Latest Posts

The State Capitol Report – 3/15/2019 Featured

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4000, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.4001, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the FISCAL YEAR 2019-2020 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET.  The $29.95 billion total budget includes $497 million in recurring state general fund revenue estimated for Fiscal Year 2019-2020, $159 million in nonrecurring surplus funds estimated for Fiscal Year 2018-2019, $177 million in the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 Contingency Reserve Fund, and $152 million in Capital Reserve Funds. 

The budget provides for $96 million in nonrecurring funds to be returned to the state’s taxpayers as rebates.  The Rebate Fund includes the $61 million in taxes collected on the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket sold in South Carolina last year.  The total allows for a $50 one-time rebate for each South Carolina income tax payer.

$614 million in recurring funds is transferred into the Tax Relief Trust Fund that provides for the residential property tax caps.

$41.4 million in recurring funds is used to provide a 2% state employee pay increase.  Employees of institutions of higher education and technical colleges that earn a base salary of at least $100,000 are not eligible to receive the increase in compensation.

$49.7 million in recurring funds is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health and dental insurance plans so that employees will have no additional monthly premium costs.

A total of $32 million from the General Fund and $4 million in Education Improvement Act funds is devoted to the 1% increase in the employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System that is in keeping with the schedule for addressing the unfunded liability facing the state’s pensions established in Act 13 of 2017.

$2.8 billion in recurring funds is utilized to set State Aid to Classrooms at $3,846 per pupil.  Several funding lines are consolidated to form State Aid to Classrooms as a replacement for the Base Student Cost.

$159 million in recurring funds is devoted to raising the minimum teacher salary from $32,000 to $35,000 and providing across-the-board teacher pay increases of at least 4%.  To further recruitment and retention efforts, those who have been teaching for no more than four years are to receive raises ranging from 6% to 10%.  The budget’s teacher pay increase, the largest since 1984, places South Carolina above the Southeastern average teacher salary of $52,830.

Provisions are made for a Rural Teacher Recruitment pilot program at the University of South Carolina’s College of Education for the development of innovative and cost-effective teacher recruitment strategies, customized training for new teachers, and dedicated, ongoing mentoring support.

A Rural School District and Economic Development Closing Fund is established within the Department of Commerce to facilitate economic development and infrastructure improvements for projects that create a minimum of fifty jobs located within the twenty-eight school districts with the lowest Index of Taxpaying Ability (ITA) in the State of South Carolina. 

Provisions are made for the transfer of excess debt service funds in the amounts of $85 million to the Department of Commerce for the Rural School District and Economic Development Closing Fund and $50 million to the Department of Education for school district capital improvements.

$20 million in lottery funds is included for instructional materials.

$10 million in Education Improvement Act funds is allocated for school resource officers.  School districts with the lowest taxpaying ability are to receive priority consideration in the distribution of these funds.  The budget also includes provisions that waive South Carolina Police Officers Retirement System earnings limitations for retirees who return to work as school resource officers.

$14.8 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included to address S.C. Public Charter School District growth.

$19 million in lottery funds is provided for school buses.

From the funds appropriated to the Department of Education to fulfill black history instruction requirements, the instruction in grades 3 through 12 must include a cultural sensitivity component educating students about how they should interact with and be respectful of the beliefs and practices of people of a different race or creed.

Full funding is provided for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs through Education Lottery funds.

The budget includes a higher education tuition mitigation initiative in which a total of $44 million in additional recurring funds is distributed among the state’s institutions of higher learning.  In order to retain these appropriations, the institutions must comply with provisions for freezing in-state tuition and mandatory fees during the 2019-2020 academic year.  

The bulk of the Capital Reserve Fund is devoted to capital needs at the state’s colleges and universities, with a total of $100 million in these nonrecurring funds allocated among the institutions for repairs, renovations, and maintenance of various facilities. 

The University of South Carolina is directed to use a portion of the funds appropriated to or authorized for the university to recruit undergraduate African American students, to recruit African American students at the Medical School, and to recruit African American students at the School of Law.

The Commission on Higher Education is afforded $20 million in lottery funds for need-based grants, $10 million in lottery funds for tuition grants, $2.6 million in lottery funds for National Guard Tuition Repayment, and $6 million in in unclaimed prize money for the Higher Education Excellence Enhancement Program. 

$8 million in lottery funds is dedicated to technology for the state’s four-year and two-year colleges and universities and technical colleges.

The Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education is afforded $17 million in lottery funds and $11 million in in unclaimed prize money for SC Workforce Industry Needs scholarships that help provide full tuition at technical colleges for SC WINS recipients seeking degrees in industry sectors with critical workforce needs.

$26.8 million is allocated to the Ready SC Program which provides worker training at the state’s technical colleges that is customized to the needs of new and expanding business and industry.

$6 million in recurring funds is divided among the state’s technical colleges.

A study committee is established to develop a plan to determine the feasibility of transforming Denmark Technical College from a technical college to its original mission of an area trade school.

$3.7 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state.  The Department of Commerce is afforded $4 million in nonrecurring funds for the Locate SC Site Inventory, $1.5 million in recurring funds for innovation grants to accelerate growth in high tech applied research and emerging industries, $625 thousand in recurring funds and $750 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the Military Base Task Force, and $400 thousand for the state’s small and existing businesses.

$4 million is appropriated from the Capital Reserve Fund for Clemson University’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

$4 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for the Jasper Ocean Terminal Port Facility Infrastructure Fund.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism receives $1 million in nonrecurring funds for coastal tourism advertising, $8.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for deferred maintenance at state parks, $2.5 million in nonrecurring funds for parks revitalization, $1 million in recurring funds for its sports marketing grants program, $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for the Saluda River Greenway, and $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for the SC Aquarium.

$1.5 million in recurring funds is appropriated to the Rural Infrastructure Authority for Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund match to update rural water and sewer systems.

The Department of Agriculture is afforded $1 million in recurring funds for agribusiness infrastructure grants and $500 thousand for food inspection and consumer safety.

Clemson PSA receives $1 million in recurring funds for its statewide extension programs, $2 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for water research facility renovation, and $750 thousand in recurring funds for livestock poultry health and regulatory programs.

SC State PSA is afforded $300 thousand for 1890 Program match for community outreach programs.

The Department of Health and Human Services is afforded $49.5 million in recurring funds for Medicaid maintenance of effort to address program cost growth, $7.4 million in nonrecurring funds for the Medicaid Management Information System, and $2.8 million recurring and $2.8 million nonrecurring for medical contracts.

The budget provides for the continuation of Medicaid accountability and quality improvement programs of the Healthy Outcomes Initiative for meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients in settings outside the comparatively expensive emergency room through a Primary Care Safety Net utilizing such resources as Federally Qualified Health Centers and free clinics.

$5.5 million is appropriated to DHHS for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to allow more children to be eligible for CHIP coverage.  The new eligibility limits place South Carolina at the Southeastern average for this program that serves children whose parents’ income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, but low enough to make private health insurance largely unaffordable.

