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The State Capitol Report – 2/15/19

The House of Representatives gave second reading approval to H.3274, a bill providing for the PREEMPTION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF VAPING, E-CIGARETTES, CIGARETTES, AND OTHER TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS.  The legislation provides that political subdivisions of this state may not enact any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products.  Local government laws, ordinances, or rules enacted prior to January 1, 2019, are exempt from the preemption imposed by this legislation.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3630, a joint resolution that provides a three-month EXTENSION IN REAL PROPERTY TAX PENALTIES FOR WORKERS LEFT UNPAID DURING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  For property taxes due on January 15, 2019, this legislation provides a three-month delay in the penalty schedule for unpaid property taxes and assessments that applies to real property owners who are federal government employees who did not receive their salaries on the normal schedule during the shutdown that began on December 22, 2018.  This delayed penalty schedule also applies to federal government contractors who were denied at least half of their income during the shutdown.

The House approved S.168 and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  This joint resolution charges the State Department of Education with developing recommendations for REDUCING AND STREAMLINING THE AMOUNT OF PAPERWORK AND REPORTING REQUIRED OF TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS.  The department is to report its recommendations to the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee by August 1, 2019.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3398, a bill permanently authorizing the “TUCKER HIPPS TRANSPARENCY ACT” by repealing the three-year sunset provision that calls for the legislation to expire on June 29, 2019.  Named in memory of the Clemson University student who died during a fraternity activity in September of 2014, the legislation was enacted in 2016 to require the state’s public institutions of higher education, excluding technical colleges, to maintain reports detailing student misconduct investigations related to fraternity and sorority organizations formally affiliated with the institution that include violations of a Student Code of Conduct for offenses involving alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, physical assault, and hazing.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3929, a joint resolution making provisions for TEMPORARY ENHANCED AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE MISSED SCHOOLS DAYS in light of the flooding experienced by areas of the state in recent months.  The legislation provides that, during the 2018‑2019 School Year, the State Board of Education may waive the requirements of making up days beyond the three days forgiven by the local school district for any days missed during the 2018‑2019 School Year because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions requiring schools to close. Such a waiver only may be considered and granted upon the request of the local board of trustees through a majority vote of that local school board.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3639, a bill relating to the IN-STATE TUITION AND FEES at the state’s public colleges and universities.  The legislation revises state law to bring it into compliance with recently-changed federal law which now requires that certain veterans with service-connected disabilities be eligible for in-state tuition and fees at public institutions of higher education, regardless of the length of time the individual has resided in this state.  Compliance is needed so that G.I. Bill benefits and similar provisions may continue to be used at South Carolina’s institutions of higher learning.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3845.  This joint resolution authorizes the transfer of certain Education Improvement Act carry-forward funds to the South Carolina Public Charter School District to provide FUNDS FOR THREE‑ AND FOUR‑YEAR‑OLD CHILDREN WITH A DISABILITY who are eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3131, a bill allowing an anonymous MEDICAL HISTORY OF AN ADOPTED CHILD’S BIOLOGICAL PARENTS to be submitted, maintained, and disclosed.  The legislation establishes a procedure that allows someone

who is placing a child up for adoption to provide a medical history of the adoptee’s biological parents in a form that does not disclose personally identifiable information.  Should the biological parents choose to provide this material, the medical history is included in the information that the Department of Social Services discloses to prospective adoptive parents.  The medical history must also be deposited with the family court that enters a final decree of adoption and may be disclosed to the adoptee upon reaching the age of majority or before such time, should the court determine that it is in the best interest of the child.

