View from the Dome – April 12, 2019
By
Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

Both chambers spent considerable time on the floor amid efforts to move bills to the other chamber before the crossover deadline. Four weeks remain in the legislative session before the May 9 adjournment.

CROSSOVER

Legislative rules require that for bills to be considered by the opposite chamber this session, all bills must receive third and final reading by April 10. Bills that do not meet this deadline can still be debated but must reach a much higher threshold for debate by receiving a two-thirds vote of the body. As a result, both chambers were busy this week working to clear their calendar of as many bills as possible prior to April 10 in order to be considered this session. As this is the first year of a two-year legislative term, any bills that do not become law this year will retain their place when the legislature meets in January for the second year of the session.

BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS

The state Board of Economic Advisors met on Monday. The BEA is statutorily charged with providing the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget. Revenue through the third quarter exceeded the projected forecast; however, that was mostly attributable to the $61.5 million deposit in individual income tax withholding from last year’s billion-dollar lottery jackpot winner. As a result, they did not adjust the projected revenue forecast.

BUDGET

By a vote of 104-0 the House on Wednesday adopted H.4413 (Reps. G. M. Smith, Lucas, Simrill and Rutherford), a Joint Resolution to continue funding state government in the event a budget is not adopted by July 1. The Joint Resolution now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Pursuant to the Senate rules, the budget has been posted online prior to the debate of the full Senate beginning next week. The Senate Finance Committee approved its version of the state budget last week. 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.

The Senate Finance Committee version can be found here.

Highlights of the House-passed budget can be found here.

Budget spreadsheets from each subcommittee can be found here.

House Ways and Means Committee Budget Provisos 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 Select Committee on Santee Cooper heard a presentation from the Central Power Electric Cooperative. The move to sell state-owned utility Santee Cooper has dominated much of the session, with bills moving in both chambers to accelerate the process. Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee deleted a House budget proviso that would have kept the Joint Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee in place. Instead, they added to the state budget 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. The final acceptance and approval of the contract of sale would be contingent upon approval by the General Assembly.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

The Senate voted 38-3 to give third and final reading approval to S.7 (Malloy, Climer, Goldfinch, Talley and Harpootlian) dealing with the Tort Claims Act limits. This bill proposes to raise the caps on the recovery limits. As amended, it would raise the cap on a single person from $300,000 to $500,000 and for an occurrence from $600,000 to $1 million. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

CABLE

The House Ways and Means Sales and Use and Income Tax Legislative Subcommittee heard testimony on and reported out favorably S.408 (Senators Reese and Turner). The bill provides tax parity for the cable industry with regards to the corporate income tax. The bill now goes to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

EDUCATION REFORM

The Senate Education Subcommittee met for the 15th time on S.419 (Hembree, Malloy, Turner, Setzler, Sheheen and Alexander) known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act” and moved to advance the bill to the full Senate Education Committee as amended. The subcommittee, chaired by Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree (R-Horry), agreed to delete the sections of the bill dealing with accountability and noted they would continue working on those sections over the summer and fall. As amended, the bill, among other things, includes improvements to the Read to Succeed program, reduces or eliminates some standardized tests, improves and streamlines processes between the Department of Education and school districts and includes language for teacher pay increases. The chairman plans to hold a briefing on the bill for committee members on April 23 and the bill will be before the full Senate Education Committee for debate the next day. The House of Representatives passed their version of education reform H. 3759 (Lucas, Allison, Felder, Pope, Simrill, Rutherford and others) in early March.

A summary of the companion bills can be found here.

Senate proposed changes can be found here.

HEALTHCARE

The House voted 101-3 to approve 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. After being amended on the floor, the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee carried over H.3760 (Sandifer), a bill that would merge the Patients’ Compensation Fund with the South Carolina Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association. It was noted the interested parties remain unable to agree on what is a fair and equitable resolution to the deficit. Additionally, the Department of Insurance and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, who will assess the fees, still has concerns with the Senate plan. Many on the committee seemed to agree this is a tough issue to resolve and while some on the committee want a resolution this year, there will be only be 9 legislative days remaining when the committee meets again the week after next. Insurance Commissioner Ray Farmer has told the subcommittee it was time to address the mounting deficits and he would support any effort by the General Assembly to do so.

A subcommittee of the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee favorably approved S.132 (Senator Davis, Nicholson, Hutto, M.B. Matthews, Kimpson and Alexander) that enacts the “PA Act of 2019” relating to physicians assistants. The bill intends to increase access to care, particularly in rural areas, without putting the public at risk as it relates to competency of care with physician assistants by expanding their duties. The bill requires a written or electronic agreement developed by a PA and a physician or medical staff who agrees to work with and support the PA. The scope of practice establishes the medical aspects of care to be provided by the PA, including the prescribing of medications, and must contain mechanisms that allow the physician to ensure that quality of care and patient safety is maintained in accordance with state and federal laws, as well as all applicable rules and regulations of the Board of Medical Examiners. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee held two meetings during the day on Thursday to take public input on S.366 (Senators Davis, Hutto, McLeod and Kimpson) the “Compassionate Care Act” relating to medical marijuana. The state’s top two law enforcement officials, Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED Chief Mark Keels, are in opposition of the proposed legislation along with the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. The South Carolina Medical Association also opposes sections of the bill that force physicians to be the access point for marijuana in South Carolina. They are calling for lowering marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug so that more comprehensive research can be conducted. This issue has been discussed in previous legislative sessions and will surely generate considerable debate again this year. Gov. McMaster has indicated he will follow law enforcement’s lead on the bill, suggesting a veto should legislation reach his desk.

ANIMAL WELFARE

The Senate gave third and final reading approval to S.281 (Senators Talley and Campbell) relating to the protection of guide dogs. The bill would make it a misdemeanor and establish penalties for the intentional misrepresentation of a service animal. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

APPOINTMENT

The Senate Family & Veterans’ Services Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved the appointment of Michael Leach to be the next director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Leach, a trained mental health clinician, has over 10 years of experience in Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services and most recently served as the Deputy Commissioner for Child Programs at the agency. Leach replaces former SCDSS Director Susan Alford who retired in July 2018. Gov. McMaster formed an advisory panel consisting of members of the General Assembly and various stakeholders to develop a set of qualifications, skills and experience needed for the next director. The nomination now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H.4431 (Reps. Jordan, Fry, Rose, Atkinson, Daning and Forrest) Enacts business license tax reform. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H.4443 (Rep. Collins) Enacts “Fargo’s and Hyco’s law” relating to mistreatment and injuring of police dogs. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

SENATE

S.754 (Senator Hembree) A bill to effect changes at the John De La Howe School. Referred to the Committee on Education.

S.756 (Senator Reese) A bill to consolidate the Boards of Commission of Public Works and certain special purpose districts. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S.760 (Senator M. B. Matthews) A bill to amend the laws affecting the governance and authority of the electric cooperatives. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

UP NEXT

The Senate will begin budget debate on the floor next week. The House of Representatives will be on furlough next week.