View from the Dome – Feb. 1, 2019
By Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

The fourth week of the legislative session saw both chambers settling in to what will be a regular routine for the next few months. On Wednesday, two separate subcommittees in the House and Senate began debate on major education reform legislation and higher education funding reform.

The House Education and Public Works K-12 Subcommittee will continue hear testimony in the coming weeks, including a public hearing in the evening so teachers and students can attend and express their views.

TAX

The House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved H.3135 (G.M. Smith, Erickson, Yow and Funderburk) the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act of 2019. Championed by Gov. Henry McMaster, the bill would exempt military retirement income from state income taxes. Proponents of the bill argue it will attract more military retirees to the state and help fill the gap of skilled workers. The bill received second reading in the House on Thursday and was given unanimous consent for third reading on Friday. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

BUDGET

Both House and Senate budget subcommittees continued meetings to hear state agency budget requests. On Tuesday, the Department of Administration testified before the House Ways and Means Constitutional Subcommittee. Their budget request only includes one-time funding for maintenance and repair of several state buildings. At the same meeting, the Governor’s Office requested funding for three new senior-level staff positions to focus solely in the areas of Education, Healthcare and Economic Development to advise the governor.

On Wednesday, the Department of Juvenile Justice testified before the Senate Finance Committee Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The department is seeking $3.4 million to increase starting salaries for education staff and support and $2 million to increase starting salaries for Juvenile Corrections Officers and Community Specials. They are also seeking $1.9 million for a complete upgrade of the agency’s security camera network.

The state’s General Fund revenue will include over $1 billion in new revenue from two years of a budget surplus. Budget writers will have an additional $498 million in new recurring revenue and $549 million in one-time revenue.

The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

EDUCATION REFORM

The House Education and Public Works K-12 Subcommittee held its first meeting on H.3759 (Lucas, Allison, Felder, Pope, Simrill, Rutherford and others) known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act.” The bill seeks to tackle the fundamental changes needed to modernize our education system with a primary focus on students and teachers.

The bill’s primary sponsor, House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Hartsville) said, “The bill lays out the blueprint to update the outdated student funding formula created over 40 years ago; will increase base teacher pay; will get more money and resources into the classroom; will free teachers to teach instead of giving unnecessary tests; will hold chronically failing school districts accountable by providing alternative management solutions; will focus on the overall education and workforce pipeline, and get our students ready for a future in higher education, the technical college system, or the workplace.”

A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree (R-Horry). Gov. McMaster strongly supports the legislation.

Highlights of the bill include:

  • A 9% pay increase for first-year teachers while providing an across-the-board 9% pay raise for all teachers over the next two years
  • Requiring school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money
  • Dissolving school districts that have four consecutive years of failing scores
  • Eliminating three end-of-year standardized tests in elementary schools
  • Ending remedial classes at technical colleges by requiring students to pass an admission test for technical colleges
  • Regionalizing career centers for high school students, to include making technical colleges the career center

After receiving an overview of the bill, the subcommittee heard testimony from a number of groups and individuals, both in favor of the bill and those opposed to parts of the bill. The subcommittee agreed to continue hearing testimony next week and again the following week for a public hearing in the evening so teachers and students have an opportunity to express their views.

You can view a video of the meeting here.

HIGHER EDUCATION

By a vote of 40-0, the Senate approved S.228 (Gambrell), which creates the Tri-County Technical College Enterprise Campus Authority. The bill received third and final reading approval on Wednesday and now goes to the House for consideration.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.3576 (White, Cobb-Hunter and Garvin) the SC Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SC WINS). The bill establishes the SC WINS scholarship for students who are attending a two-year public technical college, majoring in a critical workforce area program, as defined and recommended by the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and ratified by the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Workforce Development, and who are receiving a Lottery Tuition Assistance Program Scholarship (LTAP) for the current school year. On Thursday, the House approved the bill by a vote of 105 to 0 and gave unanimous consent to give the bill third reading on Friday. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

On Wednesday, the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee approved H.3639 (Taylor, Allison and Felder) relating to in-state tuition for military personnel and their dependents. The bill expands the categories of individuals covered by these provisions to conform with certain changes in federal law. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education Opportunity Act Subcommittee heard testimony on S.298 (Sheeheen Peeler and others). The bill, known as the “Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2019,” is an attempt to reign in rising tuition costs while increasing funding for the state’s 33 public colleges and universities. Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) noted the model of raising tuition and admitting more students is no longer viable and the state must provide a more stable and predictive funding model. The subcommittee heard testimony from representatives from the Commission on Higher Education, the research institutions, the comprehensive universities, the technical college system and the independent colleges and universities. All spoke in support of the legislation. The subcommittee agreed to consider amendments at their next meeting.

