By Copper Dome Strategies
Friday, June 5, 2020
Several legislative committees met this past week to discuss actions needed to assist in the economic recovery.
Both the House and Senate announced plans to return to Columbia June 23-25.
South Carolina businesses continued opening.
“What You Need to Know for Tuesday’s Primary Elections” (Spartanburg Herald-Journal, June 4): Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The state has expanded its rules for mail-in absentee ballots so that every SC voter is qualified to vote no-excuse absentee in the June primaries and any runoffs, a provision that expires July 1.
“Unemployment Claims in S.C. Reach 559,531” (Columbia Regional Business Report, June 5): For the week ending May 30, initial unemployment claims totaled 18,986, a drop of 5,964 from the previous week and representing the seventh decrease in claims recorded since mid-March. In the past 11 weeks, 559,531 claims have been filed in South Carolina, according to the DEW.
“South Carolina Congressional Delegation Advocates for Rural Broadband Funding” (GSA Business Report, June 5): In a letter U.S. House and Senate leadership, South Carolina’s congressional delegation asked that future stimulus funding include resources to expand affordable broadband access, particularly to bridge gaps in rural areas. The letter pointed to state success stories such as support for federal investment in the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, which granted $27 million for high-speed internet infrastructure in Berkeley, Charleston, Kershaw and Orangeburg counties.
“SC Officials: Get Ready for ‘Heavy Hurricane’ Summer Amid COVID-19” (The State, June 4): As weather forecasters predict an above average number of hurricanes with greater than normal strength for the next five months, Gov. Henry McMaster said National Guard, state transportation, law enforcement and highway officials have been making plans for possible coastal evacuations that take into account social distancing. McMaster urged studying the new state Hurricane Guide that includes evacuation tips such as maps and routes to best leave coastal areas. Relying on GPS for unproven shortcuts could steer drivers to washed-out roads and have “tragic consequences,” McMaster said. The DHEC general counsel advised that coastal evacuees to bring cloth face masks, soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
Primary elections in South Carolina will take place on Tuesday, June 9.
All 170 seats in the SC General Assembly (124 House seats and 46 Senate seats) are up for election in November, along with numerous federal, county and local offices. Thirteen incumbent state senators and 25 incumbent House representatives have primary opposition. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in a partisan primary election in South Carolina, the top two candidates receiving the most votes advance to a head-to-head match-up two weeks later on June 23.
For more information, visit the South Carolina Election Commission website here.
SINE DIE RESOLUTION
The General Assembly’s adopted Sine Die Resolution, S.1194, 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. The House of Representatives announced this week they will return to Columbia for a two-day session on June 24 and June 25, primarily to appropriate funds from the federal CARES Act. The Senate announced they will return on June 23.
The resolution further authorizes the General Assembly to meet again 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 pm on Sunday, November 8, 2020.
HOUSE COVID-19 LIABILITY PROTECTION REVIEW COMMITTEE
The House COVID-19 Liability Protection Committee met for the first time Tuesday. The committee was formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) to review potential legislation for liability protections for businesses and healthcare workers. The committee heard presentations strongly in favor of such legislation by the SC Chamber of Commerce, the SC Manufacturers Alliance, the SC Medical Association, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Retailers Association and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Each noted support for temporary legislation during the duration of the pandemic to ensure struggling businesses and healthcare workers are not further burdened with the threat of lawsuits.
The South Carolina Association of Justice testified that fear of lawsuits is being grossly exaggerated and called the legislation a solution in search of a problem. The Injured Workers’ Advocates also spoke against the proposed legislation. Their main point was to make clear the state’s Workers Compensation Law is unlikely to cover COVID-19 cases as a compensable claim. The law would need to be amended if the desire is to make these cases compensable.
The committee is chaired by House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope (R-York). Other committee members are Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg), Sylleste Davis (R-Moncks Corner), Jason Elliott (R-Greenville), Lee Hewitt (Murrells Inlet), Jay Jordan (R-Florence), Mandy Norrell (D-Lancaster), Russell Ott (D-St. Matthews) and David Weeks (D-Sumter).
Chairman Pope told the committee that Speaker Lucas has asked that they work expeditiously to have a bill ready for debate when the House returns on June 24. The committee will meet again next Thursday.
HOUSE COVID-19 REGULATORY RELIEF COMMITTEE
The House COVID-19 Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee continues working on its recommendations. 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 these 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.