A family planning funds provision is included in furtherance of statutory provisions that have been enacted to prohibit state funds, directly or indirectly, from being utilized by Planned Parenthood for abortions, abortion services or procedures, or administrative functions related to abortions.  Having prevented Planned Parenthood from performing abortions with state funds, once the federal injunction is lifted, the Department of Health and Human Services may not direct any federal funds to Planned Parenthood.  An otherwise qualified organization may not be disqualified from receipt of these funds because of its affiliation with an organization that provides abortion services, provided that the affiliated organization that provides abortion services is independent of the qualified organization.  An independent affiliate that provides abortion services must be separately incorporated from any organization that receives these funds.  An organization that provides abortion services in compliance with the budget provision addressing the performance of medically necessary services under the Medicaid program is excepted from this restriction on state family planning funds and may receive state family planning funds.

The Medical University of South Carolina is afforded $2.2 million in recurring funds for the state’s telemedicine network and $1.5 million in recurring funds for statewide health improvements.

$15 million from the Capital Reserve Fund and $2 million in recurring funds is provided for the Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures.

$1 million in recurring funds is appropriated for the SC Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System at MUSC.

$2 million is appropriated from the Capital Reserve Fund for Clemson University’s health innovation extension programming.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives $1 million in recurring funds for its prescription drug monitoring program that is used by physicians and pharmacists to track the prescription and use of opioids.  DHEC is also afforded $500 thousand in recurring funds for communicable disease abatement, $202 thousand in recurring funds for mosquito borne disease abatement, $250 thousand in recurring funds for the orphan petroleum spills and releases contingency fund, $2 million in recurring funds for ocean outfalls, and $2 million in nonrecurring funds for Murrell’s Inlet channel clearing.

The Department of Mental Health is afforded $1.3 million in recurring funds for inpatient services contractual adjustments, $2.2 million in recurring funds for school mental health services, $1.6 million in recurring funds for information technology, $482 thousand in recurring funds for the sexually violent predator treatment program, and $37 million in nonrecurring funds for VA nursing homes certification state match.

The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $11.3 million in recurring funds to increase direct care staff starting salaries from $12 to $13 an hour.  $2 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for autism research at the Greenwood Genetic Center.

The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services is afforded $6 million in nonrecurring funds for infrastructure improvements in its substance abuse provider system.

The Department of Social Services is appropriated $29 million in nonrecurring funds for the development of the child support enforcement system, $3.9 million in recurring funds for child welfare information systems, and $800 thousand in nonrecurring funds for criminal domestic violence programs.

A Department of Social Services reform committee is established to examine how the mission and responsibilities of DSS might be better fulfilled.

The State Law Enforcement Divisions is afforded $814 thousand in recurring funds for officer rank change.

The Department of Public Safety is appropriated $711 thousand in recurring funds for master trooper and officer rank change, $1.8 million recurring and $500 thousand nonrecurring for vehicle replacement, and $600 thousand in recurring funds for local law enforcement grants.

The Department of Corrections receives $10 million in nonrecurring funds for detention services and prison safety equipment upgrades, $10 million in recurring funds for the Hepatitis C treatment program, and $2.3 million in recurring funds for electronic health records and support for mobile data collection.

The Department of Juvenile Justice is afforded $1 million in recurring funds for salary increases for juvenile corrections officers and community specialists, $1 million for electrical grid conversion, and $170 thousand in nonrecurring funds for child advocacy centers.

The Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole Services is provided $1.9 million in recurring funds to address declining revenue collection from the Omnibus Crime Bill and $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for information data technology connectivity services.

The Law Enforcement Training Council receives $2 million in recurring funds to increase the number of officers that can complete its basic training program each year by allowing four weeks of the training to be conducted in regional settings outside of the centralized Criminal Justice Academy.  $1.2 million recurring and $271 thousand nonrecurring is provided for a mobile training team that travels to provide officer training and recertification.

The Attorney General’s Office is appropriated $1.5 million in recurring funds for stability funding and $522 thousand in recurring funds for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

$11 million in recurring funds is provided for judicial salary increases.

$4 million in recurring funds is provided for Judges and Solicitors Retirement System pension stabilization.

The Judicial Department is afforded $11.2 million in recurring funds for safety enhancements and $13 million in nonrecurring funds for case management modernization. 

$40 million in nonrecurring funds is provided to the Department of Administration for a new statewide voting system with the goal of having the new voting machines in place for the 2020 election cycle.

The State Election Commission receives $2.2 million in nonrecurring funds for the 2020 Presidential Primary.

$37 million is used to provide full funding for the constitutional reserve accounts that the state uses to cope with revenue shortfalls.

$254 million in recurring funds is provided for the Local Government Fund.  This includes an $11.1 million increase in recurring funds that is consistent with the revised approach to sending revenue to political subdivisions provided in H.3137, which was approved by the House earlier this year and sent to the Senate.  

$22 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for the state FEMA match for Hurricane Florence.

The Adjutant General receives appropriations of $250 thousand in nonrecurring funds for improvements at the state’s emergency operations center, $120 thousand in recurring funds for Emergency Management Division personnel, $2.2 million in nonrecurring funds for land management at the McEntire Joint National Guard Base, and $5.6 million in nonrecurring funds for armory construction and revitalizations.

The Forestry Commission is provided $1.5 million in recurring funds for recruitment and retention and $1 million in recurring funds and $1 million in nonrecurring funds for firefighting equipment.

The Department of Natural Resources $383 thousand in recurring funds for officer step increases and $714 thousand in recurring funds for statewide water monitoring and evaluation.

$5 million is appropriated from the Capital Reserve Fund for Francis Marion University’s Freshwater Ecology Center.

The Conservation Bank is afforded $1.5 million in recurring and $4 million in nonrecurring for conservation grants.

The Human Affairs Commission is appropriated $71 thousand recurring and $70 thousand nonrecurring for SC Pregnancy Accommodations Act training.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission receives $1.8 million in nonrecurring funds for information technology modernization.

The Department of Consumer Affairs is appropriated $118 thousand in recurring funds for an Assistant Consumer Advocate.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is afforded $4 million in nonrecurring funds for the final phase of REAL ID implementation costs.

The Department of Transportation receives $4 million in nonrecurring funds for upgrades to the state’s rest areas.

The Department of Administration is afforded $5 million in recurring funds, $27 million in nonrecurring funds, and $29 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for state-owned building deferred maintenance needs.

The Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs is provided $2 million in nonrecurring funds for a statewide aerial imagery project to update mapping used in disaster response and recovery efforts.

$114 thousand in recurring funds is provided for a Deputy Inspector General staff attorney position.

The Department of Archives and History receives $100 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the African American Heritage Commission’s Greenbook of SC.

$2.7 million is provided to Patriots Point for the USS Clamagore Veteran Memorial Reef.

The Arts Commission is afforded $865 thousand in recurring funds for community arts development and education grants.

