Friday, Jan. 29, 2021
Both chambers engaged in the first significant floor debates of the new session, with the House passing legislation authorizing the sale and reform of state-owned utility Santee Cooper and adopting a Joint Resolution providing additional funding for COVID-19 vaccinations. The Senate passed the Fetal Heartbeat bill that bans most abortions. Numerous subcommittees and committees met both virtually and in-person.
The Sales & Income Tax Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday favorably approved S.271 (Senators Talley, Turner, Rice and Adams), which would extend the tax credit provisions of the Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act through Dec. 31, 2025. The bill now goes to the full Senate Finance Committee.
House Ways and Means budget subcommittees are wrapping up state agency budget requests for FY 21-22. The Department of Revenue on Thursday appeared virtually before the Economic Development Subcommittee. Director Hartley Powell told the subcommittee that tax revenues are strong and noted our economy is faring better than expected. The agency is not seeking any new additional funds for the next fiscal year.
The House Ways and Means subcommittees should complete their work next week. 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.
COVID-19 – VACCINES
The House adopted H.3707 (Ways and Means Committee) on Wednesday, a Joint Resolution that would provide over $200 million from the Contingency Reserve Fund to address vaccine distribution. The Joint Resolution appropriates $63 million to DHEC and $45 million to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for continuing efforts. There will be $100 million appropriated to the COVID-19 Vaccine Reserve account to provide allocations of $75 million to hospitals to pay for the costs of administering the COVID-19 vaccine and $25 million to other COVID-19 vaccination providers that are enrolled and activated by DHEC. The Joint Resolution was amended to ensure the four regional health regions receive the vaccine for distribution in a per-capita manner and establishes regional panels to make recommendations for distribution.
The House also adopted H.3602 (Reps. W. Cox, Elliott, B. Cox and others), a Joint Resolution that expands the list of who can administer COVID-19 vaccines under supervision, including retired health care workers. Both bills received third reading Thursday and now go to the Senate for consideration.
For more information from DHEC on the virus, click here.
A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee took testimony on Tuesday on S.147 (Senators Massey, Rice, Hembree, Adams and Peeler), the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act, which provides health care providers and businesses liability protection from Coronavirus claims. The subcommittee also took testimony on S.82 (Senator Malloy), the Tort Claims Act, which would increase limitations on liability. While they did not take action on the bills, the subcommittee intends to take up both bills again soon.
The House Criminal Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday took testimony on H.3619 (Reps. Pope, McKnight, G. R. Smith, Wheeler, Simrill, Rutherford and others) relating to Criminal Asset Forfeiture. The goal of the legislation is bring asset forfeiture into the context of the criminal justice system. Numerous stakeholders have worked on this legislation for years and continue working toward consensus. The committee did not take action on the bill but plans to take it up again soon.
GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS
The Natural Resources & Economic Development Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday took up S.491 (Senator Leatherman), a Joint Resolution that would authorize the issuance of up to $550 million of General Obligation Economic Development bonds. The sole purpose is limited to defraying the costs of the Intermodal Container Transfer Infrastructure operated by the State Ports Authority. Charleston is the only major East Coast port without near dock rail service. The goal of the new facility is to move approximately 500,000 trucks annually off South Carolina roads and finalize the port’s major infrastructure initiative. There is additional legislation that will be needed to address the “structural component” of the project. The subcommittee will meet again next Tuesday and is expected to approve the measure, which will then go to the full Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
The House favorably approved H.3194 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Simrill, Rutherford and others), on Tuesday, authorizing the sale of the South Carolina Public Service Authority, also known as Santee Cooper. The bill establishes a committee to negotiate selling any or all assets of the state-owned utility and reforms the governance of Santee Cooper. The bill received third reading on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The House Education Committee on Wednesday favorably approved H.3612 (Lucas and Allison), 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. Beginning next year, each public school will be required to offer at least one computer science course that meets the criteria. Tthe House approved the bill by a vote of 116-1 Thursday. A unanimous consent request to give the bill third reading on Friday was adopted. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate approved S.1 (Senators Grooms, Verdin, Kimbrell, Garrett and others), enacting the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” by a vote of 29-17. 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 would fail to make it out of the full Senate. Opponents say the bill will ban virtually all abortions and is unconstitutional. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
The General Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday took testimony on H.3575 (Reps. Fry, Collins, Elliott, Kirby and others) that would allow qualifying retailers to offer curbside delivery or pickup service of beer and wine. The committee also took testimony on H.3013 (Rep. Rutherford) that would allow Sunday alcohol sales if authorized by local referendum. No action was taken on either bill. Both are expected to be debated by the subcommittee again soon.
The Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday favorably approved H.3071 (Reps. Ott, Ligon, Taylor and others) that creates the “Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee” to examine the potential for further growth of the equine industry. The subcommittee adjourned debate on H.3544 (Reps. D.C. Moss, Bryant and Pope) that establishes the “South Carolina Equine Promotion Board.” Concerns were raised about the fees imposed on all commercial feed and custom blends labeled for equine for the purpose of promoting the equine industry in this State. However, the subcommittee amended H.3071 to include fees and assessments as part of their study. Recommendations from the seven-member committee are due to the General Assembly by Feb . 15. Later that afternoon, the full House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee adopted H.3071. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee debated S.186 (Senator Hembree) relating to the ill-treatment and abandonment of animals by removing the exception for hunting dogs. The subcommittee carried the bill over to the next meeting. The subcommittee did approve S.378 (Senator Cash), which provides penalties for teasing, maltreating or injuring police dogs and horses. The full committee adopted the bill Thursday after amending it by deleting the mandatory minimum sentences. That bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H.3700 (Rep. G. M. Smith) Establishes requirements for demands for personal injury, bodily injury, property damage, or wrongful death. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3706 (Rep. Hiott) Relating to crediting property taxes on airlines. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3707 (Ways and Means Committee) Joint Resolution to make appropriations in response to the COVID-19 virus, including vaccinations. Introduced, read first time, placed on calendar without reference.
H.3709 (Reps. J. L. Johnson, M. M. Smith, Brawley and others) Reduces the age relating to the sales tax on accommodations from eighty-five to seventy. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3711 (Reps. Gagnon and Hill) Joint Resolution providing that COVID-19 vaccinations are purely voluntary and employers may not take adverse actions against employees choosing not to undergo a vaccination. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3766 (Reps. Yow, Bailey, Henegan, McGarry and others) Reforms the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and creates a “Department of Public Health.” Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3769 (Reps. Stavrinakis, G. M. Smith, W. Cox and others) Enacts the “Micro-Distillery Practice Act.” Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3772 (Reps. Bernstein, G. M. Smith, Stavrinakis, Herbkersman and others) Allows retail dealers licensed to sell beer and wine to use a delivery service. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3774 (Rep. Gagnon) Provides circumstances for when professional employer organizations may be eligible for certain tax credits. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
S.489 (Senator Gambrell) Relating to tax credits and economic incentives for professional employer organizations. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.491 (Senator Leatherman) Joint Resolution authorizing the issuance of $550 million in general obligation bonds for the Intermodal Container Transfer Infrastructure. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.502 (Senator Gambrell) Sales tax exemption for toys purchased by the Marines for the Toys for Tots Foundation. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.503 (Senator Hutto) Allows Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN’s) and Physician Assistants to issue orders for certain home health services. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
There will be a Joint Session of the General Assembly next Wednesday at noon for judicial elections.
REAR VIEWS 2021