View from the Dome – April 5, 2019
By
Copper Dome Strategies, LLC

Both chambers worked their calendars to get as many bills in position to meet next week’s crossover deadline for legislation to be debated this session. The House took another step forward regarding the potential sale of state owned-utility Santee Cooper.

TAX

The House on Wednesday approved H.3785 (Reps. Sandifer, Howard, Thayer, West and Weeks), relating to the Board of Accountancy, by a vote of 106-0. The bill amends some key operating procedures for the South Carolina Board of Accountancy.

Of particular note is revised criteria for reciprocity. It expands application eligibility to those who hold a valid out-of-state CPA license issued before Jan. 1, 2012, and have engaged in four years of out-of-state professional practice as a CPA within the 10 years immediately preceding the South Carolina application. The bill received third reading Thursday and was then read the first time in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

CROSSOVER

Legislative rules require that in order for bills to be considered by the opposite chamber this session, all bills must receive third and final reading by Wednesday, April 10. Bills that do not meet this deadline can still be debated but must reach a higher threshold for debate by receiving a two-thirds vote of the body.

House members were busy this week working to clear their calendar of as many bills as possible prior to April 10 in order to be considered by the Senate this session. The Senate has been working to move as many bills as possible over to the House prior to their debate on the state budget.

On Wednesday, the Senate gave second reading approval of all uncontested bills on their calendar while allowing for amendments on third reading. As this is the first year of a two-year legislative term, any bills that do not become law this year will retain their place when the legislature meets in January for the second year of the session.

BUDGET

The Senate Finance Committee approved its version of the state budget Thursday afternoon. Although the budget spreadsheets will not be available to the public until next week, much of the larger items funded were identical to the House-passed budget. That includes:

  • $159 million for a 4% teacher pay increase
  • $41 million for a 2% state employee pay increase
  • $49.5 million for the state Medicaid maintenance of effort and annualization
  • $49.7 million to cover 100% of the state employee health and dental insurance increases
  • $40 million for new voting machines
  • $65 million for one-time tax rebate of $50 per person for those filing a tax return

For the technical colleges, the budget includes:

  • $6 million base recurring funding
  • $51 million Lottery Tuition Assistance
  • $17 million Workforce Scholarships and Grants
  • $9.2 million ReadySC
  • $12.5 million high demand job skills training equipment
  • $4.1 million technology funding

The Senate also included funding for judicial pay increases and $25 million for farmers affected by recent flooding. Senate floor debate is expected the week of April 15-18. Total state spending this year is $29.4 billion – that includes $8.7 billion in general funds, $11.9 billion in “other funds” and $8.8 billion in federal funds. Budget writers have an additional $498 million in new recurring revenue and $479 million in one-time revenue.

Once posted, the Senate Finance Committee version can be found here.

Senate Finance Committee Budget Provisos can be found here.

Highlights of the House-passed budget can be found here.

Budget spreadsheets from each subcommittee can be found here.

House Ways and Means Committee Budget Provisos can be found here.

The governor’s Executive Budget can be found here.

Individual state agency budget requests can be found here.

PROCUREMENT

By a vote of 44-0, the Senate favorably approved S.530 (Senator Leatherman), which makes changes to the Consolidated Procurement Code. The bill received third and final reading on Wednesday. This is the first major update to the state procurement code since 2006. The bill’s aim is to update the procurement code by deleting obsolete language and also improving and shortening processes in government procurement. Many of the changes are the result of a review that was mandated by the restructuring act in 2014. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

ENERGY

The move to sell state-owned utility Santee Cooper once again was front and center. On Wednesday, the House voted 101-6 to favorably approve H. 4287 (Reps. Lucas, G. M. Smith, Simrill, Rutherford, McCoy and Ott) that would authorize the Joint Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee to receive and approve a contractual offer to purchase Santee Cooper. The final acceptance and approval of the contract of sale would be contingent upon approval by the General Assembly. The bill was given first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Finance Committee deleted a House budget proviso that would have kept the Joint Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee in place. Instead, they added to the state budget Joint Resolution S.678 (Sens. Peeler, Climer, Davis and Fanning) that would give the Governor the authority to utilize the Department of Administration to conduct a competitive bidding process for the sale of state owned utility Santee Cooper. The department would be required to procure professional services, including financial institutions, legal counsel and industry consultants, as are necessary to conduct the sale, the evaluation of bids received and related activities. Once the Department of Administration concludes their work, the General Assembly would take the recommendation under consideration.

