February 21, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Hearing Set for Challenge to Business License Fee


Does the state have the authority to charge citizens for exercising their right to work? Westminster resident John Dalen doesn’t think so, and he’s challenging state officials to make his case.

Readers may recall a story I wrote for The Nerve about business licensing being unconstitutional. That piece was about the City of Clemson’s attempt to convert a right – the right to operate a business, the right to work – into a privilege, charging me a fee for the exercise of that right. I challenged the city’s authority to do this and won the case when the city attorney failed to show for the hearing.

Before that, though, I had been issued a citation from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) with an accompanying fine of $500, and an order to “cease and desist” my work. I explained to the agency that I engage in a lawful and constitutionally protected activity, and I certainly would not “cease and desist” or pay any fine. Another letter and a phone call ensued, and I thought I had succeeded in convincing them of their error. Not so. Ten months later I received a letter from LLR informing me that the agency had scheduled a hearing on the matter, and that if I did not appear, the order and fine would become a final judgment.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday, June 15, at 10:00 a.m. in the LLR building in Columbia. I believe LLR’s officials mean well, but I believe they are overstepping their authority. I intend to argue that the constitution affords me the right to work without paying a fee to the state, and that state regulations have been misapplied in a way that penalizes citizens for exercising a constitutional right. These contentions are not based on abstract ideals or theories; they are based on the U.S. Constitution and on Title 40 (professions and occupations) of the South Carolina Code of Laws.

For those who feel that government licensing is a necessary protection for the public, I just say there are private methods which do a better job of protecting the public, all without government force and interference in the lawful activities of citizens.

I hope to see you at my hearing.

John Dalen, a resident of Westminster, has been a general contractor and business owner for over 30 years.

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