South Carolina Legislator Wants Background Checks for Several Professions

By Michael Klazema on 7/10/2017
A South Carolina lawmaker has proposed legislation that would add new background checks for a slew of professions. If passed, the bill would affect hairdressers, massage therapists, medical examiners, psychologists, pharmacists, and speech pathologists among other professionals.

Per a report from The Post and Courier, the legislation was sponsored by Bill Sandifer, the Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. The bill passed through the State House of Representatives with little opposition in May, picking up a 102-2 voting majority. The legislation is currently stalled in the State Senate because the Legislature adjourned for the year in May.

As reports explain, South Carolina is in the midst of a two-year legislative session, which means that Sandifer’s bill could still gain traction when legislators return to the state’s capital next January.

The legislation is a response to the case of Todd Kohlhepp, a real estate broker who was convicted on seven murder counts and other charges. Coverage explains that Kohlhepp killed seven people over a 13-year period while running a successful real estate business in South Carolina. He was arrested last year after investigators found a woman locked in and chained up in a shipping container on his property. Kohlhepp has been sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty on the condition of Kohlhepp entering a guilty plea.

In addition to these crimes and convictions, reports note, Kohlhepp had a criminal history before he came to South Carolina. In 1986, when he was 15 years old, he kidnapped a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint, took her back to his house and raped her. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping with other charges against him dropped and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He registered as a sex offender.

Per reports, these details were not exposed when Kohlhepp applied for a real estate license in South Carolina in 2006. The state didn’t conduct any background checks, and while there were questions about criminal history on the license application, Kohlhepp lied to avoid detection. Following Kohlhepp’s arrest last year, South Carolina’s General Assembly swiftly passed a law that will require all real estate agents to go through national fingerprint-based background screenings both for initial license applications and license renewals. That bill will go into effect starting in 2020.

The legislation that Bill Sandifer is sponsoring would put similar protections in place for other types of professional licenses in North Carolina, coverage notes. Right now, the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations actively regulates 17 licensing boards in the state. Nine of these boards require background checks before applicants can get licensed. 11—including boards for massage therapists, psychologists, and other professions—don’t. Sandifer’s legislation would impose blanket regulations on those 11 boards, requiring them to conduct background checks on applicants before initial licensing.


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