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.