South Carolina bill would outlaw ‘first responders’ fee

| 12/1/2009

An effort in South Carolina seeks to add the state to the growing list of states to put a stop to communities that charge a fee when police and fire personnel respond to vehicle accidents.

Reps. Dan Cooper, R-Piedmont, and Dr. Jimmy Bales, D-Eastover, have prefiled for consideration during the upcoming regular session a bill that would prohibit levying fees for the response of vehicle accidents by law enforcement.

Four states have banned the accident tax this year. They are Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee have also outlawed the practice.

The South Carolina bill would forbid a municipality or county -- or unit or agency of it – to charge a “first responders” fee or to seek reimbursement of costs or expenses resulting from the response to a vehicle accident.

The ban would not affect ambulance services or hazardous material cleanup.

Advocates for the accident-response fees say they are needed to stretch already tight budgets. Others say taxpayers shouldn’t be billed for accidents they didn’t cause.

Opponents say the fees, which can total several hundred dollars depending on which personnel respond and how long they are present, are a form of double taxation. They point out that emergency services are covered by property taxes, utility fees or other methods.

The bill – H4193 – is awaiting consideration in the House Ways and Means Committee during the session that convenes in mid January.

To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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