$1 million in recurring funds is provided for aid to county libraries.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control is prohibited from using any appropriated funds to process and approve any license, permit, authorization, or certification related to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam inconsistent with the state’s policy and the General Assembly’s intent of maintaining the existing water quality and navigability conditions of that portion of the Savannah  

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 – 3/8/2019 Featured

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3759, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION, CAREER OPPORTUNITY, AND ACCESS FOR ALL ACT”.  The legislation makes comprehensive revisions that are offered as a means of ensuring that the state’s public school students receive the training needed to meet 21st century demands.  New emphasis is placed on mathematics and technology that includes a requirement for each public high school in the state to offer at least one rigorous, standards‑based computer science course.  Enhancements are made to the SC Read to Succeed Initiative that focuses on crucial literacy skills.  Provisions are made to afford public school students a smoother transition into higher education and workforce opportunities.  These include expanded dual enrollment programs and improved access to state scholarship funding to cover training costs.  The legislation raises the minimum teacher salary statewide and offers an array of incentives geared towards attracting individuals to teaching and retaining those professionals in the classroom.  Some of the incentives focus on encouraging teachers to pursue their careers in schools that are failing to meet goals for academic performance and in areas of the state that are experiencing the greatest economic distress.  Enhanced accountability provisions are included to direct assistance to schools that are struggling academically and to transform or close chronically underperforming schools.  A school district consolidation protocol is established for merging less populous districts that are failing to meet standards for student performance.  Local school board members are subjected to ethics provisions.  A Special Council on Revitalizing Education is created to advise policy makers on ways to improve collaboration among state agencies and institutions and what steps should be taken to ensure that the state’s public education system is emphasizing skills demanded in the workplace.

Goals and Governance

The State of South Carolina establishes an overall statewide workforce readiness goal of at least sixty percent of all working‑age South Carolinians having a post‑secondary degree or recognized industry credentials before the year 2030. This goal is consistent with all students graduating and having the knowledge, skills, and characteristics contained in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.

A “Student Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate basic expectations including: students should expect that the General Assembly, Governor, State Superintendent of Education, State Board of Education, local school boards, local superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents to focus on improving education, and creating a system that puts them first; students should feel safe and secure in school; students should have educational choice; and the ability to challenge unfair treatment.  These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

A “Teacher Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate those things that all certified public school teachers in South Carolina should be able to expect.  These include: working in an environment conducive to learning; the inclusion of their discretion with regard to disciplinary and instructional decisions; freedom from frivolous lawsuits, planning time; a competitive salary; no unnecessary paperwork; support from school administration.  These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

Provisions are made for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year and a public school student appointed by the Governor to serve as non-voting advisory members of the State Board of Education.

Special Council on Revitalizing Education

The legislation establishes within the Office of the Governor the Special Council on Revitalizing Education (SCORE) which is created to: (1) monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by the state’s employers; (2) identify and recommend improvements regarding efficiency and cooperation of agencies and programs throughout the education and workforce pipeline; and (3) report findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on a continuous basis.

The Governor serves as the chairman of the ten-member council.  The Governor may, however, delegate the position of chairman and SCORE duties to the Lieutenant Governor.  The other council members are appointed to five-year terms, with SCORE being composed of: (a) three members appointed by the Governor; (b) one member appointed by the Speaker of the House; (c) one member appointed

by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; (d) one member appointed by the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee; (e) one member appointed by the President of the Senate; (f) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; and (g) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.  Council members may not concurrently serve as a member of the General Assembly.  Appointed members must have a background in early childhood education, K‑12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development.  Two council members, one from the appointees allotted the House of Representatives and the other from the appointees allotted the Senate, must be current or retired highly‑effective teachers.  A member of the council may serve no more than two consecutive terms.

The Governor shall hire an executive director who must possess a background in at least one of the following: early childhood education, K‑12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development.

Before October 1, 2021, the council shall establish a series of benchmarks that must include, but are not limited to the following:

(1) access to quality early learning, as determined by the council, including the number of three and four‑year old children in quality early‑learning settings;

(2) third grade reading proficiency, including the percentage of third grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;

(3) eighth grade mathematics, including the percentage of eighth grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;

(4) high school graduation rates, including the percentages of students who graduated in four and five years;

(5) youth nonparticipation, including the percentage of South Carolina residents between sixteen and eighteen years of age who are not going to school on the secondary level or in adult education, not in the military, or not otherwise working;

(6) post‑high school enrollment, including the percentage of South Carolina high school graduates who are in postsecondary education the semester after graduation from high school or are gainfully employed; and

(7) post‑high school education attainment, including the percentage of South Carolina residents ages twenty‑two through sixty‑five who have completed a two‑or four‑year degree, or have received a nationally recognized certification as determined by the Department of Commerce.

With assistance and consultation from the Department of Administration, the council is charged with creating and maintaining a publicly accessible website that reports the benchmark information, explains the benchmarks, and provides an annual update to show the state’s progress toward meeting each goal.

Beginning in 2021, the council is required to make an annual comprehensive report to the Governor and General Assembly that specifically identifies areas within the education and workforce pipeline where state agencies and other publically funded entities are failing to meet the benchmarks. The council shall provide recommendations regarding ways that state and local efforts can be improved, ways that collaboration and cooperation among state and local agencies and resources can be increased, and efforts underway or being considered in other states that address the noted areas of concern. The council also shall recommend legislation it considers necessary.

Enhancements to Academic Rigor to Improve Student Preparation

Computer Science and Mathematics Coursework and Incentives

The State Board of Education is charged with conducting, at least every five years, a cyclical review of grade appropriate standards for computer science, computational thinking, and computer coding for grades kindergarten through grade twelve.

No later than the beginning of the 2020‑2021 School Year, each public high school and public charter high school must offer at least one rigorous, standards‑based computer science course.  The course is to be made available in a traditional classroom setting, in a dual‑enrollment course, blended‑learning environment, online‑based, or other technology‑based format tailored to meet the needs of each participating student.

Beginning in the 2020‑2021 School Year, the Department of Education shall:

(1) employ one experienced full‑time employee whose sole responsibility is to coordinate and lead the South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative; 

(2) support K‑12 academic and computer science teachers in designing interdisciplinary, project‑based instruction and assignments that engage students in applying literacy, math, and computational thinking skills to solve problems;

(3) design career pathways that connect students to postsecondary programs, degrees, or postsecondary credentials in such high demand career fields as cybersecurity, information systems, informatics, graphic design, computer engineering, and software development;

(4) offer professional development and teacher endorsements to new teachers who will teach computer science;

(5) provide information and materials which identify emerging career opportunities in computer science and related fields to parents, students, teachers, and guidance counselors; and

(6) assist districts in developing partnerships with business, industry, higher education, and communities to provide afterschool and extracurricular activities that engage students in computer science.

By August 1, 2021, the State Department of Education shall develop a technology plan that addresses wireless Internet access for all public schools and must provide a report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.

Statewide Assessment Program Revisions

The legislation removes summative assessments not required by federal accountability law.  This includes eliminating the eighth grade science assessment, all grades 3-8 social studies assessments, and the United States History end-of-course assessment.

Early Childhood

The Office of First Steps and the State Department of Education (SDE) must provide a report to the General Assembly regarding how to increase the number of children attending state-funded four-year-old kindergarten programs.

Read to Succeed Initiative Enhancements

The State Board of Education is charged with approving no more than five reliable and valid early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments for selection and use by school districts in kindergarten through third grade.

Assessments must be given at the beginning of the school year.  For students who need additional assistance, the screening will also occur during the middle and end of the school year.  Assessment results must be reported to the State Department of Education which is responsible for monitoring student progress.

Read to Succeed are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention until all students are at grade level.

Students are to be retained if their SC Ready scores are at the “Does Not Meet” level.  This is more rigorous than the current “Not Met 1” level.

The reading portfolio exemption for retention is strengthened.

When exemptions from retention are granted because of appeals by students’ parents or guardians, school districts are required to report on the number of appeals made, the number granted, and the outcome of the students whose appeals are successful.

