By Copper Dome Strategies
Friday, Feb. 26, 2021
The Senate worked into the evening twice this week before approving a bond bill for port improvements and the COVID-19 Liability Protection bill.
Numerous committees of the House and Senate held hearings, including the Ways and Means Committee, in preparation for next week’s budget debate in full committee.
The House Ways and Means Property Tax Subcommittee adjourned debate on H.3458 (Rep. Robinson) on Wednesday. The bill would provide a property tax exemption for any amount of value added as a result of a countywide appraisal and equalization program. The exemption would only be for those whose annual income is less than $50,000 and whose property value increased due to the increase in value of surrounding properties. The South Carolina Association of Counties spoke in opposition to the bill calling it a nightmare to administer while only benefiting a few, causing numerous other homeowners to make up the lost revenue through higher property taxes. It is not clear as to when the subcommittee might address the bill again.
The Senate on Tuesday voted 44-1 to give second reading to S.16 (Senators Rankin, Hembree, Malloy and Fanning) that would require completion of certain basic personal finance coursework for high school graduation instead of existing economics coursework requirements. The State Department of Education would develop related measuring and reporting requirements and make provisions applicable to students entering ninth grade beginning with the 2022-23 school year. The bill received third and final reading Wednesday and now goes to the House for consideration.
The House Ways and Means Proviso Subcommittee met this week to complete its work prior to the budget debate in full committee next week. Provisos are clauses in the state budget that direct the expenditure of funds and hold the force of law for one year. The Ways and Means Committee is expected to adopt its version of the FY21-22 General Appropriations Act next week. House rules require the budget to then be printed and placed on member’s desks for one week prior to debate. Full floor debate is expected to begin on March 22.
The Senate Finance Subcommittees began hearing agency budget requests this week. Agencies appearing this week included the Arts Commission, SC ETV, State Library and the State Museum, among others.
The governor’s executive budget can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
Video archives of the subcommittee meetings can be found here.
GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS
After weeks of debate, the Senate worked into the evening on Wednesday to give third and final reading approval to S.491 (Senator Leatherman), a Joint Resolution that would authorize up to $550 million of General Obligation Economic Development bonds. The sole purpose is limited to defraying the costs of the Intermodal Container Transfer Infrastructure operated by the State Ports Authority. The bill was amended to require the SPA to reimburse the state $150 million to offset the debt service required by such bonds. The goal of the new facility is to finalize the port’s major infrastructure initiative. There is additional legislation that will be needed to address the “structural component” of the project. The Joint Resolution now goes to the House for consideration.
By a vote of 40-3, the Senate gave third and final reading Thursday to S.147 (Senators Massey, Rice, Hembree, Adams and Peeler), the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act. The bill provides health care providers and businesses liability protection from Coronavirus claims. Twenty-two states have already enacted COVID-19 liability protection and 21 states are considering it. Gov. Henry McMaster strongly supports the legislation. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee took testimony Thursday from first responders and the South Carolina Association of Counties on three bills S.94, S.282 and S.402 related to workers’ compensation and whether to include first responders who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The committee ran out of time without taking action on the bills and agreed to meet again soon. Another bill on the agenda that they did not have time to address was S.366 (Senators Talley and Hutto), a reintroduction of a previously introduced bill that deals with the admissibility of medical records in workers’ compensation cases. This bill will be on the agenda at the next meeting as well.
A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee debating the potential sale and reform of state-owned utility Santee Cooper H.3194 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Simrill, Rutherford and others) met Tuesday and took testimony from several entities on Integrated Resource Planning and clean energy development. Representatives from the Coastal Conservation League, Southern Current Solar, the Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association and the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina all discussed plans for clean energy deployment and replacing the electric generation from retiring coal facilities. Following the testimony, the committee adjourned without taking action on the bill.
COVID-19 – VACCINES
The House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee on Tuesday again debated S.516 (Senators Massey, Malloy, Cromer and others), which requires the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to add school teachers and support staff to Phase 1a of the vaccination plan. If enacted into law, teachers and staff would be eligible immediately to begin receiving the vaccine regardless of age or health status. State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman testified that schools can open safely now but noted many are hesitant to do so. She said the state has provided PPE to every school to mitigate risks.
Dr. Edward Simmer, director of DHEC, said the state is now receiving 98,000 doses per week and has 572 providers activated. He noted the CDC says schools can be opened safely without vaccines and said schools are a low-risk environment, adding those under age 65 have a dramatically lower risk of death and the goal of the state is to save lives. The state’s plan is to vaccinate those at the highest risk first. He said teachers are currently in Phase 1b and he expects those in that category may be able to start receiving the vaccine by mid to late March. Superintendent Spearman said she would like to see teachers prioritized to receive the vaccine before others in Phase 1b. The Senate passed the bill without taking testimony from the public.
Last week, dozens of groups representing seniors, persons with disabilities, first responders, bus drivers, social workers, manufacturers and many others also asked to be prioritized. Gov. McMaster has said it is unconscionable for young, healthy teachers to get the vaccine ahead of older and more vulnerable citizens, indicating he will likely veto the legislation should it reach his desk. The subcommittee decided to adjourn debate on the bill until DHEC has more data on the completion of vaccines for those in Phase 1a and at the highest risk.
For more information from DHEC on the virus, click here.
A Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee on Thursday unanimously approved S.503 (Senator Hutto) that would allow Physician’s Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to issue orders for certain home health services. The bill was amended at the request of the South Carolina Medical Association to delay the implementation 60 days after the signature of the governor for them to provide notification of the change in the law. The bill now goes to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee for consideration.
