What's New

SENATE The Senate spent the week working at the committee level in an effort to move bills to the floor for debate. Members will return to meeting in regular session on Tuesday, January 24th.

The Senate Finance Committee met Tuesday afternoon for the first time this session to take up several bills and to hear an update on the budget forecast. The Committee reported favorably with an amendment on S.44, by Senator Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster), that provides an eighty percent abatement for valuation of renewable energy property. S. 44 is nearly identical to S.626 from last year's legislative session. The bill also allows property that became operational in tax years 2015 and 2016 to qualify for the exemption even if an existing fee in lieu agreement is in place, so long as the taxpayer notifies the other parties to the agreement no later than thirty-days after the effective date of this legislation. S. 44 will be placed on the Senate Calendar and could be up for debate as early as next week.

Prior to the conclusion of the Senate Finance meeting, Frank Rainwater, Executive Director of the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, provided a budget briefing for the Committee. Mr. Rainwater informed members that South Carolina remains in a period of growth but will have a tougher time budgeting this year because there will be less money available in comparison to last year at this time. He explained that this is largely due to an excessive amount of "one-time money" that was available last year in the form of surpluses and legal settlements. Mr. Rainwater stated that his office sees no major recessions in the forecast and that the State's personal income growth should remain around 4.8%, which is on target with the 20-year average. Employment in the State is also growing at an annual rate of approximately 45,000 jobs per year, but this trend has slowed slightly since 2015. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to reconvene before session on Tuesday, January 24th, for further discussion on budget issues.

You may access a copy of the budget briefing here.

On Wednesday, a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held a lengthy hearing on legislation that would revise the automatic stay provisions in the Administrative Procedures Act when a license or permit is challenged. Senator Luke Rankin (R-Horry), Chairman of Judiciary, and Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry), both pre-filed bills for this session. S.105 and S.112 would both limit the automatic stay to 30 days if an individual or group challenges the issuance of a license or permit. After the 30-day period, the individual or group challenging the license or permit could file a request for preliminary injunctive relief to keep the stay in place. The Administrative Law Court would also be authorized to require the posting of a bond by the challenger to cover the cost of delay and litigation. Under current law, the stay remains in place unless the licensee or permittee seeks to have the stay lifted, which proponents of the legislation argue is difficult to do under the standards in the current statute. The Subcommittee will use S. 105, the Chairman's bill, going forward and will likely meet again in about two weeks to finish hearing testimony from business leaders and environmental groups regarding the issue.

The Senate Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee met Wednesday to receive updates from the Retirement Systems Investment Commission (RSIC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Mike Hitchcock, Executive Director of RSIC, informed the Subcommittee that he has been pleased with the performance of the new investment portfolio that was put into place on July 1, 2016, and that the Commission will have a $1.5 million decrease this year in overall authorization.

Following the presentation by RSIC, the Subcommittee heard from Christian Soura, Director of DHHS. Director Soura reported that the Department has spent approximately 47% of its annual budget during the first six months of the fiscal year and remains on target for FY 2016-2017. Unanticipated one-time federal action helped this year's budget when Congress suspended the Health Insurer Tax for one year and applied a partial "Part B fix," saving $36 million in State match. Director Soura also provided program updates on Healthy Outcome Plans, Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services, and the Rural Health Initiative. DHHS is finalizing a contract with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine for the creation of a Center of Excellence that will assist in providing rural health research, health education development, and rural practice support. Additionally, the Department released a "Request for Expression of Interest" from entities wishing to establish or expand programs that would promote the development of a rural medical workforce through additional residencies or fellowships in rural medicine or through efforts that expose resident physicians to rural practice as part of a recruitment strategy for underserved communities. Selected entities would be eligible to receive planning grants of $50,000 to help offset the costs associated with the development of a full proposal as provided by Proviso 33.27.

HOUSE

The House Calendar remained light this week giving members more time to meet in various Ways and Means Subcommittees as work continued on the budget.

The House gave third reading to S.42, a joint resolution by Senators Bryant (R-Anderson) and Mike Gambrell (R-Anderson), that exempts the school days missed by students attending Townville Elementary School in Anderson County from the make-up requirement. H.3441, by Rep. Craig Gagnon (R-Abbeville), was recalled from the House Judiciary Committee and referred to the House LCI Committee. This legislation requires that all payments of workers' compensation by employers' representatives must be made by check or direct deposit.

