The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.4243, a bill addressing PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM INVESTMENTS. The legislation revises job tax credit provisions to allow a professional sports team to be eligible for the tax credits for jobs created. The legislation prohibits a county from levying county license fees and taxes on a professional sports team, and prohibits a municipality from levying a business license tax on a professional sports team. The legislation provides that real property owned by a professional sports team may not be annexed by a municipality without prior written consent of the professional sports team.
The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.4260, the “SOUTH CAROLINA RATEPAYER PROTECTION ACT OF 2019”. The legislation draws upon the work of the special House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee which was appointed by the Speaker of the House following the announcement from Santee Cooper and SCANA’s South Carolina Electric and Gas that construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear reactors in Fairfield County was being abandoned after billions of dollars in fees had been collected from South Carolina’s ratepayers under the Base Load Review Act to support the failed nuclear power project. The legislation includes reforms and enhanced authority for the Public Service Commission, the body that provides oversight and renders decisions in public utility matters. Provisions are included to prevent conflicts interests. The legislation provides that a person may not serve as the state’s Consumer Advocate if the Public Service Commission regulates a business with which that person is associated. The Consumer Advocate may not interview or seek employment with a public utility while serving as the Consumer Advocate and may not represent a public utility or appear on behalf of a public utility in a proceeding before the Public Service Commission in a matter within the commission’s jurisdiction for a period of one year after termination. An employee of the Department of Consumer Affairs is prohibited from soliciting, receiving, or accepting anything of value from those who are regulated by the Public Service Commission. Those regulated by the PSC are prohibited from offering, facilitating, or providing anything of value to a department employee. Violations are misdemeanor criminal offenses punishable with fines of up to five thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for up to one year. The legislation strengthens provisions that preclude commission employees and employees of the PSC’s Office of Regulatory Staff from having financial ties with those regulated by the PSC. The Public Service Commission and the Office of Regulatory Staff are afforded authority to employ third‑party consultants and experts in carrying out their duties if the commission determines it is in the best interests of ratepayers and it is approved by the Public Utilities Review Committee. The legislation provides that, before making a determination, the commissioners shall question the parties thoroughly during hearings of contested cases when appropriate. The commission is empowered with the authority to require mediation or alternative dispute resolution. The PSC is afforded more expansive authority to conduct examinations, including physical inspection of facilities, of all those who are subject to its jurisdiction. Public utilities that fail or refuse to permit the Office of Regulatory Staff or Public Service Commission to examine and inspect its books, records, accounts, and documents, or its plant, property, or facilities, as provided by law, must be punishable by a fine up to ten thousand dollars for each day they are in violation. Public utilities are subject to a fine up to ten thousand dollars for each day they are in violation of any law or refuse to conform to or obey any rule, order, or regulation of the Office of Regulatory Staff or Public Service Commission. An officer, agent or employee of a public utility, who willfully neglects or refuses to make and furnish any report required by the commission or who willfully or unlawfully hinders, delays or obstructs the commission in the discharge of its duties shall forfeit and pay five thousand dollars for each offense. Misdemeanor criminal offenses are established for those who knowingly or willfully provide false information or withhold information in required reports or responses to the Office of Regulatory Staff or the Public Service Commission. Violators are subject to a fine of up to one thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for up to thirty days. The legislation includes new requirements for the principal executive officer and principal financial officer of a public utility to sign and officially certify materials submitted to the Public Service Commission. Felony criminal penalties are established for violating these certification requirements, punishable with fines of up to one hundred thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for up to five years. Employees of public utilities are afforded whistleblower protections when reporting wrongdoing. The legislation requires all the members of the Public Service Commission to meet the qualifications established for educational attainment or technical experience by eliminating an exception that allows the criteria to be waived through a supermajority vote of those screening PSC candidates. Continuing education requirements are expanded to require the commissioners and their employees to attend at least six hours of classes each year with a curriculum, approved by the Public Utilities Review Committee, which directly relates to the subject matter for which the commission is responsible. New restrictions and reporting requirements are imposed on reimbursements for such costs as travel, food, and lodging incurred in fulfilling continuing education requirements in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety and prevent payments that could influence the performance of official duties. The legislation eases restrictions on communications with members or staff of the Public Utilities Review Committee or any other legislative committee charged with review of the commission. The Public Utilities Review Committee is expanded from
ten to twelve members, four of whom must be appointed by the Governor from the general public at large. Provisions are included to disqualify someone from serving on the review committee who has made a political contribution to those making the appointments during the current election cycle or the previous two election cycles. In conducting its screenings, the Public Utilities Review Committee is required to report out all candidates found qualified for each seat on the Public Service Commission to be elected by the General Assembly. The Public Utilities Review Committee is charged with appointing the Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff. The legislation establishes qualifications for the executive director, sets a six-year term for the position, and provides that the executive director serves at the will of the committee and may be removed by a majority vote of the review committee. Provisions are included to prevent conflicts interests by prohibiting members of Public Utilities Review Committee from having financial ties with those regulated by the Public Service Commission.
