State Budget — H. 3720
The House raced through its work on the budget this week. On Monday, the chamber adopted, and closed, sections to the budget that did not have pending amendments. On Tuesday, the House adopted very few changes to the Ways and Means version of the budget. Almost all of the amendments adopted that shifted money of any consequence were sponsored by the Ways and Means Chairman or chairmen of Ways and Means subcommittees. Therefore, the House budget is substantially as passed by Ways and Means.
The House version of the budget provides an allocation that covers one percent of the retirement system local government employers’ increase. This was a $32 million appropriation on behalf of local government. Please thank your House member for supporting this appropriation and ask your Senator to do the same in the Senate version of the budget.
Additionally, $83.5 million was appropriated from nonrecurring funds for the state and local FEMA match for Hurricane Matthew and the Pinnacle Mountain Fire. An amendment adopted by the House allocated $700,000 of this appropriation to the Town of Nichols for costs associated with damages caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The House also made the following changes to the budget:
Appropriation to the PARD program — Chairman White deleted a $6 million allocation for a competitive grants program because the Governor threatened to veto the appropriation. The money was transferred to the Park and Recreation Development Fund (PARD) program at the SC Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. If this appropriation is adopted by both chambers, the funding is distributed to local governments through a grant and match program upon application to your Legislative Delegation.
Roads Transfer Proviso — This proviso allows a county to pass a resolution indicating its conditions, willingness, and desire to accept roads from the state system and assume the maintenance thereof. SCDOT and any county electing to participate must enter into a written agreement clarifying which roads the county will accept and how much money SCDOT will transfer to the county to maintain the roads.
Indigent Defense Screening — This proviso (117.142) requires the Commission for Indigent Defense and the Judicial Department Court Administration Program to consult with the Summary Court Judges Association and the Clerks of Courts Association on issues regarding screening applicants for public defenders. Indigent Defense and Court Administration are to make recommendations to the General Assembly by December 1, 2017, regarding the requirements of verifying indigence, who should conduct the screening, and what resources are needed to properly screen applicants. The proviso was included in the budget that passed the House and was adopted in a Senate Finance subcommittee.
The House failed to correct two very important issues in the budget:
- Fund the Local Government Fund
SCAC requested the General Assembly fund the LGF at last year’s level, plus any percentage growth in the General Fund. The House failed to fund the non-recurring dollars appropriated to the LGF in its version of the budget, which equates to a $10.6 million cut. Please contact your Senators this weekend and ask them to fund the LGF at last year’s level, plus the growth in the General Fund!
- Flexibility Proviso
The House adopted an amended version of the County Flexibility Proviso. The amendment excludes the assessment for indigent medical care from being reduced. Please contact your Senator and ask that this “exclusion” for the medical indigent program be deleted. There is no flexibility when you exclude any mandate that costs an agency money!
The Senate Finance subcommittee met on Tuesday to take up H. 3516, the House version of the roads bill. The committee amended the House version and gave the bill a favorable report. As amended by the Senate Finance Committee, H. 3516: increases the motor fuel user fee 2 cents per year for six years; increases the registration fees sent to SCDOT as a result of Act 275 of 2016; gradually increases the sales tax cap on automobiles, referred to as an infrastructure maintenance fee, to $600 for cars first registered in South Carolina and $600 for cars initially registered in another state but subsequently registered in South Carolina; creates a road use fee for electric and hybrid vehicles; creates a fee-in-lieu of property taxes for both in-state and out-of-state motor carriers with the first 75 percent sent to counties and the remaining 25 percent to the newly created Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF); and gradually increases the 2.66 cents per gallon of the gas tax sent to County Transportation Committees (CTCs) to 3.99 cents over the next five years. The Finance Committee amendment also struck the SCDOT Commission restructuring language from the House version, but left the section in the bill so that amendments on the floor would be germane. Most of the money created by H. 3516 will be placed in the IMTF to be used exclusively on repair, maintenance, and improvements to existing roads. The SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) estimated that the fee-in-lieu of property taxes on motor carriers will send approximately $12 million in new revenue to counties.
H. 3516 is pending second reading on the Senate’s contested calendar. Once debate begins on the Senate floor, Senator Davis may introduce an amendment to give counties the option to accept the transfer of roads from the state system.
State Retirement System — H. 3726
The State Retirement System bill is likely headed to conference committee.
The most significant difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill is a Senate amendment which states that when the system no longer has an unfunded liability, all new employees must participate in a defined contribution retirement plan.
Both the House and Senate versions increase and cap SCRS employee contribution rates at 9 percent.
