It was a very productive week in the General Assembly as both the Senate and House advanced several bills on their calendars. Action was taken on several bills that reflect SCAC policy positions, which will be discussed below.
Local Government Fund (LGF) and the State Budget
Local Government Fund — H. 3137. H. 3137 encompasses SCAC’s policy position regarding the LGF. The bill received several additional sponsors this week (Reps. Murphy, Chellis, Kimmons, Rose, Wheeler, Gilliard, Young, Clemmons, Cogswell, B. Newton, Anderson, Jefferson, Bales, Blackwell, McDaniel, Moore, R. Williams, and Henderson-Myers). The bill was amended to reflect the distribution percentage that is currently in the LGF formula and to become effective for fiscal year 2019-2020. The bill received third reading with no opposition on the House floor and has been sent to the Senate. Please thank your House members for voting in favor of H. 3137. A special thanks goes to Reps. Murrell Smith and Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who spoke on the House floor in favor of the bill.
Your calls made a difference with House members. Please contact your Senate member and ask that they support passing H. 3137. Also, if your Senate member is on the Finance Committee, please ask that they support passing H. 3137 out of committee and increasing the LGF by at least the same percentage as this year’s General Fund growth! A roster of the Senate Finance Committee is attached.
SCAC’s policy position regarding the LGF is as follows:
“Support amending the Local Government Fund Formula to set the base funding level at $223.2 million with a yearly increase in the fund that corresponds with the growth in the State General Fund up to 5 percent. Also, standardize a list of state mandates that all counties are responsible for in order to quantify the need for the LGF.”
Tort Claims Act Damages Increase — S. 7 & S. 386
S. 7 raises the existing caps on damages found in the Tort Claims Act by increasing the caps from $300,000 to $1 million per individual, from $600,000 to $2 million per occurrence, and indexes both increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). SCAC has previously testified against the proposed increases, expressed concerns about indexing the increased caps to CPI, and discussed the cost of insuring against potential losses under the increased caps. The committee amended the bill to have it apply prospectively and made a technical change relating to the CPI. If this bill were to pass, it would codify a 333 percent increase in the existing caps. The current fiscal impact statement on the bill predicts a $40 million dollar increase in premiums charged by the Insurance Reserve Fund. The actual fiscal impact will be much higher when all entities not insured by the IRF are taken into account. County budgets that are already pushed to the limits will be further strained by such a change.
S. 386, a companion bill to S. 7, was amended by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. Among other things, it expands the caps formerly limited to only 1983 civil rights actions to all tort claim actions. It increases these caps paid from the State Fiscal Accountability Authority from $1 million to $2 million, subject to a maximum of $4 million for one employee or governmental entity, and a maximum of $20 million in one fiscal year. All of these payments will be made from the State’s Catastrophic Fund which will be discussed below. It expands the definition of occurrence so that you could have multiple causes of action from what has been previously considered a single act of negligence, allows for additional attorneys’ fees, and allows a third party claimant to bring a bad faith claim against an insurer. It also creates the State’s Catastrophic Fund, allowing the State Fiscal Authority to collect assessments from all of the government entities covered under the liability limits. By July 1, 2020, the State’s Catastrophic Fund will collect enough assessments to fund the Catastrophic Fund at $3 million. Thereafter, $1 million will be collected every year for the Fund. Beginning June 30, 2039, and every year thereafter, any unspent money over $20 million in the State’s Catastrophic Fund goes to the General Fund. Because this amendment to S. 386 was just introduced, we do not know how much this will increase premiums. However, it is likely the increase will be higher than the increases if S. 7 becomes law.
S. 7 is on the contested Senate Calendar and it is imperative that you contact your Senate delegation. Please let them know about the severe negative impact this bill would have on your county and ask that they help keep the bill on the contested calendar until a successful resolution can be reached. The Senate Judiciary subcommittee plans to take additional testimony on S. 386 next week and is giving stakeholders until next Tuesday to submit comments and amendments. The stakeholders that spoke in opposition to S. 386, including SCAC, will meet later today to discuss this bill.
Tobacco Preemption — H. 3274.
