nuclear-powered.
Some business officials support all efforts to increase electricity production in the state, which one industry expert says could need to be tripled in the next 10 years.
Others, however, favor the nuclear option over the $1.25 billion coal-fired plant state-owned utility Santee Cooper wants to build in Florence County.
Some environmentalists are opposing both, saying South Carolina utilities have not scratched the surface of conservation and alternative energy methods that could reduce the need for another generating plant. Some conservation groups oppose the coal plant, but not the nuclear plant.