What's New
 
SENATE

The Senate reconvened in statewide session this week following a week-long furlough. On Tuesday, Senator Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) resigned as the majority leader after holding the position for 11 years. Senate Republicans held a caucus meeting Wednesday before session during which Senator Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) was elected to the position by acclamation.

Debate on the Senate floor this week centered on H. 3184, a bill by Representative Tommy Pope (R-Spartanburg) that would reform the State’s ethics laws. Progress on the bill came to a halt on Thursday when Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) raised a point of order on the bill. Senator Malloy argued that certain changes in the pending amendment by the Senate Judiciary Committee were not pertinent to the original bill, as required by South Carolina Senate Rule 24. Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster (R-Richland) sustained the point of order which took the legislation back to its original form as passed by the House of Representatives. Shortly, after the ruling on the point of order, the Senate adjourned for the week to allow for members to draft other amendments to the bill.

On Thursday, the Senate gave second reading to S. 1075, a natural gas incentive bill by Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley). This legislation encourages commercial fleets to convert to LNG or CNG through vehicle purchase or conversion incentives, infrastructure incentives, an additional weight exemption, and a property tax adjustment to compensate for the additional expense of a natural gas vehicle. The Senate also gave third rreading to S. 982, relating to a sales tax exemption for natural gas. S. 982, by Senator Peeler, would create a sales tax exemption for the purchase of natural gas if the purchaser has a miscellaneous fuel user fee license and will convert the natural gas into compressed or liquefied natural gas for the use in their own motor vehicles.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to take up two statewide appointments. After a lengthy debate, the Committee reported favorably on the appointment of Susan S. Barden to the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Commission. The Committee also gave a favorable report on Sherri A. Lydon to the State Ethics Commission.

A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee also met this week on S. 1015, by Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), relating to counterfeit or nonfunctional airbags. The Subcommittee amended the bill to expand the definition of “nonfunctional airbag” to include any related component that could deceive a vehicle owner or operator into believing that the airbag was functional. The subcommittee also tightened the standard for proving violations. S. 1015 received a favorable report as amended and will now appear on the full Judiciary Committee’s agenda. Further amendments by Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) are expected at full Committee.

On Thursday morning, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee met on S. 672, by Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). S. 672, commonly referred to as the “South Carolina Medical Marijuana Program Act,” would allow individuals with certain medical conditions to use and access medical cannabis. The proposed bill would also create a regulated system of growers, processors, dispensers, and labs. Senator Davis and Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) both argued in favor of the legislation before the bill failed by a vote of 2 to 9. The bill was opposed by law enforcement and many in the medical community.

Bills passed by the Senate this week include: 

S. 233 – amends Act 241 of 2008 relating to public body prayer in order to make it consistent with a recent Supreme Court decision on the issue; 

S. 743 - allows a moratorium on certain taxes if at least 50 full-time jobs are created in a “Port Enhancement Zone; 

S. 771 – establishes procedures that regulate the relationship between recreational vehicle manufacturers, distributors, and dealers; 

S. 982 – creates a sales tax exemption for the purchase of natural gas if the purchaser has a miscellaneous fuel user fee license and will convert the natural gas into compressed or liquefied natural gas for the use in their own motor vehicles. Additionally, the purchaser must remit the motor fuel user fees as required by law; 

S. 1111 – makes a revision to the method by which license plate fees for certain manufacturers are calculated and credited; 

H. 3204 – enacts the “Cervical Cancer Prevention Act,” to provide that the Department of Health and Environmental Control may offer the cervical cancer vaccination series for adolescent students including those enrolling in the seventh grade in any public, private, or home schooling program in South Carolina; 

H. 3788 – provides for the inclusion of motorcycles within motor vehicle express warranty provisions; and 

H. 3911 – changes the interval in which the Department of Motor Vehicles must reissue a license plate from six years to ten years.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday at noon.

HOUSE 

The House of Representatives remained on furlough and did not meet in statewide session this week.

The Legislative Audit Council (LAC) released the results of the audit of the South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday. The LAC noted that the State’s roads have deteriorated significantly within the past eight years and that the Department is not in compliance with Act 114 of 2007 regarding the ranking and prioritization of projects.

The House Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Representative Gary Simrill (R-York), held a lengthy meeting on Thursday to review and discuss the findings from the LAC. DOT Secretary Christy Hall agreed with the majority of the recommended improvements identified by the LAC but disagreed that the Department is not in compliance with Act 114’s prioritization mandates. Frank Rainwater, Director of the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office, also spoke at the meeting regarding road funding. Director Rainwater presented information showing that if the Senate version of H. 3579 (SC Infrastructure and Finance Reform Act) were to pass, that lawmakers could face future funding shortfalls and would likely be unable to use reserve funds to meet the annual request of $400 million. The Committee took no formal position on H. 3579 and received the presentations as information. H. 3579 remains pending on the House calendar for concurrence on the Senate changes. 

Please click here for the full LAC audit of SCDOT.

For a summary of DOT’s response to the audit, please click here.

The House of Representatives will reconvene Tuesday at noon.

