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.