The House gave second reading approval to H.3417, a bill TRANSFERRING THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT UNIT from the Department of Public Safety to the State Law Enforcement Division.  The legislation implements a recommendation of the House Legislative Oversight Committee from the committee’s study of the Department of Public Safety.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3031, a bill revising VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINES and related provisions to bring greater consistency to the statutory timelines, regardless of the method used to register, and to reduce confusion surrounding when one must register in order to vote in an upcoming election.  The legislation implements recommendations of the House Legislative Oversight Committee from the committee’s study of the State Election Commission.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3072, a bill clarifying that those who previously participated in an alcohol education program are not prevented from subsequent PARTICIPATION IN A PRETRIAL INTERVENTION PROGRAM.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3388, a bill designating March as “MOVE OVER AWARENESS MONTH” in South Carolina.  The Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety are charged with conducting programs during the month of March every year that emphasize the importance of motor vehicle drivers moving over into an adjacent lane whenever possible when approaching or passing through a highway work zone, an emergency scene, or any other traffic incident.  Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation must allow a driver of a wrecker or towing service vehicle to take traffic incident management training free of charge.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3310, legislation establishing a procedure for an insurance company to obtain a SALVAGE CERTIFICATE OF TITLE for a damaged vehicle when a claimant does not provide documentation.  The legislation provides that, if an insurance company or its agent is unable to obtain the certificate of title from the claimant within thirty days after acceptance by the claimant of an offer in settlement of total loss, the insurance company or its agent, on a form provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles, may submit an application to the department for a salvage certificate of title.  The application shall include evidence that the insurance company or its agent has fulfilled its settlement with and made two or more written attempts to obtain the certificate of title from the claimant.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3359, a bill allowing those who served in the National Guard to receive the VETERAN DESIGNATION ON DRIVER’S LICENSES and identification cards by providing the Department of Motor Vehicles with a National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service, also known as an NGB Form 22, that documents qualifying service.  The legislation further specifies what documents may be used to obtain the veteran designation.   

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3312, a bill that provides for various statutory updates and revisions relating to DRIVER’S LICENSES AND PLATES recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee as a result of its study of the Comptroller General’s Office.  The legislation modernizes numerous code provisions by removing references to the Comptroller General in statutory accounting responsibilities that have been handled internally by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3051, a bill allowing certain RECREATIONAL TOWING ARRANGEMENTS on the public roads for a pick‑up truck with a fifth wheel assembly.  The legislation provides that, for recreational purposes only, a pick‑up truck with a fifth wheel assembly may not tow more than one separate trailing vehicle.  The combination of vehicles subject to this provision may not exceed a length of seventy‑five feet overall dimension, inclusive of front and rear bumpers and load carried on it.  However, the final trailing vehicle with its load must weigh no more than 3,000 pounds.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3127, a joint resolution establishing a temporary MOLD ABATEMENT AND REMEDIATION STUDY COMMITTEE to examine the health effects of mold in South Carolina’s public buildings, with a focus on children in public schools, and to ascertain the best methods for mold abatement and the prevention of future growth.  The study committee, comprised of three Senators appointed by the President of the Senate and three House Members appointed by the Speaker of the House, is charged with making a report to the General Assembly by December 31, 2019, at which time the study committee shall dissolve.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3700, a bill revising beachfront management restrictions placed on erosion control structures or devices seaward of the setback line to allow for the placement of shoreline perpendicular WINGWALLS that extend landward at a 90 degree angle from the ends of existing erosion control structures or devices that are consistent in height with the existing erosion

control structures to which they are attached, subject to any special conditions imposed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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

