Lights On in South Carolina? Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Restore Incandescent Bulbs

Lights. Made in South Carolina.

That's the label a group of lawmakers is looking to put on incandescent light bulbs soon to be made scarce as a result of federal legislation.

Six Republican and one Democratic lawmakers in the Palmetto State have introduced legislation to get around the federal law and bring back the incandescent bulb through in-state only sales.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Sandifer said the federal government had "far overstepped the bounds of the Constitution" with its proposal. He said the South Carolina bill could open the door for incandescent bulb manufacturers, which don't have a presence in the state to Sandifer's knowledge, to set up shop locally. But he said the bill was not introduced for economic stimulus reasons. He said people just don't want to be forced into buying a specific kind of bulb, which could either be more expensive or less effective, or both.

"The bottom line is that the people of South Carolina really do not like to have, quote, big brother, telling them what kind of bulbs to light our homes," Sandifer said.

The South Carolina Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act would require the bulb to be manufactured and sold within the state, thereby evading Commerce Clause arguments used to force South Carolina to comply with a federal regulation that raises the energy efficient minimums on light bulbs. While the new rules, to go in effect next year, don't ban incandescents outright, the energy requirements would exclude incandescents and lead to wider use of LEDs (light-emitting diode) or CFLs (compact flourescent lamp).

"An incandescent light bulb that is manufactured commercially or privately in this state from basic materials that can be manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported from another state and is offered for sale and sold for use only within the borders of this state is deemed to be in the stream of intrastate commerce, rather than interstate commerce, and is not subject to federal law or federal regulation," reads the legislation introduced last Wednesday in the General Assembly.

The bill notes that the item may include some "generic insignificant parts" imported from other states, including steel, glass, springs, screws, nuts pins and ceramics but their incorporation is as a raw material and not a manufactured good.

"The incorporation of generic and insignificant parts imported from ... which have other manufacturing or consumer product applications does not bring the incandescent light bulb into interstate commerce and does not subject them to federal law or federal regulation," the bill reads.