Friday, Aug. 21, 2020
The Senate announced plans to return to session in September. Among the considerations are changes to state election laws that could allow citizens to vote safely in November due to COVID-19.
The Senate Re-Open SC Committee met again.
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GOV. MCMASTER TELLS CABINET AGENCIES NOT TO SEEK ADDITIONAL FUNDS
Gov. Henry McMaster told his cabinet agencies Thursday not to seek additional funding from the legislature as they prepare to return in September. During the virtual cabinet meeting, he went on to urge agencies to prepare contingency plans for a 1% to 3% budget cut in the event the economy does not improve.
McMaster, and some legislative leaders, are hesitant to appropriate estimated revenues that might not materialize due to the economic uncertainty with the pandemic.
“It is still unclear whether there will be any new money or how much there will be if there is any. The only thing that is certain about this new budget is the uncertainty,” McMaster said.
Since the House passed its version of the budget earlier this year, the state’s economists are projecting a loss in state revenue of at least $1.2 billion. McMaster said if there is any additional revenue, it should be carried forward to FY21-22. He wants state agencies to continue the remainder of this fiscal year with the funding appropriated in the Continuing Resolution passed in May. The State Board of Economic Advisors will meet again Monday and they expected to provide the General Assembly with a revised estimate by the end of August.
“Gov. McMaster asks legislators not to create a new state spending plan amid uncertainty” (Post and Courier, Aug. 20) South Carolina’s expected $1.8 billion surplus “evaporated almost overnight,” the governor said at the start of his virtual cabinet meeting.
“SC’s unemployment rate remained above 8.5% in July as economic recovery slowed” (Post and Courier, Aug. 21) The state’s unemployment rate stood around 12% in in April and May, but results indicate South Carolina more than 90,000 fewer jobs than in pre- pandemic February.
SENATE RE-OPEN SC COMMITTEE
The Senate Re-Open SC Children’s Services/PPE Subcommittee met Wednesday. The subcommittee heard from Michael Leach, Director of the Department of Social Services, on their efforts working with the Department of Education to contact children who were unaccounted for when school closures began. Director Leach noted that of the 16,000 students originally designated as unaccounted, they have reduced the number to 371. DSS officials said they performed a data match through their child welfare system and also worked with the state Department of Mental Health to perform a data match regarding any children on the list who may be receiving therapeutic services.
The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) also updated the committee on school reopening protocols.
Following the subcommittee meeting, the full Senate Re-Open SC committee met to hear details of a collaborative project between the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Clemson University on the development of an “exposure notification smartphone application.” Partnering with Apple/Google, the app is designed to work with Bluetooth technology and notify those who have opted in of any potential exposure to COVID-19. The app is designed with user privacy as a primary component and is HIPAA compliant. Users would voluntarily sign on, and no personal data would be stored. The app is part of a research clinical trial and must be endorsed by the state health entity, DHEC, before it is launched. The committee voted to report to the General Assembly that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between these entities does not violate the privacy concerns expressed in Act 142.
To view the video archive of the meeting, click here.
SENATE ANNOUNCES PLANS TO RETURN TO SESSION
South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) announced on Monday that state senators will return to session on Wednesday, Sept. 2 to consider changes to state election laws. Specifically, the Senate will consider changes to the laws that will allow citizens to vote safely in November due to COVID-19. In May, Gov. McMaster signed a bill into law that allowed South Carolina voters to submit absentee ballots without a reason for the June primaries due to the pandemic. It is expected the Senate will debate similar legislation and other potential temporary changes.
The next day, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) notified members of plans for the committee to meet two weeks prior to the Sept. 15 legislative session to prepare for the Senate amendment to H.5201, the General Appropriations Act. The committee will meet via Zoom Sept. 1-3 to receive testimony from invitees (not yet announced) and the committee will hold budget deliberations Sept. 8-10. The goal is to have a committee amendment adopted and ready to debate on the floor the day the General Assembly returns to session Sept. 15.
Chairman Leatherman noted that they must plan for the worst and hope for the best for those items most important to prepare the state for any potential mid-year shortfalls.
The House of Representatives is not planning to return until Sept. 15, although the Majority Caucus is meeting in Columbia in early September for a planning session. The House Ways and Means Committee announced this week the formation of the CARES Act Ad Hoc Committee to assist the committee and the House in determining allocations of funds in Phase II of the federal CARES Act.
Gov. McMaster’s Office announced it is working with DHEC and the CDC to begin lifting some restrictions on nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
To view all of the governor’s previous Executive Orders, click here.
For more information from SC DHEC on the virus, click here.
The DHEC Care Line is available to provide general information about COVID-19 by calling 1-855-472-3432 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 SC Department on Aging, SC Childcare, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce, the Department of Revenue and the SC Department of Insurance.
South Carolina Department of Commerce for small business information and assistance.
For additional resources that may be beneficial to your organization’s recovery efforts, visit Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s COVID-19 Resources page (Copper Dome Strategies is a subsidiary of HSB).
Case Brittain, a Myrtle Beach businessman, won the GOP Primary in a Special Election on Tuesday for House District 107 in Horry County, defeating Mark McBride. Brittain will now face Democratic candidate Tony Cahill and Libertarian candidate William Dettmering. The general election will take place in November to fill the seat held by longtime representative Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach). After serving in office for 18 years, Clemmons announced last month he was leaving to focus on the clients at his Myrtle Beach law firm.
All 124 House seats will be on the ballot in November. Candidates will be vying for 10 open House seats, and 62 House members will be running unopposed.
BUDGET – CONTINUING RESOLUTION
A Continuing Resolution, H.3411, is in effect that provides for the continued and uninterrupted operation of state government into the fiscal year that began July 1, 2020. State government agencies are operating in FY21 with the same funding as they received in FY20. The General Assembly will return to Columbia on Sept. 15 to adopt a state budget for the remainder of FY20-21.
SINE DIE RESOLUTION
General Assembly members adopted Sine Die Resolution S.1194, which allows 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. At this time, there are no plans to return until September. The resolution further authorizes the General Assembly to meet in statewide session on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at noon and continue in statewide session until Sept. 24 for the consideration of specific matters, including the annual General Appropriations Act.
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, 2020.
The State Board of Economic Advisors will meet Monday afternoon.
Thank you 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.