HEALTHCARE

The Senate gave final approval to S.16 (Senator Rankin) that increases the amount of a prescription that may be refilled from a 10-day to a 14-day supply. The bill would allow for exemptions for drugs like insulin that are pre-packaged for a 30-day supply. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

A Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee continued hearing testimony on S.132 (Senator Davis, Nicholson, Hutto, M.B. Matthews, Kimpson and Alexander) that enacts the “PA Act of 2019” relating to physicians assistants. The bill intends to increase access to care, particularly in rural areas, without putting the public at risk as it relates to competency of care with physician assistants by expanding their duties. The bill requires a written or electronic agreement developed by a PA and a physician or medical staff who agrees to work with and support the PA. The scope of practice establishes the medical aspects of care to be provided by the PA, including the prescribing of medications, and must contain mechanisms that allow the physician to ensure that quality of care and patient safety is maintained in accordance with state and federal laws, as well as all applicable rules and regulations of the Board of Medical Examiners. The subcommittee did not take action on the bill pending hearing from the Board of Medical Examiners but agreed to continue work on the bill.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

S.7 (Malloy, Climer, Goldfinch, Talley and Harpootlian) dealing with the Tort Claims Act limits has been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is being held on the Senate Calendar for further debate. This bill proposes to raise the caps on the recovery limits. It would raise the cap on a single person from $300,000 to $1 million and for an occurrence from $600,000 to $2 million. As amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, it adds an annual increase or decrease based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The amendment also changes the effective date to causes of action with a date of loss arising on or after July 1, 2020. There is ongoing research on what this will do to the rates charged by the Insurance Reserve Fund to governmental bodies.

A second bill S.386 (Malloy, Climer, Goldfinch, Talley, Sabb and Harpootlian) was debated in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday. This bill was amended to add S.7 to it and also deals with related issues to the Tort Claims Act such as what constitutes bad faith, what is an occurrence, recovery of attorney’s fees, the State Catastrophic Fund and other items. There is another hearing scheduled for next Thursday on S.386.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H.3780 (Rep. White) Creates the “Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Program” facilitating the deployment of broadband to unserved areas. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H.3781 (Rep. White) Creates the “Higher Education Scholarship Endowment Fund.” Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.3782 (Reps. Bamberg, Henegan, Govan, Cobb-Hunter, and others) Enacts the “Rural Revitalization Act” and relating to individual income tax deductions in a Tier IV County. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.3785 (Reps. Sandifer, Howard, Thayer and West) Relating to the Board of Accountancy. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H.3804 (Reps. Bannister, Rose, Loftis, Caskey, Rutherford and Bernstein) Enacts the “Fundamental Fairness in College Discipline Act of 2019.” Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H.3821 (Rep. Clary) Enacts the “Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Act.” Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

H.3822 (Rep. Sandifer) Relating to the Board and Accountancy and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H.3823 (Reps. Mace and G. M. Smith) Eliminates the Certificate of Need Program. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.3825 (Rep. Taylor) Changes list of authorized decision-makers for persons who make health care decision for adults. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H.3831 (Reps. Norrell, Henegan, Rose, Parks, Wheeler, and others) Requires residential care facilities to acquire and keep in effect comprehensive general liability insurance coverage. Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

SENATE

S.439 (Senators Leatherman, Grooms, Campbell and Williams) Relating to tax credits for port volume increases. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.443 (Senators Hutto and Cromer) Relating to civil filings in magistrates courts and magistrates salaries. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S.445 (Senators Gambrell and Reese) Relating to direct primary care agreements. Referred to the Committee on Banking and Insurance.

S.447 (Senator Reese) Enacts the “South Carolina Electronic Notary Public Act.” Referred to the Committee on Family and Veterans’ Services.

S.449 (Senator Campbell) Relating to the Capital Projects sales tax for certain economic development projects. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.452 (Senator Scott) Exempts disabled veterans from property taxes in the year in which the disability occurs. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.453 (Senator Harpootlian) Relating to meetings of public bodies and exemptions under the freedom of information act. Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S.455 (Senator Alexander) Relating to temporary professional licenses issued to a spouse of an active duty military member. Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

S.461 (Senators Sheheen and Gambrell) Increases individual tax deductions for firefighters, law enforcement and members of the state guard. Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.463 (Senator Martin) Relating to facility requirements for pharmacists and the dispensing of medications. Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.

S.464 (Senator Davis) Enacts the “Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Act.” Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

UP NEXT

The General Assembly will meet in Joint Session at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to hold judicial elections.