By Copper Dome Strategies

Friday, May 15, 2020

The General Assembly returned to Columbia this past week for a one-day session.

The accelerateSC subcommittees met again this week to discuss recommendations to the governor on getting the economy moving again.

Although South Carolina’s public schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, businesses and restaurants continued opening.

Close-contact businesses can begin opening on Monday. If you will be visiting South Carolina’s reopened salons and gyms, there will be many ways the experience will be different from before their closures (The State).

BUDGET AND CONTINUING RESOLUTION

The General Assembly returned to Columbia to primarily address two major items.

The first was a Continuing Resolution to provide for the operation of state government beyond June 30 in the absence of a state budget for FY20-21. The second was a Sine Die Resolution (see more below) that would allow the bodies to extend the regular legislative session and outlines what can be debated upon their return.

The Continuing Resolution H.3411 (Reps. G. R. Smith, W. Newton, Funderburk and others) provides that state government agencies will continue operating in FY21 with the same funding as it received in FY20. It also:

  • Allows provisos from last year’s budget to remain in effect
  • Appropriates from the Contingency Reserve Fund $175 million to the COVID-19 Response Reserve Account
  • Appropriates $25 million to MUSC for statewide COVID-19 testing
  • Appropriates $1.5 million to the Department of Administration for oversight and compliance of COVID-19 CARES Act funds
  • Provides instructions for medical providers and hospitals receiving grants or reimbursement
  • Provides emergency powers to the Superintendent of Education
  • Provides flexibility to institutions of higher learning relating to mandatory furloughs and employer contributions to the state retirement fund and earmarked or restricted revenue sources
  • Prohibits state-owned utility Santee Cooper from undertaking any action that would undermine the General Assembly regarding its status

The General Assembly will likely return to Columbia in September to adopt a state budget for the remainder of FY20-21.

PRIMARY VOTING

Any South Carolinian registered to vote in the upcoming June 9 primary who fears voting in-person due to the COVID-19 outbreak will be able to request an absentee ballot from the State Election Commission. Gov. McMaster signed the legislation S.635 (Senator Young) adopted this week by the General Assembly on Wednesday.

The legislation sunsets on July 1, 2020, and will not be in effect for the November general elections.

SINE DIE RESOLUTION

Adjournment sine die means “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.” This Latin term is used to signify the end of our legislative session. As in most recent years, our General Assembly adopted a Sine Die Resolution S.1194 (Senators Peeler and Malloy) on Tuesday, which will allow them to continue past the mandatory May 14 Sine Die deadline to complete unfinished business.

Each House will stand adjourned to meet at the call of the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It further authorizes the General Assembly to meet again in statewide session on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at noon and continue in statewide session until Sept. 24 for the consideration of specific matters. Those matters include:

  • Receipt and consideration of the General Appropriations Bill, the Capital Reserve Fund Resolution, any Supplemental Appropriations Bill, any rescission bill, and any Continuing Resolution to fund the ordinary expenses of state government, if necessary, until the passage of the General Appropriations Bill
  • Receipt and consideration of gubernatorial vetoes
  • Receipt and consideration of appointments
  • Introduction, receipt, and consideration of legislation concerning COVID-19 and related matters
  • Receipt and consideration of legislation passed by one house prior to May 14, 2020

Unless the session is otherwise adjourned Sine Die at an earlier date, the 2020 session of the General Assembly shall stand adjourned Sine Die not later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8.

CORONAVIRUS

On Tuesday, Gov. Henry McMaster extended the State of Emergency an additional 15 days.

Gov. McMaster announced last week that restaurants could reopen their dining rooms at 50% capacity beginning Monday, May 4. This week, the governor announced that close-contact businesses could begin opening on Monday, May 18. This includes hair salons, tattoo parlors, nail salons, gyms and pools. None of the guidelines are mandatory. Business owners are urged to abide by CDC guidelines and recommendations of the accelerateSC Committee.

