State Sens. Ross Turner of Greenville and Mike Gambrell of Honea Path, both Republicans, were the only state senators from the Upstate to score 100 percent on the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Legislative Scorecard.
The Columbia-based Chamber designated Turner, Gambrell, and six other senators “Business Champions” for voting perfectly in line with its legislative agenda.
At the top of that agenda was successful legislation to raise $633 million more a year for roads, primarily by raising the gas tax by 12 cents over six years, the first increase since 1987. The measure also cut the tax rate for industrial property from 10.5 percent to 9 percent. It was vetoed by Gov. Henry McMaster, but became law after both chambers overrode his veto.
Turner, chief executive officer of Turner Insurance Agency, has represented Senate District 8 since 2013.
Turner said he paid attention to legislative scorecards from various groups his first couple of years in the General Assembly, but not anymore.
“You realize you’ve just got to know what you’re voting on and do what is right,” he said.
Turner said he’s gotten a D on the state Chamber’s scorecard in the past, but it’s been more “truly business based” the last couple of years.
Gambrell, owner of M&R Enterprises, a waste-hauling business, served in the House for a decade before moving to the Senate in 2016. He said he was glad to be recognized by the Chamber.
“Being a small businessman I’m very tickled and very honored,” Gambrell said.
In the House, five Upstate lawmakers got a perfect score from the Chamber, all of them Republicans. They are Reps. Derham Cole, Mike Forrester, and Eddie Tallon of Spartanburg; Rep. Jay West of Belton, and Rep. Bill Whitmire of Walhalla.
Among the measures advocated by the Chamber that did not become law were bills to protect manufacturers from so-called “nuisance” lawsuits, enabling the governor to appoint the Superintendent of Education, and restricting the range of persons eligible to challenge poultry farm permits.
The poultry farm bill, opposed by the SC Environmental Law Project, was sponsored by Rep. David Hiott of Pickens, chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental Affairs Committee, and other Upstate lawmakers.
The Chamber lobbied successfully to re-establish the Education & Economic Development Coordinating Council, a collaboration between the education and business sectors on workforce issues.
It opposed a bill to repeal South Carolina’s right-to-work laws that was sponsored in part by Rep. Leola Robinson-Simpson, a Greenville Democrat. That bill never made it out of the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee.