By Copper Dome Strategies

Friday, Feb. 7, 2020

The General Assembly held a Joint Session on Wednesday to elect judges and several college trustees. The Senate is in the fourth week of debating education reform. Both bodies adjourned early Thursday due to impending inclement weather.

TAX

The Senate Finance Committee favorably approved S.545 (Senator Alexander) on Tuesday. The bill relates to business personal property and requires filing through the DOR.

The Association of Counties and several county treasurers objected to the bill in subcommittee, saying they preferred for counties to opt-in to filing with DOR as some counties have now done as opposed to requirement by state law.

The bill as passed by the committee is compromise language that requires all counties to use the DOR approved PT-100 form for filing business personal property assessments. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

BUDGET

The House Ways and Means budget subcommittees have wrapped up agency budget request hearings and this week focused on agency proviso requests. Provisos are clauses in the state budget that direct the expenditure of funds and hold the force of law for one year. The Senate Finance Subcommittees have begun hearing agency requests. The full Senate Finance Committee heard a presentation Tuesday from Mr. Frank Rainwater, Executive Director of the Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Office on revenue trends. Rainwater told the committee our state’s financial status is strong. We are one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, personal income growth is faster than the national average and accommodations taxes are at an all-time high. Last year’s growth was the best on record and economists predict the trend to continue.

On Wednesday, the Department of Revenue (DOR) appeared before the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. DOR Executive Director Hartley Powell told the subcommittee his agency is not seeking any new funding. He noted his goal is continuing to improve voluntary compliance with taxpayers noting communication with taxpayers and stakeholders is key. The State Law Enforcement Division also appeared before the subcommittee. They are seeking $6.9 million for new agency personnel and equipment and $3.7 million in recurring revenue and $3.1 million in one-time funds for technology and software upgrades.

The full House Ways and Means Committee is expected to debate the budget beginning February 17 with full House floor debate beginning the week of March 9.

With the state’s economy seeing record-level unemployment combined with rising wages and new residents, the state’s General Fund budget now tops $10 billion with a budget surplus projected of over $1 billion.

The governor’s executive budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

CABLE/TELECOMMUNICATIONS

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Thursday on H.4262 (Reps. Simrill, Rutherford, Sandifer and Forrester) the “South Carolina Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act.” The bill is aimed at assisting deployment of 5G next-generation wireless and broadband network facilities. It provides that certain local government authorities with control over rights of way may not prohibit, regulate or charge for the co-location of small cell wireless facilities on utility poles. A compromise has been reached by all parties involved, and the subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill in order for staff to work on the new amendment language.

ENERGY

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably approved S.998 (Senators Davis and Climer), a Joint Resolution establishing the Electricity Market Reform Measures Study Committee. The committee would study redesigning rate structures and alternative energy plans. The committee adopted an amendment adding two new members to the committee and requiring a representative of Dominion, Duke Energy and Santee Cooper to serve on the committee. The bill now goes to the full Judiciary Committee.

At the same time Thursday, the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee favorably approved, as amended, H.4940 (Reps. Sandifer and Forrester) the companion bill to S.998. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

The House this week concurred in the Senate amendments to S.996 (Senators Alexander, Rankin and Hutto), which allows for the extension of the application and screening process for candidates for the Public Service Commission. The bill was ratified on Thursday and is awaiting action by the governor.

EDUCATION REFORM

For the fourth consecutive week, the Senate continued floor debate on S.419 (Sens. Hembree, Malloy, Turner, Setzler, Sheheen and Alexander), known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act.” The bill, which has more than one hundred amendments waiting to be debated, remains in masthead status on the Senate calendar, and debate is expected to continue again next week.

Both Gov. Henry McMaster and legislative leaders had said the 2019 legislative session would produce long-overdue reforms in K-12 education. The House passed its version of education reform H.3759 (Reps. Lucas, Allison, Felder, Pope, Simrill, Rutherford and others) last March. However, after hearing complaints from teachers and others about the legislation, the Senate did not pass their version last year and spent the summer and fall hearing from stakeholders and revising their bill.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee took testimony on S.35 (Sens. Grooms, Campsen, Verdin and Corbin) that enacts the “Reinforcing College Education on America’s Heritage Act” or the “Reach Act.” The bill requires all public institutions of higher learning to provide instruction in the essentials of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federalist Papers and the study of American institutions and history, including African-American history and ideals.