The governor also announced plans for state employees who have been working from home to begin returning to the office in phases, with the first group of government workers returning no later than June 3. State agency directors will make the determination on which employees will return first.

Officials from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control announced it has increased its ability to do contact tracing when it comes to the spread of the virus. State officials are expanding testing and contact tracing efforts to find the hotspots and aggressively prevent the disease from spreading. All South Carolina nursing home residents and workers will be tested by June 1. Testing will also be expanded in rural areas and minority communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

To view all of the governor’s previous Executive Orders, go here.

The Medical University of South Carolina is offering free Telehealth consultations and screenings for anyone in South Carolina experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. New and existing patients should use the promo code COVID19.

For more information from DHEC on the virus, go here. The DHEC Care Line is available to provide general information about COVID-19 by calling 855.472.3432 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., seven days per week.

Other helpful links:

The Emergency Management Division provides links to important information, including the South Carolina Department on Aging, SC Childcare, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, the Department of Revenue and the South Carolina Department of Insurance.

Small business information and assistance can be found at the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

Information for parents, teachers and students regarding statewide school closures can be found at the SC Department of Education.

For resources that might be beneficial to your organization’s preparedness efforts, visit the COVID-19 Resources page of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd PA. (Copper Dome Strategies is a subsidiary of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd.)

South Carolina Health Alert Network

South Carolina COVID-19 Emergency Supply Sourcing & Manufacturing

Reminder: Wash your hands. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough. Stay home if you’re sick.

accelerateSC

The accelerateSC subcommittees met again this week to discuss potential recommendations to the governor on getting the economy moving.

The committee, created by Gov. Henry McMaster, is tasked with creating a coordinated economic revitalization plan and includes small and large business leaders, healthcare professionals, local government officials and education professionals.

The plan consists of five components of analysis and effort: Response, Protection, Governance, Resources and Information. These components will employ maximum communication, collaboration and cooperation among themselves and those assisting to effectively identify issues, solutions and assets necessary for a phased revitalization path for South Carolina’s economy, guided by healthcare and medical data. The accelerateSC participants will make immediate, intermediate and long-term recommendations to the governor for revitalizing and expanding South Carolina’s economy while protecting the health of South Carolina citizens.

Each subcommittee gave an update on their discussions:

The Resources subcommittee, chaired by former state Senator Chairman Greg Ryberg, continued discussions Monday on the expenditure of the $1.996 billion in federal funds from the federal CARES Act. These funds are to be used for necessary expenditures related to the response to COVID-19 between March 15 and Dec. 30, 2020. The funds are largely for the public sector, including higher education, but are not to be used to supplant or replace revenue. The committee is focused on identifying the process for dispersing the funding while providing maximum transparency. State agencies and local government entities are being surveyed to determine their needs.

The subcommittee discussed some of the estimated costs that have already been incurred and reported, including:

  • $73.7 million from the four-year higher education institutions
  • $9.1 million from the technical colleges (estimating $51 million by December)
  • $208 million from public and private hospitals (estimating $740 million by December)
  • $397.8 million from the Department of Education

The subcommittee also discussed recommending $400 million of the funds to replace the funds in the Unemployment Trust Fund through the Department of Employment and Workforce. The fund is paying out $70 million per week in unemployment benefits, and committee members agreed this cost should not be borne by struggling businesses. Chairman Ryberg noted the Treasury Department guidelines on use of the funds continues to evolve, but funds can be used for support for remote learning/telework, sanitization of public buildings, purchase of PPE, testing, tracing and isolation, payroll overtime costs and investment in the unemployment insurance trust fund and small business assistance.

The subcommittee unanimously voted to approve the hiring of a third-party vendor to assist the state with the oversight, transparency and accountability of the CARES funds. The vendor must be experienced in financial accounting procedures and federal grant administration.

Expanding broadband statewide for both remote learning and telehealth was again discussed. Ryberg noted that since South Carolina does not have a statewide plan for broadband or a governance structure in place, the goal of expanding broadband statewide with these funds might no longer be an option. The subcommittee discussed exploring possibilities to, at a minimum, move forward on the issue in preparation of a statewide plan and to deploy resources to create broadband hotspots until a plan is developed. The Resources Committee will meet again Friday, May 15, at 11 a.m. and can be viewed here.

