By Copper Dome Strategies
Friday, Jan. 22, 2021
The House of Representatives did not meet in session this week due to the pandemic and security concerns but did conduct numerous meetings online. The Senate met in session only on Thursday.
The Fetal Heartbeat bill, a priority for Republicans, received favorable passage out of a Senate committee Thursday.
Two House committees received an update from DHEC on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS
The State Board of Economic Advisors met Thursday but did not adjust the state budget revenue estimate. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Director Frank Rainwater began the meeting with good news that tax revenue collections are $336 million above the estimate. Personal income and employment growth have exceeded expectations and employment has recovered in most of the major sectors.
South Carolina is fairing financially far better than the rest of the nation. Should a second federal relief bill be enacted, it will certainly further boost the state’s economy. The state’s surplus is likely to be much higher as well. The revenue forecast will be updated at next month’s meeting, and the BEA will need sufficient confidence in the economy to change the estimate with COVID-19 on the rise.
Rainwater noted that, moving forward, much of the revenue forecast depends on assumptions regarding the degree and duration of the pandemic.
The BEA is statutorily charged to provide the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget.
Meeting handouts can be found here.
House Ways and Means subcommittees continued hearing state agency budget requests for FY 21-22. All meetings took place virtually.
The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) appeared before the Transportation and Regulatory Subcommittee on Thursday. In addition to seeking authority to use earmarked funds for the employer share of fringe benefit contributions, the agency is seeking $500,000 to replace aging technology equipment for security compliance and $850,000 for equipment for the state’s Emergency Response Task Force. Appearing before the same subcommittee, the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is seeking authorization of $1.1 million in other funds to be used to fund a portion of the agency’s unemployment tax system modernization project.
Handouts from the meeting can be found here.
The House Ways and Means subcommittees will continue hearings for the next two weeks. They are expected to take up the budget in full committee the third week of February. Full floor debate is expected in the House the second week of March and then the budget goes to the Senate for their consideration.
The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
Video archives of the subcommittee meetings can be found here.
Gov. Henry McMaster urged hospitals on Tuesday to ramp up coronavirus vaccination efforts, saying those that are not moving as fast as possible might be required to do so by Executive Order. Gov. McMaster also said he hopes to lower the age requirement from 70 to 65 as soon as possible. As of Jan. 18, South Carolina has received nearly 318,000 doses and has administered a little more than half. For more details from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on the virus, click here.
The House Ad Hoc Committee to study DHEC’s Receipt and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines held its first meeting Thursday to receive an update from DHEC on vaccine distribution. Committee Chairman Weston Newton (R-Bluffton) noted the distribution has been a “frustrating process” and added the process needs more transparency. He stressed the meeting was not to assign blame but to get an initial understanding about the vaccine and the distribution process and to identify any actions necessary by the General Assembly, state agency partners and the private sector to improve the process.
DHEC Interim Director Marshall Taylor said the process will continue to “be a slow process until the amount of vaccine available ramps up.” Adding additional providers is difficult as hospitals have received 25% of the vaccines ordered. The DHEC Board will meet next week to determine vaccine distribution on a county-by-county basis, since demand is greatly exceeding supply. The agency is expecting to receive another $46 million from the federal government for vaccine distribution, which the agency says is insufficient and added they will need an additional $63 million. They are planning on implementing 46 vaccination teams working seven days per week. The agency continues to work with its partners on improving the process.
Later that afternoon, the House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee adopted a Joint Resolution that would provide over $100 million from the Contingency Reserve Fund to address vaccine distribution. There is $63 million appropriated to DHEC and $45 million to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to enhance the vaccine rollout. The Joint Resolution now goes to the full House Ways and Means.
To view both meetings, click here.
The House Education and Public Works K-12 Subcommittee favorably approved H.3612 (Lucas and Allison) on Wednesday, enacting the “South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative Act.” The bill provides for the expansion and enhancement of computer science education in public schools through the creation and implementation of a statewide computer science education plan and requires each public school to offer at least one computer science course that meets the criteria. The bill now goes to the full House Education Committee.
The Senate Medical Affairs Committee favorably approved S.1 (Senators Grooms, Verdin, Kimbrell, Garrett and others) on Thursday, enacting the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act.” The bill, which prohibits the performance of an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, is a priority for the GOP majority. The legislation has passed the House in previous years but failed to make it out of the full Senate due to procedural rules requiring two-thirds of senators to agree. Proponents now believe that they can overcome that hurdle due to Republicans now holding a 30-16 majority after picking up three Senate seats in last year’s elections. Opponents say the bill will ban virtually all abortions. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
S.475 (Senators Rankin, Grooms, Williams, and others) Joint Resolution requiring NextEra Energy to provide certain documents related to the Public Service Authority (aka Santee Cooper). Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.477 (Senators Peeler, Campsen and Massey) Provides the Senate and House of Representatives have an unconditional right to intervene in certain actions filed in state court and may intervene in federal court. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.479 (Senators Bennett, McElveen, Turner, Cromer and others) Relating to tastings and requirements of micro-distilleries. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
House Ways and Means budget subcommittees will continue hearing agency budget requests.
REAR VIEWS 2021
Jan. 15: McMaster Delivers State of the State, Recommends $123M More for Small Business Grants
Jan. 8: 2021 Legislative Session “Pre-View from the Dome”
Dec. 18: A First Look at Pre-Filed Tax Legislation of Interest for the 2021 Legislative Session