The General Assembly returned from Easter furlough with just twelve legislative days remaining in the session before the adjournment date of May 11. The Senate finally began debate on the highway infrastructure funding bill but adjourned Thursday afternoon without a vote. Nine legislative days will remain in this session when they meet again on Tuesday.
Governor Henry McMaster on Tuesday nominated Brian Lamkin of Blythewood to be the next South Carolina Inspector General. Lamkin has spent the past four years as an investigator in the Office of Inspector General. If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed Patrick Maley, who left the office in February. The Office of Inspector General investigates allegations of fraud, waste, abuse and other wrongdoing in state government.
With both the House of Representatives and Senate having completed their work on the FY 2017-18 state budget (H. 3720) and the Capital Reserve Fund (H. 3721), it will now be up to a budget Conference Committee to sort out the differences between the two versions of the budget and return to each chamber with a signed Conference Report. Three House members selected by the Speaker of the House and three senators selected by the Senate President Pro Tem will work to resolve the differences before adjournment on May 11. The Senate version 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.
Information on the Senate Finance Committee plan can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
The Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee met this past Wednesday and gave favorable approval to H. 3591 (Reps. Govan, J. E. Smith, Allison, Erickson, G. R. Smith and Felder) relating to benchmarks and objectives required as part of the First Steps to School Readiness comprehensive long-range initiative. The bill would also make the Office of First Steps to School Readiness permanent. The bill now goes to the full Senate Education Committee.
Governor Henry McMaster announced yesterday that he issued an Executive Order which provides state agencies with guidance on reducing regulations. The order is designed to help maintain and expand the State's competitive business climate. McMaster was joined at the press conference by cabinet officials who will work to establish a framework to ensure responsible regulation by taking the following steps: * Utilize a common sense Rotarian style four-part test before promulgating regulations; * Identify current regulations that need elimination; * Promote transparency by posting all information on the regulation process online.
Governor McMaster's order furthers the work of Executive Order 2013-02, issued by former Governor Nikki Haley, requiring State agencies to participate in a regulatory review. That review produced beneficial reform that the governor wants to build upon and insure government does not impede the progress of any business in South Carolina. Click hereto view the Executive Order.
H. 3438 (Reps. Henderson, G.M. Smith, Sandifer and Hiott) dealing with interchangeable biological products was ratified on Wednesday. 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 awaiting action from the governor and will take effect upon his signature.
The House this week recalled from committee H. 3926(Rep. Spires) relating to compounding pharmacies. The bill was debated Wednesday and received second reading by a vote of 99-0. The bill received third reading yesterday and will now go to the Senate.
The Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee met Wednesday and approved H.3220(Rep. Allison) which reestablishes the SC Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council and provides for its membership, duties and functions. The bill now goes to the full Senate Education Committee.
The House of Representatives moved the bond bill proposal H. 3722(Ways and Means Committee) to the contested calendar. The contested calendar is where bills that will require considerable debate are placed. Governor Henry McMaster recently announced he would veto any increase to the gas tax and urged lawmakers to instead take the proposed bond bill for higher education maintenance and renovations and use that money instead for highway infrastructure. His announcement may have softened support for the bond bill among some House members. 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 bill is up for debate next week.
Click hereto view the full list of projects.
The Senate finally began debate on H. 3516, the highway infrastructure funding bill, on Tuesday but adjourned yesterday afternoon without taking a vote. Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman told the body yesterday he intended to get a vote on the bill next week and urged them to stay nights and the weekend if necessary to accomplish that goal. An effort by Senator Sean Bennett (R-Summerville) to amend the bill to include an income tax reduction to the gas tax increase failed by two votes. The House of Representatives passed their plan with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto-proof majority of 97-18 back in March. Governor Henry McMaster vowed again this week to veto any increase to the gas tax. 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. The Senate debate will continue on Tuesday.
JUDICIAL / LEGAL
On Thursday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended and reported out favorably H.3215, which creates the offense of impersonating a lawyer. Brief testimony was offered that there are a growing number of instances of non-lawyers representing they are lawyers and offering legal services. The subcommittee amended the penalty section to make it consistent with comparable offenses. The subcommittee also approved H.3879 relating to the allowed maximum amount of covered burial expenses in workers' compensation cases. The bill was amended to raise the maximum amount from $10,000 to $12,000. They also approved H.3441 which authorizes electronic payment of workers' compensation claims. All three bills now go to the full Judiciary Committee. The Workers' Compensation Regulation, Document Number 4735, which updates and clarifies the current Regulation was debated. Several changes were suggested by the subcommittee and the Workers' Compensation Commission intends to withdraw and resubmit the regulation quickly with the changes. This should still allow them to go into effect on May 10, 2017.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H. 4127Rep. Pope: Income tax deduction for benefits paid by the police officers retirement system. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H. 4154 Reps. Stavrinakis, W. Newton and Murphy: Relating to personal information collected by telecommunications or internet service providers. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
S. 648Senators Scott, Setzler, McLeod, Jackson and McElveen: Relating to the disposal of surplus property by Midlands Technical College. Read the first time and ordered placed on the Calendar without reference.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
The General Assembly will meet in Joint Session next Tuesday at noon to welcome and congratulate the University of South Carolina Gamecock men's and women's basketball teams on their successful seasons and national championship.