Regarding the fate of Santee Cooper, a Senate budget amendment tweaked the makeup of a study committee that would determine if a sale of the state-owned utility is in the best interest of ratepayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet buyers. There are four weeks left in the legislative session.

View from the Dome

By Copper Dome Strategies

ISSUE: APRIL 13, 2018

The Senate returned from their furlough and completed floor debate on the state budget this week. This past Tuesday marked the crossover deadline for bills to move from one body to the other in order to be considered this session. Four weeks remain in the legislative session.

APPOINTMENT

Governor Henry McMaster nominated Mark Elam as the next Chairman of the South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Having formerly served as chief of staff and senior legal counsel to Governor Carroll Campbell, Mr. Elam most recently served as an executive at Boeing South Carolina and was responsible for community and state and local government outreach. Prior to joining The Boeing Company, Mr. Elam was director of state government relations for Honeywell International and served as Assistant Attorney General from 1981 to 1983. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Mr. Elam received his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law and is a resident of Charleston County. The at-large Chairman seat on the Board was left vacant when former Chairman Allen Amsler resigned from the position in February of this year. The Senate must confirm the nomination.

BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS

The S.C. Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) met Monday afternoon. The BEA serves as the chief economic advisor and general economic consultant to the state and is statutorily charged with providing the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget. The Board reviewed economic conditions and reaffirmed its forecast for the FY 2018-19 fiscal year amid indicators of sustained growth. The BEA also adopted new lottery estimates for the current and upcoming fiscal year. The new estimate of $425.3 million is 1.7% higher than projections from February. Employment is expanding at an average rate of 1.5% through the first eight months of the fiscal year. The latest available figures show personal income is growing at an annual rate of 3.7% and it is expected to increase the remainder of the fiscal year in line with the overall forecast.

BUDGET

The Senate completed floor debate on the FY 2018-19 General Appropriations Act H. 4950 (Ways and Means Committee) and the Capital Reserve Fund H. 4951 (Ways and Means Committee) this past week and adopted the bill by a vote of 37-4. While numerous amendments directing the expenditure of appropriated funds were debated, the final version closely mirrors the Senate Finance Committee version.

Senate Finance Committee members noted their budget focused most of the new recurring revenue on educational needs. They included funding to give teachers statewide a 1% pay increase and increased the starting salary of teachers by $2,000 to $32,000 annually. They did not include funding for other state employee pay raises but did include funding for a one-time bonus of $500 for employees making $50,000 or less. They also added $20 million to the state's 33 public colleges and universities base budgets and noted they expected the colleges to use those funds to keep tuition rate increases on in-state students at a minimum. Their budget, like the House version, also includes $59 million to fund the increases in the employee health plan. The committee budget also includes:

For technical colleges:

  • $4.6 million in recurring base funding
  • Increase Lottery Tuition Assistance to $51 million
  • $9.85 million for one-time equipment needs
  • $9.4 million ReadySC

Healthcare:

  • $26 million for DHHS for Medicaid Maintenance of Effort
  • $11 million for opioid prevention and treatment
  • $4 million increased funding for the Rural Health Initiative
  • $1 million in recurring funding added to the Telehealth program

 

The Senate Finance Committee version of the bill can be found here.

The governor's Executive Budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

The budget now goes back to the House where they can accept the Senate version, or most likely, amend the bill and send it to a conference committee to work out the differences. The Capital Reserve Fund appropriations are identical to the House version and will not need to go to a conference committee.

CROSSOVER

Legislative rules require that in order for bills to be considered by the opposite chamber this session, all bills must receive third and final reading by Tuesday, April 10. Bills that do not meet this deadline can still be debated but must reach a higher threshold for debate by receiving a two/thirds vote of the body. As this is the second year of a two-year legislative term, any bills that do not become law this year will have to be reintroduced and the process starts all over again next year. With the two-thirds threshold, any bills that are deemed controversial or with significant opposition are effectively dead for the year. Some of those bills include:

H. 3722 (Ways and Means Committee), the bond bill for higher education maintenance and renovations

S. 212 (Sens. Davis, Hutto, Campbell and other) known as the "South Carolina Compassionate Care Act" (medical marijuana)

H.4480 (Reps. Taylor, Allison, Jefferson, Cogswell, and others). Driving under the influence of an electronic device, or DUI-E (texting while driving)

ENERGY

On Wednesday, the Senate adopted an amendment to the state budget that largely mirrors H. 4376 (Reps. McCoy, Ott, Lucas, and others) relating to a study committee regarding the possible sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The committee will determine whether a sale is in the best interest of ratepayers and taxpayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet potential buyers. The budget amendment changes the makeup of the committee by reducing the governor's three appointments to one. Legislative leaders will appoint two additional members that reside in the counties directly served by Santee Cooper.

Fallout from the decision to cease all construction on two new nuclear reactors being built at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Jenkinsville by SCANA and state-owned utility Santee Cooper remain one of the most costly, complex and politically explosive issues to hit our state in decades.

The House this week approved S. 1101 (Senators Young, Hutto and Massey) by a vote of 104-0. The bill would extend the sunset provision to November 30, 2020 on exemptions for private, for-profit pipeline companies. The bill now goes to the governor.

HEALTHCARE

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs committee approved S. 345 (Senator Davis). The bill is a compromise agreement between the staff and various representatives of the physician and nursing communities that would expand, under certain circumstances, the role of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). Under the compromise, the bill would allow APRN's and physicians to enter into practice agreements which would allow prescribing of schedule II drugs in hospice and palliative care settings. It would also allow for prescribing of non-controlled drugs while working at clinics for indigent patients. The bill removes the 45-mile radius requirement for APRNs under current law. The agreements must contain mechanisms that allow physicians to continue to ensure quality of care and patient safety. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration

HIGHER EDUCATION

On Tuesday, the House approved H. 4182 (Reps. White, Clary and Johnson) by a vote of 107-2. The bill would allow boards of trustees at public four-year higher education institutions to allow auxiliary divisions to be exempt from various state laws governing procurement, human resources, personnel and the disposition of real property under certain circumstances. The goal of the bill is to eliminate duplicative oversight in the regulatory process, particularly for projects that do not utilize state funds. The bill received third reading on Wednesday but it did not meet the crossover deadline and is unlikely to be debated by the Senate this year.

On Wednesday, the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee approved S. 937 (Senators Hutto and M. B. Matthews) relating to the devolution of powers of the Denmark Technical College Commission. The bill extends the authority of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education from November 1, 2018 to January 1, 2019. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

NEXT WEEK

There will be numerous subcommittee and committee meetings in both bodies as four weeks remain in the legislative session.

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