View from the Dome

January 20, 2017

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The second week of the legislative session saw numerous subcommittee and committee meetings as bills were debated and sent to the respective chambers for future floor debate.

BUDGET

Numerous budget subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee continued meeting this past week, hearing state agency budget requests for the next fiscal year. The Senate Finance subcommittees began their agency hearings this week as well. Legislators have warned state agencies that the new revenue has already been earmarked and receiving additional funding will be a challenge.

The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education presented their budget request to the Higher Education Subcommittee on Tuesday. System President Dr. Tim Hardee told the subcommittee funding for our technical college system is vital as our state is facing staggering workforce demand. The demand for highly skilled workers, an aging workforce and economic development growth require a strong commitment to ensure our state's continued competitiveness. Following his presentation, each of the 16 technical colleges presented their individual capital needs to the subcommittee.

On Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee heard the budget presentation from the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is seeking $50 million in recurring funds to cover the growing Medicaid program. They are requesting an additional $3.4 million in state funds to standardize and update durable medical equipment and the Home Health Fee Schedule. The agency is also seeking $8.8 million in one-time funding for the Medicaid Management Information System.

Governor Nikki Haley's Executive Budget recommendations can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

GUBERNATORIAL TRANSITION

On Wednesday, Governor Nikki Haley appeared before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing to become Ambassador to the United Nations. Once confirmed by the Senate, Haley will submit her resignation letter and Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster will become South Carolina's 117th governor. The transition could occur as early as next week.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Dr. Tim Hardee, President of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, addressed the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Hardee gave an overview of the technical college system to the committee, most of whom are new to the subcommittee, and answered questions about the long-range strategy for the system. Hardee said one of his goals is to work more closely with the K-12 community to address workforce challenges and issues resulting from the recent Abbeville lawsuit in low-income school districts. The subcommittee also favorably approved H. 3034 (Daning) and H. 3035 (Daning) - both relating to in-state tuition rates for veterans. The bills now go to the full House Education Committee.

HIGHWAY INFRASTRUCTURE

Leaders of the House of Representatives introduced legislation this week that creates a long-term and sustainable revenue stream of more than $600 million annually to repair South Carolina's deficient roads and bridges. H. 3516 - sponsored by House Speaker Jay Lucas, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian White, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, and other members - would raise the gas tax by 10 cents, to 26 cents per gallon, over the next five years. It would also increase the sales tax cap on vehicles from $300 to $500 annually, impose a fee on hybrid and electric vehicles, and create a "road use fee" for truckers based on the miles they drive. The House of Representatives passed a similar plan in 2015, but the Senate never acted on the proposal. The House Ways and Means Committee will begin work on the bill in the coming weeks.

JUDICIAL

On Thursday, the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee approved H. 3204 (Pope) relating to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC). The bill changes the JMSC process from nominating three qualified candidates to instead releasing a list of all qualified candidates to the General Assembly. The bill now goes to the full House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

TAX

On Tuesday, the Finance Sales and Income Taxation Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee gave favorable approval to S.250, the annual tax conformity legislation. Later that day, the full Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the bill. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

The K-12 Subcommittee of the House Education Committee met on Wednesday and approved H. 3427 (Lucas, Allison and others) that enacts the "South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative Act." The bill requires public high schools and public charter high schools to offer certain computer science coursework. The subcommittee also approved H. 3220 (Allison) that establishes the "South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council." Both bills now go to the full House Education Committee.

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