H. 3274 prohibits political subdivisions from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products after January 1, 2019. Any ordinances adopted prior to January 1, 2019, are exempt from the preemption. SCAC has a policy position opposing this type of preemption. The bill is pending second reading on the House calendar. Please contact your House members and ask that they oppose H. 3274.
Other Legislative Action this Week
Administrative Jail Sanctions — H. 3322. This bill provides for comprehensive sentencing reform. Sections 7 and 8 of the bill would create an “administrative” jail sanction to be imposed on probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their supervised program. Instead of going before a judge for a revocation hearing when a violation of probation occurs, probation agents would have the discretion to impose these jail sanctions for a term of up to three days for the first violation and up to 10 days for a second violation. These sanctions would be served in county jails and on weekends which are when county jails are at maximum capacity. This effectively shifts the financial burden from state prisons to the counties. The bill is silent on whether the counties will bear the costs of medical expenses incurred by these probationers and parolees. Presumably, county jails will have to maintain records and monitor these weekend jail visits. SCAC is working to determine the fiscal impact this will have on counties.
The bill was carried over for further study by a House Judicial subcommittee. The committee members are Representatives Chris Murphy (chair), Justin Bamberg, Jay Jordan, Cezar McKnight, and Eddie Tallon. Please contact the subcommittee members to express your concern over the impact this will have on our county jails.
Internet Sales — S. 214. This bill clarifies what the requirements are for marketplace facilitators as it relates to tax collection to make it easier for DOR to enforce South Carolina’s sales tax policy and capture internet sales tax from third parties. The bill was amended on the floor to send some of the revenue to teacher pay increases. S. 214 is pending third reading on the contested Senate Calendar.
Birth Certificates — S. 21. This bill amends the procedures for changing a birth certificate once a court determination is made to establish who the legal father of a child is. The clerk of court is to report the court order determining the legal father to the Registrar of the Division of Vital Statistics so that the Registrar can modify the birth certificate. S. 21 passed the Senate and is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
Marriage Licenses — S. 196 & H. 3369. Both bills repeal the “pregnancy exception” statute that allows probate judges to issue marriage licenses to pregnant minors or minors who have given birth. By repealing this code section, only minors of the age of 16 can marry so long as parental consent is given. S. 196 passed the Senate and is pending in the House Judiciary Committee. H. 3369 received third reading in the House and has been sent to the Senate.
Voter Registration Deadlines — H. 3031. H. 3031 reduces the timeframe to be registered prior to an election from 30 days before the election to 20 days before the election. The House Judiciary amended the bill to change the timeframe to 24 days before an election. SCAC incorrectly reported that the bill had been amended to change the timeframe to 25 days before an election. SCAC’s policy position is to change the timeframe from 30 days to 25 days. H. 3031 is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Poll Worker Residency — H. 3035. This bill would allow a poll worker to serve anywhere in the state as long as they are a resident of the state and registered to vote in the state. This is a past SCAC policy position. H. 3035 is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Mold Remediation — H. 3127. H. 3127 creates a study committee to look at the impact of mold in public buildings and to make recommendations about how to abate mold. The committee is required to report their findings to the General Assembly by December 31, 2019. The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee made some technical changes to the bill and gave it a favorable report.
Coal Ash — H. 3483. This bill makes Act 138 of 2016, which requires coal ash to be disposed of in Class 3 landfills until March 2, 2021, permanent law. The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee gave the bill a favorable report. H. 3483 is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Electronic Liens — H. 3411 & S. 160. Both bills authorize the Department of Revenue to implement an internet accessible tax lien notice system to be used in lieu of the filing requirements with the county clerk or register of deeds. SCAC policy position supports this legislation. H. 3411 passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. S. 160 received a favorable report from a Senate Finance subcommittee.
Lobbying and Lobbyist — H. 3622. This bill would expand the definitions of lobbying and lobbyist to include any person who is employed, appointed, or retained to influence any public official or public member of a county or municipality. As a result, this bill would require any person lobbying at the county level to register. A House Judiciary subcommittee met Thursday to hear concerns. The subcommittee carried the bill over.
