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Common sense and common cause: Sen. Peeler reflects on boating and fishing in South Carolina

September 1, 2022 

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Sen. Peeler measures a striper (Photo Courtesy of Sen. Harvey Peeler's Office)

By: Matthew Goins

If you know Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee), then you know his native language is Gaffnese, one filled with culture and common sense. The same holds true for boating and fishing, two of the state’s top industries and favorite pastimes.

Peeler’s love for the outdoors is rooted in his DNA, dating back to the farms his grandfather owned in Cherokee County. As the former dairy farmer and senator has traveled the state, he has discovered that the love for the outdoors is generational and etched in history.

“Boating and fishing affect people on all income scales,” said Peeler. “There’s something about nature and water that draws people to it.”

In his view, common sense and common cause have led the industries’ advancement, especially at the statehouse. “I often urge my colleagues to use their common sense when making decisions,” said Peeler. “I remember the scientific rule, ‘for every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.’ We must always be cognizant of how our reaction to issues will affect the everyday boat owner and angler.”

During the recent legislative session, both chambers introduced several pieces of legislation to help the two industries advance and make it easier for everyday South Carolinians to get involved.

With the recent increase in traffic and accidents along waterways around the state, Peeler and a group of bipartisan senators introduced S.497, a bill to require boaters to complete a boater safety course before operating various watercraft. Though the bill passed the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee shut it down. In the next session, Peeler hopes to gain more support for the efforts in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.

Following the passing of Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) in November, Peeler put down the gavel as Senate President and seized the state’s checkbook as the new Senate Finance Chairman. Upon his appointment, many questioned how he would lead the budget efforts since his fiscal management approach is unlike Leatherman’s.

A longtime mantra in the statehouse, “you can’t out tax cut Harvey Peeler,” remains after Peeler led the Senate’s tax reform efforts, one that would offer significant relief to taxpayers, including boat manufacturers.

In May, the Senate passed S.1087, which Gov. McMaster signed into law in June. The historic tax reform bill included a property tax cut for certain manufacturers by reducing the rate from 9% to 6%, which equates to $100 million annually.

Peeler believes this and the individual tax rebate will directly benefit the industry and those who work in it. “Working in the boating and fishing industry is the best of both worlds,” said Peeler. “People can work in the industry and have the money to enjoy the luxury of it, as well.”

The tax reform bill also included a sales tax cap on outboard motor purchases. “Watercraft needs to be treated much like an automobile purchase in terms of relief,” said Peeler. “Reform such as this encourages more people to join and enjoy the industry.”

Despite the many legislative accomplishments that have advanced the two industries, Peeler believes the most significant achievement is the awareness raised in Columbia and around the state. Peeler has high praise for his former intern and mentee, SCBFA CEO Gettys Brannon, for leading the efforts. “Gettys and SCBFA have taken these two industries to the tip of the iceberg,” said Peeler. “They remind the people of this state how important these two industries are from an economic and recreational standpoint.”

When reflecting on the impact of the boating and fishing industries in South Carolina, Peeler recalls time with his grandfather and now his grandchildren. He urges South Carolinians to “enjoy the natural resources of this state, but when you leave it, leave it in better conditions than when you found it.”

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