View from the Dome – Dec. 7, 2018

By Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

The House of Representatives met in Columbia for an organizational session the week of Dec. 3-7. The body elected their officers, chose their seats in the chamber for the next two years and committees met to elect their chairs. As this will be the first year of the two-year legislative session, all bills that did not become law last year will have to be reintroduced and start the process from the beginning.

The Senate will organize when the new legislative session begins on January 8.

HOUSE ORGANIZATION

After taking the oath of office, members were assigned to their respective committees by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville).

In a move that surprised many, Lucas replaced Rep. Brian White (R-Anderson) as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. Lucas told White about the change on Tuesday night, according to a statement issued by White on Wednesday. While calling White a “good man, a friend and excellent chairman,” Lucas said in a statement that he believes “positive change is necessary to diligently address upcoming budget items.”

White had been the committee’s chairman since 2011. He will continue to serve the constituents of District 6 as a member of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.

Rep. Murrell Smith, (R-Sumter) was unanimously elected as the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. Smith was first elected to the House in 2001 and has served on the Ways and Means Committee since 2009. He was previously Chairman of the Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee.

Smith’s ascension is part of a leadership change in three of the House’s most influential committees. State Rep. Peter McCoy (R-James Island) was elected to lead the House Judiciary Committee. He replaces former Judiciary Committee Greg Delleney (R-Chester) who did not seek re-election. The House Ethics Committee also is seeking a new leader since Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) stepped aside following a heart attack in October. That committee’s next chairman will be decided in January.

View all House committee assignments here.

TAX 

The Senate Finance Taxation System Review and Reform Subcommittee met this past Tuesday. The subcommittee was recently formed by Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) to review and propose ways to reform our state’s tax code.

The subcommittee heard a presentation from the State Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office regarding our state’s population, tax structure, the state’s general fund and its sources of revenue.

The Subcommittee then heard a presentation from Jared Walczak from the Tax Foundation titled “A Road Map for Tax Reform,” which was co-sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Their proposal is intended to help policymakers identify ways to make the state’s tax code more competitive by seeking to identify what the state does well and to point out opportunities for improvement.

Walczak noted that South Carolina is ranked 35th nationally for a well-structured, neutral tax code. Sales taxes are eroding with a shift from goods to services and South Carolina falls well behind the national average and our neighboring states on sales tax collections.

The plan includes four options the state could consider from very aggressive to least aggressive. Included in the options are expanding the sales tax base by eliminating some tax exemptions as well as taxing some services.

A summary and introduction to “A Road Map for Tax Reform” can be found at https://taxfoundation.org/south-carolina-tax-reform/.

The entire 129-page report can be found in this PDF.

https://www.scchamberfoundation.org/sites/default/files/Tax%20Foundation%20South%20Carolina%20Reform%20Book.pdf

The subcommittee is co-chaired by Senator Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester) and Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw). Other members are Senator Glen Reese (D-Spartanburg), Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), Senator John Scott (D-Richland), Senator Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster) and Senator Tom Corbin (R-Greenville).

HIGHER EDUCATION

Gov. Henry McMaster appointed former South Carolina state Senator Wes Hayes as the next Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.

Hayes served in the South Carolina Senate, representing District 15, from 1991 to 2016. During his tenure in the Senate, Hayes played a vital role in education policy as a member of the Senate Education and Finance Committees. After earning his Bachelor of Science Degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Hayes graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1983.

Hayes, 65, is a resident of York County. He replaces Tim Hoeferth, who recently resigned.

UP NEXT

Copper Dome Strategies, LLC hopes you have a safe and joyous holiday season. We will keep you apprised of any activity by the General Assembly during the interim.

The 123rd legislative session will commence on Jan. 8.