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At first glance, peddlers, pawnbrokers and poker machines don’t have much in common, though a recent county decision affects each in a unique way.
Lancaster County Council voted unanimously on several ordinances during its Feb. 25 meeting to delete any licensing fee requirements for pawnbrokers, video poker machines and peddlers and hawkers from the county’s code.
The decision stems from an initial conversation between council members over how exactly to define peddlers and hawkers, as well as how to issue fees for people designated as these transient merchants.
Council had already voted twice this year to approve an ordinance allowing council to set license fees for peddlers and hawkers. But after further examination of state law, county staff decided to rely solely on state regulations for the issuance of licenses and enforcement.
County Administrator Steve Willis then suggested removing altogether any sections in the county code relating to peddlers and hawkers as they only served to repeat state law.
“We are not sure why the (Lancaster County) Council in 1987 felt it was necessary to repeat the state law in the County Code, but it is certainly not required,” Willis said in a memo to council. “For example, we don’t have a code section dealing with murder, but if you kill someone our sheriff’s office will certainly hunt you down and lock you up.”
Though council members still had questions about fees, Willis said council would set a fee during its annual budget process and requests for licenses would be handled by Lancaster County Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond.
Councilman Bob Bundy did not agree with the state law, but said there is very little council can do about it.
“It boils down that the state has a bad law and we’re mandated to keep a bad law,” Bundy said. “The problem is it shouldn’t exist to begin with. I don’t know what the solution to that is other than all of us talking to our state representatives and picking apart these senseless laws.”
In order to remove the sections, council first voted unanimously to deny final reading of the ordinance, which would have allowed council to set license fees for peddlers and hawkers. Council then unanimously approved completely removing sections involving peddlers and hawkers from the county’s code.
Pawnbrokers, video poker
As a side effect of the research into the county’s code, Willis also discovered unnecessary license fee requirements for two other items – pawnbrokers and video poker machines.
Both were defined in the same county code chapter as peddlers, Willis said, though neither is required anymore due to state law revisions.
County Attorney Mike Ey said the state’s General Assembly decided in 1988 that the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs would regulate and license pawnbrokers.
“The state law has since changed, but it’s still a requirement on our books to get a license,” Ey said. “This creates ambiguity or confusion, but by eliminating it from the county code it removes any questions.”
As for video poker machines, Willis said the S.C. Supreme Court made such machines illegal in the state in 2000, though a video poker license fee requirement remains in the county’s code. Also making the provision outdated is Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile’s recent announcement of a crackdown on video poker machines throughout the county.
“If you have one, Barry will come and lock you up, so this cleans that up,” Willis said.
Council then voted unanimously on both ordinances removing sections related to pawnbrokers and video poker machines.
Council must approve two more readings on each ordinance before the sections can be deleted.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416