Animal Shelters — S. 105. This bill, among other things, would require animal control officers to inspect animal shelters to ensure compliance with certain state standards established by the bill. The bill, as introduced, would allow county animal facilities to adopt these standards. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee adopted an amendment to provide that the county itself, and not the county facility, may choose to adopt these state standards. This ensures that county shelters will not be required to be regulated by a state agency, an SCAC policy position. The bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
2019 SCAC Mid-Year Conference & Institute of Government – February 20 and 21
The SCAC Mid-Year Conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia on Wednesday, February 20. Copies of the registration material and conference agenda are available on the SCAC website where you can also register online. The program will include a legislative panel and other timely topics. Following lunch, buses will provide transportation to the State House for visits with legislators. The legislative reception will be Wednesday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
In an effort to increase the legislators’ participation in the Legislative Reception, it will be held at the Palmetto Club in downtown Columbia.
**DRESS CODE FOR THE LEGISLATIVE RECEPTION: The Palmetto Club has a strict dress code policy for all guests. Gentlemen are expected to wear coat and tie, coat and turtleneck, coat and collared shirt, or sweater and collared shirt. Hats and caps are not allowed unless required for religious purposes. Ladies are expected to wear dresses, appropriate suits, slacks, or evening wear. Athletic wear, shorts, tattered jeans, or sport shoes are not allowed.
Now is the time to start lining up appointments to see your Senators and Representatives or arranging a joint meal, function, or meeting.
Institute of Government classes are being offered on Thursday, February 21, and include: Building an Effective County Team, Public Speaking, Economic Development, and the Property Taxation Process.
The Council Chairperson's Workshop will be offered free-of-charge on Thursday, February 21, from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. This workshop is open to all council chairmen and vice chairmen and registration is required. You may register for the Institute classes and the Council Chairperson's Workshop on the SCAC website.
View/Download Full Text for Newly-Introduced Legislation
Note: If you would like to offer comments to the SCAC staff, please call us toll-free at 1-800-922-6081, fax to (803) 252-0379, or send an email. You can also go to www.scstatehouse.gov and click on "Legislation," then "Introduced Legislation."
S. 440 — Provides that a certain cap on rehabilitation expenses only applies to certain rehabilitated buildings on contiguous parcels within the “South Carolina Textiles Communities Revitalization Act.”
S. 443 — Places a $15 fee on civil filings in magistrates court and provides for how the collected fees will be remitted to counties.
S. 447 — Enacts the “South Carolina Electronic Notary Public Act.”
S. 449 — Allows the capital project sales tax to be used for certain infrastructure for economic development projects.
S. 452 — Provides that certain disabled veterans are exempt from property taxes in the year in which the disability occurs.
S. 453 — Repeals sections of the Freedom of Information Act, one relating to matters exempt from disclosure and one relating to meetings that may be closed to the public.
S. 454 — Places the Division of Veterans’ Affairs within the Executive Branch and makes changes relating to County Veterans Affairs Officers.
S. 455 — Provides that a Board or Commission shall issue a temporary professional license to the spouse of an active duty member under certain circumstances.
S. 461 — Increases the income tax deduction for certain firefighters and law enforcement officials from $3,000 to $6,000.
S. 462 — Provides for the expedited return of certain property and monies seized, allows forfeiture proceedings to be held in magistrates court for certain amounts, and changes the method of allocating various assets.
H. 3775 — Revises the freeholder procedure for the creation of a special tax district.
H. 3776 — Provides that a local government may regulate an entity offering golf carts for rent or lease under certain circumstances.
H. 3777 — Requires the State Election Commission to amend voter registration forms to allow registrants to disclose their political party affiliation.
H. 3786 — Enacts the “Workplace Freedom Act.”
H. 3799 — Provides that an entity undertaking a transportation improvement project bears the costs related to relocating water and sewer lines.
H. 3801 — Prohibits counties from expending funds to test backflow prevention devices.
H. 3806 — Authorizes counties to adopt by ordinance the requirement that cemetery owners and operators shall maintain, preserve, and protect a cemetery.
H. 3809 — Establishes a plan for the Department of Administration to allocate employee pay increases so that state employees receive a 5 percent increase effective July 1, 2019.
H. 3828 — Enacts the “South Carolina Developer-Provided Transit Stop Act.”
H. 3833 — Enacts the “Municipal Tax Relief Act.”