The State Capital Report – 4/9/2019

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate on H.4287, legislation establishing a protocol for EVALUATING PROPOSALS FOR THE SALE OF SANTEE COOPER OR OTHER ARRANGEMENTS in order to protect the individual and corporate ratepayers of Santee Cooper and the electric cooperatives of this state who receive electric power from this state-owned electric utility from rising electric power rates due to grossly excessive debt and costs incurred in the construction of the two abandoned nuclear reactors at Jenkinsville, South Carolina.  This joint resolution establishes a process for the Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee to receive and consider offers of purchase and other arrangements such as entering into a management agreement.  The committee is authorized to retain the services of legal and technical experts.  The legislation provides that any offer of purchase or alternate proposal must be submitted to the General Assembly for approval and specifies the manner in which proposals are to be transmitted to and approved or disapproved by the General Assembly.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4261, a bill providing REFORM FOR SOUTH CAROLINA’S PUBLIC SERVICE AUTHORITY which governs the operations of the state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper.  Terms of service are ended for the current PSA Board of Directors and a schedule is established for the appointment of their successors.  All new board members must meet a set of qualifications to ensure that they possess certain levels of educational attainment and a background that affords expertise in: energy issues; water and wastewater issues; finance, economics, and statistics; accounting; engineering; or law.  The legislation revises appointment procedures to provide for the directors representing each of the state’s congressional districts to be elected by the General Assembly.  Members of the General Assembly and their immediate family may not be appointed to the Public Service Authority while serving as legislators and for four years after their service.  Provisions are included to avoid conflicts of interests by prohibiting members of the board of directors from having certain financial ties with the Public Service Authority.  Transparency provisions are included that require live-streaming of PSA board and committee meetings and online public access to archived recordings of these meetings along with agendas and any documents presented during the open portion of meetings.  The legislation requires that all major utility facilities proposed by the Public Service Authority must be submitted to the Public Service Commission for approval.  A new procedure is established that the Public Service Authority must follow prior to revising any of its board‑approved retail rate schedules for residential, lighting, commercial, or industrial customers in a manner that results in a rate increase.  This retail rates process includes requirements for providing notice to customers, holding public meetings, and receiving commentary from customers impacted by proposed rate increases.  The legislation creates a ten-member South Carolina Public Service Authority Review and Oversight Commission composed of key legislative leaders, or their designees.   The commission’s oversight duties include conducting a biennial review of to assess whether the PSA is improving the quality of life for South Carolinians by providing low cost, reliable power in this state in an efficient, effective manner in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.  The commission is authorized to undertake other reviews, studies, or evaluations on such matters as: (1) transmission and distribution reliability; (2) generation sources and availability; (3) customer surveys; (4) economic development; (5) lake management; (6) financial reports including operating budgets, outstanding debt, existing and proposed debt issuances, debt defeasance, debt/equity ratios, and bond ratings; (7) executive organizational structure and compensation, to include retirement compensation; and, (8) status of planned and ongoing capital projects.  The South Carolina Public Service Authority board of directors and president/CEO have a duty to disclose material operational issues that impact customer rates to the commission.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3438, a bill making provisions for the DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS within the executive branch of government, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  In place of the current arrangement where veterans’ affairs are housed as a division of the Department of Administration cabinet agency, the legislation establishes a separate Department of Veterans Affairs within the executive branch that is headed by a Secretary appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The Secretary must be a veteran.   The legislation provides new duties for the Secretary that include coordinating with state and federal agencies to obtain additional resources and support for veterans living in South Carolina in the areas of medical care, mental health and rehabilitative services, housing, homelessness prevention, job creation, and education, and addressing all issues of mutual concern to the state and the armed forces of the Unites States, including quality of life issues unique to South Carolina’s military personnel and their families, quality of educational opportunities for military children, transportation needs, substance abuse, and social service needs.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is required to submit an annual report to the Governor detailing its work on behalf of the state’s veterans.  The department is authorized to apply for and accept funds, grants, gifts, and services from this state, the United States Government or any of its agencies, or any other public or private source, and may use funds derived

from these sources to defray clerical and administrative costs, as may be necessary for carrying out the department’s duties.  The Department of Administration may provide administrative support to the Department of Veterans Affairs in such areas as financial accounting, human resources, information technology, procurement, and logistics.  The SOUTH CAROLINA MILITARY BASE TASK FORCE is established for the purpose of enhancing the value of military installations and facilities and the quality of life for military personnel located in this state and coordinating efforts among the public and the private sectors to maintain a significant United States Department of Defense presence in South Carolina.  The task force is charged with advising the Governor and the General Assembly on any issues and strategies related to military base closures, realignments, and mission changes.  The legislation provides for the composition of the task force and establishes its duties including the coordination of an annual meeting between the Governor, military commanders, and General Assembly members geographically representing military communities to discuss items of interest to all parties and exchange pertinent information on the current climate and challenges facing our state’s military installations and their personnel.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3180, the “SOUTH CAROLINA SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification.  The legislation aligns South Carolina with federal law that provides for contracts for telecommunication services, Internet services, cable, direct satellite, and other television services, satellite radio services, and athletic club or gym memberships to be cancelled, without early termination charges, when those in military service are deployed or reassigned.  The legislation sets out duties for notifying service providers and establishes civil penalties for violations.  The Adjutant General is directed to post on the South Carolina National Guard website a list of the rights a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependent has under the South Carolina Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The House approved S.214, a bill addressing SALES AND USE TAX LIABILITY in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding state tax collections on Internet retail sales, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  The legislation reaffirms state tax policy regarding market facilitators and other matters and makes explicit provisions that Internet marketplaces where a person sells tangible personal property at retail by listing or advertising, or allowing the listing or advertising of, another person’s products on an online marketplace and collects or processes the payment from the customer are retailers required to remit the sales and use tax on such retail sales under the provisions of South Carolina sales and use tax law.