Two significant bills, however were introduced this week. House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R-York) introduced H.3516, a road funding bill that would increase the current 16 cent gas tax by 2 cents a year for 5 years for a total increase of 10 cents. The bill would also require motorists who move to South Carolina and register their vehicle in the State to pay a $250 fee. The bill would further increase the sales tax cap on vehicles from $300 to $500 and would require commercial vehicles to pay a road use fee rather than property tax. When fully phased-in, the legislation would raise about $600 million a year to repair the State's roads and bridges. H.3516 is similar to S.54, a bill pre-filed by Senator Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester), would increase the gas tax by 12 cents over a three-year period. Unlike H.3516, S.54 would include income and property tax relief.

The House also introduced H.3529, by Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville), that would preclude local governments from enacting ordinances to prohibit, restrict, or impose a fee or tax on auxiliary containers. Only the General Assembly could regulate these containers, which are defined as reusable or single-use containers for food or beverages. H.3529 was referred to the House LCI Committee.

The House Education and Public Works Public Safety Subcommittee met this week and gave a favorable report, with an amendment, to H.3289, relating to the distance that must be maintained between vehicles traveling along a highway. This legislation, introduced by Rep. G.R. Smith (R-Greenville), provides that the safe distance provision does not apply to the operator of any non-leading vehicle traveling in a procession of vehicles if the speed of each vehicle is automatically coordinated. This legislation will allow for a process known as "platooning" to take place, where two or more trucks that are controlled by a lead vehicle through wireless communication follow each other at a very close distance. The benefits of platooning include lower fuel consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and safety enhancements. H. 3289 will now move to the full Education and Public Works Committee for debate.

The House will reconvene at noon on Tuesday.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR SUCCESSION

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled this week that a constitutional amendment changing the lines of succession will not take effect until the 2018 election. According to the Court, the State's Constitution calls for the Senate President Pro Tempore to become the Lieutenant Governor in the event that the post is vacated. Current Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) has made clear that he is not interested in becoming Lieutenant Governor and which would require him to step down from the top position in the Senate. Senator Kevin Bryan (R-Anderson) has expressed interest in becoming Lieutenant Governor, setting up major political movements in the Senate when Governor Haley is confirmed as U.N. Ambassador.

Top News Articles

SC lawmakers giddy to work with dealmaker McMaster After 14 years of combative Govs. Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley, S.C. lawmakers are ready for a deal-maker. Read more.

Legislators: McMaster's rise could be good for SC As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., prepare to vote on South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, state officials are prepping to work with a new governor. Read more.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley prepares for confirmation hearing in tough political terrainGov. Nikki Haley's confirmation to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was expected to be a mere formality for one of President-elect Donald Trump's least controversial Cabinet-level nominees. Read more.

Sen. Hugh Leatherman aims to rid South Carolina of 'dark money' with new bill Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, introduced a bill Tuesday that would require third-party campaign groups to disclose where their money comes from. Read more.

SC House GOP leaders propose 10-cent gas-tax hike The plan would raise the 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax by 10 cents over five years, increasing it by 2 cents a year. When fully phased-in, the increases proposed by House leaders would raise about $600 million a year to repair the state's crumbling roads and bridges. Read more.

Road funding bill includes 10 cent gas tax increase, higher fees S.C. House lawmakers have decided to take another crack at funding the state's road needs by increasing the gas tax by a dime and imposing various other fees on the state's drivers. Read more.

Supreme Court rules Lt. Gov. McMaster can't pick successor The state Supreme Court made it clear Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster can't pick his successor if Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations. Read more.

Haley says she does have differences with Trump on global affairs Gov. Nikki Haley drew praise for her confirmation hearing performance Wednesday, where she made it clear she will continue to stand up to President-elect Donald Trump when she thinks he's wrong. Read more.

Jobs, healthcare reform, security top S.C. Congressional priorities Politicians and pundits agree, the issues that stand to affect South Carolina the most during the initial stages of President-elect Donald Trump's administration revolve around the economy. Read more.

Senate panel approves tougher penalties for police-dog killers Named after an Anderson County Sheriff's Department police dog killed in the line of duty, the bill would increase the maximum prison sentence for hurting or killing police animals to 10 years from five and the maximum fine to $10,000 from $5,000. Read more.

