This week, it was the state Senate who took a furlough week as members of the House of Representatives returned from their furlough and worked to give bills final reading before the April 10 crossover deadline. The Senate will return to work next Monday to begin floor debate of the state budget.

BUDGET

The Senate will return to Columbia next Monday to begin 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).
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.

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. House members were busy this week working to clear their calendar of as many bills as possible prior to April 10 in order to be considered by the Senate this session. The Senate will return from furlough on Monday, April 9 to move as many bills as possible over to the House prior to their debate on the state budget. 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 next year.

ENERGY

On Tuesday, the House amended and approved H. 4376 (Reps. McCoy, Ott, Lucas, and others) by a vote of 104-7. The bill was yet another piece of legislation passed by the House aimed at providing ratepayer relief following the fallout from the shuttering of the V.C. Summer nuclear project. The underlying bill provides a new governance structure to hold the state-owned utility Santee Cooper Board of Directors accountable and increases ratepayer protections by creating the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund. The bill was amended to create the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee (SCJERC) that 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 committee will consist of nine members; three appointed by select House members, three appointed by select members of the Senate, and three Gubernatorial appointments. The committee is charged with creating a path forward that best protects Santee Cooper ratepayers and taxpayers; determine whether or not Santee Cooper should be sold (in total or in part) and agree to a valuation; and conduct hearings to receive bids in a transparent process. House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) urged the Senate to move quickly on this and other legislation previously passed by the House aimed at protecting ratepayers.
Following the vote, Governor Henry McMaster applauded House members and urged the Senate to pass the bill without delay. Calling it “a rogue agency”, McMaster once again called for the legislature to sell the state-owned utility. He first proposed selling Santee Cooper last summer after the failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear project, leaving the utility billions of dollars in debt.
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.
After passing the Senate last week, the House agreed to bypass the committee process and place S. 1101 (Senators Young, Hutto and Massey) directly on the House calendar. The bill would extend the sunset provision to November 30, 2020 on exemptions for private, for-profit pipeline companies. The bill is on the House calendar for consideration.

FURLOUGH

The Senate did not meet this week in observance of their annual Easter week furlough. They will return to Columbia on Tuesday, April 10. The House of Representatives was on furlough last week.

HEALTHCARE

On Tuesday, the House recalled from committee H. 4935 (Reps. Felder, Douglas, Ridgeway and Bryant) a Joint Resolution that creates the “South Carolina Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee”. On Wednesday, the House approved the Joint Resolution by a vote of 103-3. It requires the study committee to consult with and advise the Division on Aging on matters related to the establishment, maintenance, operation, and outcomes evaluation of palliative care initiatives in this State, including needed state policies or responses and ways to provide clear and coordinated services to support and enhance the delivery of palliative care. After receiving a routine third reading yesterday, it now goes to the Senate for consideration.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

On Wednesday, by a vote of 63-47 the House recommitted H. 4811 (Reps. S. Rivers, G. M. Smith, Elliott, and others) that would require magistrates to be a licensed attorney. The move sends the bill back to the Judiciary Committee for additional review.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE
H. 5203 Reps. Pope, Bowers, Jefferson, Erickson, and others: Enacts the “South Carolina Income Tax Act for Individuals, Trusts and Estates” and provides for a single flat rate income tax of 4.85 per cent. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

NEXT WEEK

The Senate returns to Columbia on Monday and will begin floor debate on the state budget.