Liquor stores and ballparks don’t mix, members of the South Carolina House learned on Thursday.
A bill on the House floor that aims to allow liquor in minor league baseball stadiums had to survive a fight by some legislators to put new limits on the number of liquor stores a business can open across South Carolina.
State Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, tried to attach the language after the state Supreme Court earlier this year ruled South Carolina’s current three-license limit unconstitutional. Delleney tried to tack on a new nine-liquor license cap on store owners across the state, in what would be an expansion of the old law but still a limit on chain stores opening multiple stores across the same city.
“The main thing this does and the reason I am for this bill, and the reason the Baptists are for this bill, and the reason that the Catholics are for this bill, is for one thing: a statutory cap,” he said.
However, his efforts died on a technicality.
State Rep. Gary Clary, R-Clemson, challenged the amendment. He sought a ruling from House Speaker Jay Lucas that the nine-cap limit violated House rules on “germaneness.” The “one-subject” rule does not allow lawmakers to attach amendments which have little or nothing to do with the original bill.
“It is not germane from the standpoint that it violates the one subject rule,” Clary argued. “The courts have ruled that, in essence, this is legislative log rolling.”
After some consideration, Lucas agreed with Clary and ruled that the original bill — despite mentioning liquor licenses — had been narrowly drafted to legalize liquor sales at baseball stadiums. He ruled expanding it to include limits on the number of stores allowed statewide would go too far beyond the bill’s original intention, although he noted he would support the idea in a separate bill.
“The amendment does go beyond and pretty far beyond the substantial effect and concern of the number of retail establishments that might have licenses to sale.” said Lucas. “I don’t believe the amendment is germane.”
The state Supreme Court ruled in March the state’s three-license cap unfairly targeted a certain type of business with restrictions meant to protect small or medium-sized stores. But the law’s supporters say chain retailers such as Walmart would be able to exploit unlimited licenses and potentially put smaller stores out of business.
The Senate tried to undermine the ruling in its budget plan by requiring a business that sought a fourth license to pay a fee worth that business’s entire gross proceeds from the previous year. The House sought weaker restrictions which would simply increase the number of licenses granted.
As for the original bill allowing liquor to be sold during baseball games, it passed in a narrow 55-46 vote. Delleney and his allies had tried to delay debate so they could work on another amendment which could still align with House rules. But the bill’s supporters did not want to risk further delay with only a week remaining in this year’s regular session.