With six legislative days remaining in this session, it appears South Carolina’s passage of a Conformity bill will be included in a sine die resolution. While the language for the resolution has not been pinpointed, the SCACPA Advocacy Team is confident on the prospect that Conformity will be achieved. The resolution can be debated during the summer, and then the Legislature will call themselves back into session to approve it and send it to the governor.

Speaker of the House Jay Lucas has said to the caucus, “We’re having summer school on tax Conformity.”

SCACPA still urges action to be taken quickly so that the state’s withholding allowances tables can be updated as soon as possible.

Also, the House continues to debate how funding is allocated in its budget amendment; the Senate and House are battling over how much SCE&G customers should pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project, with the House and Governor favoring an elimination of the surcharge; and the creation of a Department of Children’s Advocacy is set to be ratified, which would ensure children receive adequate protection from state agencies.

View from the Dome

By Copper Dome Strategies

ISSUE: APRIL 27, 2018

Several House and Senate committees held their last meetings of the legislative session this past week. With six legislative days remaining, the work now focuses on bills remaining on the House and Senate calendars.

ANIMAL WELFARE

On Tuesday, the House Wildlife Subcommittee of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee adopted S. 841 (Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee). The bill deals with animal welfare and provides that a person who cruelly tethers a dog is guilty of a misdemeanor and provides a process for dealing with unidentifiable animals among other things. The bill was amended to remove mandatory continuing education on animal cruelty for magistrates and municipal court judges. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

APPOINTMENT

The Senate confirmed the following appointments this past Wednesday:

Mark Elam of Mount Pleasant, SC, as the Chairman of the South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC);

Freddie Pugh of Irmo, SC, as the Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice;

Joseph Mark Chapman of Greenville, SC, to the South Carolina Board of Real Estate Appraisers.

On Thursday, the Santee Cooper Screening Subcommittee of the State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee (PURC) screened the governor’s appointment of Mr. Charles M. Condon to serve as Chairman of the Board of the State Public Service Commission (aka Santee Cooper). His appointment now goes to the full PURC and afterwards to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

BUDGET

The House on Thursday had planned to amend the FY 2018-19 General Appropriations Act H. 4950 (Ways and Means Committee) back to their original version and send the bill back to the Senate, setting up a conference committee that would work out the differences between the two versions. However, many in the minority party were upset when they learned the amendment included additional funding that was not originally in the House-passed version of the budget. After four hours of debate, the House adjourned and agreed to return Tuesday to continue the debate. The Capital Reserve Fund appropriations H. 4951 (Ways and Means Committee) are identical to the House version and will not need to go to a conference 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 did not meet that 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.

ENERGY

On Wednesday, the House voted 104-7 to non-concur in the Senate amendments on Joint Resolution S. 954 (Senators Leatherman, Setzler) which would temporarily lower utility rates for customers of SCE&G. The original underlying bill prohibits the Public Service Commission (PSC) from making a decision on any SCANA-Dominion Energy merger until December. Last month, the House unanimously voted to amend the bill so that it also decreases SCE&G power bills temporarily by about 18%, the amount SCE&G is charging its customers for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. The Senate previously adopted an amendment, offered by Senator Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) that would roll back the nuclear surcharge from 18% to 5% immediately. Massey argued he wanted to eliminate the surcharge but wanted to make sure any decrease could withstand a court challenge. Prior to the debate, Dominion Energy released a statement saying that if the Senate acted, they might withdraw their merger proposal. The Joint Resolution went back to the Senate where they insisted upon their amendment, setting up a fight between the House and Senate as the House has previously said it would not accept anything but a complete elimination of the surcharge. The Senate named Senators Setzler, Rankin and Massey as their conferees.

Gov. Henry McMaster joined the House in calling for an immediate end to the surcharge payments and has threatened to veto the proposal if it does not fully eliminate the surcharge. The PSC is scheduled to rule in December on whether or not SCE&G can continue charging customers for the failed nuclear reactor project and on the proposed merger.

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.

On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved H. 4875 (Rep. Ott). The bill enacts the “South Carolina Solar Habitat Act” which establishes voluntary best-management practices for commercial solar energy generators. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

HEALTHCARE

On Tuesday, the Senate gave second reading approval to several bills aimed to address the state’s opioid crisis. H. 3826 (Reps. Huggins, Bedingfield, Fry, and others) requires the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to develop a counterfeit-resistant prescription blank which must be used by practitioners for prescribing controlled substances. H. 4117 (Reps. Henderson, Bedingfield and Fry) would add an exception to the confidentiality of data in the prescription monitoring program for drug courts. Both bills were amended by the Senate and will now be returned to the House for concurrence.

H. 4600 (Reps. Huggins, Bedingfield, and others) would authorize certain community organizations to distribute opioid antidotes to a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose or to a caregiver of such a person. This bill is now enrolled for ratification and on its way to the governor.

The Senate also approved H. 4935 (Reps. Felder, Douglas, Ridgeway and Bryant) a Joint Resolution that creates the “South Carolina Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee.” 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. This bill is now enrolled for ratification and on its way to the governor.

Also on Tuesday, by a vote of 98-0, the House amended H. 4116 (Reps. Ridgeway, Douglas, Spires, G. M. Smith, and others) which was amended and passed by the Senate last week. The bill prohibits hospitals and insurance companies from enjoining physicians to secure a maintenance of certification as a condition for licensure or admitting privileges at a hospital in this state. The bill was amended by the Senate to include Federally Qualified Health Centers. The bill, as amended, now goes back to the Senate setting up a conference committee to work through the differences.

HIGHER EDUCATION

On Tuesday, 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 house for consideration.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved H. 4931 (Reps. Elliott, Alexander, Simrill and many others). The bill would authorize an applied baccalaureate in manufacturing if approved first by the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and the Commission on Higher Education. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

On Thursday the Senate gave second reading approval to H. 5153 (Rep. Delleney) by a vote of 25-17. The bill requires worker’s compensation hearings concerning compensation payable must be held in the districts in which the injuries occurred instead of the cities or counties. The bill remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third reading.

RESTRUCTURING

On Tuesday, by a vote of 107-0 the House approved S. 805 (Senators Shealy, Sheheen, Young, McLeod, and others) which creates the Department of Children’s Advocacy. This new department will be headed by the State Child Advocate and be comprised of children’s advocates, investigators, and other staff, to ensure children receive adequate protection from state agencies offering services. The department is charged with performing independent investigations of a critical incident or review of other investigations. It will also operate a statewide toll-free child abuse hotline. The bill is now enrolled for ratification and on its way to the governor.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H. 5319 Reps. Elliott, Hamilton, Cogswell and Bennett: Enacts the “Anti-Racketeering Act” and includes restrictions on current or former public officials. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

SENATE

S. 1200 Senators Young, Setzler, Massey, Hutto, Climer and Shealy: Provides limitations on the amount an individual or corporation can claim as income tax credits. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

NEXT WEEK

Six legislative days remain in the current session.