Friday, March 6, 2020
Once again, the future of state-owned utility Santee Cooper was front and center as both the House and Senate committees continued debate this week on the best path forward.
The Senate came one step closer to finalizing the education reform bill after eight weeks of debate.
The Senate Medical Affairs Committee received an update on Thursday from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) regarding the coronavirus outbreak. The agency is closely monitoring the rapidly emerging outbreak of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19), first identified in the city of Wuhan, China. Cases have been confirmed in many countries, including the United States. As cases are confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is posting updates on its website. At this time, no cases have been identified in South Carolina.
For more information on the virus, go to the DHEC bulletin site here.
The Senate gave second reading approval to S.545 (Senator Alexander) on Wednesday. The bill relates to business personal property and requires filing through the DOR. The bill requires all counties to use the DOR approved PT-100 form for filing business personal property assessments. The bill remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.
The Senate Finance Committee held two subcommittee meetings to hear agency budget requests. Among those that appeared were the SC Department of Education and First Steps for School Readiness.
The House Ways and Means budget has been placed on House members’ desks as required. Full House floor debate is expected to take place next week.
With the state’s economy seeing record-level unemployment combined with rising wages and new residents, the state’s General Fund budget now tops $10 billion with a budget surplus projected of over $1.1 billion.
The Ways and Means Committee budget briefing can be found here.
Ways and Means Subcommittee budget spreadsheets can be found here.
The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
After eight weeks of debate, the Senate this week voted 41-4 to approve S.419 (Sens. Hembree, Malloy, Turner, Setzler, Sheheen and Alexander), known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act.” The bill:
- Eliminates three state-mandated tests: social studies in fifth and seventh grades and science in eighth grade. The only remaining state-required tests would be an end of course test for U.S.History/Constitution for high school juniors and a literacy assessment for third grade students;
- Allows high school graduates who have earned Palmetto Fellows or LIFE scholarships to use those scholarship funds at technical colleges. Currently, those funds are limited to use at universities;
- Provides additional scholarship funds to education majors through Palmetto Fellows and LIFE scholarships. The new scholarships would offer prospective teachers up to an additional $2,500 per year;
- Requires school board members to follow a uniform code of ethics and receive training for their service on the school board;
- Establishes a framework for turning around failing schools and allows for the removal of elected school boards in chronically failing districts;
- Provides summer reading camps for students after kindergarten, first and second grades;
- Guarantees a 30-minute, duty-free lunch period for elementary school teachers;
- Pays for certification costs for all new public school teachers. This provision will save new teachers about $500 each;
- Doubles the reimbursement amount teachers receive for classroom supplies they pay for out-of-pocket. Teachers are currently allowed $275 per year. They would now receive $550;
- Reduces the paperwork teachers have to complete for student learning objectives (SLO’s). The excessive paperwork and time required to complete these SLO’s has been a frequent criticism from teachers;
- Expands the state-funded 4K program to every district in the state. Students with family income less than 185% of poverty would be eligible for the 4K program; and
- Includes language that establishes the SC Workforce Industry Needs (SC WINS) scholarship for technical college students.
The bill received third reading on Thursday and now goes to the House for consideration.
Both Gov. Henry McMaster and legislative leadership had said the 2019 legislative session would produce long-overdue reforms in K-12 education. The House passed its version of education reform H.3759 (Reps. Lucas, Allison, Felder, Pope, Simrill, Rutherford and others) last March. However, after hearing complaints from teachers and others about the legislation, the Senate did not pass their version last year and spent the summer and fall hearing from stakeholders and revising their bill. More than 200 amendments were placed on the Senate desk during the past seven weeks of debate and several dozen of those were adopted.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday to chart a new course regarding the future of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. Earlier in the week, the Ways and Means Ad Hoc Santee Cooper Committee unanimously rejected the three proposals recommended by the Department of Administration regarding the future of Santee Cooper. Those proposals were:
- Sell Santee Cooper to privately-owned utility NextEra Energy;
- Contract with privately-owned Dominion Energy to manage Santee Cooper; or
- Reform Santee Cooper while keeping state ownership and management.
The committee instead opted to craft a new hybrid plan that calls for legislation that would include reform of Santee Cooper in the event it remains a state-owned asset while at the same time proposing a House/Senate committee to continue negotiations with NextEra Energy on the potential sale. The plan was outlined in an op-ed penned by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) on Monday and can be found here.
