The State Capitol Report – 2/28/2020

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4431, a bill to enact the “SOUTH CAROLINA BUSINESS LICENSE TAX STANDARDIZATION ACT” as a means of: reducing the complexity of complying with the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities by bringing statewide uniformity to the deadlines, application forms, and various other parts of the process; enhancing convenience for businesses by allowing them to pay taxes owed in multiple jurisdictions using a one-stop-shopping online portal; and, allowing counties and municipalities to receive the full amounts they are owed for business licenses without subtracting the portion that has been charged in fees by third parties collecting the taxes. The legislation imposes statewide standardization upon many aspects of the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities, including: a single timeline for issuing and renewing licenses and imposing penalties; standards for computing taxes based upon the gross income of the business; a uniform business license application established and provided by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; a protocol for issuing refunds to businesses; requirements for taxing jurisdictions to make use of the Standardized Business License Class Schedule as recommended by the Municipal Association of South Carolina and adopted by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; requirements for the Municipal Association to determine and revise this Standardized Business License Class Schedule every even year using the latest available nationwide Internal Revenue Service statistics for the calculation of profitability of businesses and using the latest business classification codes of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); and, a protocol that allows county and city councils to approve reasonable sub-classifications.  Provisions are made for a centralized online portal hosted and managed by the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office which businesses may use to pay the various license taxes imposed in multiple jurisdictions.  In addition to allowing a payment through the business license tax portal, a taxing jurisdiction shall allow a taxpayer to file and pay its business license tax in person at a location within the taxing jurisdiction, by telephone, or by mail.  The legislation imposes a prohibition on a private third-party assessing or collecting business license taxes or requiring businesses to remit confidential tax data on behalf of a taxing jurisdiction.  Restrictions are imposed on how a taxing jurisdiction may contract with a third party to assist in the collection of business license taxes.  The legislation disallows arrangements where a private sector auditing firm or other third party is paid on a contingency fee or success basis.  Enforcement measures are provided which authorize the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs award to civil penalties to taxpayers for violations.  The legislation provides an exemption from business license taxes for charitable organizations that covers their nonprofit activities.  

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4761, a bill providing for “SOUTH CAROLINA READ TO SUCCEED ACT” ENHANCEMENTS that emphasize early intervention for students who are having difficulty learning to read so that they can receive needed instruction before reaching the time when a low score on a literacy assessment can require a student to repeat the third grade.  Under the legislation, 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 Act provisions are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention and at least thirty minutes of supplemental intervention by certified teachers who have a literacy add on endorsement until all students are at grade level.  School districts must offer a summer reading camp as intervention for any student enrolled in the first or second grade who is substantially not demonstrating proficiency in reading, based upon the universal screening process.  The legislation replaces the current “Not Met 1” benchmark for student retention, and provides, instead that a student must be retained in the third grade if the student fails to demonstrate reading proficiency at the end of the third grade as indicated by scoring at the lowest achievement level on the state summative English/language arts assessment which indicates that the student needs substantial academic support to be prepared for the next grade level.  Districts are encouraged to develop policies for intensive support and retention of students in kindergarten through second grade if it is determined 


to be in the student’s best interest.  The reading portfolio exemption from 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 third grade students score at the lowest achievement level on the state English/language arts assessment.  Early childhood, elementary, and special education teacher candidates must pass a test on reading instruction and intervention before they can be certified.  The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs with regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3328, a bill revising SCHOOL LUNCH provisions.  The legislation provides that students eligible for free and reduced meal benefits must be offered the same federally reimbursable meal as students not eligible for these federal free and reduced meal provisions.  Federally reimbursable meals must be offered even if the student owes money for previous meals.  Schools that offer food and beverages separate from federally reimbursable meals may not allow students to accrue a balance when purchasing items, and only may accept cash payment or allow funds to be electronically drawn from a prepaid balance.  A school or school district may not invoke penalties for failing to pay for a school lunch, such as prohibiting students from attending field trips, participating in graduation or other recognition ceremonies, or attending other academic-related activities.  The State Department of Education is charged with developing and providing a model policy and template to each school district regarding the collection of school meal debt.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4765, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON COLLECTING SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM DEBTS.  The legislation prohibits a public school or school district from using a debt collection service to collect debts owed on a school lunch or breakfast account of a student.  A public school or school district may not assess or collect any interest, fees, or other such monetary penalties for outstanding debts on student school lunch or breakfast accounts.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4758, a bill providing authority for ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS FOR EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND CERTIFICATION as a means of addressing current teacher shortages.  Under the legislation, educator preparation programs housed within an institution of higher education may submit a separate and distinct educator preparation program for alternative preparation to the State Board of Education for approval.  The board shall promulgate regulations concerning the granting of approval, cyclical review, and revocation of approval for alternative educator preparation programs.  The State Department of Education is charged with providing each college of education and state-approved educator preparation program with information evaluating the performance its graduates on a yearly basis so that this information may be used to improve education services.

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