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Local legislators seeking to perfect stalled locksmith bill

Lee Griggs, S.C. Locksmith Association Member

Longtime S.C. Locksmith Association member gives his stance on regulating the locksmith industry.
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Longtime S.C. Locksmith Association member gives his stance on regulating the locksmith industry.

A bill striving to regulate the lock and key industry in the Palmetto State will expire this legislative season, but lawmakers say that simply gives them more time to perfect it before re-filing it next year.

The bill was posed to the House of Representatives April 14 by Rep. Greg Duckworth of North Myrtle Beach, and then passed to a sub-committee of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee for review. But the committee was unable to hold the necessary hearing that would have propelled the bill forward, because it was fully booked to hear other matters this legislative season, which closes in June.

Lee Griggs, chairman of the legislative committee within the S.C. Locksmith Association, has been working to get legislation passed regulating the lock and key industry since 1999, and said he’s seen posed bills that have never made it through take the path to a booked-solid LCI and die time and time again.

“It gets there, and there’s other things on their minds,” Griggs said.

He’s seen dozens of posed bills gain some momentum then fizzle because other issues, like fixing roads, always take priority and funding has been an issue, so locksmith bills end up getting continuously locked out, Griggs said.

Griggs, 83, lives in the Camden area, but recently visited Myrtle Beach. He is retired, but is a master locksmith and life-long member of the S.C. Locksmith Association, and previously ran a locksmith store in the Camden area for more than 20 years.

While he’s not a supporter of government involvement in industries overall, he is devoted to seeing a certain level regulations put in place for South Carolina locksmiths.

I know it’s necessary. I know it’s needed, and that in itself will keep me chasing it.

Lee Griggs, S.C. Locksmith Association member

“I know it’s necessary. I know it’s needed, and that in itself will keep me chasing it,” he said of his continuing quest for regulations.

Local locksmith and convicted sex offender Panteleimon “Peter” Spirakis – formerly the owner of Phil’s Lock and Key in North Myrtle Beach – was arrested in March in connection with sex crimes against two 4-year-old children. This prompted local lawmakers to write a bill regulating the locksmith industry, where licensing and mandatory background checks are not required in South Carolina.

Locksmiths have full access to homes with nothing barring them from returning to a house later with malicious intent. While even licensing can’t prevent crimes from happening altogether, regulations like mandatory licensing and background checks help shield the practice from convicted sex offenders or other criminal elements, which he sees as a first step, Griggs said.

“The licensing is actually designed to protect the citizen, not to license the locksmith or control that or anything else. It’s for your own protection,” Griggs said.

The recent bill posed by Duckworth, Rep. Alan Clemmens of Myrtle Beach, Rep. Russell Fry of Surfside Beach, and Rep. Jeff Johnson of Conway, mirrors others that were introduced in the past, Griggs said.

The proposed bill bars convicted sex offenders from the industry, requires all locksmiths to obtain a license to practice through the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, and makes successfully passing a criminal background check mandatory, among other guidelines.

Getting lobbyist behind the bill could help it gain more needed support, but the thing it needs most is a loud public outcry, Griggs said.

“There should be enough demand from the public in general,” he said and fears it could take something bad happening involving a locksmith before a bill gets passed.

Griggs said the bill posed is very basic, and he would like to see guidelines that require continuing education for locksmiths and possibly require locksmith exams for newcomers.

Those who become registered locksmiths should be required to prove their mettle before being registered, and they should also have to keep up with new trends in the trade, Griggs said.

“I’m hearing from all interested parties and getting their feedback,” Duckworth said.

Since posing the bill, Duckworth has spoken with several locksmiths and noted the need for a continuing education component along with those in the industry to keep up with changing technology.

Spirakis’ arrest came toward the end of the legislative season when bills could be introduced, and Duckworth said the bill he posed was essentially a draft that could be amended along the way in the legislative process. However, it had to be presented quickly back in April to be considered.

Hungry for feedback on the bill in order to perfect it, Duckworth plans to continue gathering information from locksmiths before he pre-files the bill in December ahead of the filing process, which will start over for the bill in January 2017.

Playing the waiting game on the bill simply gives him the time needed to polish it to a gloss before it’s presented next time, he said.

I’m fine with the timeline because it gives me the time to hear from all the stakeholders.

Rep. Greg Duckworth said

“I’m fine with the timeline because it gives me the time to hear from all the stakeholders,” Duckworth said.

He couldn’t speak to the failure of past bills, and plans to keep championing for this bill’s future, he said.

“I think it’s a good start,” Pete Bourey, local locksmith with Eastway Lock and Key in Myrtle Beach, said of the bill.

He’d also like to see a continuing education element incorporated into the bill, he said.

Ensuing locksmiths carry registration cards with picture identification on them would be another safe measure to add on, and Bourey planned to offer his feedback to Duckworth, he said.

Bourey has also said he’s not a big supporter of government regulation in industries, much like Griggs, but wanted to see his trade kept safe from potentially dangerous criminals.

He also thinks public demand is key in getting the locksmith bill through.

Elizabeth Townsend: 843-626-0217, @TSN_etownsend

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