January 3, 2011; Source: Post and Courier | We all know about certain privileges that nonprofits enjoy, such as not having to pay taxes. But few states, if any, can match South Carolina for the special standing bestowed on its nonprofits.

For now, and thanks to a mistakenly worded piece of legislation that just went into effect, nonprofits in the state are the only groups that are eligible for temporary licenses that allow them to sell alcohol at special events. And unless the legislature moves quickly to amend its error, private groups that want to sell alcohol at upcoming events – such as beer festivals – will have to abstain or find nonprofits willing to apply for the licenses.

Apparently what happened is that the legislature tried to ease earlier restrictions that put a burden on nonprofits planning to sell alcohol at special events. Instead of having the option of completing one application for a license to cover all upcoming events, they had to fill out individual forms each time they planned to sell alcohol. However, instead of fixing that problem, the bill that was approved last year inadvertently limited alcohol licenses only to groups with federal nonprofit status.

As the Post and Courier reports, that change left “businesses and other groups out in the cold.” When the state legislature reconvenes on Jan. 11, lawmakers plan to make this issue a priority. State Representative Rep. Jim Harrison, chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce legislation that would put a hold on the new law for 90 days to give legislators time to rework the current statute.

In looking over what went wrong, one state senator said the incident underscores the need for lawmakers to read more carefully before they vote on pending legislation. “Words do matter,” said State Sen. Chip Campsen. “And if you don’t have the proper meaning, this sort of thing can occur.” You can drink to that.—Bruce Trachtenberg