View from the Dome – April 26, 2019
By
Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

The Senate spent the week in subcommittee and committee meetings in the morning and debated the sale of Santee Cooper while on the floor in the afternoon. The House also spent time in committee and debated a fetal heartbeat bill all Wednesday.

TAX

A Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Subcommittee approved H. 3785 (Reps. Sandifer, Howard, Thayer, West and Weeks) relating to the Board of Accountancy on Wednesday, April 24. The full committee adopted the bill Thursday. The bill amends some key operating procedures for the South Carolina Board of Accountancy. Of particular note is revised criteria for reciprocity. It expands application eligibility to those who hold a valid out-of-state CPA license issued before Jan. 1, 2012, and have engaged in four years of out-of-state professional practice as a CPA within the 10 years immediately preceding the South Carolina application. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The SC House Tax Policy Review Committee, which is responsible for reviewing South Carolina’s current tax code and submitting suggestions for reform to the Speaker, met again. In order to meet their objective to provide recommendations to make South Carolina’s tax code fairer, broader and flatter, the committee agreed to a sales tax plan, first proposed by the TRAC Commission a decade ago, to basically eliminate all sales tax exemptions, begin taxing electricity, food and medicine at 25% of the gross proceeds of sales, which would roughly equate to a sales tax rate of 1.25%. The plan would also lower the current state sales tax from 6% to 3%. It will be drafted into bill form and introduced in the House next week.

House Ways and Means Tax Subcommittee Chairman Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) testified that he plans to hold public hearings around the state this summer and fall on the proposed plan in preparation for debate in the legislature next year.

The committee also heard an update regarding the state’s business license tax from the South Carolina Municipal Association and the State Chamber of Commerce. Both worked on recently introduced legislation H. 4431 (Reps. Jordan, Fry, Rose, Atkinson, Daning and Forrest) that enacts business license tax reform.

Committee information and video archives can be found here.

BUDGET

With the Senate approving its version of the state budget H.4000 last week, the bill was returned as amended to the House this week along with H.4001 appropriating funds from the Capital Reserve Fund. The House will likely amend the bill and return it to the Senate next week, thereby setting up a Conference Committee made up of three House members and three senators to resolve the differences.

Total state spending this year is $29.4 billion. That includes $8.7 billion in general funds, $11.9 billion in “other funds” and $8.8 billion in federal funds. Budget writers have an additional $498 million in new recurring revenue and $479 million in one-time revenue.

Information on both versions of the budget can be found here.

The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

ENERGY

The Senate began the debate on Joint Resolution S.678 (Sens. Peeler, Climer, Davis and Fanning) that would give the Governor the authority to utilize the Department of Administration to conduct a competitive bidding process for the sale of state owned utility Santee Cooper. After three days of debate, the bill remains on the Senate calendar in masthead status and will be debated again next week. Also, the Senate Select Committee on Santee Cooper met Wednesday afternoon and heard testimony from Dominion Energy and Southern Company relating to a potential management contract for Santee Cooper.

HEALTHCARE

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee favorably approved H.3760 (Sandifer) a bill that would merge the Patients’ Compensation Fund with the South Carolina Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association. The committee adopted an amendment to the bill that was the work of recent input from affected stakeholders. However, subcommittee Chairman Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) acknowledged that not all stakeholders are in support of the proposal as written and agreed to holding up the bill on the Senate calendar until a compromise that works for all is found. Insurance Commissioner Ray Farmer has testified it was time to address the mounting deficits and he would support any effort by the General Assembly to do so.

Also, a Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee approved several bills that were also adopted by the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee yesterday. They are:

H.3821 (Rep. Clary) which enacts the “Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Act.” The bill expands the role of APRN’s relating to death certificates by allowing them to authorize crematories, sign death certificates, certify the manner of death and execute do not resuscitate orders among other things. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

H.4004 (Reps. Clary, G.M. Smith, Lucas and Ridgeway) which enacts the “Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) Act.” The bill enables certain persons to execute a POST form signed by a physician that sets forth the patient’s wishes for life-sustaining care and requires health care providers and facilities to accept the form as a valid medical order.

H.3602 (Reps. Rose, Caskey and Weeks) adds an additional category relating to persons who make health care decisions for a patient who is unable to consent.

All three bill now go to the full Senate for consideration.

The SC Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee held its third meeting. The committee was created by a Joint Resolution and is tasked with advising the Department on Aging on matters related to the establishment, maintenance, operation and outcome evaluation of palliative care initiatives in our state. By Dec. 31, 2019, the committee shall submit a report to the Governor and General Assembly on its findings. The committee heard updates from several workgroups and held a general discussion about a number of topics moving forward, including proposing a recommendation to require palliative care as part of annual continuing education for healthcare providers. The committee agreed to review in detail similar study committee recommendations from other states, particularly Georgia and Texas. Both of those states’ recommendations included a permanent Palliative Care Council. The committee meets on the fourth Thursday of each month.

SPECIAL ELECTION

Republican Stewart Jones won the special election to fill the vacated South Carolina State House District 14 seat in Greenwood and Laurens counties. Jones defeated Democrat Garrett McDaniel in the election this past Tuesday. Jones, 35, is a member of Laurens County Council. The vacancy was created by the resignation of former Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) for health reasons.

ANIMAL WELFARE

A House Judiciary Subcommittee approved S.105 (Campbell and Sheheen). This is the animal welfare bill that passed the senate last year and was reintroduced this year. The legislation was developed from recommendations of the Animal Welfare Task Force. The bill now goes to the full Judiciary Committee.

APPOINTMENT

The Senate Family & Veterans’ Services Committee met on Wednesday and once again took testimony on the governor’s nomination of Mr. Stephen F. Morris as Director to the Department on Aging. Morris has been serving as interim director since December and acknowledged morale and personnel issues at the agency and was again asked numerous questions about his leadership abilities to resolve those issues. The committee returned from Executive Session and agreed to forward the nomination to the full Senate but without a recommendation for confirmation as members still have lingering questions regarding multiple issues brought to the committee. The full Senate is expected to take up the nomination next week.

The Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee unanimously approved the governor’s nomination of Mr. Daniel Ellzey of Columbia to be Executive Director of the Department of Employment and Workforce. Ellzey, an attorney, previously practiced labor and employment law and was an executive with Toyota. If confirmed, he will succeed Cheryl Stanton, the state’s prior workforce director, who resigned in December. His nomination now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H. 4473 (Rep. Mace) Legalizes the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for a person with a terminal illness. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

SENATE

S. 785 (Senators Peeler, Leatherman, Setzler and Massey) Sine Die Resolution. Referred to the Committee on Operations and Management.

UP NEXT

Six legislative days remain in the session prior to the May 9 adjournment date.