More specific job duties and position requirements are established for reading coaches.

The State Department of Education must screen and approve reading coaches for districts where more than one-third of the students score at the lowest achievement level.

Early childhood, elementary, and special education teachers must pass a test regarding reading instruction before they can be certified.

Professional development required for compliance with Read to Succeed must be offered at no cost by the school districts.

The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs in regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.

Transition into Higher Education and Workforce Opportunities

The legislation provides for an expansion of dual enrollment opportunities so that students who want to go to college already have at least one year of college credit by creating a uniform, statewide credit articulation agreement between K-12 and higher education.  The Advisory Committee on Academic Programs is required to develop a statewide dual enrollment articulation agreement that will replace all locally created agreements between K-12 and higher education.

Students desiring an Education Lottery scholarship must, in addition to existing requirements, take a math and English course during their senior year of high school to maintain these skills prior to entering college.

The legislation emphasizes an accountability system that should let parents know if schools are successful in preparing students for eventual success in college or on the job.  To further this effort, the State Department of Education must continuously monitor student

progress in grades K-12, and provide parents and students with lexile and quantile scores derived from assessments.  In addition to using Lexile and Quantile scores, high school equivalency assessment thresholds may also serve as common admission scores to technical colleges.  A test in an English/language arts and mathematics course may be used to satisfy the requirement.  A test for every course is not required.

The legislation revises and updates the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA).  The State Department of Education, the Technical College System, the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Employment and Workforce must collaborate to ensure that workforce needs are aligned with career pathways and K-12 curriculum.

High schools or career centers must have a minimum of three career pathways, with at least one pathway in a high-skill, high-demand area.  Pathways must be reviewed every three years and updated as needed.  School districts must coordinate with each other to ensure student access to multiple pathways.  Upon Department approval of bus routes, districts may provide transportation for students.

The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education (SBTCE) must establish, and technical colleges must recognize, common admission scores.  (Scores may be differentiated for certain programs of study.)  Students who do not meet the minimum admission score should be encouraged to enter a noncredit program that awards a national recognized business or industry credential.  Education Lottery Tuition Assistance is available for individuals who enroll in a noncredit, credential awarding program provided they enroll within seven years of the first time they entered the ninth grade.

Incentives for Teachers and Educator Development and Satisfaction

The state’s minimum teacher salary is increased to thirty‑five thousand dollars.

The legislation provides that no tuition may be charged for a period of four school years by any state‑supported college or university or any state‑supported vocational or technical school for children of full‑time certified classroom teachers with at least five years of teaching service who are employed in schools that have an absolute rating of unsatisfactory for at least three of the previous four years.  The teacher must serve as a full‑time classroom teacher during the time the child is receiving the tuition free higher education.  The benefit is retained even if the school’s academic performance improves.

An income tax credit is established that covers all of the property taxes paid for five years on a residence for a K-12 public school teacher who lives and teaches is a county designated as a Tier IV economically distressed county.

In order to better understand the demands of the 21st century workplace, public school teachers who work in grades 6-12 are encouraged to become interns for up to 80 hours per year.  Employers who hire teachers for these summer internships are eligible for a $2,000 tax credit for each teacher they employee.

The board of trustees of a local school district may authorize the daily mileage reimbursement of a teacher who must travel more than twenty‑five miles each way between home and school.  This reimbursement may not exceed the existing federal rate.

Local school boards of trustees may establish policies allowing teachers to enroll their children in the schools where they teach regardless of the student’s zoned area of attendance, and if space is available at the receiving school.

Each classroom teacher and full‑time librarian is entitled to at least a thirty‑minute daily planning period free from the instruction and supervision of students.  Each school district may set flexible or rotating schedules for the implementation of this duty‑free planning period.  Implementation may not, however, result in a lengthened school day.

The legislation includes provisions for colleges and universities to create alternative teacher preparation programs that are not nationally accredited.  Such programs must, however, provide specifically mandated evidence of effectiveness.

The State Board of Education must review educator preparation programs at least once every five years.

The SDE must provide each teacher preparation program with information regarding the performance of its graduates.  The programs are required to protect the confidentiality of the data, and the information is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

To provide for accountability in teacher preparation programs, both traditional and alternative, the legislation creates the South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card to examine the number of students completing the program, the performance of teacher candidates on basic skills examinations, and the effectiveness of the programs’ graduates in the classroom setting.

The existing teacher satisfaction survey currently administered is now statutorily required.  Results must be complied, analyzed, and reported for each school and district.  This data should be shared with policy makers on a yearly basis, and the Department will publish those results on its website.

Enhanced Accountability

Assistance for students in underperforming schools

The legislation reinforces accountability act provisions regarding assistance for struggling schools or districts.

Local school boards with below average or unsatisfactory performance records are required to establish renewal plans that must be approved by the State Board of Education.  These plans must include professional growth plans for teachers and principals.  A report on the assistance provided to the schools must be provided to the General Assembly on a yearly basis.  Stakeholder groups that include mental health, social services, and law enforcement must be asked for input into renewal plans.

When a school receives an overall rating of unsatisfactory for three out of four years, the school is considered to be chronically underperforming’ and one of the following must occur:

(1)        the school will be reconstituted immediately after the end of the school year in which the annual report is published; and:

            (a)         the State Superintendent shall make all personnel decisions for the reconstituted school and shall have the authority to determine whether to terminate the principal, faculty, and staff;

            (b)        the State Superintendent of Education shall hire the new principal and staff for the reconstituted school if necessary; and

            (c)         the department shall contract with a public or nonprofit entity that has a proven record of success in working with underperforming schools and districts.  The entity shall use research‑based strategies to assist schools with their operations and oversee the administration of the school until the overall rating of the school improves; provided, if the overall rating does not improve within three years then the school either must be restarted under the management of a high‑performing charter management organization selected by the State Superintendent of Education or must be governed by the South Carolina Transformation School District, and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students must follow the students to the charter management organization or to the South Carolina Transformation School District; 

(2)        the school must be closed and restarted under the management of an existing charter school authorizer or a nonprofit educational management organization selected by the State Superintendent; provided, if the school is a Title I school, the Department of Education will award competitive grants as authorized under federal law to support these new schools and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students follow the students to the charter school authorizer or to the educational management organization. The authorizer or management organization has the authority to terminate any and all employees of the school and hire employees at its discretion; or 

(3)        the school must be closed and its students must be transferred to higher‑performing schools in the district.

The South Carolina Transformation School District is established as part of State Department of Education to operate and manage unsatisfactory schools. 

The Superintendent of Education is directed to utilize lower child to teacher ratios as a strategy to assist chronically unsatisfactory schools.

The legislation establishes a school district consolidation protocol which provides that, before August 1, 2023, local school districts whose kindergarten through grade twelve student population is less than one thousand, and where greater than fifty percent of the students attend schools whose report card ratings are below average or unsatisfactory, shall be merged with a district in the same county in which it is located.

School Board Ethics Provisions

The State Board of Education must adopt a model code of ethics that shall be adopted by local districts by July 1, 2020.

A person may not serve on a local school board if a family member is employed by the district as a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or member of the district administrative staff.  This requirement may be waived for districts with a student population under 3,000.

School board members may not their position for personal or family advantage.  Expectations for board members are codified.

The State Ethics Act, including the requirement to file a statement of economic interest, is applied to local board members.