Top News Articles

Lawmakers hopeful on SCSU debt deal 
Despite different views on how it should be done, local lawmakers say the House and Senate will agree on a plan to restructure South Carolina State University’s $18 million debt to the state. Read more

Senate shuts door on more gun hearings this year 

Three gun bills recently approved by a Senate panel will be the only gun bills receiving a hearing this year in the Senate, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says. Read more.

Some Upstate counties finding paving sticker shock 

Some counties trying to spend $216 million allocated last year by lawmakers for local road projects are running into sticker shock. Read more.

Database would track refugees in South Carolina if passed 
In the wake of terror attacks across Europe, the South Carolina Senate passed a bill last month that would create a database of refugees placed in the state under the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. Read more.

Legislation to save Mount Holly smelter introduced in S.C. Senate 

Proposed legislation that would let Century Aluminum buy electricity on the open market — a measure intended to save the company’s Mount Holly smelter from closure — was introduced in the S.C. Senate on Thursday. Read more.

Gov. Nikki Haley slams Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster on ethics bill 
Gov. Nikki Haley has accused the state’s second-in-command of killing an amendment to the ethics reform bill pending in the Senate. Read more.

SC bill: Ban transgender people from choosing their bathroom 
South Carolina would ban transgender people from using public bathrooms, showers or changing rooms of their choice under a bill introduced Wednesday in the state Senate. Read more.

SC Sen. Harvey Peeler stepping down as majority leader 
In a surprise move, S.C. Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said Tuesday that he is stepping down immediately as majority leader after 11 years. Read more.

S.C. Senate Republicans elect Massey as new leader 
State Sen. Shane Massey, a rising star in the state GOP, was elected Senate majority leader Wednesday. Read more.

Gov. Nikki Haley says transgender bathroom bill unnecessary in S.C. 
Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday a bill that would block local governments from expanding the use of gender-designated public restrooms to transgender people is not needed in South Carolina. Read more.

Senate health panel kills marijuana bill over police concerns 
A Senate health panel killed a medical marijuana bill Thursday in deference to law enforcement concerns over the pain relief for patients the bill’s author said would have benefitted. Read more.

Roads debate returns, plan possible by Wednesday 

The chairman of a House roads ad hoc committee that meets this morning said representatives could hash out changes to a current roads plan as soon as next Wednesday. Read more.

SC bill: Teach US ‘founding principles’ in high school 
S.C. lawmakers may make it law that high-school students must be taught the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents of the country. Read more.

Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office appoints new prosecutor in Statehouse corruption probe 

Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office moved quickly to assign a new special prosecutor for the Statehouse corruption probe, tapping a Columbia-area solicitor a day after dumping the man he’d initially chosen amid an ongoing feud. Read more.

Voters choose Gambrell as winner of Senate 4 runoff
Honea Path’s Mike Gambrell topped Williamston’s Rockey Burgess in the Senate Seat 4 special primary Republican runoff on Tuesday. Read more.

House panel mulls changes to Senate roads bill 
State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said her agency will make improvements to how road projects are ranked and funded in light of a recent state report highlighting concerns. Read more.

Meetings and Events

Tuesday, April 12, 2016  
5:30 – 7:00  Reception for Senators Paul Campbell and Larry Grooms 
                    Nexsen Pruet 

5:00 – 6:30  Reception for Representatives Brown, Kirby, McEachern and Ott 
                    Kaminsky’s 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 
5:30 – 7:30  Reception for Representatives Anthony, Hayes, Hosey and Neal 
                    McNair Law Firm

Newly Introduced Legislation

EDUCATION :

S. 1196 (L. Martin) TO REQUIRE EACH COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD TO PROVIDE ANNUAL PUBLIC NOTICE OF WHICH, IF ANY, SCHOOLS IT PLANS TO CLOSE OR CONSOLIDATE - Referred to the Committee on Education. 

S. 1198 (Peeler) TO FIX WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2016, AT NOON, AS THE DATE AND TIME FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE SENATE TO MEET IN JOINT SESSION IN THE HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FOR THE PURPOSE OF ELECTING MEMBERS OF THE BOARDS OF TRUSTEES FOR COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITIES - Placed on the Calendar without reference. 

ENVIRONMENTAL/NATURAL RESOURCES:

S. 1205 (Hembree) RELATING TO ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS NATURAL RESOURCES ENFORCEMENT DIVISION OATH AND BONDS - Referred to the Committee on Fish, Game and Forestry.

HEALTHCARE:

S. 1217 (McElveen) TO DECLARE APRIL 2016 AS "AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH" IN THE PALMETTO STATE. - The Senate Resolution was adopted. 

JUDICIAL

S. 1203 (Bright) RELATING TO THE RIGHT TO EQUAL ENJOYMENT OF AND PRIVILEGES TO PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS - Referred to the General Committee. 

S. 1211 (Grooms) RELATING TO PROVIDING ELECTRIC SERVICE - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary. 

S. 1212 (Bright) RELATING TO THE DESIGNATION OF VOTING PRECINCTS IN SPARTANBURG COUNTY - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.