The House returned S.540 to the Senate with amendments. This bill makes temporary provisions to allow for the submission of less than three qualified applicants to the Governor to serve as EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND WORKFORCE. The waiver on the requirement extends until the position is filled or July 1, 2019, whichever occurs first.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3602, a bill expanding THOSE WHO ARE AUTHORIZED TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR PATIENTS WHO CANNOT PROVIDE CONSENT. The legislation adds a category of individuals who can make healthcare decisions for patients who are unable to consent so that the statutory list includes someone who has established special care and concern for a patient and who is not a paid caregiver or other type of paid healthcare provider. This adult individual, such as a friend or neighbor, who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient and who is generally familiar with the patient’s health care views and desires, must sign a notarized acknowledgement form in order to become involved in the patient’s health care decisions and to act in the patient’s best interest. This acknowledgement form, setting forth the nature and length of their relationship and certifying they meet all criteria to be considered a healthcare decision maker for the patient, is placed in the patient’s records.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3789, a bill revising provisions for DRIVER’S LICENSES and identification cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. These revisions include adjustments to coordinate state procedures with federal Real ID provisions.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3383, a bill that revises provisions governing the STATE FOREST LAND REVENUES that the Forestry Commission shares with counties, so as to exclude the proceeds from land rentals and Wildlife Management Area payments from the proceeds that are shared with the counties. Under the legislation, the Forestry Commission would retain these proceeds, but would continue to share with counties the major source of revenue generated by timber sales.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3046, a bill establishing CRIMINAL OFFENSES OF FURTHERING TERRORISM. The legislation establishes the felony offense of furthering terrorism that applies to someone who makes significant plans or takes actions toward the commission of an act of violence with the intent to commit an act of terrorism. A violator is subject to imprisonment for up to thirty years. The legislation also establishes a felony offense that applies to someone who provides material or financial support of an act of terrorism or who conceals the actions or plans of another to carry out an act of terrorism. A violator is subject to imprisonment for up to twenty years. The legislation authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of real and personal property used in connection with these offenses. The legislation revises the statutory definition of “terrorism” to make clear that it encompasses instances of domestic terror by specifically including criminal acts dangerous to human life that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce groups within the civilian population based on the group’s race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, or sexual orientation.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3145, a bill addressing ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OVERSIGHT AND TRANSPARENCY. The legislation vests the Office of Regulatory Staff with authority and jurisdiction to make inspections, audits and examinations of electric cooperatives. The legislation provides that no distribution electric cooperative shall, as to rates or services, make or grant any unreasonable preference or advantage to any person, corporation, municipality or consolidated political subdivision to its unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage. No distribution electric cooperative shall establish or maintain any unreasonable difference as to rates or service as between localities or as between classes of service. The legislation revises provisions relating to annual meetings of members of an electric cooperative, so as to revise the notice requirements for certain meetings. The legislation revises provisions relating to a quorum at meetings of electric cooperatives, so as to allow persons casting early voting ballots for the election of trustees to be counted for purposes of determining a quorum at the meeting for the election, and to prohibit voting by proxy. For meetings that include the election of cooperative trustees, polling locations must be open for a minimum of four hours. Requirements are included for making early voting accommodations when trustee races are contested. Unless otherwise provided in the bylaws, each trustee’s principal residence, as determined by South Carolina voter registration law, must be served by the cooperative. A vacancy in the office of trustee occurring for any reason other than expiration of a term may be filled only for the remainder of the unexpired term by a vote of the membership at the next annual meeting. The legislation requires annual public disclosure of compensation and benefits paid to or provided for members of the board of trustees. The legislation includes notice requirements for all non‑emergency meetings of the board of trustees or the membership of the cooperative. The legislation makes transparency provisions for meetings that include
requirements for certain votes of trustees to be taken in open session, requirements for votes taken in executive session to be ratified in open session, require for providing minutes of all meetings to cooperative members. Provisions are included to prohibit certain conflicts of interest and the misuse of a position on a board of trustees for financial gain or to secure certain other advantages. The legislation establishes provisions governing the conduct of elections by a cooperative, that prohibit advocacy or campaigning within a certain distance of the polling place. Incumbent trustees seeking reelection shall not directly or indirectly influence the nomination or credentials process. The legislation includes financial disclosure requirements and ethics provisions for electric cooperative trade associations. The Office of Regulatory Staff is authorized to make inspections, audits, and examinations of these trade associations and the Public Service Commission is vested with the authority and jurisdiction to resolve any disputed issues arising from the inspections, audits or examinations.
If you have a comment or opinion concerning the matters discussed in this report, or if I may be of assistance to you at any time, please feel free to call your legislative office in Columbia (803-212-6875); my Richland Legislative Delegation Office (803-576-1908); or write P.O. Box 292434, Columbia, SC 29229. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the House of Representatives.