The pace of action in the General Assembly continues to increase as legislators see the May 11 adjournment deadline fast approaching. The House of Representatives worked into the evening on Tuesday in an effort to clear their calendar of some of the more contentious issues.
The Senate Finance Committee completed work on their version of the FY 2017-18 state budget (H. 3720) and the Capital Reserve Fund (H. 3721) Tuesday. Legislators previously warned state agencies that the 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 earlier this month, 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 version includes:
- $145 million for increased pension contributions to cover half of the 2% increase for state and local governmental entities;
- $75 million for state and local match from Hurricane Matthew recovery;
- $46 million for Medicaid maintenance of effort;
- $38.1 million to increase the K-12 base student cost; and
- $10 million for the Department of Commerce deal closing fund.
The Senate Finance Committee changed much of what was in the House-passed version of the budget that relates to funding for the technical colleges. They eliminated the majority of the funding for workforce training and added $4.5 million in recurring base funding to the state's 16 technical colleges. The differences in the two versions will be resolved by a budget conference committee in May. The full Senate will debate on the budget next week.
Information on the Senate Finance Committee plan can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
On Thursday, the Senate General Committee took testimony on S. 569 (Senator Shealy), which would 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. The committee did not take a vote but asked all interested parties to work together on addressing concerns in the bill. The subcommittee is expected to meet again in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, the Senate gave third and final reading approval to H.3438 (Reps. 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 back to the House of Representatives for concurrence with the Senate amendment.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed H. 3487 (Reps. Ridgeway, Govan, Duckworth and others) by a vote of 107-1. The bill 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. The bill received third reading on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed H. 3885 (Reps. Bannister, Bedingfield, G. R. Smith, Loftis and Hamilton) by a vote of 101-0. The bill is an expansion of the Lewis Blackman Hospital Patients Safety Act, adding to the definitions of "health care practitioner" and "health care facility," and requiring health care practitioners to wear identification badges displaying certain information. The bill received third reading on Thursday and now goes to the Senate for consideration
Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed S. 447 (Senators Young, Sabb, Shealy and others) by a vote of 37-0. The bill requires reporting when an infant or fetus is exposed to alcohol or controlled substances. The bill received third reading on Thursday and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
On Thursday, the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee took testimony on S.242 (Senator Grooms) related to the regulation of birthing centers. Even though stakeholders are not in agreement, the subcommittee reported out the underlying bill unamended, asking interested parties to get a compromise together before the full committee meets in April.
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee adopted a bond bill proposal by a vote of 21-0. 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 to veto a bond bill. House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White said that with such great needs, coupled with low interest rates, he felt the bond bill was long overdue. 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.
The Senate was poised to begin debate on H. 3516, the highway infrastructure bill, this week, but the plan unraveled on Wednesday when a procedural vote to move the bill to masthead status failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote of the body. Eighteen Republicans voted against beginning debate on the bill, saying they would not agree to vote on a straight-up gas tax increase. Many of those in opposition want to first abolish the Department of Transportation Commission and make the agency 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 of 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. It is unclear at this point when the Senate might be able to begin debate on the bill.
JUDICIAL / LEGAL
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee adopted H. 3744 (Reps. G. M. Smith and Pitts) by a vote of 21-0. The bill revises the method of setting a base salary for magistrates and also provides for additional supplements to full-time chief and assistant chief magistrates. Chief magistrates supplements would increase from $3,000 to $10,000 and assistant chief magistrates supplements would increase from $1,500 to $5,000. The bill would add an assessment of fifteen dollars to all civil filings. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Governor Henry McMaster on Thursday announced the resignation Christian L. Soura as Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, effective April 7, 2017. Soura, who has been in this position since 2014, is leaving to return to the private sector. Deirdra Singleton, currently the Deputy Director of Health Programs at the agency, will serve as Acting Director. Governor McMaster also announced the appointment of state health care leaders to a search committee tasked with advising and assisting him throughout the selection process.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H. 4053 Reps. Mack, Gilliard, Brown and Whipper: Joint Resolution for a pilot project in nine school districts to implement primary modules instead of grades one through three. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H. 4065 Rep. Simrill: Income tax credit for conversion to alternative fuel vehicles. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 4070 Rep. Finlay: Insurance policy to cover rented or leased motor vehicles. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H. 4077 Reps. G. R. Smith, Erickson, J. E. Smith and others: Income tax credits for exceptional needs children's fund. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 4079 Rep. Huggins: Relating to higher education institutions and violations of Title IX. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
S. 581 Senator Campbell: Income tax credit for conversion to alternative fuel vehicles. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S. 596 Senators Peeler, Nicholson and Sheheen: Joint Resolution relating to John de la Howe School. Referred to the Committee on Education.
S. 600 Senators Hembree, Campsen, Timmons, Goldfinch, Massey, Turner, Bennett, Gambrell, Shealy and Talley: Income tax reduction and highway infrastructure. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
The Senate will debate their version of the state budget beginning Tuesday.