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Business group ups pressure on South Carolina lawmakers

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(The Center Square) — A small business group is putting a full-court press on South Carolina lawmakers, urging them to pass a series of bills, including one aimed at stemming lawsuit abuse.

In South Carolina, small and medium-sized companies might pay entire legal verdicts even if they were only partially at fault, a concept known as “joint and several” liability. Senate Bill 533 would move the state toward a model where a defendant is financially liable based upon their percentage of fault, which proponents say would reduce excessive damage awards in civil cases.

The measure is part of the larger “Small Business Bill of Rights,” which includes H.4832/S.944 to establish private insurance to cover paid family leave, House Bill 4823 to expedite permitting and regulatory reform, and HB 4710 to tie unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate.

HB 4187 would make organized retail theft a felony. This week, the House Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry is considering HB 3992, establishing a payment plan for delinquent unemployment insurance taxes.

“Supporting S.B. 533 would provide greater certainty for Main Street businesses as they contend with inflation and economic uncertainty that began four years ago this month with the COVID-19 pandemic,” National Federation of Independent Business State Director Ben Homeyer said in a statement. “The provisions and reforms included in this package of bills would assure predictability and make South Carolina a better place to own, operate, and grow a business.”

“These bills include reforms that our members believe are long overdue,” Homeyer added. “Individually, each of these measures would strengthen South Carolina’s economy and help Main Street businesses, but together, we believe they would make South Carolina unbeatable.”

As part of its campaign, NFIB launched radio and digital ads urging state lawmakers to act.

Last year, the American Tort Reform Foundation placed South Carolina fifth on its annual list of “Judicial Hellholes,” citing issues surrounding ongoing asbestos litigation.