Martin, 033015 SCAGO, AGO 1087

Docket Nº:AGO 1087
Case Date:March 30, 2015
Court:South Carolina
 
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The Honorable Larry A. Martin
AGO 1087
No. 1087
South Carolina Attorney General Opinions
State of South Carolina Office of the Attorney General
March 30, 2015
         The Honorable Larry A. Martin          Senator, District No. 2          P.O. Box 142          Gressette Senate Office Building          Columbia, S.C. 29202          Alan Wilson Attorney General          Dear Senator Martin:          You have requested our opinion concerning the constitutionality of S. 523. You express concern that the proposed legislation contravenes Art. III, § 15 of the South Carolina Constitution which requires ail bills for raising revenue to originate in the House of Representatives.          By way of background, you provide the following information:
Senate Bill 523 was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. This bill raises the gas tax and other fees for the purpose of increasing the Department of Transportation's funding for the maintenance and repair of our State's highway system. It is my understanding that the fiscal impact of the bill will be approximately S800 million.
Senate Bill 523 brings into debate Article III, Section 15 of the South Carolina Constitution, i.e. that bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. Some argue that since the bill imposes a fee rather than a tax levy per se, that the bill does not violate this constitutional provision. However, it is my belief that regardless of whether it is a user fee or an outright tax levy Article III, Section 15 of the state Constitution requires such legislation to originate in the House of Representatives. Therefore, my question is: Does Senate Bill 523 violate Article III. Section 15 of the South Carolina Constitution?
         Law/Analysis          Article III, § 15 of the South Carolina Constitution provides that "'Bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives but may be altered, amended, or rejected by the Senate.'' Several decisions of our Supreme Court, as well as a number of opinions of this Office, have interpreted this constitutional requirement. In Slate v. Stanley, 131 S.C. 513, 127 S.E. 574, 575 (1925), our Supreme Court stated that this provision of the Constitution '"only applies to bills to levy (t)axes, in the strict sense of the word, and not to bills for other purposes, which may incidentally raise revenue." Likewise, in State ex rel. Coleman v. Lewis, 181 S.C. 10. 186 S.E. 625, 628 (1936), the Court opined:
[t]he record shows that the bill did originate in the House, as House Bill No. 1420, and was introduced on the 24th day of January, 1936 as will appear from the Journal of the House of that date. It is true that the Senate amended the bill, as it had a constitutional right to do, but the only income-providing feature of the Act is the license tag feature, which was in the bill from its inception in the House. For this reason, it is apparent that there is no merit in this continuation. But aside from this, the provision (Section 3 of the Act) requiring the payment of an annual motor vehicle license is not within the purview of this section of the Constitution, in that it is not a bill to raise revenue in the constitutional sense. State v. Stanley, 131 S.C.
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