Business issues considered this year include revision of the banking code (see Banking and Securities), modifications to various licensing acts including licensure of mortgage brokers and creation of the Building and Construction Commission (see Professions and Occupations), right-to-work, modifications to small loan industry practices, a 25% reduction in the unemployment compensation tax paid by businesses, and funding for modernizing the computer system of the Employment Security Commission. In addition, hearings were held on the alleged abusive use of certificates of non-coverage for workers' compensation and on substantial increases in natural and liquefied petroleum gas prices. Legislation enacted to address these issues includes the following:
SB 43 (Long/Roach): Clarifies the exemption that makes newspaper carriers ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits. The bill places a one-year assessment on employers to create a $20 million computer system replacement fund for the Employment Security Commission. The assessment is offset by a one-year reduction in the same amount in unemployment compensation taxes paid by employers. SB 43 also modifies limits on the hours that children under the age of sixteen may work during the school year, deletes the minimum fine for a criminal conviction of child labor laws, and authorizes the Commissioner of Labor to levy an administrative fine for child labor law violations. The bill adds four legislative members to the Worker Safety Policy Council, modifies the time period during which the Commissioner of Labor must approve the list of most hazardous employers in the state, and creates an interim committee to study various worker training issues.
HB 1130 (Fields/Long): Makes several changes to the Employment Security Act which include a 25% reduction in unemployment compensation taxes for two and one-half years, provision for an extended base period for persons who lack sufficient base period wages for a valid claim because of job-related injuries, a new definition for the term "file" in order to address filing of claims or information by fax, a requirement that monies owed for over issuance of food stamps be deducted from benefits, procedures for protesting a determination of the Commission, and modifications to allow the release of otherwise confidential information to certain agencies for the purpose of identifying economic trends.
HB 1393 (Rice/Easley): Reforms practices of small-loan companies (those making loans of $640 or less). The bill requires separate management of and structural separation between small-loan offices, prohibits the use of a motor vehicle as collateral on loans of $300 or less, requires that the minimum term of most small loans be no less than sixty days and payable in installments of not less than thirty days, modifies the calculation of acquisition and handling charges for small loans that are refinanced or consolidated, requires a pro-rata rebate of the acquisition charge for small loans that are prepaid in full, refinanced or consolidated in less than sixty days, and prohibits the use of split loans to obtain a higher rate of loan finance charges. The bill also allows small-loan companies to sell goods through vending machines or other goods for cash as allowed by the Administrator of the Department of Consumer Credit.