View from the Dome – April 19, 2019
By
Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

The Senate passed its version of the state budget Thursday night after two days of debate. The House of Representatives took the week off for its annual Easter recess.

CROSSOVER

Legislative rules require that in order for bills to be considered by the opposite chamber this session, all bills must receive third and final reading by Wednesday, April 10. Bills that do not meet this deadline can still be debated but must reach a much higher threshold for debate by receiving a two-thirds vote of the body.

Bills that did not make the crossover deadline include:

Education reform – S.419 (Hembree, Malloy, Turner, Setzler, Sheheen and Alexander) known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act”

Higher Education Funding – S.298 (Sheeheen Peeler and others) the “Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2019,” is an attempt to reign in rising tuition costs while increasing funding for the state’s 33 public colleges and universities

Medical Marijuana – S.366 (Senators Davis, Hutto, McLeod and Kimpson) the “Compassionate Care Act”

Income Tax Reduction – H.4334 (Reps. Pope, Clemmons, Stringer, Daning and others) Enacts the “South Carolina Income Tax Act for Individuals, Trusts and Estates”

Other bills that did not make the crossover deadline include bills dealing with reform of the state retirement system, fetal heartbeat, offshore drilling and gun laws.

As this is the first year of a two-year legislative term, any bills that do not become law this year will retain their place when the legislature meets in January for the second year of the session.

BUDGET

The Senate approved its version of the state budget H. 4000 last night by a vote of 38-6 after just two days of debate and with only a few minor changes from the committee-passed version. They also adopted H. 4001 by a vote of 44-0 appropriating funds from the Capital Reserve Fund. The upper chamber had originally planned to begin the budget debate on Monday but moved it to Wednesday so members could attend the funeral of Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings this past Tuesday. Many of the larger items funded were identical to the House-passed budget. That includes:

  • $159 million for a 4% teacher pay increase
  • $41 million for a 2% state employee pay increase
  • $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 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 Workforce Scholarships and Grants
  • $9.2 million ReadySC
  • $12.5 million high demand job skills training equipment
  • $4.1 million technology funding

The Senate also included funding for judicial pay increases and $25 million for farmers affected by recent flooding. Total state spending this year is $29.4 billion – that includes $8.7 billion in general funds, $11.9 billion in “other funds” and $8.8 billion in federal funds. Budget writers have an additional $498 million in new recurring revenue and $479 million in one-time revenue. The budget now goes back to the House where they can concur in the Senate amendments, or more likely, insist on their version of the budget thereby sending the budget bill to a Conference Committee made up of three House members and three senators to resolve the differences.

The Senate Finance Committee version can be found here.

Highlights of the House-passed budget can be found here.

Budget spreadsheets from each subcommittee can be found here.

House Ways and Means Committee Budget Provisos can be found here.

The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

ENERGY

During the budget debate this week, the Senate deleted a proviso that included Joint Resolution S.678 (Sens. Peeler, Climer, Davis and Fanning) that would give the Governor the authority to utilize the Department of Administration to conduct a competitive bidding process for the sale of state owned utility Santee Cooper. The Senate agreed not to include the Santee Cooper issue in the budget but instead voted to set the bill for Special Order, which means it takes masthead status on the Senate calendar and debate will begin on the bill next Tuesday.

HEALTHCARE

On Thursday, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee met but did not debate S.366 (Senators Davis, Hutto, McLeod and Kimpson) the “Compassionate Care Act” relating to medical marijuana. The committee has plans to meet again next week.

APPOINTMENT

Following the debate on the state budget, the Senate unanimously approved the governor’s appointment of Michael Leach to be the next director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Leach, a trained mental health clinician, has over 10 years of experience in Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services and most recently served as the Deputy Commissioner for Child Programs at the agency. Leach replaces former SCDSS Director Susan Alford, who retired in July 2018.

The Senate Family & Veterans’ Services Committee on Wednesday took testimony on the governor’s nomination of Stephen F. Morris as Director to the Department on Aging. Morris has been serving as interim director since December. Morris, a Columbia businessman who previously served on Richland County Council, acknowledged morale and personnel issues at the agency and was asked numerous questions about his leadership abilities to resolve those issues. The committee was forced to adjourn as session was starting and agreed to continue the hearing next Wednesday morning.

UP NEXT

There are 12 legislative days remaining in the session prior to the May 9 adjournment date.