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Senate Considers Bill Banning City’s Ability To Spot Zone Legal Products

It is no secret that the City of Myrtle Beach has been persecuting downtown merchants for the past several years. In 2018, the city spot banned the sale of legal products on sections of Ocean Boulevard. The products are allowed to be sold in all other areas of the city, however. A lawsuit challenging that ban is still working its way through the courts.

July 2018, the city hired “Benchmark, LLC,” based out of North Carolina to evaluate a downtown redevelopment plan for Myrtle Beach. At a recent downtown meeting, Dan Douglas of Benchmark, LLC told city leaders that the land these businesses are located on is more valuable than the businesses themselves.

As local government bureaucrats increasingly believe growing city taxpayer revenue is a primary function of government, the city has worked aggressively on selective zoning changes and petty enforcement, launching an assault on the rights of small, private business owners.

The legislation passed the General Assembly despite Mayor Brenda Bethune and MBPD Police Chief Amy Prock pleading in person to stop the bill from passing.

S.C. Representative Joseph Jefferson reports that the S.C. House of Representatives overwhelmingly gave second reading approval to H.3274, a bill providing for the PREEMPTION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF VAPING, E-CIGARETTES, CIGARETTES, AND OTHER TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS. The legislation provides that political subdivisions of this state may not enact any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products. Local government laws, ordinances, or rules enacted prior to Jan. 1, 2019, are exempt from the preemption imposed by this legislation.

The bill, as S-492, is now headed to the S.C. Senate Medical Affairs Committee this Thursday, March 14th at 10 a.m. The Senators who chair that committee include: Committee Chairman – District 13 Senator Shane R. Martin, District 36 Senator Kevin L. Johnson, District 45 Senator Margie Bright Matthews, District 5 Senator Thomas D. “Tom” Corbin, District 4 Senator Michael W. Gambrell, District 42 Senator Marlon E. Kimpson, and District 3 Senator Richard J. Cash

Sources we spoke with say the bill is likely to make it out of committee. However, it will then be brought to the Senate floor where a strong battle will ensue. City Mayor Bethune and City Administrator John Pederson will then call in lobbying support from the left leaning, but powerful lobby group MASC. The MASC is an acronym for the Municipal Association of South Carolina [of all cities]. These liberals will lobby each Senator demanding the State observe Home Rule. Home Rule is a principal crede that states government works best at the most local level.

Luke Rankin
Area State Senator Luke Rankin has already informed local merchants he plans to vote supporting Bethune and Pedersen and against area merchants.
A more conservative local senator, Stephen Goldfinch

South Strand Senator Stephen Goldfinch reached out to us, however, informing our team that the rights of private property owners were a factor in his decision process. Said Senator Goldfinch, “I agree to a certain extent, if you throw home rule out the window.  But let’s assume you do throw home rule out for just a minute.  What happens to the ongoing litigation?  Do we jump in the middle of that and dictate an outcome?  I can promise that you, or anyone else would be really upset at the General Assembly dictating outcomes of ongoing litigation.  That doesn’t seem very business friendly.  With all that said, I’m pre-disposed to voting in favor of a ban, but protecting currently challenged ordinances if they’re not overturned in ongoing litigation.  If they are overturned, then they were wrong to begin with and all is right in the world.  If they’re not, then they should be grandfathered.  Passing laws ex post facto is usually a bad thing.”

If the law does pass, it can only prevent the city from doing ongoing zoning harm to these downtown merchants. The law would not apply to existing bans. The city of Myrtle Beach shoe-horned the existing ban into law, with a questionable second reading, completely re-worked from a first reading one year earlier. That first reading was considered under Mayor Rhodes’ administration with two councilmen who were no longer on council last year at second reading.

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About David Hucks

Born in 1961, David is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

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