The full House is expected to debate the plan after the House returns from their Easter furlough. The new plan can be found here.
Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee also unanimously rejected the three proposals yesterday and has established a subcommittee to draft legislation to reform Santee Cooper. The subcommittee plans to meet next Tuesday.
Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) told the committee he expected the work of the subcommittee to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee and then be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Lawmakers have been debating whether to sell Santee Cooper since 2017, when the utility and its partner, SCE&G, announced it was pulling the plug on a $9 billion plan to build two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County. After the Department of Administration report was released, Governor McMaster stated that he believes the state must act quickly to sell Santee Cooper.
The report can be found here.
On Tuesday the House voted 101-0 to approve H.4776 (Reps. Tallon, Allison, Hyde, Taylor, Brawley and others) relating to restrictions on former Public Service Commission members being employed by public utilities. The bill increases the restriction from one to three years. The bill received third reading on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate Judiciary Committee favorably approved, as amended, S.1002 (Senators Rankin, Malloy, Young and others). The bill would change the conduct of Voir Dire in the Court of Common Pleas from being conducted by the judge to being conducted by the attorneys. Two amendments to the bill were adopted in full committee. The first amendment changed language in the bill that required the exchange of questions to occur five days prior to the selection of jury members. The time limit was amended to seven days. The amendment also clarifies that each party is allotted no more than 30 minutes to ask questions to jury members, but the time limit can be extended at the discretion of the judge.
The second amendment that was adopted changes language in the bill that did not allow questions regarding a juror’s political and religious affiliations to allow these questions at the discretion of the judge. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate gave second reading approval to S.954 (Senators Scott and Setzler) relating to the disposal of surplus property by the Midlands Technical College Enterprise Campus. The bill remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.
The House of Representatives approved H.4800 (Reps. Collins, Bernstein and Kimmons) that reauthorizes the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children through Dec. 31, 2030, by a vote of 106-6. The bill received third reading Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The Senate gave second reading approval to S.865 (Senators Jackson, Hutto and Shealy), the companion bill, on the following day. It remains on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.
The House favorably approved H.4963 (Reps. Tallon, Moore, Bernstein, Caskey, Clary and others) relating to wine samples by a vote of 94-12. The bill would allow producers or wholesalers to furnish or give certain samples of wines to retailers but may not exceed three liters annually. The bill also requires all bottles to be removed from the premises after sampling. The bill received third reading on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
A subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee favorably approved H.5152 (Reps. Ott, Kirby, Hiott, Clary and others) a Joint Resolution to create the “Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee.” The committee would examine the potential for further growth of the equine industry in this state and the resulting economic impact. The bill was approved unanimously by the full committee the next day. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
The Senate confirmed the governor’s appointment of retired Army Maj. Gen. William F. Grimsley to lead the new S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs. Grimsley, 62, is a military officer with 33 years of service, and his assignments included multiple combat tours in Iraq. He retired from active duty in 2013. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. A Beaufort resident, he is the son of The Citadel’s 16th president, Maj. Gen. James A. Grimsley Jr., who led the school from 1980 until 1989. The new cabinet agency was created by law last year and is designed to advocate on behalf of veteran needs and to protect the military’s presence in South Carolina.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H.5201 (Ways and Means Committee) General Appropriations Act. Without Reference.
H.5202 (Ways and Means Committee) Joint Resolution to appropriate monies from the Capital Reserve Fund. Without Reference.
H.5335 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Simrill and others) Authorizes the sale of assets, assumption of defeasment of its liabilities or the management of the operations of the S.C. Public Service Authority by a third party or entity. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.5337 (Reps. Dillard, Cobb-Hunter, Robinson, Norrell and others) Allows candidates to use campaign funds to pay for childcare expenses. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.5339 (Rep. Moore) Enacts the “Cancer Prevention Act” relating to public water systems. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H.5302 (Reps. Allison, Alexander, Anderson and others) A concurrent resolution declaring March 25, 2020, as “South Carolina Technical College System Day.” The Concurrent Resolution was introduced and referred to the Committee on Education.
S.1147 (Senators Shealy, Hutto and Jackson) Allows a parent or legal guardian of a medically eligible child to request a do not resuscitate order in emergency services for the child. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
The full House of Representatives will debate the FY20-21 state budget.
Look to SCACPA’s ‘The View from the Dome’ for State House Developments on Tax Issues Through SC’s 2020 Legislative Session. Sine Die adjournment is scheduled for May 14.