The House approved and sent the Senate to H.3807, the “TEEN SKIN CANCER PREVENTION ACT”.  The legislation provides that an individual must be at least eighteen years old in order to use tanning beds and other equipment that induces tanning through ultraviolet radiation in a tanning facility.  Tanning facilities are subject to requirements for posting signs to provide notification of this minimum age for using tanning equipment.  A tanning facility that allows a minor to use tanning equipment in violation of these provisions is subject to a five hundred dollar civil penalty assessed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.  DHEC may deny, suspend, or revoke a tanning facility’s registration for repeated violations.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4262, a bill that enacts the “SOUTH CAROLINA SMALL WIRELESS FACILITIES DEPLOYMENT ACT” to establish certain uniform procedures and standards for small wireless facilities, including small cells and distributed antenna systems, on utility poles in rights of way to encourage the development of strong and robust wireless and broadband communications networks throughout the state.  The legislation prohibits local government authorities from imposing regulations and restrictions on small wireless facilities that are more burdensome than provisions applied to other types of infrastructure deployments in the rights of way or charging these wireless providers discriminatory rates or fees for the use of rights of way.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3780, a bill creating the “GROWING RURAL ECONOMIES WITH ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY (GREAT) PROGRAM” to facilitate the deployment of broadband data transmission service to unserved areas of the state.  The legislation establishes the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology Fund as a special revenue fund in the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority that is to be used for awarding state grants, in conjunction with federal funds, that are to be used to pay for the infrastructure costs associated with deploying high speed, high capacity, broadband Internet access to homes, businesses, and community anchor points in an unserved area of an economically‑distressed county.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3778, a bill addressing PORT CARGO VOLUME INCREASE TAX CREDITS AND PORT TRANSPORTATION CREDITS.  The legislation increases the maximum annual amount of tax credits for port cargo volume increases available to all qualifying taxpayers from eight million to fifteen million dollars.  The legislation establishes a schedule for phasing in a port transportation credit for the costs of transporting freight, goods, and materials to and from port facilities in South Carolina as a means of establishing a customer base for a new Jasper Port facility.  The port transportation credit expires effective at the end of the calendar year in which a port in Jasper County is opened and is accepting shipments.  The legislation provides that a port facility is a distribution facility for purposes of certain sales tax exemptions.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4127.  This bill revises eligibility criteria for the DEPARTMENT ON AGING’S PHYSICIAN STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM as a means of enhancing the South Carolina’s ability to recruit and retain needed geriatricians.  A sunset date is established for the loan repayment provisions so that these incentives expire at the end of 2024.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3936, a bill revising eligibility requirements of the merit-based Palmetto Fellows Scholarship by ALLOWING A PALMETTO FELLOWS SCHOLARSHIP TO BE USED AT TWO-YEAR INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING AND TECHNICAL SCHOOLS in addition to four-year colleges and universities.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4133.  This bill revises provisions relating to COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TAX CREDITS, so as to: allow a tax credit of fifty percent of any cash donation to a community development corporation or community development financial institutions; eliminate an aggregate credit provision and set an annual limit; establish tax credit reserve accounts for the first three quarters of each tax year so as to avoid the depletion of credits by an individual taxpayer; eliminate the pro‑rata distribution of tax credits; allow financial institutions with tax liabilities in this state to invest in community development corporations for the purpose of receiving a tax credit; and, provide that returns on investments in certified community development corporations and certified community development financial institutions may not exceed the total amount of the initial investment.  The legislation extends the provisions of the South Carolina Community Economic Development Act until June 30, 2023.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3620, legislation addressing RETIREES RETURNING TO COVERED EMPLOYMENT UNDER STATE PENSIONS.  This bill revises provisions governing retirement benefits after returning to covered employment under the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System, respectively, so as to establish a protocol that allows retirees to return to covered employment without being subject to the ten thousand dollar earnings limitation.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3307, a bill making provisions for a searchable online DATABASE ON PROPERTY SEIZED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AND FORFEITED.  The legislation charges the Prosecution Coordination Commission with establishing and maintaining a case tracking system and searchable public website that provides information about property seized by a law enforcement agency and forfeited under state law or under any agreement with the federal government.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3951, a bill revising QUALIFICATIONS FOR SHERIFFS and candidates for the office of sheriff.   The legislation provides that law enforcement experience requirements are satisfied exclusively through South Carolina Class I Certification.  Incumbent sheriffs are exempt from these Class I Certification provisions.  