The House on Tuesday moved that S.160 (Senator Scott) be placed on the calendar without being referred to committee after receiving the bill from the Senate. The bill relates to the disposal of surplus property by the Midlands Technical College Enterprise Campus Authority. The House had passed a companion bill previously. The House adopted the bill Wednesday by a vote of 107-0 and the bill received third reading Thursday . The bill now goes to the governor.
The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday favorably approved S.38 (Senators Talley and Hembree) that enacts the “State Institution of Higher Education Efficiency Act.” The bill would raise the threshold for approval of permanent improvement projects from $1 million to $2 million. The bill was amended in subcommittee to include the state’s 16 technical colleges.
The committee also adopted S.376 (Senators Grooms, Rice, Hembree, Verdin and Kimbrell) that enacts the “Reinforcing College Education on America’s Constitutional Heritage” (REACH) Act. The bill requires each high school and institution of higher education to provide instruction on the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. Both bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
The House on Wednesday favorably approved H.3696 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Murphy, Simrill, Rutherford and others) that would increase the number of circuit and family court judges in certain judicial circuits. The bill, which passed the House last year, received third reading Thursday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The House moved two bills related to alcohol to the Contested Calendar for extended debate Tuesday. H.3575 (Reps. Fry, Collins, Elliott, Kirby and others) would allow qualifying retailers to offer curbside delivery or pickup service of beer and wine. H.3772 (Reps. Bernstein, G. M. Smith, Stavrinakis and others) would allow home delivery from retail dealers licensed to sell beer and wine.
The Senate gave third and final reading approval Thursday to S.378 (Senators Cash and Senn), relating to penalties for teasing, maltreating and injuring police dogs and horses. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H.3932 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Provides the director of the Department of Insurance must be elected in the general election. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H.3933 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Regarding penalties and fines associated with a local hospitality tax payment. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3934 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Allows the Department of Revenue to issue permits to sell beer and wine at multiple locations on multiple days at a festival. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3937 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Establishes a high-speed rail system commission. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3939 (Reps. Pope, Hyde, McCravy, McGarry and Bryant) Exempts injuries sustained by law enforcement from certain workers’ compensation limitations. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3942 (Reps. Gagnon and West) Authorizes imposition of educational capital improvements sales and use tax in certain situations. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3948 (Reps. Stavrinakis and Murphy) Allows a county that has imposed a sales and use tax to impose another. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3949 (Rep. W. Newton) Enacts the “Uniform Limited Liability Company Act of 2021.” Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3961 (Reps. Gilliard, Murray, Henegan and Govan) Enacts the “Advanced Manufacturing Instruction Act of 2022,” requiring every school district to provide elective instruction in advanced manufacturing. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3975 (Roll of the House) Concurrent Resolution to recognize and express deep appreciation to the South Carolina Technical College System and declare March 22-26, 2021, as “South Carolina Technical College Week” in South Carolina. The Concurrent Resolution was agreed to and ordered sent to the Senate.
H.3976 (Reps. Erickson, Elliott, Fry, Lucas, Pope, Simrill and others) Provides for the creation of Education Scholarship Accounts. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3978 (Reps. West, Pope, Crawford, McCravy, W. Cox, and others) Creates an election to tax partnerships and “S” corporations at the entity level. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
S.592 (Senators Corbin, Gambrell, Loftis, Rice, Shealy and Verdin) Deletes procedures to review retired judges’ qualifications for continued judicial service. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.594 (Senators Corbin, Rice, Loftis, Hembree, Verdin, Shealy and others) Relating to members of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission and terms. Read the first time and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.597 (Senators Corbin, Adams, Climer, Verdin, Shealy and Rice) Constitutional amendment to provide judges be appointed by the governor. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.608 (Senator Alexander) Relating to notifying the Department of Revenue prior to a referendum on sales and use taxes and relating to temporary alcohol permits. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.613 (Senator Davis) Specifies tasks that can be delegated to a Certified Medical Assistant and physicians delegating tasks to unlicensed personnel. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
S.619 (Senators Rankin, Leatherman, Hutto, Fanning and Climer) Relating to the sale of alcohol at wineries, breweries and micro-distillers. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.620 (Senators Rankin, Alexander and Hutto) Joint Resolution requiring the Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) to participate with the Office of Regulatory Staff on mitigation efforts of threats to safe and reliable services. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
The House Ways and Means Committee will debate the FY21-22 General Appropriations Act in full committee. The General Assembly will meet in Joint Session Wednesday at noon to elect several college board trustees.
REAR VIEWS 2021
Look to SCACPA’s “View from the Dome” updates on the SCACPA website and our social media every week during the legislative session. Sine Die adjournment is scheduled for May 13. You can always stay up-to-date with SCACPA’s respective blog pages for Governmental Topics, Legislative Topics and Regulatory Topics.
Feb. 19: Senate Sets Priority on COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act as its Debate Continues
Feb. 12: Senate to Consider Personal Finance Courses Requirement to Replace Economics Classes for High Schoolers
Feb. 5: Senate Nears Approval of $200M from Reserve Fund for Vaccine Distribution
Jan. 29: DOR Tells Economic Development Subcommittee That SC’s Tax Revenues are Strong
Jan. 22: Board of Economic Advisors Places State’s Tax Revenue Collections at $336M Above Forecast
Jan. 15: McMaster Delivers State of the State, Recommends $123M More for Small Business Grants
Jan. 8: 2021 Legislative Session “Pre-View from the Dome”
Dec. 18: A First Look at Pre-Filed Tax Legislation of Interest for the 2021 Legislative Session