Week six of the current legislative session brought sad news to the State House following the sudden death of Representative Joe Neal. House members abruptly adjourned on Wednesday in his honor. The Senate cancelled their meetings Wednesday afternoon for members to attend the funeral for State Senator Ronnie Cromer's mother.
The budget subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee have completed their work and are preparing for the bill debate in full committee next week. The budget proviso committee met this past Tuesday. Legislators have warned state agencies that the new revenue has already been earmarked and receiving additional funding will be a challenge.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
The House Agriculture Committee favorably approved H. 3619 (Rep. Atwater) on Thursday. The bill prohibits the tattooing and piercing of companion animals except for medical benefit, and then only by a licensed veterinarian or someone under the supervision of a veterinarian. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
On Wednesday, a special subcommittee of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee unanimously approved Governor Henry McMaster's appointment of Ms. Emily Farr to be the director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The appointment will go before the full Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee next week.
BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS
The state Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) met Wednesday afternoon. The BEA is statutorily charged with providing the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget. Our state's economy and tax collections are performing better than expected and as a result, the board has raised the official revenue estimate by $28.5 million for the current fiscal year and $47.8 million for fiscal year 2017-18. It was noted that this will probably be the last official estimate of the legislative session. Budget writers are dealing with numerous new challenges to the state budget next year, including additional revenue for flood relief and the state retirement system.
On Tuesday, the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee gave favorable approval to H.3438 (Henderson, G.M. Smith, Sandifer and Hiott) dealing with interchangeable biological products. The bill updates the Pharmacy Practice Act and requires pharmacists to notify the prescriber in the event of an interchangeable biological product substitution. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to provide free college tuition to all South Carolina residents at one of South Carolina's 16 technical colleges. The scholarships would only be available to high school students who have graduated in the past six years. The plan, estimated to cost $76 million annually, has the support of the technical college system. Senate Education Committee Chair John Courson (R - Richland) has said the additional revenue the state expects to receive for next year's budget has already been allocated to other areas. The plan has not yet been introduced as legislation.
JUDICIAL / LEGAL
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved H. 3565 (Reps. Fry, Crawford, Elliott, Burns, Clemmons and others) by a vote of 17-7. The bill establishes an automatic stay concerning license issuances and renewals for contested case hearings under the administrative procedures act, and provides for the circumstances under which a stay may be lifted. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives.
On Thursday, the Senate gave favorable second reading approval to S. 118 (Senators Campsen and Malloy), known as the magistrates civil jurisdiction bill. The bill would increase the jurisdiction from $7,500 to $10,000. The bill remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.
PASSING OF REPRESENTATIVE JOE NEAL
State Representative Joe Neal (D - Richland County) died on Tuesday. The 66 year-old was one of the House of Representatives longest-serving and well-respected members, representing lower Richland County since 1993. Neal was known as a voice for the voiceless and championed causes for the rural poor in South Carolina. The House of Representatives suspended their work on Wednesday in his memory.
On Thursday, Representative Ralph Norman (R - Rock Hill) announced his resignation from the House of Representatives. Norman announced plans to file for the vacant seat in the Fifth Congressional District vacated by the resignation of Congressman Mick Mulvaney, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration.
STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM
The recommendations from the Joint Pension Review Committee to address a $20 billion plus deficit in the retirement investment funds for public employees in South Carolina were introduced in the House and Senate this week as separate bills. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Mean Legislative subcommittee approved H. 3726 (Reps. Herbkersman, Cobb-Hunter, Anthony, Whitmire, Stringer and others). On Thursday, the full House Ways and Means Committee favorably approved the legislation. The legislation includes raising the employee contribution rate from 8.66 percent and capping at 9 percent. The state's employer contribution rate would go from the current 11.56 percent to 13.56, effective July 1. It would slowly increase annually until it reaches 18.56 percent by 2023. The recommendations also include shortening the debt's financing from a 30-year schedule to 20 years, and reducing the expected rate of return for the fund's performance. House leaders are considering spending as much as $160 million in next year's state budget to absorb half of the increases to public entities.
The state's pension system is underfunded, because its assets have earned less than expected and it is charged exorbitantly high fees for investment management. Officials with the SC Public Employee Benefit Authority, which runs the state's retirement system, have previously laid out several scenarios to help pay down the retirement system's unfunded obligations. Many have long argued that finding a fix to the massive problem will not be easy on the state, its political subdivisions or the retirees depending on the plan.
On Wednesday, representatives of the state Department of Education testified before the Senate Education K-12 subcommittee on the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA). Officials from DOE gave an overview of the program and its funding. The committee asked numerous questions in regard to how to get high school students focused on manufacturing jobs. The state's technical college system was highlighted as a key component to address South Carolina's workforce demands.
On Thursday, the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Oversight subcommittee received an overview from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce on their efforts. The agency noted the technical colleges have been fantastic partners in working with the local workforce development partners.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H. 3740 Reps. Fry, McKnight, Johnson, Yow and others: Relating to notice of intent to file suit in a medical malpractice civil action. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H. 3744 Reps. G. M. Smith and Pitts: Relating to magistrates salaries and civil filing assessments. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 3746 Rep. Clary: Increases the membership of the judicial merit selection commission. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H. 3749 Sandifer and Whitmire: Relating to certified public accountants. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry
H. 3769 Reps. Loftis, Burns, Bedingfield, Putnam, G. R. Smith and others: Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a computerized income, asset and eligibility verification service for public assistance. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 3772 Rep. Clary: Recommends changes to the Nurse Practice Act allowing APRNs to practice independent of a physician. Referred to Committee on Medical, Municipal and Military Affairs.
H. 3780 Rep. Putnam: Repeals all state sales exemptions. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 3783 Rep. Putnam: Repeals all property tax exemptions. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 3790 Rep. Erickson: Adds autism spectrum disorder to definitions of disability. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H. 3791 Reps. Erickson, Collins, Fry, Crawford and Herbkersman: Relating to licensure and registration of child care facilities. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H. 3793 Reps. Crawford, Clemmons, Jordan, Johnson and others: Authorizes certain doctoral degree programs as long as state funds are not appropriated. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
S. 400 Senators Davis and Turner: Relating to SC Right to Shop for Health Care act. Referred to the Committee on Banking and Insurance.
S. 403 Senator Davis: Relating to vulnerable adults and civil actions. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs
S. 408 Senators Goldfinch, Leatherman, Hembree, Massey and others: Requires colleges and universities boards to have a governance and audit committee. Referred to the Committee on Education.
S. 411 Senator Sheheen: Increases the number of board members appointed from Kershaw County to the Central Carolina Technical College Commission. Referred to the Committee on Education.
S. 412 Senators Campbell, Massey, J. Matthews, Shealy and others: Relating to community development tax credits. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S. 419 Senator Turner: Relating to transparency in private attorney contracts act. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S. 420 Senators Corbin, Gambrell, Massey, Verdin and Grooms: Relating to roll-back tax provisions. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S. 426 Senator Hembree: Enacts the municipal tax relief act. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S. 427 Senators Shealy and Corbin: Adds autism spectrum disorder to definitions of disability. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
S. 428 Senator Reese: Relating to direct broadcast satellite receipts. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S. 431 Senator Senn: Relating to firearms on college campuses. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.