Local school boards must adopt an annual training programs for members that includes instruction on school law, ethics, school finance, nepotism, board relations, and conflicts of interest.  Completion of the training must be reported to, and retained by the State Department of Education.

In addition to other statutory authority relating to the removal of officers, the Governor may remove a member of a school district board of trustees in a case involving fraud, misappropriation of funds, nepotism, violation of election or procurement laws, or a combination of these. 

A protocol is established that allows board members to be removed by the Governor if the district loses accreditation for school governance reasons.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Federal Programs and Grants

The Legislative Audit Council is directed to study publish a report by August 1, 2020, identifying and detailing federal funding streams for programs and grants in elementary and secondary education in this state in total and breaking out the cost of overhead, compliance, and reporting incurred by the State Department of Education, school districts, and local schools.

The House approved S.326 and ordered the legislation enrolled for ratification.  The joint resolution directs the State Law Enforcement Division to distribute two hundred fifty thousand dollars to the South Carolina State Firefighters Association to provide for POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER INSURANCE AND PROGRAMS FOR FIREFIGHTERS.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3294, a bill increasing the age limit in SAFE HAVENS FOR ABANDONED BABIES provisions that designate locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty.  The legislation provides that the safe haven provisions apply to infants who are up to one year old rather than the current standard of no more than sixty days old.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3973, a bill establishing the CRIME OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION.  The legislation establishes felony criminal provisions that apply to the mutilation of the genitalia of females who are under the age of eighteen or older females who are unable to consent to the procedure.  A violation is punishable with a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than twenty years.  In addition to these criminal penalties, professional licenses or certifications are permanently revoked for physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals who engage in criminal female genital mutilation.  The legislation also revises the Children’s Code to add female genital mutilation to provisions addressing child abuse and harm.  

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3263, the “ARMED SERVICE MEMBERS AND SPOUSES PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING ACT”.   The legislation establishes a protocol that allows the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to expedite the issuance of professional and occupational licenses to spouses of military personnel transferred to South Carolina when the spouse holds a professional or occupational license issued by another state that has similar requirements.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3200, the “SOUTH CAROLINA LACTATION SUPPORT ACT”.  As a means of promoting public health and benefitting South Carolina’s economy by keeping nursing employees in the workforce, the legislation requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide workers with reasonable unpaid break time and space to express milk at work.  The legislation does not require employers to compensate employees for breaks taken to express breast milk unless the employer already provides compensated breaks and does not require employers to create a permanent or dedicated space for use by pumping employees.  The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission is charged with certain responsibilities for educating employers, employees, and employment agencies about their rights and responsibilities under the legislation.   A timeline is established for workplace compliance.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3586, a bill revising and updating the COORDINATED STATEWIDE 911 EMERGENCY TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM.  The legislation charges the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office with creating, updating, and implementing a comprehensive strategic plan, including operating standards, for a coordinated statewide 911 system to address changing technology, services, and operating efficiency and effectiveness.  The standards must be developed and updated with comments and recommendations from the South Carolina 911 Advisory Committee, local officials, service providers, and the public.  The plan must be approved by the board and may be amended as necessary.  The legislation includes provisions for auditing local governments on the use of the “Emergency Telephone System” Fund, requiring local governments to restore 911 funds that were inappropriately used and allowing the withholding of funds to local governments that fail to comply with audit provisions.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3601, a bill establishing a procedure that allows a court to grant a CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE FOR A FIRST TIME OFFENDER CHARGED WITH PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS AND DISORDERLY CONDUCT.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3029, a billEXPANDING STATE POLITICAL PARTY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE JURISDICTION TO INCLUDE COUNTY OFFICERS.  The legislation expands political party state executive committee authority so that it includes hearing protests and contests in county officer, and less than county officer, elections.  The legislation repeals provisions for hearings by county executive committees and appeals from decisions of county executive committees.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4157, a joint resolution to extend the deadline to submit offers for a solicitation for a STATEWIDE VOTING SYSTEM solution for the South Carolina Elections Commission and to create a special evaluation panel to evaluate and score each proposal for new voting machines.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4054, a joint resolution 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 House rejected H.3031, a bill revising VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINES.

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 Capital Report – 4/15/2019

The House of Representatives will be on furlough during the week preceding Easter to lower operating costs and save taxpayer dollars. The House will reconvene on April 23.

The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.4380, the “SAMANTHA L. JOSEPHSON RIDESHARING SAFETY ACT”. The legislation revises South Carolina’s Transportation Network Company Act, which governs the operations of digital ride hailing companies, to provide new requirements that allow Transportation Network Company vehicles to be more readily distinguished from other vehicles. Under the new requirements, a Transportation Network Company vehicle must make use of an illuminated sign displaying the company’s proprietary trademark or logo that allows the vehicle to be recognized in darkness. The legislation establishes requirements for this sign and other identifying emblems to be returned to the Transportation Network Company when a driver ceases to be employed by the company.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.3420, legislation PREVENTING YOUTH ACCESS TO VAPING, CIGARETTES, AND OTHER TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS. The Senate subsequently concurred in those amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation updates the “Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act of 2006” to prohibit minors under the age of eighteen from entering retail establishments that primarily sell tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or both, unless the minor is actively supervised and accompanied by an adult. The legislation provides for a more expansive definition of “alternative nicotine product” that specifically includes vaping. The legislation revises the restrictions governing Internet commerce and other remote sales to provide for the use of a method of mailing, shipping, or delivery that requires the signature of a person at least eighteen years of age before a tobacco product or alternative nicotine product will be released to the purchaser, unless the remote seller employs certain alternative protections to ensure age verification. The legislation requires every local school district in the state to adopt, implement, and enforce a written policy prohibiting at all times the use of any tobacco product or alternative nicotine product by any person in school buildings, in school facilities, on school campuses, and in or on any other school property owned or operated by the local school administrative unit. The policy also must prohibit the use of any tobacco product or alternative nicotine product by anyone attending an off-site school‑sponsored event when in the presence of students or school personnel.

The House approved S.205 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides an additional duty for the Department of Aging’s ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND RELATED DISORDERS RESOURCE COORDINATION CENTER by charging the center with facilitating the coordination and integration of educational initiatives for health care providers on the importance and value of early detection and timely diagnosis of cognitive impairment, validated cognitive assessment tools, and increasing understanding and awareness of early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia and how to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to 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, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that, during the 2018‑2019 School Year, a local school district 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.

The House approved S.514 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue ‘CLEMSON UNIVERSITY 2018 FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS’ SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES. License number ‘1’ is reserved for the Clemson University Head Football Coach.