Current state law requires instruction in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but many of the public colleges are not in compliance with the law. The new law states no public institution of higher learning may grant a certificate of graduation for any baccalaureate degree program to any student unless they complete the requirements described in subsection. After considerable debate, the subcommittee adjourned without taking action on the bill, but Subcommittee Chairman Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) said they would continue working on the bill.

A special subcommittee of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee heard testimony from Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt on H.3757 (Reps. Lucas, Collins and Calhoon), which establishes the Workforce and Education Data Oversight Committee. The committee is being created to support the mission of the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development. The goal is to facilitate and coordinate the development of a unified, statewide workforce plan that utilizes longitudinal data and analysis to identify statewide workforce priorities and create measurable, time-sensitive metrics in which all workforce pipeline stakeholders including, but not limited to, education and workforce boards, councils and partner representatives, participate. After the testimony, the subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

By a vote of 18-1 (Clary), the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday favorably approved H.4974 (Reps. Lucas, Simrill, Rutherford, Pope, McCoy, G. M. Smith and Bannister), relating to judges. The bill would increase the number of at-large Circuit Court judges from 16 to 17 and increase the number of at-large Family Court judges from eight to 10. The subcommittee added an amendment to the bill that would add two resident family court seats in Orangeburg and York Counties and two resident circuit court seats in Horry and Beaufort Counties. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Also, a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee once again debated S.1002 (Senators Rankin, Malloy, Young and others), which was introduced Jan. 14. The bill would change the conduct of Voir Dire in the Court of Common Pleas from being conducted by the judge to being conducted by the attorneys. While there is a 30-minute limit for each party, upon motion by either party, the trial judge can extend the time. The SC Association for Justice testified again on the merits of the bill and noted they had been working on this bill for years. The subcommittee had several questions about how this would work but ran out of time and adjourned the meeting. The subcommittee will meet again on the bill Tuesday.

The General Assembly convened in a Joint Session to elect a number of judges and college trustees. A full listing can be found here.

CHILD CARE

The House Judiciary General Laws Subcommittee approved H.4800 (Reps. Collins, Bernstein and Kimmons) that reauthorizes the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children through Dec. 31, 2030. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

ALCOHOL

The House Judiciary General Laws Subcommittee favorably approved H.4963 (Reps. Tallon, Moore, Bernstein, Caskey, Clary and others) relating to wine samples. The bill would allow producers or wholesalers to furnish or give certain samples of wines to retailers but may not exceed three liters annually. The bill now goes to the full Judiciary Committee for consideration.

HEALTHCARE

The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children endorsed legislation introduced earlier this week allowing a parent or legal guardian of a medically eligible child to enact a do not resuscitate order for the child. The bill H.5107 (Reps. Ridgeway and Clary) has been referred to the Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H.5090 (Reps. Morgan, Haddon, Willis and others) Provides that after July 1, 2020, a person may not be elected or appointed to judicial office if that person is an immediate family member of an active or past member of the General Assembly whose most recent term of service ended less than one year prior to the General Assembly’s election or appointment of the office in question. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

SENATE

S.1076 (Senators Scott, Hembree, Campsen, McElveen and others) Enacts the “Broadband Accessibility Act,” authorizing and regulating service by electric cooperatives. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S.1077 (Senators Bennett, McElveen, Martin, Sheheen and others) Provides exemptions under the state Certification of Need for perinatal and neonatal care. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.

S.1080 (Senator Cromer) Enacts the “Broadband Accessibility Act,” authorizing and regulating service by electric cooperatives. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S.1010 (Senators Young, Massey and Setzler) Adds two non-voting members to the Aiken County Commission for Technical Education. Referred to Aiken Delegation.

UP NEXT

The College and University Trustee Screening Commission will meet Monday and Tuesday to screen candidates for numerous positions.

REARVIEWS 2020

Look to SCACPA’s ‘The View from the Dome’ for State House Developments on Tax Issues Through SC’s 2020 Legislative Session

Jan. 10: South Carolina’s Pending Tax Bills and Your 2020 Legislative Preview

Jan. 17: Gov. McMaster’s Executive Budget Calls for Tax Cuts, Rebates for Taxpayers

Jan. 24: McMaster’s State of the State Emphasizes Tax Cuts, Rebates, Teacher Raises; Business License Tax Talks Continue

Jan. 31: House Subcommittee Hears Budget Request from SC Chief Justice to Improve Case Management System