COLUMBIA -- House leaders are revamping their plan to encourage more reliance on fire sprinklers in buildings after a warning Tuesday that a key part of the plan would backfire.
The change comes after Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, suggested homeowners and owners of offices, stores, factories and businesses could be forced to pay too much to gain service.
Bingham said the wording of the bill would force the bulk of payment for water line expansion onto the first few users instead of spreading it among all who hook up eventually.
The bill offers incentives to homeowners and building owners willing to pay to install fire sprinklers, which greatly reduce property loss and the chances of people dying in a fire.
But cities and counties that provide water likely will have to lay new water lines to provide the pressure and volume needed for sprinklers to work.
The bill, as written, could thwart sprinkler installation by making it more expensive instead of lowering the cost, Bingham said.
"It would have unintended consequences instead of what they (supporters) are after," he said.
Bingham is an engineer who designs public water and sewer improvements.
His warning quickly got the attention of Speaker Bobby Harrell, the Charleston Republican who is House leader.
The plan will be revised to avert the problem while ensuring that fees aren't "profit centers" for cities and counties that provide water, Harrell said.
The change came after the House Ways and Means Committee approved tax incentives for putting in sprinklers. That sets the stage for House adoption as soon as next week.
Homes and businesses adding sprinklers would qualify for state income tax credits, local property tax breaks and lower water hook-up fees.
The push to increase sprinkler use developed after the death of nine Charleston firefighters in a furniture store blaze June 18.
Momentum increased after six USC students and one Clemson University student died in a North Carolina beach house fire Oct. 28.
Neither the furniture store nor the beach house had sprinklers.
Pet owners beware
Dog owners would face jail time and fines if they keep their pets chained outside for too long under legislation a Senate panel discussed Wednesday.
Pet owners who tether a dog to any stationary object for more than three hours in a day could be fined up to $500 and sent to jail for up to 60 days, according to the proposal. A third offense would be up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
The panel took no action on the bill Wednesday. The amount of time pet owners can chain their dog is expected to be increased to eight hours or a standard used in Texas, which prevents chaining dogs outside between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Even the legislation's most ardent supporters embraced the looser limits.
"Once people start interacting with their dogs, they come into the house," said Alicia Schwartz, who is pushing the legislation for Dogs Deserve Better. With no law on the books, she says any change would be a good start.
Sen. John Hawkins chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee handling the bill and wants a tougher law. Until it passes, he called on Attorney General Henry McMaster to use existing animal cruelty laws to crackdown on the practice.
Hawkins expects the bill will be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee after a second hearing next week.