The House amended, approved and sent the Senate H.3403, a bill authorizing public school districts to create COMPETENCY‑BASED SCHOOLS that are designed to improve progress towards attaining state education goals through a curriculum that allows students to pursue their own inquiries, take ownership of learning, and master competencies along a personalized and flexible pathway. The legislation establishes a protocol that allows a school district to establish a competency-based school by obtaining a waiver from the State Department of Education that allows the program to be exempt from certain requirements for the purposes of accountability and accreditation. The Department of Education is charged with developing separate evaluation criteria and guidelines for schools implementing competency-based education, conducting a biennial review of such schools, and reporting findings. If the biennial review shows that the goals or objectives of the competency-based school are not being met, the exemptions granted for that school may be revoked. The department is also directed to develop a process to ensure that schools and districts are not penalized for the purposes of

accreditation and to ensure that students are not penalized when transferring between schools with and without competency-based systems. The Commission on Higher Education and State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education must establish policies to provide fair and equitable access to institutions of higher education and technical colleges for students with competency‑based credits or diplomas, scholarships, and financial aid for graduates of schools implementing innovative school models and using nontraditional diplomas and transcripts.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3577, a bill providing authority for ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS FOR EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND CERTIFICATION as a means of addressing current teacher shortages. The legislation establishes a protocol allowing for the approval of alternative route providers and programs for educator preparation and certification. The legislation establishes criteria that apply to alternative programs housed within an institution of higher education. The State Department of Education is required to provide an annual report on the total number of individuals employed in this state, by district, with certificates issued by institution of higher education alternative programs to the State Board of Education and the General Assembly. The State Board of Education, through the State Department of Education, is charged with developing and implementing a seven-year cyclical evaluation process for all alternative route educator preparation providers and programs.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4413, a STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET CONTINUING RESOLUTION. This joint resolution makes provisions for the continuing authority to pay the expenses of state government if the 2019‑2020 Fiscal Year begins without a general appropriations act for that year in effect.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3596, a bill addressing ROLLBACK PROPERTY TAXES ON RECLASSIFIED AGRICULTURAL LAND. The legislation revises provisions relating to classification of property and assessment ratios for purposes of ad valorem taxation, so as to limit rollback taxes to three years, rather than the current five years, when land classified as agricultural real property is applied to another use.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3210, a bill providing for the HIGH GROWTH SMALL BUSINESS JOB CREATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION. The legislation reauthorizes the High Growth Small Business Job Creation Act for an additional six years, so that the act is set to be repealed at the end of 2025.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3998. This bill enacts the “WORKFORCE AND SENIOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACT” to allow a taxpayer eligible for a federal low‑income housing tax credit to claim a state tax credit for developing housing for those with lower incomes. Once an affordable housing project becomes eligible for this state tax credit, for that year and for the next ten calendar years, all property that makes up the qualified project is exempt from all fees and taxes imposed by the municipality in which it is located. This exemption includes such taxes and fees as property taxes, impact fees, development fees, sewer fees, wastewater fees, sanitation fees, infrastructure fees, administrative fees, permit fees, and planning fees.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3730, a bill establishing the felony criminal offense of TRAFFICKING IN FENTANYL to address situations involving amounts at least four grams of fentanyl, fentanyl‑related substances, or mixtures. Violators are subject to a term of imprisonment of not more than ten years and a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars for a first offense, and a term of imprisonment of not more than twenty years and a fine of up to one hundred thousand dollars, for a second or subsequent offense.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3728, legislation that expands the PRESCRIPTION MONITORING PROGRAM, requiring the Department of Health and Environmental Control to include and maintain information in the prescription monitoring program on the administering of opioid antidotes in a hospital emergency department or by a first responder.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3036, “DYLAN’S LAW”. This bill requires the Department of Environmental Control to add tests for certain neonatal genetic disorders and diseases to the existing newborn screening program. The legislation establishes the Newborn Screening Advisory Committee to review the feasibility and advisability of including additional metabolic, genetic, and congenital disorders in the neonatal testing.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4004, the “PHYSICIAN ORDERS FOR SCOPE OF TREATMENT (POST) ACT”. The legislation establishes a protocol that allows a patient with an advanced illness to execute a POST form that consists of a set of medical orders, signed by a patient’s physician, addressing key medical decisions consistent with patient goals of care concerning treatment at the end of life that is portable and valid across health care settings. This set of medical orders concerning what life sustaining care is to be administered applies only to situations where the patient has been diagnosed with a serious illness or, based upon medical diagnosis, may be expected to lose capacity within twelve months. A Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) Advisory Council is established to advise the Department of Health and Environmental Control in the areas of POST program design, standards, data collection and evaluation, quality improvement, funding, and program evaluation.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3231, a bill addressing GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE. The legislation revises the ground for divorce of physical cruelty to provide that this ground shall be construed to include willful or other abhorrent conduct or treatment which destroys or tends to destroy the mental and physical wellbeing, happiness, and welfare of the other and renders continued cohabitation unsafe or intolerable.

The House approved and sent the Senate was H.3967, relating to RESTRAINING INMATES WHO ARE PREGNANT OR IN POSTPARTUM RECUPERATION. The legislation details the safety methods and restrictions that are to be followed in correctional facilities and other settings for using wrist restraints or other types of restraints on inmates who are pregnant or have been determined to be in postpartum recuperation.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4318, a bill establishing revised WILD TURKEY HUNTING provisions. Recently, the General Assembly has provided for temporary wild turkey hunting season and bag limit revisions that extend until July 1, 2019, while the Department of Natural Resources was conducting its study of the state’s wild turkey population. Drawing upon DNR’s study as well as testimony from hunters and other stakeholders, this legislation replaces temporary wild turkey hunting measures with long term provisions. The legislation provides for a 42-day-long hunting season the would run from March 20 until April 30 in Game Zones 3 and 4 and from April 1 until May 12 in Game Zones 1 and 2. The legislation establishes bag limits of one per day with three per season for residents and two per season for non-residents. For resident hunters, there is established a five dollar fee with three tags and for nonresidents a one hundred dollar fee with two tags. There continues to be no cost for a set of wild turkey tags for those under the age of sixteen, lifetime licensees, and gratis licensees. It is unlawful to take a female wild turkey unless authorized by DNR. Provisions are made for a ‘Youth Turkey Weekend’ for turkey hunters under eighteen years of age. During this weekend preceding the start of a game zone turkey season, license or tag requirements are waived for a youth turkey hunter and the bag limit is one male wild turkey, which shall count towards the season bag limit. The legislation also provides for the implementation of an electronic harvest reporting system that involves scanning in information using smartphone cameras or calling in reports.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3174. This bill establishes technical specifications for ELECTRIC‑ASSIST BICYCLES and bicycles with helper motors and provides that those who operate these low-speed electrically assisted bicycles are subject to all statutory provisions that apply to bicyclists. The legislation includes labelling requirements for these bicycles. The legislation specifies that electric-assist bicycles and bicycles with helper motors are not mopeds.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4439, a bill designating the sixteenth day of July of each year as ‘ATOMIC VETERANS DAY’ in South Carolina to recognize those who participated in aboveground nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with the United States military occupation forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki before 1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4211. In accordance with recent changes in federal law, this bill revises provisions relating to the ISSUANCE OF BONDS FOR INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS, so as to provide for certain public notice requirements.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3703, a bill dealing with the LICENSURE EXAMINATION REQUIREMENTS FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY. The bill applies to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Currently, an applicant may attempt the licensure examination a total of three times. This bill will increase the attempts to six. However, if an applicant fails the examination a fifth time, the applicant must take courses and furnish evidence of completing these courses before taking the examination a sixth time.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4412, a bill to authorizing the imposition of the EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX in certain situations.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3205, a bill that makes revisions to the Catawba Indian Claims Settlement Act to eliminate an obsolete CATAWBA INDIAN TRIBE FEE EXEMPTION.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3080, a bill addressing ALCOHOL SALES AT FESTIVALS. The legislation revises provisions for the issuance of beer and wine permits and alcoholic liquor licenses that allow sales at multiple locations on multiple days at a festival on one application.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4075, a bill providing for the DISCONTINUATION OF COUNTY OFFICER OFFICE INSPECTIONS. The legislation repeals the legal requirement for the Attorney General, and circuit solicitors, to inspect county officer offices. The legislation makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Prosecution Coordination Commission.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4008. This bill revises Heritage Trust Program provisions by REPEALING PROVISIONS FOR HERITAGE TRUST REVENUE BONDS since this bond debt has been retired. The legislation makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4010. This bill revises provisions for land acquired under the HERITAGE TRUST PROGRAM, so as to remove the maximum acreage limitation. The legislation makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Natural Resources.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3351. This bill makes provisions for the DISPOSITION OF CERTAIN DUPLICATIVE MATERIAL IN THE POSSESSION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY to another public or nonprofit institution by gift or sale, and provides for the use of resulting proceeds. The legislation makes provisions for annual reporting requirements and the retention and use by the department of certain proceeds generated by its operations. The legislation implements recommendations arising from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s review of the Department of Archives and History.