You can access the meetings here.
HOUSE COVID-19 PUBLIC EDUCATION COMMITTEE
The House COVID-19 Public Education Committee met again Wednesday. The committee was formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) to evaluate disruptions caused by the pandemic and identify ways to provide relief in the K-12 system. The committee heard a presentation from Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. Spearman gave an update on how our school districts have fared during the pandemic, noting 30% of instructional time in the classroom has been missed and we won’t know the full impact until the students return to school.
Melanie Barton, Senior Education Advisor for Governor McMaster, gave an update on the impact of COVID-19 and the recommendations of the accelerateSC Task Force. She noted that South Carolina is dealing with the same issues as every other state. She said the lack of broadband in rural areas has been a tremendous challenge. The pandemic exacerbated disparities in learning, and much more planning and training will be necessary in case distance learning may be required in the fall. A major challenge will be dealing with the socio-economic damage caused by the pandemic and restructuring and redesigning education will be required to address the problems identified.
The committee also heard from the superintendents of the Charleston and Williamsburg County school districts about the challenges they have faced.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Raye Felder (R-Fort Mill), will gather information and take testimony seeking recommendations to eliminate, suspend or modify current statutes and regulations. The committee will meet again next Thursday.
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 beginning July 1. State government agencies will continue operating in FY21 with the same funding as it received in FY20.
The General Assembly will return to Columbia June 23-25 for COVID-19 specific action and again in September to adopt a state budget for the remainder of FY20-21.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), launched a statewide support line for individuals in need of mental health or substance use services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statewide, 24/7 support line can be reached toll-free at 1 (844) SC-HOPES (724-6737). It will connect callers to trained clinicians who can address specific needs. The support line’s focus is assisting people who are experiencing new or increased symptoms of mental health or substance use disorders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SC HOPES also aims to reach and assist workers who remain on the front lines of the crisis and are at increased risk of issues like post-traumatic stress, such as healthcare providers.
As South Carolina businesses continue to open, owners and managers are urged to abide by CDC guidelines and recommendations of the accelerateSC Committee.
To view all of the governor’s previous Executive Orders, go here.
For more information from SC DHEC on the virus, go 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 a week.
COVID-19 Screening & Testing Sites
Other helpful links:
accelerateSC is the one-stop website to help businesses and citizens connect to important information during these changing times
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.
Small business information and assistance can be found at the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
For resources that might be beneficial to your organization’s preparedness efforts, visit the COVID-19 Resources page of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd PA.
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.
The accelerateSC Task Force completed its work last week and officially provided final recommendations to the governor on getting the economy moving again. The committee provided 42 specific recommendations, some of which have already been implemented. The report includes recommendations for appropriating the $1.9 billion the state received from the federal CARES Act for costs incurred due to COVID-19.
Gov. Henry McMaster is reviewing the task force recommendations and, along with any details he may add, will submit them to the General Assembly, which is statutorily charged with appropriating the funds. The General Assembly will reconvene June 23-25 to begin appropriating the funds, which is expected to be done in phases. More information can be found here.
SENATE REOPEN SOUTH CAROLINA
“Reopen South Carolina,” a Senate committee tasked with accepting recommendations made by Gov. McMaster’s accelerateSC task force, met again on Tuesday. The committee heard presentations from Helen Hill, chairwoman of the Response Subcommittee, AccelerateSC; Dr. Rusty Monhollon, Executive Director of the Commission on Higher Education; and Nanette Edwards, Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff.
The committee 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).
The Business Liability Subcommittee that was planned to discuss potential legislation for liability protections for businesses and healthcare workers following the meeting was canceled.
The Department of Education established the accelerateED Task Force comprised of educators and administrators representing all aspects of the K-12 public education system. The task force is charged with studying barriers to school operations and student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing recommendations on how schools and districts can best restart. For details, go here.
Primary elections will be held statewide on Tuesday. House and Senate COVID-19 committees will meet again next week to discuss potential limited liability legislation.
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.
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
May 15: General Assembly Passes Continuing Resolution for State Budget; Close-Contact Businesses Can Resume Monday, May 18
May 22: Restrictions Lift on Tourist Attractions on May 22, but Extended State of Emergency Remains until May 27
May 29: Gov. McMaster Will Now Review accelerateSC Committee’s Final Recommendations
To keep up with the latest news of SCACPA Advocacy, turn to the SCACPA Blog and our social media outlets.