Friday, Jan. 15, 2021
The first session of the 124th General Assembly convened at noon on Tuesday. The General Assembly is operating under COVID-19 protocols and conducting most meetings via the internet. They met in a Joint Session Wednesday evening for the governor’s annual State of the State address. Both the House and Senate held committee meetings relating to the sale of the state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
Gov. Henry McMaster delivered his annual State of the State address to a Joint Session of the General Assembly on Wednesday evening. Gov. McMaster began his speech calling for unity and saying we are all on the same team working together for a better South Carolina. He said our state has had its challenges with the pandemic but noted we are far better positioned than most states due to the leadership of both the public and private sector coming addressing the crisis together.
He highlighted his budget recommendations (listed below) and addressed his policy priorities. He said our state must get back to business and children must get back to school and urged lawmakers to send him legislation requiring unwilling school districts to re-open classrooms. Gov. McMaster highlighted his plan for addressing workforce needs, called for reforming the state’s magistrate system and threw his support behind legislation to reform the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). He also said it is time to resolve the fate of state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
State Senator Mia McLeod (D-Richland) delivered the Democratic response to the speech. McLeod criticized the governor for lack of leadership on the pandemic and said the current state of our state is “bleak” due to the governor’s inaction. She noted, “Our state can’t open for business until COVID is out of business.” She urged lawmakers to issue a statewide mask mandate to put this pandemic behind us to focus on other issues such as raising the minimum wage, systemic racism and expanding Medicaid to more citizens.
To read the governor’s speech, click here.
Gov. Henry McMaster released his Executive Budget, which outlines his recommendations to the General Assembly for funding priorities for the next fiscal year. Gov. McMaster is recommending setting aside $500 million into state reserve accounts to be prepared for any future economic uncertainties, should they arise. He is also recommending an additional $123 million in state funds to be provided for small business grants administered by the state Department of Commerce in the same manner as the federal CARES Act funds. Other recommendations include:
- A 1% tax reduction over five years in the event South Carolina experiences a 5% or more increase in General Fund Revenue
- $80 million need-based scholarships/grants at public and private colleges and universities
- $48 million to expand access to full-day 4K
- $35 million to provide step increases for K-12 teachers
For the technical colleges:
- $79 million for maintenance and capital improvement projects
- $37 million for workforce scholarships and grants at the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education
- $17 million for the SC Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship program at the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education
- $12.5 million high-demand job skill training equipment at the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education
- $10 million for ReadySC
The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
House Ways and Means subcommittees continued hearing state agency budget requests for FY 21-22. Among the agencies presenting this week to the Higher Education Subcommittee was the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. System President Dr. Tim Hardee told the subcommittee on Wednesday the request includes $28 million in recurring base funding, $18 million for high-demand job skills training equipment and $51.1 million for Lottery Tuition Assistance. The state’s 16 technical colleges are also seeking $20 million for maintenance and repair projects and funding for ongoing initiatives like ReadySC, SC Wins scholarship funding and workforce grants and scholarships. Handouts from the meeting can be found here.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) appeared before the Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee on Wednesday afternoon. The agency gave an update on testing and vaccinations relating to COVID-19 and the challenges being experienced. Handouts from the meeting can be found here.
The current estimate for FY 21-22 is $9.609 billion in General Fund revenue with an estimated $182 million in new recurring revenue. Legislative leaders are cautioning state agencies not to expect much, if any, new recurring revenue due to the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic. However, there is a projected surplus of $987 million, which could address state agency maintenance and capital needs.
The House Ways and Means subcommittees will continue hearings for the next few 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.
Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.
Video archives of the subcommittee meetings can be found here.
The House Ways and Means Committee met Wednesday and by a vote of 20-3 favorably approved H.3194 (Lucas, G.M. Smith, Simrill, Rutherford and others) that would authorize the sale of the assets of the South Carolina Public Service Authority (aka Santee Cooper) and provide reform measures. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Santee Cooper Review and Policy Subcommittee (SCRAP) met to discuss S.444 (Senator Leatherman) that also authorizes the sale of Santee Cooper but took no action on the bill.
The House on Thursday recalled from committee H.3602 (W. Cox, Elliott, B. Cox, Hyde and others), a Joint Resolution to temporarily authorize certain health care workers to administer COVID-19 vaccines regardless of whether they are otherwise authorized to do so under any professional scope of service law. The aim of the bill is to increase the pool of health care workers authorized to administer the vaccines. Licensed advance practice registered nurses, physician assistants and registered nurses in good standing may delegate COVID-19 vaccine administration to certified medical assistants and may provide onsite supervision of certified medical assistants administering COVID-19 vaccines as well as retired or inactive health care workers under certain conditions. The bill is now on the House calendar for consideration.
