The Senate approved its version of the State’s $7.5 billion budget on Wednesday by giving third reading to H. 5001 (Appropriations Bill) and H. 5002 (Capital Reserve Fund). The Senate approved a 4 percent pay increase for State employees to help offset higher retirement costs. The proposed increase in the Senate plan would be the largest pay increase for State employees over the past decade. The Senate also approved over $40 million for projects across the state using funds in excess of what they currently expect to have in next year’s budget. Funding for these projects will depend on the results of the next Board of Economic Advisors budget forecast that will be released near the end of May.
Other highlights from the budget as passed by the Senate include:
$240 million for the local government fund;
$6 million for the USC School of Medicine to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services on a rural health initiative to address medically underserved communities;
$40 million for farm aid;
$315 million additional dollars for road repair, including $200 million a year to be bonded through the Transportation Infrastructure Bank;
$20 million for beach renourishment;
$2.4 million for police body cameras; and
$17 million additional dollars for the Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund.
In addition to the debate on the budget, the Senate also gave third reading to H. 4510 by Representative Anne Thayer (R-Anderson). This legislation sets a maximum number of foster children that may be placed in a particular foster home. The bill will now return to the House of Representatives for concurrence with the Senate amendments.
Bills passed by the Senate this week include:
H. 5001 – FY 2016-17 Appropriations Bill; and
H. 5002 – FY 2016-17 Capital Reserve Fund Bill.
The Senate will reconvene at 2:00 on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
The House of Representatives worked through the calendar this week as members prepared to take a third week of furlough. Debate in the House largely centered on S. 277, by Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee), that updates provisions involving telecommunications programs designed for hearing and speech impaired individuals. The bill will revise the funding mechanism for these programs so that surcharges are collected not only on traditional land line telephones, but also on the full array of telecommunications services offered in the contemporary market, including commercial mobile radio service (CMRS), prepaid wireless service, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. S. 277 received third reading and will now return to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments.
The House also gave third reading this week to S. 1035 by Senator Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown). The bill, commonly referred to as the “South Carolina Telemedicine Act,” establishes requirements for physicians who treat patients solely through telemedicine. The legislation was amended to allow telemedicine doctors to prescribe birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. S. 1035 received third reading and will also return to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments.
The House Ways and Means Revenue Policy Subcommittee met this week to hear from Christy Hall, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, regarding S. 1258. The new road funding bill will provide $2.2 billion to improve interstates, roads, and bridges across the State without implementing new taxes or fees. This legislation applies only to existing infrastructure, while proposed projects such as I-73 and I-526 extension would be excluded from receiving funds. The plan would replace nearly 400 load restricted or failing bridges across the state. In addition to general resurfacing, other major interstate projects that would be completed as a result of the legislation include the replacement of “Malfunction Junction” in Columbia as well as widening portions of I-85, I-20, and I-26. At the completion of Secretary Hall’s testimony, the Subcommittee made a motion to recede to the call of the Chairman. Representative Gary Simrill (R-York) stated that H. 3579, the former road funding and current DOT reform bill, would likely be merged in some manner with S. 1258 when the members of the House return from furlough. H. 3579, remains pending in a Conference Committee. Conferees who serve on the H. 3579 Conference Committee include Representative Simrill, Representative Brian White (R-Anderson), Representative Todd Rutherford (D-Richland), Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), and Senator Cleary.
The House Judiciary Committee met Tuesday on several bills of interest including S. 229 by Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley). This legislation deals with an individual’s private right of action under the Pollution Control Act and received a favorable report as amended after a lengthy debate. Although S. 229 is currently pending second reading on the uncontested portion of the House calendar, the bill will likely move to the contested calendar when the House returns from furlough.
The House Judiciary Criminal Laws Subcommittee met this week on a number of bills including S. 1015 by Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence). S. 1015, relating to counterfeit and nonfunctional airbags, was amended to include language that would protect automobile dealers from liability if they unknowingly sell a trade-in vehicle with a counterfeit or nonfunctional airbag. The bill received a favorable report as amended and will likely appear on the agenda at the next House Judiciary Committee meeting.
The House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee also met this week on two bills of interest. The Subcommittee first took up S. 997, involving refugee monitoring, by Senator Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg). The bill was amended to further define the liability of a refugee’s sponsor if the refugee commits a violent crime or act of terrorism. By a vote of 2 to 2, the bill will advance to the full House Judiciary Committee as amended. The Subcommittee also gave a favorable report as amended to S. 267 by Senator Tom Young (R-Aiken). This legislation would set the second Thursday in May as the annual General Assembly adjournment date. The bill also provides that the House must pass the annual appropriations bill no later than March 1, or the adjournment day would be extended.
The House Agriculture Environmental Affairs I Subcommittee met Wednesday to take up H.5207 by Representative Tommy Pope (R-Spartanburg). This legislation, commonly referred to as the “South Carolina Beverage Container Recycling Act,” would require a deposit beverage distributor operating in South Carolina to register with the Department of Revenue and to maintain certain records. The bill would also prohibit local governments from imposing a fee on deposit beverage containers. The Subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill and will likely continue the discussion involving the recycling of beverage containers in the months ahead.
Bills passed by the House this week include:
S. 277 – updates provisions involving telecommunications programs designed for hearing and speech impaired individuals;
S. 338 – requires any public, private, or nonprofit entity helping to rehabilitate and reintroduce paroled prison inmates into communities and which also provides residential housing to these parolees, must publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation all addresses for these residential housing facilities prior to opening them;
S. 780 – outlines that the Department of Natural Resources may issue permits for the release or stocking of various species of grass carp in this state;
S. 788 – exempts property that is deemed eligible under a general permit issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineer from the permitting requirements for routine, normal, or emergency maintenance or repair activities;
S. 916 – changes the definition of "child" and "juvenile" to include anyone under eighteen years old;
S. 1035 – establishes requirements for physicians who treat patients solely through telemedicine;
S. 1272 – authorizes the Department of Education to carry forward certain funds appropriated in the 2015-2016 “General Appropriations Act” regarding supplemental support of programs and services for students with disabilities so as to meet the estimated maintenance of effort for the “Individuals with Disabilities Act” (IDEA);
H. 5195 – provides procedures for which the Charleston County School District Board must follow in order to close a “rural school” and provides definitions;
H. 5245 – authorizes a manufacturer, brewer, importer, or retailer to offer consumers coupons and rebates for the purchase of beer;
H. 5275 – realigns the boundaries between Charleston County Constituent Districts 4 and 20; and
H. 5299 – grants the Governor authority during declared emergencies to make certain accommodations for persons transporting goods, ensuring the availability of these goods, or restoring utility services.
The House will observe a week long furlough and will return in statewide session on Tuesday, May 17, at noon.
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Newly Introduced Legislation
BANKING AND INSURANCE:
H. 5317 (Stringer) TO ALLOW THE PAYMENT OF INSURANCE PREMIUMS AND OTHER COST SHARING BY THIRD PARTIES ON BEHALF OF INDIVIDUALS INSURED BY QUALIFIED HEALTH PLANS. - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
H. 5310 (Rivers) RELATING TO ENROLLMENT PREFERENCES IN CHARTER SCHOOLS - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.
S. 1287 (Fair) TO ENACT "SCOTT'S LAW" TO PROVIDE A PERSON IS GUILTY OF DRUG-INDUCED HOMICIDE WHEN HE DELIVERS CERTAIN CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES TO ANOTHER PERSON AND THAT CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE IS THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF ANOTHER PERSON'S DEATH - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
H. 5318 (Ballentine) RELATING TO CHILD SUPPORT - Referred to Committee on Judiciary.