View from the Dome

March 23, 2017

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With just two weeks remaining before the legislative crossover deadline, numerous subcommittees and committees were working to get legislation to the other chamber. In order for legislation to be signed into law this year, it must pass one chamber to the other no later than Thursday, April 6; for bills that do not meet this deadline, a more difficult voting threshold must be met in order to be considered.

TAX

On Thursday, the House of Representative approved S.250, the annual Internal Revenue Code tax conformity legislation, by a vote of 93-0. The body also unanimously agreed to give the bill third and final reading today. The bill is now enrolled for ratification and will soon go to the Governor for his signature.

ANIMAL WELFARE

S. 3 (Senators Rankin and Hembree), known as the Cost of Animal Care Act, was reported favorably out of the full Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. The bill seeks to recoup the cost incurred by someone who is awarded custody of an animal due to the arrest of the animal's owner for animal cruelty charges. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

BUDGET

The Senate Finance Committee began work on their version of the FY 2017-18 state budget (H. 3720) and the Capital Reserve Fund (H. 3721) this week, adopting a number of budget provisos. A proviso is a temporary measure that holds the force of law for one year and is commonly used to direct the expenditure of funds within an agency's budget. Legislators previously warned state agencies that new revenue has already been earmarked and receiving additional funding would be a challenge. That warning became reality for most state agencies when the House of Representatives passed their version of the budget, as the majority of the new and one-time revenue went to Medicaid, K-12, the pension fund deficit and matching funding from Hurricane Matthew. The $7.9 billion general fund budget did not include a pay increase for state employees, but did fully fund the increase in their healthcare costs. The total state budget including the $7.9 general fund revenue, other funds (fines, fees, etc.) and federal funds now totals nearly $27 billion. The committee is expected to finish up work in committee next week and begin debate on the Senate floor April 4.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

CHILD CARE

Companion bills were introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives this week to address child care facilities. S. 569 (Senator Shealy) and H. 4044 (Reps. G. M. Smith, Erickson, White, Anthony and others) create oversight of businesses operating any school, vacation or school holiday camp, as well as after school programs operating four hours or less. Currently such programs are able to operate without state oversight.

HEALTHCARE

On Thursday, the Senate, by a vote of 37-0, gave second reading approval to H.3438 (Senators 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 remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.

On Tuesday, the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee adopted three bills. H. 3064 (Rep. Rutherford) requires the Board of Pharmacy to issue written protocol allowing pharmacists, without an order of a practitioner, to prescribe and dispense contraceptives. H. 3809 (Reps. Finlay, Bernstein, Collins and others) establishes that an individual or group health insurance policy providing coverage for contraceptive drugs must provide reimbursement for a twelve-month refill at one time. H. 3487 (Reps. Ridgeway, Govan, Duckworth and others) would allow a parent or legal guardian of a patient who is a child to request and revoke a Do Not Resuscitate order for emergency services for the child.

Also on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee favorably approved H. 3885 (Reps. Bannister, Bedingfield, G. R. Smith, Loftis and Hamilton), known as the Lewis Blackman Hospital Patients Safety Act. The bill expands the definitions for "health care practitioner" and "health care facility," and requires health care practitioners to wear identification badges displaying certain information.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Special Laws subcommittee favorably approved three bills. H. 3864 (Reps. Bernstein, Collins and Erickson) revises the age, weight and position of a child who must be secured by a child passenger restraint system. H. 3817 (Reps. Bedingfield, Fry, Henderson, Huggins and others) would allow pharmacies and other entities to register as a collector to receive controlled substances as part of a law enforcement take-back event and to operate mail-back programs. The Department of Health and Environmental Control would facilitate and encourage registration and participation. The bills now go to the full House Judiciary Committee for consideration

H. 3740 (Reps. Fry, McKnight, Johnson and others), a bill related to appearances in medical malpractice cases, was taken up in a House Judiciary subcommittee this week. The bill would have required a defendant in a medical malpractice case to file and serve a Notice of Appearance within thirty days of being served the Notice of Intent to File Suit. Failure to do so would allow the plaintiff to dispense with the pre-suit mediation requirements. Defense trial attorneys, the SC Civil Justice Coalition and others raised concerns related to this change; thus the subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill in order to study the issue further.

Also on Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee favorably approved H. 3824 (Reps. Henderson, Bedingfield, Fry and others), which requires health care practitioners to review a patient's controlled substance prescription history before prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance and establishes a penalty for failure to do so. The bill now goes to the full House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee.