The State Capitol Report – 2/1/2019

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3137, a bill making REVISIONS TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND.  The legislation discontinues the retrospective approach for funding political subdivisions that is tied to the previous year’s revenues and, beginning with Fiscal Year 2019‑2020, implements prospective budgeting that draws upon state revenue forecasts.  The funding requirement for the Local Government Fund, set at 4.5% of the previous year’s state general fund revenues, is replaced with new funding requirements structured to deliver a revenue stream to counties and municipalities that is adjusted according to whether the state is projected to experience revenue growth.  Under the revisions, when state general fund revenue is projected to increase, Local Government Fund appropriations must be increased by the same percentage as the growth estimate, up to a cap of 5%.  When the state experiences revenue shortfalls, the Local Government Fund must share in the necessary mid-year budget cuts ordered for agencies and other state government functions to avoid a deficit.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3136, a bill EXPANDING THE EXCEPTIONAL SC PROGRAM which allows income tax credits for donations to a fund that is used to grant scholarships to independent schools for exceptional needs children with disabilities or acute or chronic conditions that significantly impede the ability to learn and succeed in school without specialized instruction, support, and services tailored to the child’s unique needs.  The cumulative maximum annual amount of the tax credit is increased from $12 million to $20 million for contributions to the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children’s Fund and provisions are included to guarantee scholarships for exceptional needs children of South Carolina’s military families.  The cumulative maximum for the annual credit is increased by an amount necessary to award a scholarship to any desirous exceptional needs child of a member of the armed forces of the United States who is either on active duty or who was killed in the line of duty.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3135, the “WORKFORCE ENHANCEMENT AND MILITARY RECOGNITION ACT”.  The legislation removes the maximum amounts that currently determine what portion of an individual’s military retirement benefits may be deducted each year in South Carolina income taxes, allowing for the deduction of all military retirement income for those who are at least sixty-five years old beginning in 2021. 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3576, a bill creating the SOUTH CAROLINA WORKFORCE INDUSTRY NEEDS SCHOLARSHIP (SC WINS) to cover the full cost of a technical college education that equips a student for a career in sector experiencing a high demand for qualified employees.  The legislation makes provisions allowing a student who is attending a two‑year public technical college and is majoring in an identified critical workforce area program and who is receiving a Lottery Tuition Assistance Program Scholarship (LTAP) for the current school year, to receive an additional South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SC WINS).  The SC WINS scholarship is equal to the cost of attendance, after applying all other scholarships or grants, not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars each school year for no more than three school years of instruction, including the student’s freshman year.  A three‑hundred‑dollar yearly book allowance is included for a SC WINS recipient.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3369, a bill REPEALING THE PREGNANCY EXCEPTION THAT ALLOWS THE ISSUANCE OF MARRIAGE LICENSES TO MINORS.  The legislation eliminates a provision that allows the issuance of marriage licenses to those who are under eighteen years of age when the female is pregnant or has borne a child.  While the legislation eliminates this provision, which has allowed some young minors who were several years from attaining the age of eighteen to marry the putative fathers of their children, South Carolina law continues to allow comparatively older minors, aged sixteen and seventeen, to obtain marriage licenses with parental consent.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3472, a bill AUTHORIZING ATTORNEYS GENERAL TO CARRY CONCEALABLE WEAPONS THROUGHOUT SOUTH CAROLINA.  The legislation adds the Attorney General and assistant attorneys general to the list of officials who are authorized to carry a concealable weapon anywhere within this state, when carrying out the duties of their office.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3411, a bill authorizing the Department of Revenue to implement INTERNET FILING AND INDEXING OF TAX LIENS for public inspection online.  Replacing the existing system of filing tax liens with county clerks of court, the legislation allows the Department of Revenue to implement a centralized system of filing and indexing liens which is accessible to the public over the Internet or through other means.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3446, a bill providing AUTHORIZATION FOR HOUSE AND SENATE ETHICS COMMITTEES TO ISSUE SUBPOENAS and subpoenas duces tecum to financial institutions and state and local government in order to further their investigations of campaign accounts.

HOUSE RULES CHANGES were approved through the adoption of three resolutions.

House Resolution H.3741 was adopted to establish a new protocol for the distribution of gifts to members of the House of Representatives.  Under the revised rules, gifts intended for members of the House of Representatives, whether individually or collectively as a body, may not be delivered to the House chamber in the Capitol for distribution or placement on members’ desks.  A gift may be delivered to the members’ offices so long as the value of the gift is below the twenty-five dollar limit that is set in reporting requirements of the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act.  The giver is presumed to be under penalty of perjury that gifts do not exceed the value thresholds of the Ethics Act that would require them to be reported on a member’s Statement of Economic Interests.  Those who wish to provide a gift that is valuable enough to require inclusion on a Statement of Economic Interests must announce the intended gift through correspondence delivered to the offices of the members of the House and must submit a statement of value to the House Ethics Committee.  House members have the opportunity to opt in to the receipt of these gifts, to be delivered to their offices, by notifying the giver in writing within seven days of receiving the correspondence.