Meetings and Events

Tuesday, January 24

5:00 Reception for Representative Todd Rutherford Kaminskys, 930 Gervais

Wednesday, January 25

5:30 Reception for House Speaker Jay Lucas Palmetto Club

Thursday, January 26

5:00 Columbia Chamber Public Policy Reception Palmetto Club

Newly Introduced Legislation

BANKING AND INSURANCE H.3488 (Sandifer) TO ALLOW AN INSURER TO DELIVER, STORE, OR PRESENT EVIDENCE OF INSURANCE COVERAGE BY ELECTRONIC MEANS - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry. H.3518 (Hart) WHEN A MORTGAGEE MAKES A PAYMENT ON A LOAN SECURED BY A MORTGAGE, THE MORTGAGOR SHALL APPLY AT LEAST THIRTY PERCENT OF THE PAYMENT RECEIVED TOWARD THE PRINCIPAL BALANCE OF THE LOAN SECURED BY THE MORTGAGE - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry. H.3519 (Hart) TO PROVIDE A MANDATORY MINIMUM GRACE PERIOD OF TWENTY DAYS FOR A MORTGAGE PAYMENT - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TAX S.257 (McLeod) TO ENACT THE "SOUTH CAROLINA EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK ACT" - Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry. H.3480 (McCoy) RELATING TO SALES TAX EXEMPTIONS, SO AS TO ESTABLISH "HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS WEEKEND" - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3484 (Hart) TO ALLOW A STATE TAX CREDIT FOR EMPLOYERS HIRING AN UNEMPLOYED INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BENEFITS - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3485 (Hart) RELATING TO PROPERTY TAX AND THE METHOD OF VALUATION OF REAL PROPERTY AND THE LIMITS ON INCREASES IN THE VALUE OF REAL PROPERTY FOR PURPOSES OF THE PROPERTY TAX - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3486 (Hart) RELATING TO THE LIMIT ON ANNUAL PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE INCREASES IMPOSED BY POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3516 (Simrill) RELATING TO THE MOTOR FUEL USER FEE - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3522 (McCoy): RELATING TO THE LIMIT ON STATE SPENDING - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. H.3528 (Hart): TO PROVIDE AN ELECTRICAL UTILITY OPERATING IN THIS STATE SHALL BURY ALL OF ITS NEW ELECTRICAL POWER TRANSMISSION LINES INSTALLED WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF A MUNICIPALITY IN THIS STATE AFTER JANUARY 2, 2017 - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry. H.3529 (Bedingfield) TO PROVIDE THAT ANY REGULATION REGARDING THE USE, DISPOSITION, SALE, OR ANY IMPOSITION OF ANY PROHIBITION, RESTRICTION, FEE IMPOSITION, OR TAXATION OF AUXILIARY CONTAINERS MUST BE DONE ONLY BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

EDUCATION S.262 (Setzler) SO AS TO PROVIDE A TEXTBOOK POLICY FOR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION THAT IS INTENDED TO HELP MINIMIZE COLLEGE TEXTBOOK COSTS - Referred to the Committee on Education. H.3508 (Allison) TO PROVIDE THAT THE OPENING DATE FOR STUDENTS TO ATTEND PUBLIC SCHOOLS DURING THE 2017-2018 SCHOOL YEAR MAY BE AS EARLY AS THURSDAY, AUGUST SEVENTEENTH - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works. H.3513 (Anthony) TO PROVIDE RETIRED EDUCATOR TEACHING CERTIFICATES FOR PEOPLE WHO MEET CERTAIN CRITERIA - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works. H.3515 (Erickson) TO PROVIDE FOR THE WAIVER OF FIVE OR FEWER DAYS THAT SCHOOLS IN COUNTIES FOR WHICH FEDERAL MAJOR DISASTER DECLARATIONS WERE MADE AS A RESULT OF HURRICANE MATTHEW - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works. H.3520 (Atwater) TO PROVIDE THAT BEGINNING WITH THE 2018-2019 SCHOOL YEAR, A PARENT RESIDING IN THIS STATE MAY ENROLL HIS DISABLED CHILD IN ANY SCHOOL DISTRICT OR PRIVATE SCHOOL IN THIS STATE THAT HE CONSIDERS BEST CAPABLE OF MEETING THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF HIS CHILD'S DISABILITY - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES S.261 (Alexander) TO ENACT THE SOUTH CAROLINA COMMERCIAL-PROPERTY ASSESSED CLEAN ENERGY ACT (C-PACE) - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary. H.3517 (Hiott) TO PROVIDE THAT THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES MAY ISSUE SPECIAL AUTHORIZATION FOR HUNTING AND FISHING TO ANY PERSON WHO IS NOT MORE THAN TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD WHO HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH A TERMINAL OR LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS OR INJURY WHO IS SPONSORED BY CERTAIN NONPROFIT CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS - Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.