In both bills, employer contribution rates are increased to 13.56 percent for FY 17-18. The employer contribution rate will then increase 1 percent every year until FY 22-23, rising to 18.56 percent. PORS (Police Officers Retirement System) employee contribution rates are increased and capped at 9.75 percent. PORS employer rates are increased to 16.24 percent for FY 17-18 and increase 1 percent every year, rising to 21.24 percent in FY 22-23. The unfunded amortization schedule is reduced from 30 years to 20, and the annual rate of return from investments is reduced from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent. A new annual rate of return must be set in 2021 and every four years thereafter.
The bill also allows the General Assembly to allocate money to relieve the employers’ increased share.
According to RFA, local government employer contributions (counties, cities, and school districts) would increase by $67,400,000 in FY 17-18, and by an additional $33,700,000 each year in FY 18-19 through FY 22-23, for a total of $235,800,000 over the next six fiscal years.
Legislation of Interest
Magistrates’ Salaries — S. 148. S. 148 requires all magistrates be paid at least 55 percent of a circuit judge’s salary. Current law has magistrates’ salaries tiered based on county population with the lowest tier being paid 35 percent of a circuit judge’s salary. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to reduce the proposed stipends in the original bill from $10,000 to $5,000 for full-time chief magistrates and from $5,000 to $2,500 for part-time chief magistrates. The amendment struck all other stipend increases. The subcommittee further amended the bill to require counties to submit magistrate salary information to Court Administration. The bill funds the salary and supplement increases by increasing civil filing fees in magistrate’s court by $15. A subcommittee amendment changes the effective date to provide that fee increases begin on July 1, 2017, but the salary increases don’t go into effect until January 1, 2018. All remaining revenue is distributed to every county on a pro rata basis. S. 148 received a favorable report as amended from the subcommittee.
Probate Court — S. 415. This is a comprehensive bill that, among other things, revises Title 62, Article 5 of the Probate Code which deals with conservatorships and guardianships. The bill also gives probate judges the authority to waive filing fees for indigent persons. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 415 a favorable report.
Inmate Funeral Transport — S. 271. This bill would allow an inmate whom the Department of Corrections determines is not a security risk to attend the funeral of a family member or visit a hospitalized family member whose death is imminent. The Department may engage the services of the local sheriff where the funeral or hospital is located to provide security and transportation for the inmate. For its services, the sheriff’s department may collect the cost of security and transportation for the inmate from a third party such as a family member or from the inmate’s trust account. The Senate Corrections and Penology Committee gave S. 271 a favorable report.
Law Enforcement Training Council — S. 173. This bill requires Class 1-LE, Class 2-LCO, and Class 3-SLE law enforcement officers to receive training in mental health and addictive disorder crisis intervention over their three-year re-certification period. The bill received second reading in the Senate.
Coroner’s Supplement — S. 170. This bill requires each county coroner to convene a Child Fatality Review Team to review cases of children under the age of 18 who have died in the county. The bill also provides a supplement of at least $35,000 annually to each coroner for staff and office equipment. This supplement is contingent upon state appropriation or “financial support from other sources.” After paying each coroner’s supplement, any excess amounts from the funding source is to be disbursed to coroners in an amount pursuant to a formula based on county population. After adopting the committee amendment, the Senate carried the bill over on second reading.
2014 Winter Storm Pax Funds — S. 483. This joint resolution provides $700,000 from the Farm Aid Fund to be disbursed to the Town of Nichols, as a loan, for damages incurred from Hurricane Matthews. If the town does not receive federal relief funding to repay the loan within three years, the loan is forgiven. The Senate adopted an amendment which provides that the remainder of the Farm Aid Fund is to be equally disbursed to counties and cities that were eligible for reimbursement by FEMA but were not reimbursed due to local match requirements. The amount disbursed is capped at 33 percent of the entities remaining unreimbursed total non-federal aid share from the 2014 storm. S. 483 received third reading in the Senate.
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S. 539 – Repeals §12-39-70 relating to appraising and assessing personal property of businesses under the jurisdiction of the county auditor.
S. 548 – Requires county detention centers to only use sign language interpreters that meet certain requirements.
S. 560 – Authorizes family court to determine whether a child 14 years or older should be placed on the sex offender registry.
H. 3933 – Provides two additional dealership license plates for a dealer who has a service garage at his dealership.
H. 3937 – Authorizes a dealer to receive two dealership license plates for the first 20 vehicles sold during the preceding year, and two additional plates for every 15 vehicles sold beyond the initial 20 vehicles.
H. 3967 – Prohibits certain gas tax fees from being spent on new road construction projects and from being transferred to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank.
H. 3989 – Provides that the Department of Motor Vehicle must require certain vehicles to undergo an annual inspection and that a portion of the inspection fee must be used to maintain the state’s highways.
H. 4007 – Requires a candidate who executes a candidacy pledge with a political party for purposes of running for a particular office in that party’s primary election and who is later elected, must resign from that office before changing their political affiliation.
H. 4008 – Allows magistrates, as well as their dependents, to participate in the state health and dental insurance plan.