The House approved and sent the Senate on H.3485, legislation addressing DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY FUNDING. This bill implements recommendations arising from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s review of the Department of Archives and History. The legislation revises provisions for the income tax credit for making qualified rehabilitation expenditures for a certified historic structure, so as to remove a provision allowing the Department of Archives and History to establish fees. The legislation provides that a taxpayer claiming the credit must pay a fee to the Department of Archives and History for the State Historic Preservation Grant Fund. The legislation charges the department with developing an application process. The legislation adds the Department of Archives and History to the list of check off options on the income tax return which taxpayers use to make voluntary contributions. Such voluntary contributions must be used by the department to purchase or preserve collections with significant historical value to the state.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4017. This bill revises Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism provisions to establish updated objectives for the SOUTH CAROLINA FILM COMMISSION. This bill makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4019. This bill makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The legislation revises Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism provisions to remove references to residential areas on HUNTING ISLAND.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4020, legislation addressing PRT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DUTIES. This bill makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The legislation adds duties relating to community development to the general powers and duties of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and repeals provisions relating to the agency’s division of community development.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4021, relating to the USE OF CABINS AT STATE PARKS. This bill makes revisions recommended by the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The legislation removes the prohibition on swimming and rental or use of cabins at state parks.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3737, a bill revising the membership of the RICHLAND‑LEXINGTON AIRPORT COMMISSION.

The House approved and sent the Senate to H.3307, a bill making provisions for a searchable online DATABASE ON PROPERTY SEIZED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AND FORFEITED.

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

The State Capital Report – 3/29/2019

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.

KHG/jhm

The State Capitol Report – 3/22/2019

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3449 and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  The bill enacts the “SOUTH CAROLINA HEMP FARMING ACT” to promote the cultivation and processing of hemp, expand the state’s hemp industry, open new commercial markets for farmers and businesses through the sale of hemp products, and encourage research into hemp growth and hemp products at state institutions of higher education and in the private sector.  The legislation addresses the use of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, with federally defined THC level for hemp, for such uses as cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, cosmetics, personal care products, food, and any product containing one or more hemp‑derived cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol.  In light of the enactment of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which classifies hemp as an agricultural commodity, this legislation replaces the state’s provisions for cultivating industrial hemp that were previously enacted and provides for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to submit a state plan to the USDA for approval.  The legislation eliminates various restrictions that were imposed on the cultivation of hemp, such as the limitations on the number of permits issued and the maximum acreage that could be cultivated.  While these maximum limits are no longer imposed, individuals may only cultivate, handle, or process hemp by obtaining a license issued by the Department of Agriculture under the state plan in a process that includes: providing a legal description and location of fields or greenhouses; providing written consent allowing representatives of the department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and local law enforcement, to enter onto all premises where hemp is cultivated, processed, or stored for the purposes of conducting physical inspections, obtaining samples of hemp or hemp products, or otherwise ensuring compliance with the requirements of applicable laws and regulations; and submitting to a criminal records check.  No one who has been convicted of a felony, a drug‑related misdemeanor, or drug related violation in the ten years prior to the submission of the application is eligible to obtain a license.  The state plan must include laboratory testing for delta‑9 tetrahydrocannabinol to ensure that hemp crops do not contain the high THC levels found in controlled substances.  Criminal penalties continue to be provided to address the cultivation of industrial hemp as a means of disguising marijuana production or distribution operations.  A violation is a misdemeanor that carries a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to three thousand dollars.  The South Carolina Department of Agriculture is authorized to issue licenses to all those who applied in 2019 and met the licensing criteria but were denied solely because the department had already issued the legally permitted number of licenses for the year.

The House approved S.160, a bill authorizing the Department of Revenue to implement INTERNET FILING AND INDEXING OF TAX LIENS for public inspection online, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  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 legislation implements a recommendation from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Department of Revenue.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3595 and enrolled the bill for ratification.  The legislation revises the INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIP FUND TAX CREDIT to provide that the maximum annual amount is two hundred fifty thousand dollars for a single taxpayer, not to exceed an aggregate credit of nine million dollars for all taxpayers.  The increased maximum credit amount is phased in under a three-year schedule beginning after 2018.  Any member of the South Carolina Research Authority board of trustees or the SC Launch!, Inc. board of directors is not eligible to claim the tax credit.    The South Carolina Research Authority is required to issue an annual report to the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, and the Governor detailing the amount contributed to the Industry Partnership Fund in the previous tax year that entitled the taxpayer to the credit, the taxpayers that received the credit, and the manner in which such contributions were expended or are expected to be expended.  The report also must be posted in a conspicuous place on the South Carolina Research Authority’s website.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to 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 amended and gave second reading approval to 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.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3357, a bill allowing for a HEARING IMPAIRMENT NOTATION ON A MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION as a means of providing law enforcement officers with information that could prevent misunderstandings during traffic stops and other interactions.  The legislation establishes a procedure that allows drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have a notation added to their private passenger‑carrying motor vehicle registration.  This special motor vehicle registration notation would only appear when a law enforcement check is run on the vehicle’s license plate through the department’s online interface with law enforcement to alert the officer that the driver may be deaf or hard of hearing.   

