View from the Dome – May 24, 2019
By Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

The General Assembly returned to Columbia this past Monday and Tuesday to complete unfinished business, including passage of the state budget, a plan to move forward for the potential sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper and a tax incentive package to bring the Carolina Panthers corporate headquarters and training facilities to South Carolina.

As 2019 was the first year of the two-year legislative session, all bills not becoming law this year will maintain their place in committee or on the calendar when sessions resume in January.


The Conference Committee on the state budget H.4000 adopted the Conference Report resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions this past Monday. On Tuesday, both chambers approved the FY 2019-20 spending plan. House conferees were Representatives Murrell Smith, Gary Simrill and Todd Rutherford. Senate conferees were Senators Hugh Leatherman, Darrell Jackson and Sean Bennett.

The committee also adopted a finalized Conference Report on H.4001, a Joint Resolution to appropriate funds from the Capital Reserve Fund. Both bills now go to the governor where he can exercise his veto authority. Highlights of the budget include:

  • $159 million for a 4% teacher pay increase
  • $41 million for a 2% state employee pay increase
  • $500 bonus for state employees making $50,000 or less
  • $49.5 million for the state Medicaid maintenance of effort and annualization
  • $49.7 million to cover 100% of the state employee health and dental insurance increases
  • $40 million for new voting machines
  • $65 million for a one-time tax rebate of $50 per person for those filing a tax return

For the technical colleges, the budget includes:

  • $6 million base recurring funding
  • $51 million Lottery Tuition Assistance
  • $17 million SC Workforce Industry Needs Scholarships (SCWINS)
  • $11 million for workforce scholarships and grants
  • $19.2 million ReadySC
  • $12.5 million high demand job skills training equipment
  • $4.1 million technology funding

Information on the budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.


H.4243 Legislation aimed at bringing the Carolina Panthers corporate headquarters and training facilities to South Carolina received final passage. The Senate voted 23-16 and the House voted 88-18 on Monday to pass the bill that would provide $115 million in tax incentives for the relocation. The Panthers plan to invest more than $200 million and purchase up to 200 acres in York County for the project. The bill was amended to include increased tax credits for future businesses that move to South Carolina’s poorest counties. Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to sign the legislation into law.


A House/Senate Conference Committee met Tuesday to resolve the differences in H.4287, which deals with the future of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. Later that day, both chambers adopted the plan. House conferees were Representatives Jay Lucas, Murrell Smith and Russell Ott. Senate conferees were Senators Shane Massey, Luke Rankin and Nikki Setzler.

The plan calls for the Department of Administration to seek not only bids from qualified offerers to purchase Santee Cooper but also to seek offers for potential management contracts of the state-owned utility as well as a reform plan from the utility regarding its future. The timeline for the process ends Jan. 15, 2020. Conferees agreed the timeline was necessary so that the General Assembly could act on a recommendation during the next legislative session. The proposed plan to sell state-owned utility Santee Cooper has dominated discussion in the General Assembly this year.


The following conference committee reports were approved this week to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills. All three bills now go to the governor.

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.

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.


The Budget Conference Committee deleted a House proviso that would have closed Denmark Technical College on June 30 and have it reopened as a trade school, thereby allowing the college at least one more year to operate as part of the state technical college system. The South Carolina Technical College System has said if the school stays in the system after June 30, any shortfalls incurred by the college will negatively affect funds available for the other 15 technical colleges.


State Representative Ronnie Young (R-Aiken) died last weekend after battling an illness. Young was the longest-serving Aiken County Council chairman in history. His tenure began in 1994 and continued until 2017 when he won a special election for the S.C. House of Representatives’ District 84 seat. Two days before his death at his Horse Creek Valley home, Young, 71, received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor. The House and Senate both took a moment to celebrate his life this past week.


On Monday, the Senate Family & Veterans’ Services Committee approved the governor’s appointment of Ms. Amanda F. Whittle, to serve as the first State Child Advocate for the newly created Department of Children’s Advocacy. Whittle previously served as an attorney for the South Carolina Department of Social Services. The full Senate approved the appointment Tuesday. The General Assembly created the position last year to ensure the protection and care of children receiving services from the Department of Social Services and other state agencies that provide services to children.


The General Assembly has adjourned Sine Die. Copper Dome Strategies will provide you with a look back at the 2019 legislative session in the coming weeks.