House Resolution H.3742 was adopted to establish a procedure that allows House members to remove their names from House Resolutions or Concurrent Resolutions after the entire roll of the House has been added to the resolution by unanimous consent.  This new procedure allows House members to remove their names from these resolutions by submitting a form to the Clerk of the House by noon on the following legislative day.  After this deadline has passed, House members who were not present when the roll of the House was added by unanimous consent to a House or Concurrent Resolution are permitted to add a brief written statement in the House Journal indicating that, had they been present in the chamber, they would not have voted in favor of the resolution.

House Resolution H.3744 was adopted to clarify that the Speaker of the House, as the body’s Chief Administrative Officer, is authorized to initiate or otherwise participate in litigation on behalf of the House of Representatives even when the General Assembly is not in session.

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

The State Capitol Report – 1/25/2019

On Tuesday, January 8, 2019, lawmakers gathered in Columbia to commence the 123rd South Carolina General Assembly.  On Wednesday, the General Assembly took part in ceremonies for the inauguration of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the state’s other constitutional officers.  During the week, committees began their work on legislation to report out for consideration by the full House.

The House of Representatives approved S.2, relating to the PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE in the South Carolina General Assembly, and enrolled the bill for ratification.  The legislation brings state statutes into conformity with the amendments to the South Carolina Constitution approved by voters and ratified in Act 214 of 2014 to allow for the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  These changes, which allow a gubernatorial candidate to select a running mate, have also eliminated the legislative duties of the Lieutenant Governor.  With the Lieutenant Governor no longer serving as the presiding officer of the Senate, the Senate elects a President from its membership.  This legislation amends numerous statutes to reflect the revised roles of these officers.  

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3630, a joint resolution that provides a three-month EXTENSION IN REAL PROPERTY TAX PENALTIES FOR WORKERS LEFT UNPAID DURING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN.  For property taxes due on January 15, 2019, this legislation provides a three-month delay in the penalty schedule for unpaid property taxes and assessments that applies to real property owners who are federal government employees who have not been paid their salaries since the shutdown began on December 21, 2018.  The extension also applies to federal government contractors who have lost a substantial portion of their income because of the shutdown.

The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.3697, a joint resolution authorizing ALTERNATE PROGRAM COMPLETION OPTIONS FOR STUDENTS IMPACTED BY THE CLOSURE OF SIX EDUCATION CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC., HIGHER EDUCATION PROVIDERS in South Carolina in 2018.  This legislation responds to the December 2018 announcement from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) that it was withdrawing accreditation from the Education Corporation of America, Inc. (ECA).  The loss of accreditation prompted closures of ECA private higher education providers across the nation, including six ECA locations in South Carolina.  The closure of the Virginia College campuses located in Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, and Spartanburg, and the closure of the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach left approximately one thousand South Carolina students without an opportunity to complete their academic programs.  This legislation provides that, notwithstanding the state regulation that requires a student to earn at least twenty‑five percent of a higher education institution’s program curriculum requirements through instruction by the institution awarding the degree, the Commissioner on Higher Education is provided temporary authority to grant institutions of higher learning in this state the flexibility to use teach‑out options as needed in rare circumstances to facilitate program completion by these former Education Corporation of America, Inc., students of South Carolina who were close to completing their academic programs when the ECA campuses closed in 2018.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3662, a bill officially ADOPTING REVISED CODE VOLUMES 3 AND 4 OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA CODE OF LAWS.

The House adopted and sent the Senate H.3012, a concurrent resolution to express the belief of the General Assembly that South Carolina’s schools and school districts should utilize the EDUCATION RATE PROGRAM OF THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (E‑RATE) established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which provides discounts on Internet access and telecommunications services for schools and school districts with higher poverty levels in their student population that would be of great benefit to these students.

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