In the Senate on Wednesday, the Senate Transportation subcommittee adopted S.478 (Senators Hutto, Jackson and Shealy), which revises the age, weight and position of a child who must be secured by a child passenger restraint system. The bill now goes to the full Senate Transportation Committee. Also on Wednesday, the Senate General Committee approved S. 447 (Senators Young, Sabb, Shealy and others), which requires reporting when an infant or fetus is exposed to alcohol or controlled substances. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

HIGHER EDUCATION

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Capital Needs and Bonding subcommittee adopted a bond bill proposal. The $498 million plan is aimed exclusively at providing funding for maintenance and renovation projects. Approximately half of the plan funds higher education institutions with $87 million set aside for technical colleges. The state has not approved a borrowing plan for its colleges and state agencies since 2001. Governors Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley both previously threatened a veto of a bond bill. House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White said that with such great needs, coupled with low interest rates, he felt the need was long overdo. White also said he would like to get back to passing a bond bill every two or three years. S.C. colleges and universities asked lawmakers for a total of $1.1 billion, including $194 million for maintenance needs of the state's 16 technical colleges. The full House Ways and Means Committee will now consider the proposal.

To view the full list of projects, click here.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee favorably approved S. 480 (Senators Hutto and M. B. Matthews). The bill abolishes the Denmark Technical College Area Commission and the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education would become the governing body for DTC. Dr. Tim Hardee, President of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, told the committee enrollment at the two-year college has dropped from 1,800 to 600 students and the college will reach a deficit of nearly $2 million by the end of the fiscal year. The bill also requires the State Board to commission a study of the most effective and efficient delivery of technical college opportunities in Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell Counties. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

HIGHWAY INFRASTRUCTURE

Opponents and proponents of raising the state's gas tax held competing press conferences at the State House on Tuesday, setting up a showdown in the Senate. Business leaders, including the state Chamber of Commerce, argued the state can no longer afford to inadequately fund our highway infrastructure system. Opponents of the plan, led by State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) are again threatening to filibuster the tax increase until the Department of Transportation Commission has been abolished and the agency is accountable to the governor. Still others argue that the tax should not be raised unless an offsetting tax decrease is included in the plan. The House of Representatives has already passed their version. Our state's 16 cent per gallon gas tax, the primary source of funding for infrastructure repairs and improvements, has not been increased since 1987 and has never been adjusted for inflation. Finding a long-term solution for our road needs has been a top priority for the general public, legislative leaders and many in the business community for several years. The House of Representatives passed a similar plan in 2015, but it was filibustered and the Senate never acted on the proposal. Governor Henry McMaster has dismissed the idea of raising South Carolina's gas tax. The Senate could begin debate on the plan as early as next week.

JUDICIAL / LEGAL

The House of Representatives on Wednesday recommitted H. 3204 (Rep. Pope), relating to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC), back to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill changes the JMSC process from nominating three qualified candidates to releasing a list of all qualified candidates to the General Assembly instead. It is unclear if the bill will be debated again this year.

H. 3740 (Reps. Fry, McKnight, Johnson and others), a bill related to appearances in medical malpractice cases, was taken up in a House Judiciary subcommittee this week. The bill would have required a defendant in a medical malpractice case to file and serve a Notice of Appearance within thirty days of being served the Notice of Intent to File Suit. Failure to do so would allow the plaintiff to dispense with the pre-suit mediation requirements. Defense trial attorneys, the SC Civil Justice Coalition and others raised concerns related to this change; thus the subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill in order to study the issue further.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H. 4013 Rep. G. M. Smith: Relating to persons making healthcare decisions for adults unable to consent. Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 4021 Rep. Finlay: Sales tax exemptions for prepared food manufacturing facilities. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means

H. 4028 Reps. Simrill and Loftis: Relating to annual reports filed by corporations. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4029 Rep. Simrill: Requires the Department of Revenue to follow North American Classification System Manual for assessing property of merchants. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4030 Reps. Simrill and Loftis: Allows the Department of Revenue to provide certain information to a financial institution regarding a debtor named on a warrant. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means

H. 4031Reps. Tallon, Allison, Long, Crawford and others: Provides immunity for physicians who report domestic violence. Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 4032 Rep. McKnight: Changes criteria for LIFE scholarships. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

H. 4035 Reps. Henderson, Loftis, G. R. Smith and others: Amends the Small Business Jobs Creation Act regarding tax credits. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4042 Rep. Hill: Relating to judicial elections by the General Assembly. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H. 4043 Reps. Hill, Putnam and Thayer: Requires the Judicial Merit Selection Commission to release all qualified candidates to the General Assembly. Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 4044 Reps. G. M. Smith, Erickson, White, Anthony and others: Relating to child care facilities. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H. 4048 Reps. Herbkersman, G. M. Smith and White: Requires DHEC to issue Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) devices to Medicaid recipients that include a nurse triage component. By unanimous consent, the Bill was ordered placed on the Calendar without reference.

H. 4049 Reps. Brown, Gilliard, Mack and Whipper: Relating to retail sales tax returns. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

SENATE

S. 566 Senator Grooms: Income tax credit for motor vehicle registration. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S. 569Senator Shealy: Relating to childcare facilities. Referred to the General Committee.

S. 580 Senators Hutto, Shealy and Jackson: Relating to placing children in adult jails. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

COMING UP NEXT WEEK

The Senate Finance will continue work on their version of the state budget beginning Tuesday.

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