The Response subcommittee met Wednesday and discussed identifying challenges related to workforce capacity, workforce re-entry, critical industries, capital requirements, regulatory issues and supply chain/logistics. The subcommittee is focused on how to best respond to COVID-19 in an effort to safely reopen businesses. They discussed best practices for the restaurant industry, hotels/tourism, child care centers and businesses generally.

As for child care businesses, it was pointed out that about half of all of the Department of Social Services (DSS) licensed child care centers have closed at least temporarily although some are trying to reopen now. There is agreement that for all businesses to reopen, child care centers must be in place to accommodate working parents’ children. DSS is providing grants up to $600 to cover the costs of sanitizing centers as well as providing cleaning supplies once they are reopened. DSS is encouraging businesses whose employees are served by nearby centers to reach out to them to ask what they could do to assist. The ABC voucher program has been enhanced to make sure it covers children of essential employees. In addition, DSS is working on a larger grant program of $3,000-$15,000 for child care centers. A Benefits Portal should soon be open to apply.

The business community (SC Retail Association, SC Medical Association, SC Manufacturers Alliance, SC Hospital Association, SC Chamber of Commerce and others) then lead a conversation about the need for the State legislature to expeditiously review, debate and adopt a limited liability bill to allay the fear of businesses being sued for COVID-19-related claims. As explained, it would be limited to COVID-19 claims and to the end of the pandemic, or the end of 2022, whichever is earlier. It would allow businesses who adopted and carried out best practice safety measures to be shielded from liability. It would not shield businesses from reckless or intentional conduct. There was discussion about getting the legislation reviewed and moving this year. However, like all legislation for the remainder of this year, it will be a challenge to find a way to hold public meetings and debate the issue.

The full accelerateSC committee will meet next Tuesday.

The accelerateSC web site for citizens and businesses, which serves as a comprehensive, one-stop web site for citizens and businesses can be found here.

For further information about the accelerateSC committee and its members, visit the governor’s website here.

REOPEN SOUTH CAROLINA

“Reopen South Carolina,” a Senate committee tasked with accepting any recommendations made by Gov. McMaster’s accelerateSC task force met on Tuesday. The committee got an update from several members who also serve on the accelerateSC Committee. They will review recommendations requiring legislative actions, including considering best practices for business operations, safe harbors for potential COVID-19 liability, continued workforce development and addressing the increase in unemployment.

The committee is chaired by Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee/Pickens). Other committee members include Sens. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), Kevin Johnson (D-Clarendon), Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington), Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) and Ross Turner (R-Greenville).

accelerateED

The Department of Education’s accelerateEd task force met again Thursday. The task force, comprised of educators and administrators representing all aspects of the K-12 public education system, is charged with studying barriers to school operations and student learning during the pandemic and providing recommendations on how schools and districts can best restart in the fall.

The meeting focused on safety. Recommendations included ensuring there is a nurse in every school, personal protective equipment for teachers and staff, restricting the number of visitors, potentially serving lunch in classrooms and reducing the number of students allowed to ride on a bus. The committee also heard the results of a focus group of parents whose biggest concern is that their children are falling behind academically. The committee is also preparing for virtual options in case schools will not be able to reopen in the fall.

The Department of Education, like most other public entities, is determining the additional costs associated with COVID-19 response and what funding might be available from the CARES Act funding the state has received. State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said she has requested $180 million for six extra instructional days along with more than $50 million for summer school funding. Spearman noted a survey of districts showed there were approximately 150,000 households that have students without internet access, and districts estimate they will need approximately 160,000 devices in order to equip students for distance learning.

For more information, go here.

REGULATORY RELIEF

The House COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee met in a virtual meeting again this past Monday. The committee heard presentations from DHEC and the SC Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR) on how their agencies are working with stakeholders during the pandemic.