Like last year, the pandemic will again curtail numerous in-person meetings and significantly alter the normal legislative process. Legislative leadership is committed to maintaining a safe workplace and reducing the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 while ensuring public access to the legislative process. There will be far fewer in-person subcommittee and committee meetings, as most will likely be conducted online. The Senate will not meet for floor debate in January, and the House will only occasionally meet until there are a significant number of bills passed out of committee to justify floor action. The Invitations Committees of the House and Senate are not accepting any invitations for legislative luncheons or receptions until further notice. All previously scheduled hosted events for January and February have been canceled. Leadership remains confident that the most pressing issues facing our state will be addressed.
S.451 passed both bodies this week, setting Wednesday, Feb. 3, as the day for a joint session to elect judges. The screening report was released on Thursday, and commitments may be made starting at noon on Tuesday, January 19. Seat 8 on the Court of Appeals remains contested as well as the 13th Judicial Circuit Seat 3, 14th Judicial Circuit Seat 1 and At-Large Seat 12 on the Circuit Court. The screening report can be found here.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H.3582 (Reps. Sandifer and West) Relating to persons or corporations using vehicle charging stations that are not an electric utility. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H.3588 (Rep. Allison) Relating to criteria for LIFE scholarships. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3593 (Reps. Allison and Lucas) Allows income tax credits for taxpayers who employ public school teachers as interns. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3594 (Reps. Allison and Lucas) Provides income tax credits for qualified taxpayers in a qualified county equal to 100% of property taxes paid on a legal residence. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3597 (Rep. Taylor) Enacts the “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act.” Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3602 (Reps. W. Cox, Elliott, B. Cox, Hyde and others) Joint Resolution to temporarily authorize certain health care workers to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H.3607 (Reps. Lucas and G. M. Smith) Relating to state general obligation bonds and certain economic development projects. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3611 (Rep. Lucas) Establishes the Workforce and Education Data Oversight Committee. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3612 (Reps. Lucas and Allison) Enacts the “South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative Act.” Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3619 (Reps. Pope, McKnight, G. R. Smith and others) Relating to criminal asset forfeiture. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3671 (Rep. Hart) Constitutional amendment to require the General Assembly to provide by law a definition of “fair market value” for real property and to eliminate the fifteen percent limit on increases. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3673 (Rep. Hart) Requires electrical utilities to bury all their electrical power transmission lines. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H.3682 (Reps. Collins, Bailey, Forrest, Gilliard and others) Removes the supervision requirements under the Nurse Practice Act under certain circumstances. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.
H.3683 (Reps. Lucas, Sandifer, West and Caskey) Enacts the “South Carolina Ratepayer Protection Act” relating to public utilities. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H.3690 (Rep. White) Constitutional amendment to provide that proceeds from the education lottery may only be used for higher education tuition assistance and scholarships. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3695 (Rep. Rutherford) Provides that the governor may not prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages before 12:00 a.m.. during a state of emergency. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3696 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Murphy, Simrill, Rutherford and others) Increases the number of judges in each judicial circuit. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3698 (Reps. Pope, Elliott, Hewitt, Davis, Ott and others) Provides limited liability protections for health care providers and businesses during the Coronavirus. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
S.392 (Senators Harpootlian and Fanning) Relating to the regulation of bundled offerings for local exchange companies. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.400 (Senators Garrett, Adams and Rice) Relating to married taxpayers filing joint returns. Prefiled and referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.418 (Senator Gambrell) Joint Resolution to temporarily authorize certain health care workers to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
S.426 (Senator Alexander) Relating to temporary professional licenses issued during a State of Emergency. Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
S.436 (Senator Cromer) Sets an annual limit for community development tax credits. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.439 (Senator Davis) Provides the Public Service Authority (aka Santee Cooper) must divest itself of all electric generation assets by Jan. 1, 2025, and transfer control to a Regional Transmission Organization. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.443 (Senators Leatherman and Alexander) Relating to state general obligation bonds and certain economic development projects. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.444 (Senator Leatherman) Authorizes the sale of the assets of the Public Service Authority (aka Santee Cooper) Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.451 (Senators Rankin, Sabb and Talley) Concurrent Resolution to fix noon on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, for judicial elections. The Concurrent Resolution was adopted, ordered sent to the House.
S.463 (Senators Alexander, Cromer, Grooms, Scott and Loftis) Relating to the expiration of tax credits for the purchase of geothermal machinery and equipment. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.464 (Senator Rankin) Relating to the board, inspections, audits, etc. of the Public Service Authority (aka Santee Cooper). Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.471 (Senator Rankin) Relating to Jury Voir Dire and the drawing of jury panels. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.472 (Senators Rankin and Hutto) Enacts the “Responsible Alcohol Server Training Act” for mandatory training. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
Both the House and Senate will conduct meetings virtually next week.