HEALTHCARE H.3487 (Ridgeway) RELATING TO DO NOT RESUSCITATE ORDERS - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3521 (McCoy) TO ENACT THE "SOUTH CAROLINA COMPASSIONATE CARE ACT" - Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs. H.3536 (Henegan) TO REQUIRE THE DIVISION ON AGING OF THE OFFICE OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR TO FUND A PROGRAM TO PROVIDE SUBSIDIES TO SENIOR CITIZENS TO PURCHASE A PERSONAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEM. - Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

JUDICIARY S.255 (Leatherman) RELATING TO CAMPAIGN PRACTICES - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary. S.256 (McLeod) TO AUTHORIZE THE LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION OF A COUNTY TO REMOVE FOR CAUSE A DELEGATION APPOINTEE TO A BOARD, COMMISSION, OR COUNCIL - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary. S.264 (Peeler) TO PROVIDE FOR THE REGULATION OF GENETIC COUNSELORS; TO ESTABLISH THE BOARD OF GENETIC COUNSELOR EXAMINERS - Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs. H.3478 (Rutherford) TO PROHIBIT A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER FROM USING EXCESSIVE RESTRAINT WHEN DETAINING A PERSON OR EXCESSIVE FORCE WHILE MAKING AN ARREST - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3481 (McCoy) RELATING TO THE DESTRUCTION OF ARREST AND BOOKING RECORDS - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3482 (McCoy) RELATING TO THE PROHIBITION ON KNOWINGLY OBTAINING OR USING PERSONAL INFORMATION OBTAINED FROM A STATE AGENCY FOR COMMERCIAL SOLICITATION BY A PRIVATE PERSON OR PRIVATE ENTITY - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3483 (McCoy) RELATING TO VARIOUS ASSAULT AND BATTERY OFFENSES - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3509 (Norrell) TO CREATE THE OFFENSE OF UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIALS. - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3512 (McCravy) TO REQUIRE A MEMBER OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY WHO RECEIVED A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION FROM A JUDICIAL CANDIDATE OR A FAMILY MEMBER OF A JUDICIAL CANDIDATE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS TWELVE MONTHS OF THE ELECTION TO RECUSE HIMSELF FROM VOTING ON THAT PARTICULAR JUDICIAL SEAT - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3514 (Norrell) TO ENUMERATE FACTORS THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED TO DETERMINE WHETHER A CERTAIN COMMITTEE HAS THE MAJOR PURPOSE OF SUPPORTING OR OPPOSING ONE OR MORE CANDIDATES OR THE PASSAGE OF ONE OR MORE BALLOT MEASURES - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3523 (McCoy) RELATING TO THE DEFINITIONS OF "INJURY" AND "PERSONAL INJURY" IN WORKERS' COMPENSATION - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3524 (McCoy) RELATING TO PERSONS REQUIRED TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3530 (Long) TO ENACT THE "PERSONHOOD ACT OF SOUTH CAROLINA" BY ADDING ARTICLE 5 TO CHAPTER 1, TITLE 1 SO AS TO ESTABLISH THAT THE RIGHT TO LIFE FOR EACH BORN AND PREBORN HUMAN BEING VESTS AT FERTILIZATION - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3538 (J. E. Smith) TO ENACT THE "PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES RIGHT TO PARENT ACT" - Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

TRANSPORTATION H.3525 (Rutherford) TO PROVIDE THAT ONLY CERTAIN ENTITIES MAY USE AN AUTOMATIC LICENSE PLATE READER SYSTEM - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works. H.3526 (Hart) TO PROVIDE THAT IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE WHILE USING A CELLULAR TELEPHONE, PAGER, PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANT DEVICE, OR ANOTHER WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE THAT IS NOT EQUIPPED WITH A HANDS-FREE MECHANISM - Referred to Committee on Judiciary. H.3527 (Hart) TO PROVIDE THAT A MANUFACTURER OF A NEW MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS SOLD OR LEASED IN THIS STATE WHICH IS EQUIPPED WITH AN EVENT DATA RECORDER OR A SENSING AND DIAGNOSTIC MODULE SHALL DISCLOSE THIS INFORMATION IN THE MOTOR VEHICLE'S OWNER'S MANUAL AND ON ITS WINDOW STICKER - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.