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3592, a bill addressing LOCAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF RENTED AND LEASED GOLF CARTS AND MOPEDS.  The legislation provides authorization for counties and municipalities to adopt ordinances that regulate those offering golf carts and mopeds for rental or lease for a period of less than nine months that operate upon the public streets and highways within their jurisdictions.  These ordinances are limited to the use of safety devices and the geographic area, distance, identification of the vehicles, and specified public roadways on which these rented or leased vehicles may operate.  The ordinances may not conflict with or exceed existing limitations of state law.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3755, a bill that establishes new provisions and notification requirements that allow insurers to issue a RENEWAL OF AN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICY WITH A REDUCTION IN COVERAGE.  Current provisions do not allow for a reduction in coverage through the renewal of an existing policy.  A reduction in coverage requires a notice of nonrenewal to be issued, which has proven to be a source of confusion for insurance customers.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3243, a bill REVISING FILING AND RECORDING FEES CHARGED BY THE REGISTER OF DEEDS AND CLERKS OF COURT to make provisions for charging certain flat fees, rather than fees determined by the number of pages in a document.  The legislation updates 30‑year-old fee schedules set for filing and registering a list of legal documents, including deeds and mortgages.   Fees for filing a power of attorney are waived for military personnel deployed to combat zones.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3725, a bill that establishes the ADVISORY COUNCIL ON PEDIATRIC ACUTE-ONSET NEUROPSYCHIATRIC SYNDROME (PANS) AND ITS SUBSET, PEDIATRIC AUTOIMMUNE NEUROPSYCHIATRIC DISORDER ASSOCIATED WITH STREPTOCOCCAL INFECTIONS (PANDAS) to advise the Department of Health and Environmental Control on research, diagnosis, treatment, and education relating to the syndrome and disorder.  The legislation provides for the membership of the council and requires it to meet at least four times a year.  Members may not receive compensation, but will be entitled to mileage, subsistence, and per diem.  The council must make an annual report of its recommendations to the General Assembly by July 1.  The advisory council must be dissolved after two years.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3821, a bill revising the medical acts that ADVANCE PRACTICE REGISTERED NURSES are authorized to perform.   The legislation allows an APRN to execute a do not resuscitate order.  An APRN’s authority to prescribe Schedule II narcotic substances is expanded to include patients residing in long‑term care facilities.  The legislation allows an APRN to certify the manner and cause of death and provides that this duty and other authorized duties relating to pronouncing death and signing death certificates are to be conducted according to statutory provisions governing vital statistics obtained by the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the provisions of the “Safe Cremation Act”.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3621, a bill dealing with ATHLETIC TRAINERS.  This legislation makes revisions to the Athletic Trainers’ Act that include revising the definition of athletic trainer by specifying that an athletic trainer is an allied health professional, and specifying additional settings where an athletic trainer may be employed.  The legislation also codifies the authority of the Department of Health and Environmental Control to suspend or revoke an athletic trainer’s certification and impose civil monetary penalties for violations of the “Athletic Trainers’ Act of South Carolina”.

The House 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 amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3986, a bill redesignating the South Carolina ABLE Savings Program which was enacted to allow the establishment of savings accounts empowering individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds which can be used to provide for disability related expenses that supplement benefits provided through private insurance.  Since an existing organization is named SC ABLE, the program is renamed the PALMETTO ABLE SAVINGS PROGRAM.

The House committed H.3355, a bill addressing DRIVING WHILE USING AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE, to the Judiciary 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

The State Capitol Report – 3/1/2019

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3849 and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  The joint resolution provides a GRACE PERIOD ON THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE NEW CIGARETTE STAMP TAX REQUIREMENTS, running through October 1, 2019, to afford sellers additional time to deplete their remaining inventories of unstamped packages of cigarettes.  In order to take advantage of this grace period, a report on the amounts of these remaining unstamped packages of cigarettes must be filed with the Department of Revenue by March 31.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3438, a bill making provisions for the DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS within the executive branch of government.  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 Director appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate.  The Director of the Department must be a veteran.   The legislation provides new duties for the Director 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 House approved and sent the Senate H.3726, a bill requiring CONTINUING EDUCATION ON THE IDENTIFICATION OF OPIATE-RELATED DEATHS FOR CORONERS AND MEDICAL EXAMINERS and their deputies.  The legislation draws upon the work of the special House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee that was appointed by the Speaker of the House to examine the growing misuse of prescription painkillers and recommend legislative actions to counter the epidemic of ruinous addiction and fatal overdoses.

The House approved and sent the Senate to H.3101, a bill authorizing South Carolina to enter into the “INTERSTATE MEDICAL LICENSURE COMPACT”.  The compact allows qualified physicians to practice medicine in all member states by applying for an expedited license through the licensure board of the physician’s principal state.  The compact is administered by the Interstate Commission which consists of two voting representatives appointed from the medical licensing boards of each participating state.  To date, 25 states have joined the Compact.  This bill requires applicants for expedited licensure to undergo a criminal background check to include fingerprint or other biometric data checks.  The Compact requires a participating physician to be under the jurisdiction of the state medical board where the patient is located.   Each participating physician will be charged a non-refundable $700 fee for applying to the Commission of which $300 will be remitted to the SC Board of Medical Examiners for physicians whose state of primary licensure is SC.  The physician will be required to pay licensure fees for each of the states chosen plus a $100 handling fee to the commission for requesting additional state licenses.  The bill further provides that a member state may withdraw from the compact by repealing the statute authorizing membership.  A member state may be terminated from the compact if the state fails to comply with its provisions.

 The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3237, a bill establishing provisions PROHIBITING PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS FROM REPRESENTING MULTIPLE PARTIES WITH CONFLICTING INTERESTS in civil or criminal matters and placing limitations on the information that private investigation businesses may reveal without the client providing informed consent.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3362, a bill which provides that suspension of a person’s driver’s license for failure to pay a traffic ticket shall not constitute a conviction of an offense that would result in the person being considered an HABITUAL OFFENDER.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3601, a bill establishing a procedure that allows a court to grant a CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE FOR A FIRST TIME OFFENDER CHARGED WITH PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS AND DISORDERLY CONDUCT. 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3916, a bill INCREASING THE FINE FOR FAILING TO REGISTER A MOTOR VEHICLE from not more than one hundred dollars to five hundred dollars.  The increase addresses an issue that has emerged since the fee for registering an out-of-state vehicle was increased as part of the comprehensive road funding measures approved in Act 40 of 2017.  Rather than registering a vehicle properly and paying the two-hundred-fifty-dollar fee, some have been choosing to pay the lower one-hundred-dollar maximum fine.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3985, a bill CONFORMING STATE TAX PROVISIONS WITH THE FEDERAL INTERNAL REVENUE CODE by updating statutory references.

The House returned S.80, a joint resolution addressing the MEMBERSHIP OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA AMERICAN REVOLUTION SESTERCENTENNIAL COMMISSION, to the Senate with amendments.  The legislation increases the membership of the commission from thirteen to fifteen persons.  In addition to the three ex-officio members, four members are to be appointed by the President of the Senate of which at least one of whom must be of African‑American descent; four members are to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of which at least one of whom must be of African‑American descent; and four members are to be appointed by the Governor of which at least one of whom must be of African‑American descent.  The Lieutenant Governor is removed from the commission’s membership.   Any member who was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor shall be deemed to have been appointed by the President of the Senate and may continue to serve on the commission.

The House approved S.327, pertaining to the South Carolina Senate’s redesignation of its General Committee as the SENATE FAMILY AND VETERANS’ SERVICES COMMITTEE, and enrolled the bill for ratification.  The legislation updates a statutory reference to reflect the recent change in the committee’s name.

The House approved and sent the Senate 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 approved and sent the Senate H.3760, legislation MERGING THE PATIENTS’ COMPENSATION FUND WITH THE SOUTH CAROLINA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE JOINT UNDERWRITING ASSOCIATION and establishing it as a market of last resort for ensuring the availability of medical malpractice and other types of liability insurance for health care providers that it is not in competition with the private insurance market.  The legislation addresses governance following the merger, makes provisions to eliminate the accumulated deficit of the JUA and the Patients’ Compensation Fund, and provide for rates for policies issued to be adequate and established at a level that permits the association to operate without accumulating additional deficits over time.

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 – 2/15/19

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