The Senate completed work on their version of the state budget this week. This was the last week for bills to cross over 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. Both bodies will take next week off for Easter furlough and return to Columbia on April 18.
On Wednesday, Governor Henry McMaster signed into law S.250, the annual Internal Revenue Code tax conformity legislation. The act extends for South Carolina income tax purposes in the same manner they are extended for federal income tax purposes. This bill takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
The Senate completed work on their version of the FY 2017-18 state appropriations bill (H. 3720) and the Capital Reserve Fund (H. 3721) yesterday. 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 Senate-passed 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 relating 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.
Information on the Senate Finance Committee plan can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
On Tuesday the House of Representatives approved H. 3809 (Reps. Finlay, Bernstein, Collins and others) by a vote of 64-38. The bill 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. Also approved was H. 3864 (Reps. Bernstein, Collins and Erickson), which revises the age, weight and position of a child who must be secured by a child passenger restraint system. Both bills received third reading on Wednesday and now go to the Senate for consideration. The Senate companion to H.3864, S.478 (Hutto), was given second reading in the Senate on Thursday with unanimous consent for third reading on Friday. The bill will head to the House.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives concurred in the Senate amendments 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 is now enrolled for ratification.
S. 480 (Hutto), a bill dealing with the governance of Denmark Technical College, was given third reading and sent to the House for consideration. The bill was amended to make Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College the college's governing body instead of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education.
Governor Henry McMaster weighed in to the debate this week on how to fund our state's highway infrastructure needs. McMaster announced he would veto any increase to the gas tax and urged lawmakers to take a proposed bond bill for higher education maintenance and renovations, and use that money instead for highway infrastructure. House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) blasted the plan in a press release noting the House of Representatives had passed their plan with an overwhelming, bipartisan and veto-proof majority of 97-18 back in March. He also pointed out the governor's proposed plan is not a long-term fix for our road needs and would rely solely on our state's residents to fund the needs rather than the tourists and travelers who use our roads. Meanwhile, Senators continue working behind the scenes to garner enough votes to pass H. 3516, the highway infrastructure bill, out of their chamber. Many in the Senate cannot support the plan as passed by the Senate Finance Committee because it is a simple gas tax increase - with no corresponding tax decrease - that does not restructure the Department of Transportation Commission to make the agency accountable to the governor. 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. It is unclear at this point when the Senate might be able to begin debate on the bill.
JUDICIAL / LEGAL
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives failed to adopt H. 3744 (Reps. G. M. Smith and Pitts) by a vote of 41-56. The bill would have revised the method of setting a base salary for magistrates and provided for additional supplements to full-time chief and assistant chief magistrates.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H. 4092 Reps. Bedingfield, Fry, Henderson and Huggins: Requires Medicaid plans to ensure access to treatment for opioid-use disorders. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H. 4093 Reps. Collins and J. E. Smith: Establishes policies for public entities supporting employment of individuals with disabilities. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H. 4112 Reps. Reps. Bedingfield, Fry, Henderson, Huggins, Rutherford and Stringer: Requires DHEC to develop a voluntary Non-opioid Directive Form to allow a person to deny or refuse the administering or prescribing of an opioid. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H. 4113 Rep. Ridgeway: Requires a physician to secure a Maintenance of Certification as a condition of licensure, reimbursement, employment or admitting privileges at a hospital. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H.4117 Rep. Henderson and others: Relating to exceptions to data confidentiality in the Prescription Monitoring Service. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H.4118 Rep. GM Smith and Spires: Provides that renal dialysis facilities may deliver legend drugs or devices to patients in certain circumstances. Introduced, read first time, placed on calendar without reference.
S. 607 Senator Timmons: Relating to arbitrators of property damage liability claims. Referred to the Committee on Banking and Insurance.
S. 612 Senator Kimpson: Prohibiting the deletion of data from a body-worn camera. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will take the week off for their annual Easter furlough.