Posts in Category: Ethics

Issue 2-17 - January 20, 2017 

Friday, January 20, 2017 11:17:00 AM Categories: Ethics LGF Roads

This week the Senate met in perfunctory session in order to allow committees to meet and move legislation to the calendar. Although the House did meet in statewide session, there was a limited amount of work for the full chamber to consider.

Local Government Fund (LGF)

SCAC staff met this week with Brian White, the Chairman of Ways and Means, regarding various county issues including the LGF. Although the Chairman is not in support of SCAC’s position regarding the LGF, he was very receptive to working with SCAC regarding resolving both the LGF and working with SCAC on other issues. Specifically, the Chairman is interested in eliminating some mandates currently burdening county government and assisting counties based upon need. Chairman White committed that his staff will work with SCAC on a holistic approach to local government funding. 

Please thank Chairman White for meeting with SCAC staff and for his commitment to working towards better county and state government relationships! 

Unfortunately, given the current condition of the state budget, Chairman White will only recommend an appropriation of last year’s recurring line. This would represent a reduction of $10.6 million in nonrecurring funds from last year’s appropriation. The Chairman is very concerned that the pension system will take most of this year’s fiscal growth and believes several agencies will see reductions in their base recurring revenue.

Please contact the members of the House and ask that they move last year’s nonrecurring appropriation to the base AND increase the LGF by the same percentage as this year’s General Fund growth! 

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.”

Dam Regulations

S. 5 — This bill would require DHEC to inspect dams that are traversed by a state road, regardless if the dam is regulated. SCAC provided testimony to a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee in order to amend the bill to require DHEC to also inspect dams that have a county-owned road over it. The subcommittee was concerned with the volume of private dams that would be subject to DHEC oversight and has asked SCAC to obtain information on how many dams would be affected by this proposal. The subcommittee gave S. 5 a favorable report without any amendments but reserved the right to amend the bill based on the information requested from SCAC. 

H. 3218 — This bill provides DHEC with regulatory authority over a dam that is currently unregulated if DHEC determines that the dam’s failure will damage homes, public utilities, highways, or railroads. A House Agriculture subcommittee adopted two minor amendments but the bill did not receive a favorable report. However, it is very likely that the subcommittee will reconsider H. 3218.

Alternative Energy Property Tax Exemption

S. 44 creates two property tax exemptions for alternative energy generating projects, including solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, and landfill gas energy. The first provision exempts 80 percent of the value of the alternative energy equipment for commercial projects, which equates to a 2.1 percent assessment ratio. The second provision exempts all alternative energy equipment rated to produce 20 kW or less and defines these to be “residential,” regardless of the class of property they are on or the ownership of the equipment. 

Also, S. 44 provides that property in a fee-in-lieu of tax agreement (FILOT) prior to 2015 cannot take the exemption. Property placed in a FILOT in 2015 or 2016 can choose to take the exemption if they notify the county of that choice within 30 days of the effective date of the act. Senate Finance Committee amended S. 44 to redefine residential use and gave S. 44 a favorable report.

Legislative Action of Interest

In-state Tuition for Veterans — H. 3034 & 3035. H. 3034 eliminates the time limits of eligibility for certain recipients of transferred veterans’ benefits who are eligible for in-state tuition. H. 3035 was amended to provide that certain veterans and their dependents are eligible for in-state tuition and the one-year physical presence residency rule no longer applies so long as there is intent to establish domicile in the state. Both bills were given a favorable report by a House Education and Public Works subcommittee and will be on the full Committee’s agenda.  

Drone Use over Jails — S. 176. This bill prohibits drones from flying within 500 feet of a state prison. Senate Corrections and Penology Committee adopted a subcommittee amendment to also restrict drones from flying within 500 feet of a local detention facility without written consent from the jail administrator. S. 176 received a favorable report by the Committee and will be on the Senate calendar for second reading.

Employee Benefits — S. 218. This bill provides that a political subdivision may not establish, mandate or otherwise require an employee benefit in employment relationships to which they are not a party. S. 218 received a favorable report from a Senate L.C.I. subcommittee.

Roads — H. 3516. The House introduced a roads bill on Wednesday. The main components of the bill are: a 10 cent increase in the motor fuel user fee over five years; an increase in registration fees; a new statewide road maintenance fee to be paid upon the initial registration of a vehicle; and a fee in lieu of property taxes on motor carriers. Under the fee in lieu, counties would receive the first $26.5 million generated by the fee. Any revenue generated over this amount would be credited to the State Highway Fund to finance expansion and improvements to existing mainline interstates.

Motor Vehicle Valuation Appeals — S. 56. S. 56 provides that if a taxpayer objects to a motor vehicle tax assessment and produces a bill of sale showing a value less than the assessment, then the county auditor must reduce the assessment to the sales price. S. 56 provides that any rebate or dealer incentive must also be subtracted from the reduced assessment. A Senate Finance subcommittee carried over S. 56 for further study but it will likely be scheduled for another hearing next week.