The committee was formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) to review all existing regulations and identify ways to provide relief to businesses and prevent regulatory issues from being a barrier to the reemergence of essential businesses. Committee Chairman Jeff Bradley (R-Hilton Head) said the committee is soliciting input from the business community, nonprofit organizations, state agencies and the general public on ideas and recommendations. Suggestions can be sent to the committee here.

The committee will hold virtual meetings via Zoom over the next few weeks. You can access the meetings here.

GENERAL BUSINESS

The House approved on Tuesday S.455 (Senators Alexander, Climer and Davis) that provides for temporary professional licenses to the spouse of an active duty military member. The bill now goes to the governor for consideration.

ANIMAL WELFARE

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved H.5152 (Reps. Ott, Kirby, Hiott and others), a Joint Resolution that creates the “Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee” to examine the potential for further growth of the industry in this state. The Joint Resolution now goes to the Senate for consideration.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H.5474 (Rep. Moore) Requires health insurance coverage for telehealth and telemedicine. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H.5475 (Rep. Moore) Creates a state revolving loan fund for the food and beverage industry during the pandemic. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.5476 (Rep. Moore) Enacts the “Medicaid Expansion Act.” Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.5477 (Rep. Mace) Allows taxpayers to deduct net operating losses during the pandemic. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.5482 (Reps. Fry, Wooten, Tallon, Hiott and others) Provides temporary workers’ compensation benefits for first responders required to isolate during the pandemic. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

SENATE

H.1208 (Senator Hembree) Senate Resolution declaring “Charter Schools Week” in South Carolina May 10 – May 16, 2020. The Senate Resolution was adopted.

H.1209 (Senator Hembree) Joint Resolution waiving certain provisions relating to minimum test scores for state scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year due to COVID-19. Read the first time and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

UP NEXT

The accelerateSC full committee will meet Tuesday afternoon.

REARVIEWS 2020

Thanks for following SCACPA’s ‘The View from the Dome’ for State House Developments on Tax Issues Through SC’s 2020 Legislative Session. Here is a review of our weekly updates through the May 14 Sine Die adjournment.

Jan. 10: South Carolina’s Pending Tax Bills and Your 2020 Legislative Preview

Jan. 17: Gov. McMaster’s Executive Budget Calls for Tax Cuts, Rebates for Taxpayers

Jan. 24: McMaster’s State of the State Emphasizes Tax Cuts, Rebates, Teacher Raises; Business License Tax Talks Continue

Jan. 31: House Subcommittee Hears Budget Request from SC Chief Justice to Improve Case Management System

Feb. 7: Senate Finance Committee Approves Business Personal Property Bill for DOR Filing

Feb. 14: Board of Economic Advisors Announces Largest Budget Surplus in SC History

Feb. 21: House Floor Debate is Up Next for Budget After Ways and Means Committee Plan Adopted

Feb. 28: House Members Have Upcoming Week to Study Budget Before Floor Debate

March 6: Education Reform Bill Moves from Senate to House; DHEC Tells of Coronavirus Resources

March 13: Senate Bills Make Progress for Conformity, Business Personal Property and Business License Tax Reform

March 20: A Look Inside the $45M COVID-19 Relief Package for DHEC; Return of Legislators is on Hold

March 27: Legislative Session Remains Postponed; Candidate Filing Period Ends on March 30

April 3: General Assembly Will Convene for One Day on April 8; State Elections Leader Suggests List of Voting Adjustments

April 10: Here are Details of General Assembly’s Unresolved Continuing Resolution Situation for State Operations Budget

April 17: McMaster Announces ‘Accelerate South Carolina’ Revitalization Plan, Details to Come

April 24: accelerateSC Revitalization Task Force Goes to Work

May 1: General Assembly Set to Return to State House on May 12

May 8: Gov. McMaster Announces that Indoor Dining in SC Can Resume on May 11

To keep up with the latest news of SCACPA Advocacy, turn to the SCACPA Blog and our social media outlets.