Friday, Feb. 19, 2021
After heated debate and a Democratic walkout, the House adopted the Fetal Heartbeat bill this week, which was signed into law by the governor Thursday.
The Senate spent time in committee and on the floor debating a bond bill for port improvements and COVID-19 liability protection for healthcare providers and businesses.
BOARD OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS
The state Board of Economic Advisors met on Feb. 12. As expected, the revenue estimates for FY20-21 or FY21-22 were not adjusted.
Although tax collections for the current fiscal year are running $440 million above the estimate, the BEA did not adjust the estimate due to significant uncertainty in the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had expected revenues to decline due to the recession and lower employment, but due to federal intervention, combined with changing consumer behavior revenue, collections increased.
The BEA, which is statutorily charged to provide the General Assembly with the official revenue estimate for lawmakers to draft the annual state budget, plans to revisit the estimate in April. For more information, click here.
The House Ways and Means Committee has revised its budget schedule and is expected to take up the budget in full committee the first week of March. The Proviso Subcommittee will meet next week. Full floor debate is expected to begin in the House on March 22. Once the House adopts the budget, it 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.
The Senate on Wednesday voted to set for Special Order S.147 (Senators Massey, Rice, Hembree, Adams and Peeler), the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act. Special Order places the bill in priority status on the Senate calendar.
The bill provides healthcare providers and businesses liability protection from Coronavirus claims. Twenty-two states have enacted COVID-19 liability protection, and 21 states are considering it. Gov. Henry McMaster and the healthcare and business communities strongly support the legislation. The Senate debated the bill for several hours Thursday before giving it second reading but carrying overall amendments to third reading. The bill will be back up for debate when the Senate convenes on Tuesday.
COVID-19 – VACCINES
The House Ad Hoc Committee to Study DHEC’s Receipt and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines met for an update Tuesday. The committee heard from Prisma Health, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). South Carolina is receiving 80,000 does per week through 487 providers across the state. Just under 500,000 people have been vaccinated to date. There are an estimated 1.2 million in the Phase 1a category. DHEC’s new director Dr. Edward Simmer noted the challenges include educating the public on the need for the vaccine, getting it into communities of need and getting into every corner of the state. There is also concern relating to the need for more predictability in the federal allocation and ongoing issues with the federal VAMS vaccine system. Dr. Simmer assured the committee that anyone having already received a vaccine will be able to receive the booster shot in a timely manner. All three entities pledged to continue to work collaboratively to enhance the rollout of the vaccine.
Tuesday afternoon, the House concurred in the Senate amendments to H.3707 (Ways and Means Committee), by a vote of 112-0. This Joint Resolution 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 MUSC for continuing efforts. $100 million is 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 by the Senate to eliminate the four regional health advisory committees established by the House. After DHEC director Dr. Edward Simmer assured House leadership he would in fact create the regional committees, the House agreed to move forward. The bill now goes to the governor.
Last week, the Senate unanimously approved S.516 (Senators Massey, Malloy, Cromer and others), requiring DHEC to add school teachers and support staff to Phase 1a of the vaccination plan. If enacted into law, teachers and staff would be eligible immediately to begin receiving the vaccine regardless of age or health status. The Senate passed the bill without taking testimony from the public. The bill hit a roadblock in the House this week as the Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee heard from dozens of groups testifying that their front-line workers should also be in the Phase 1a priority status. After hearing from advocates representing seniors, persons with disabilities, first responders, bus drivers, social workers, manufacturers and many others, the subcommittee adjourned debate without taking action on the bill. Governor McMaster has said it is unconscionable for young, healthy teachers to get the vaccine ahead of older and more vulnerable citizens, indicating he will likely veto the legislation should it reach his desk.
For more details from DHEC on the virus, click here.
GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS
The Senate this week again debated 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 of 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 Senate agreed to give the bill second reading and adjourned debate until next week.
By a vote of 115-0, the House on Wednesday favorably approved H.3017 (Reps. Davis, Atkinson, B. Newton and others), which would allow eligibility for Palmetto Fellows Scholarships for students attending two-year institutions of higher learning and technical colleges. The bill received third reading Thursday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Also on Wednesday, the House gave third and final reading to H.3029 (Reps. Huggins, Garvin, Allison, Ballentine and Wooten) relating to the disposal of surplus property by the Midlands Technical College Enterprise Campus Authority. The bill now goes to the Senate. That same day, the Senate favorably approved a companion bill S.160 (Senator Scott) by a vote of 46-0. The bill received third reading Thursday and now goes to the House for consideration.