The legislation allows someone to be eligible to serve as sheriff who has obtained a law degree and, within six months of being elected, obtains certification as a Class I certified law enforcement officer.   The legislation disqualifies someone from holding the office who has been convicted of, pled guilty to, or been pardoned for a felony or a crime of moral turpitude in this state or another state.  In order to be eligible to serve as a sheriff, an individual must be a legal resident of the state for at least one year immediately preceding the date of the election for sheriff and a legal resident of the county in which he seeks the office of sheriff at the time he files for office.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3079, a bill establishing an ADDITIONAL METHOD OF POSTING NOTICE OF TRESPASSING on a property.  As an alternative to the posting of ‘No Trespassing’ signs, the legislation establishes a procedure that allows trespassing notice to be posted on tracts of land by marking immovable, permanent objects along the boundary lines with purple paint.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4245, a bill addressing the labeling of vat grown CELL‑CULTURED MEAT for sale.  The legislation prohibits someone who advertises, offers for sale, or sells all or part of a carcass from engaging in any misleading or deceptive practices, labeling, or misrepresenting a product as ‘meat’ or ‘clean meat’ that is cell‑cultured meat/protein, or is not derived from harvested production livestock, poultry, fish, or crustaceans.  These provisions do not apply to plant-based meat substitutes.  A violation is a misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4244, a bill making revisions related to VEHICLE SERVICE CONTRACTS and theft protection program warranties that include requirements for disclosures to consumers and provisions for how service contract providers establish their financial security to pay claims.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4246, a bill addressing REAL ESTATE COMMISSION CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS.  The legislation revises requirements for criminal background checks by the Real Estate Commission, so as to change the effective date to allow for better coordination with license renewal schedules.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3785, a bill making revisions that relate to the operation of the BOARD OF ACCOUNTANCY including provisions detailing when it is appropriate for meetings of the board to be closed.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3800, a bill that waives the certification of completion requirement for a hunting license if a person purchases an APPRENTICE HUNTING LICENSE.  The legislation is offered as a means of extending the opportunity for a person to try out hunting prior to purchasing a hunting license.  The legislation also provides that a nonresident who meets the qualifications as an apprentice hunter must purchase a three-day temporary statewide apprentice hunting license for fifty dollars.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4239, a bill making provisions for TRAWLING IN AREAS ALONG THE COAST OF HORRY COUNTY.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4009, a bill dealing with statutory changes for the DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (DNR).  This bill repeals outdated sections, amends incorrect sections, updates sections to current procedure and nomenclature.  It deletes items pertaining to an expired directive or an ended study.  It further gets rid of duplicative statutes.  As a result, the changes include the ability for DNR to send license suspension information through the mail without a return receipt.  As a result, this update leads to a cost savings of nearly $7K.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4011, legislation that makes necessary changes and enhances the “WATER RESOURCE AND PLANNING COORDINATION ACT”.  Among many things, the bill adds a “State Water Plan” as an example of a comprehensive water resource policy in which DNR provides assistance to the Governor and General Assembly in formulating.  The bill allows DNR to accept and spend federal money for water resource investigation.  Requires to DNR to assist with coordination of water resource activities, programs, and plans at both local and “regional” level.  The bill also expands DNR’s consideration of adequate supplies of surface and groundwater from specific uses to “all” uses.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House gave second reading approval to H.4012, legislation that cleans up and updates the LAND, RESOURCES, AND CONSERVATION DISTRICTS DIVISION.  Among many things, the bill updates the division’s name to Land, Water and Conversation Division and it reformats the State Land Resources Conservation Commission into the Land, Water and Conservation Division Advisory Committee.  The bill also removes unnecessary statutory requirements that relates to financial needs for soil and water conservation districts which is now accomplished through the budgeting process.  It removes references to discontinued practices as it relates to County Agricultural Agents.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4013, a bill that changes certain requirements for the STATE GEOLOGICAL SURVEY UNIT under the Department of Natural Resources.  The bill requires that the state geologist become familiar with geologic hazards throughout the state.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate to H.4014, a bill that designates the Department of Health and Environmental Control as the designated agent in selecting land as it related to the LEASE OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS TO GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES UNDERLYING SURFACE LANDS OWNED BY STATE.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4015, a bill repealing Chapter 11, of Title 13, the NEW HORIZONS DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY as a result of the inactivity over the years.  The legislation implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4260, the “SOUTH CAROLINA RATEPAYER PROTECTION ACT OF 2019”.

The House committed H.3917, the “SOUTH CAROLINA ELECTRONIC NOTARY PUBLIC ACT”, to the Ways and Means Committee.

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. KHG/jhm