The Joint Resolution is also on the Senate calendar for debate next week.

EDUCATION REFORM

The Senate Education Subcommittee met again on S.419 known as “The South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act” and continued Wednesday going through the bill section by section and discussing amendments. The education reform initiative is the Senate’s version of H.3759 (Lucas, Allison, Felder, Pope, Simrill, Rutherford and others) that recently passed the House. The subcommittee, chaired by Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree (R-Horry), is expected to hold one more meeting before sending the bill to the full committee.

A summary of the companion bills can be found here.

Senate proposed changes can be found here.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The House Education Committee approved H.3757 (Reps. Lucas, Collins and Calhoon) that establishes the Workforce and Education Data Oversight Committee (WEDOC) and specifies the responsibilities and objectives of the committee. The WEDOC is to support the mission of the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development and includes the Executive Director of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and the president of a technical college appointed by the Chairman of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

On Wednesday, the House voted 109-2 to approve H.3936 (Reps. Davis, Daning, Chellis and others) that would include eligibility for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarships for students attending technical colleges and two-year institutions of higher learning. The bill received third reading Thursday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HEALTHCARE

The Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee favorably approved H.3760 (Sandifer) a bill that would merge the Patients’ Compensation Fund with the South Carolina Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association. The committee adopted what was referred to as a working amendment with the understanding that all interested parties continue to seek compromise on the bill. Insurance Commissioner Ray Farmer has told the subcommittee it was time to address the mounting deficits and he would support any effort by the General Assembly to do so. While the bill was reported out of subcommittee favorably, the South Carolina Medical Association spoke in opposition to the proposed Senate amendment. The bill is expected to be debated in full committee possibly as early as next week.

The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved H.4004 (Reps. Clary, G.M. Smith, Lucas and Ridgeway) which enacts the “Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) Act.” The bill enables certain persons to execute a POST form signed by a physician that sets forth the patient’s wishes for life-sustaining care and requires health care providers and facilities to accept the form as a valid medical order. The bill also establishes a POST Advisory Council to work with DHEC on program designs, standards, data collection and evaluation, quality improvement, funding and evaluation. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

JUDICIAL/LEGAL

S.7 (Malloy, Climer, Goldfinch, Talley and Harpootlian), dealing with the Tort Claims Act limits, received second reading in the Senate on Tuesday. This bill proposes to raise the caps on the recovery limits. As amended, it would raise the cap on a single person from $300,000 to $500,000 and for an occurrence from $600,000 to $1 million. The bill is on the Senate calendar awaiting third and final reading.

INTRODUCTIONS OF INTEREST

HOUSE

H.4382 (Reps. Funderburk, Herbkersman, Collins and Ridgeway) Establishes a State Surgeon General to be appointed by the governor provides for duties. Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

H.4404 (Reps. Stringer, Herbkersman, W. Newton, Yow, and others) Enacts the “Veterans Nursing Degree Opportunity Act” to authorize the development and implementation of a Veteran Associate and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and to incorporate relevant military training and experience. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

H.4413 (Reps. G. M. Smith, Lucas, Simrill and Rutherford) Joint Resolution to continue funding state government in the event a budget is not adopted by July 1. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.4414 (Rep. B. Newton) Would allow for dual enrollment opportunities for all high school students. Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

H.4418 (Reps. Davis, Moore, Anderson, Jefferson, Daning and Crawford) Establishes a “Displaced State Employee Readjustment Fund” for helping employees displaced by the sale or transfer of a state agency. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H.4419 (Reps. Davis, Daning and Crawford) Joint Resolution requiring an economic impact study before a state agency may be sold. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

SENATE

S.738 (Senator Davis) Enacts the “South Carolina Blockchain Industry Empowerment Act of 2019” to establish the state as an incubater for technology industries seeking to develop innovation by using blockchain technology. Referred to the Committee on Banking and Insurance.

S.739 (Senators Senn and Harpootlian) Concurrent Resolution urging local governments, colleges and universities to accelerate their efforts to improve the safety of transportation networks and ride-hailing services. Introduced and referred to the Committee on Transportation.

UP NEXT

It is the final week for legislation to pass from one chamber to the other in order to meet the April 10 crossover deadline.