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Gov. McMaster and the SC Commission on Higher Education (CHE) called on the General Assembly to provide more need-based grants for postsecondary education students. According to the CHE, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial and psychological toll on students and their families and fall enrollment has decreased by 13% among SC’s higher education institutions. They went on to say need-based grants, as part of a well-designed set of financial aid policies, increase access, persistence and completion among low-income students. These grants would ensure affordable higher education for South Carolinians, thus creating a better workforce, according to CHE.
The full House on Wednesday 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 79-35. The bill, which passed the Senate in January, prohibits the performance of an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The legislation is a priority for the GOP majority. A number of Democratic members walked out of the chamber to protest the bill as debate began. Opponents say the bill will ban virtually all abortions and is unconstitutional. Gov. McMaster signed the bill into law Thursday afternoon. Hours later, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to stop the law from being enacted.
The House Judiciary Constitutional Subcommittee on Tuesday favorably approved H.3696 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Murphy, Simrill, Rutherford and others) that would increase the number of circuit and family court judges in certain judicial circuits. The bill, which passed the House last year, now goes to the full Judiciary Committee for consideration.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, by a vote of 22-0, favorably approved 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 approved, by a vote of 18-4, H.3772 (Reps. Bernstein, G. M. Smith, Stavrinakis and others), that would allow home delivery from retail dealers licensed to sell beer and wine. Both bills now go to the full House for consideration.
INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST
H.3891 (Rep. Murray) Provides an income tax credit for certain broadband service providers that provide discounts for educational purposes or veterans. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3893 (Rep. W. Newton) Enacts the “Revised Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act” relating to legal action against an association. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3899 (Reps. Elliott, G. R. Smith, Erickson and others) relating to the exceptional needs child tax credit. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3909 (Reps. Collins and Felder) Relating to Palmetto Fellows Scholarships and eligibility for supplemental teaching scholarships. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3917 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Removes misdemeanor convictions from disqualification for Palmetto Fellows Scholarships, LIFE Scholarships and tuition grants. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
H.3920 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Additional reporting requirements for lobbyists’ contacts with the Public Service Commission or the Office of Regulatory Staff. Prohibitions on campaign contributions by utilities. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
H.3923 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Sales tax exemption on gross proceeds of machinery, machine tools and parts used in the production of electricity from a renewable energy source. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3924 (Rep. Stavrinakis) Sales tax exemption on gross proceeds of any device, equipment or machinery used in the production of electric or hybrid vehicles. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.
H.3926 (Rep. J. Moore) Joint Resolution to establish the Heir’s Property Study Committee to address heir’s property issues. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
S.548 (Senators Massey, Climer and Turner) Provides that persons elected or appointed to a Special Purpose District must file a Statement of Economic Interest. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.549 (Senator Senn) Provides for a refundable tax credit for the purchase and installation of a solar energy system. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.557 (Senator Alexander) Relating to license fees on corporations and certain capital stock and capital surplus. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
S.581 (Senator Adams) Requires wireless telecommunications carriers to provide call location information to law enforcement in an emergency. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
S.583 (Senator Goldfinch) Provides an income tax credit for persons who retrofit a residence to improve accessibility. Referred to the Committee on Finance.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss legislation authorizing the sale and reform of state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
REAR VIEWS 2021
Look to SCACPA’s “View from the Dome” updates on the SCACPA website and our social media every week during the legislative session. Sine Die adjournment is scheduled for May 13. You can always stay up-to-date with SCACPA’s respective blog pages for Governmental Topics, Legislative Topics and Regulatory Topics.
Feb. 12: Senate to Consider Personal Finance Courses Requirement to Replace Economics Classes for High Schoolers
Feb. 5: Senate Nears Approval of $200M from Reserve Fund for Vaccine Distribution
Jan. 29: DOR Tells Economic Development Subcommittee That SC’s Tax Revenues are Strong
Jan. 22: Board of Economic Advisors Places State’s Tax Revenue Collections at $336M Above Forecast
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