Internet Sales Tax — S. 214. This bill requires a retailer who has internet sales in excess of $10,000 in the preceding 12 months to obtain a retail license. They are then required to collect and remit sales tax on all items sold in this state. A Senate Finance subcommittee amended the bill and full Finance gave S. 214 a favorable report as amended. SCAC will report on the amendment once it is published.

State Budget — Election Commission. The Election Commission made its budget request presentation before the Ways & Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government subcommittee. Among other things, they are requesting $7.5 million to refurbish the current voting machines, which should extend their life cycle for an additional five years. They are also requesting a pay increase for poll workers and managers from $60 to $75.

2017 SCAC Mid-Year Conference & Institute of Government — February 15 and 16

The SCAC Mid-Year Conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia on Wednesday, February 15. 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 at 5:30 p.m. 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 16 and include: Building an Effective County Team, Public Speaking, Economic Development, and Measuring and Reporting County Performance. 

The Council Chairperson's Workshop will be offered free-of-charge on Thursday, February 16, 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 here.

Webinar: Ethics Act — New Income Disclosure Requirements

Please join us on Thursday, February 23, 2017, at 10 a.m. as SCAC hosts a webinar to help county officials understand new income disclosure requirements of the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act. Michael Burchstead, General Counsel for the SC State Ethics Commission, will provide an overview of the ethics act, common violations, and new income disclosure requirements for the Statement of Economic Interest.

Register here.


Newly-Introduced Legislation

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."

Senate Bills

S. 255 — Provides for disclosures and disclaimers by independent expenditure committees related to the independent expenditure committee’s election communications.

S. 256 Authorizes a county legislative delegation to remove, for cause, a delegation appointee to a board or commission whom the delegation formally recommended to another public official or entity for appointment.

S. 257 — Enacts the “South Carolina Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.”

S. 261 Enacts the “South Carolina Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (C-PACE) that allows a county to establish a district by adoption of an ordinance for the purpose or promoting, encouraging, and facilitating clean energy improvements within its geographic area.

House Bills

H. 3478 Prohibits a law enforcement officer from using excessive force when making an arrest or excessive restraint when detaining a person.

H. 3480 Exempts the purchase of certain hurricane preparedness items from the state sales tax.

H. 3481 — Provides that a person or entity whose website publishes the arrest and booking records of a person whose charges have been dismissed, or who has been found not guilty, shall remove the information from their website within 30 days of a written request.

H. 3482 — Prohibits the use of personal information obtained from a local government for commercial solicitation.

H. 3483 — Provides that a person who injures a healthcare professional such as an EMS provider or firefighter while they are performing their duties, and knows or has reason to know their status, commits the offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

H. 3485 Requires the General Assembly to provide a definition for “fair market value” for purposes of property taxes, eliminates the 15 percent cap on increases in the value of property for reassessment, and eliminates an assessable transfer of interest as an event that may change the value of property.

H. 3486 Restores the former method of overriding the annual millage cap by a positive majority vote of the appropriate governing body and amends other provisions of Act 388 of 2006.

H. 3511 — Clarifies that a probate judge can waive filing fees for indigent persons in the same manner as other civil cases.

H. 3514 — Requires a person who is not a political committee and who makes an independent expenditure in excess of $500 during a calendar year, or makes an electioneering communication, to file a report of the expenditure or communication with the Ethics Commission.

H. 3516 Increases the gas tax from $.16 per gallon to $.26 per gallon to be phased in over a five year period to begin on July 1, 2017.

H. 3522 Caps the general fund revenues available for appropriation by restricting any increase to a percentage that is equal to the average annual percentage change from the previous ten completed fiscal years.

H. 3523 For purposes of workers’ compensation, provides a definition for “first responder” and allows a first responder workers’ compensation for personal injury caused by stress, mental injury, or mental illness if it arises as a result of the first responder’s direct involvement in a significant traumatic situation or experience.

H. 3524 — Adds firefighters to the list of persons that are required to report any suspected incidents of child abuse and neglect.

H. 3525 — Provides that only certain entities may use an automatic license plate reader system.

H. 3526 — Prohibits the use of a cell phone or other wireless communication devices while driving unless the device has a hands-free mechanism.

H. 3527 — Restricts the use of certain data obtained by a recording device in a vehicle that is equipped with a recording device capable of recording or transmitting certain information.

H. 3529 — Prohibits a county from regulating the use, disposition, or sale—including any fee imposition or taxation—of auxiliary containers.

H. 3536 — Requires of the Division of Aging in Lieutenant Governor’s office to fund a program to provide subsidies to senior citizens to purchase a personal emergency response system.