Both the House and the Senate are taking an Easter break next week. This is an excellent opportunity to talk to the members of the General Assembly while they are home.
Senate adopts $33 million Local Government Fund increase!
The Senate adopted its version of the budget this week, which included a $33,692,568 recurring increase to the LGF.
Please note: This increase was created by taking the House allocation of $33 million to cover 1 percent of the retirement system local government employers’ increase, and appropriating that money to the LGF.
Please thank your Senator for this increase.
Please contact your House member and thank them for the effort they made to cover 1 percent of the retirement system local government employers’ increase. Ask your House member to support the Senate version because it ensures more money going back to county government, likely saving the taxpayers from property tax increases!
New Budget Items:
Amended FEMA Match
The Finance Committee appropriated $76.5 million from nonrecurring funds in the Capital Reserve Fund for the state and local FEMA match for Hurricane Matthew and the Pinnacle Mountain Fire. The Senate amended the Finance Committee version of the Capital Reserve Fund to reduce the allocation for Hurricane Matthew to $68 million and direct $7,272,282 to 2014 Winter Storm Local Matching Funds.
Almost 60 percent of FEMA match money will go to local governments.
New Provisos of Interest:
Proviso 34.___. This proviso states that funds in each county's Hazardous Waste Fund County Account must be released by the State Treasurer upon the written request of a majority of the county's legislative delegation representing the economically depressed area of the county. The money must be used for infrastructure within the economically depressed area of that county.
Proviso 101.___. This proviso states that any county whose Board of Voter Registration and Elections has, as of July 1, 2017, not paid for fees related to the provision of legal services associated with the conduct of any election in prior fiscal years shall have $100,000 of its Aid to Subdivisions allocation withheld until such time as payment for such legal services has been rendered. This proviso represents another example of the state punishing county taxpayers for the actions of an agency they control. Please contact your House member and ask that they strip this proviso from the budget.
State Retirement System “Fix” Adopted by Both Chambers — H. 3726
The conference report on the Retirement System was adopted by both chambers this week.
The most significant difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill was a Senate provision that stated that when the system no longer has an unfunded liability, all new employees must participate in a defined contribution retirement plan. This provision was stricken from the final version of the legislation.
The legislation increases and caps SCRS employee contribution rates at 9 percent. Employer contribution rates are increased two percent 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 two percent 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.
According to the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, 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.
Please note that the House version of the budget appropriates money to offset 1 percent of the local government employer increase required under this legislation. The Senate version of the budget would require the full 2 percent to be paid by local government; however, the Senate appropriated $33 million to the LGF to offset the mandated increase. The Senate appropriation represents more money returning to the county taxpayers.
H. 3516, which among other things raises the gas tax 2 cents per year for six years, was placed into interrupted debate this week. “Interrupted debate” is a special position on the Senate calendar and makes it likely the Senate will begin debating this bill when they return the week of Tuesday, April 18. Once debate begins on the bill, Senator Davis may introduce an amendment that would give counties the option to accept the transfer of roads from the state system. Also, Senator Timmons is expected to introduce amendments allowing counties to impose a local gas tax, and allowing counties and municipalities to impose a new local option tax for existing infrastructure.
Legislation of Interest
Assessment Ratio in Probate — H. 3093. This legislation states that when an owner receiving the 4 percent assessment ratio dies, the property shall continue to be assessed at 4 percent until the deceased's estate is closed, or upon recording of a deed or deed of distribution out of the estate. The property may not be rented to take advantage of the ratio. H. 3093 passed the House and is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.
Magistrates’ Salaries — H. 3744. This bill requires that 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. The bill also increases the stipend for full and part-time chief magistrates and provides a new $5,000 supplement for full-time associate magistrates. It also provides a $2,500 supplement for part-time associate magistrates. The bill funds these increases by increasing civil filing fees in magistrate’s court by $15. All remaining revenue is distributed to every county on an equal basis. After adopting an amendment to require the Chief Magistrates to report actual magistrate salaries annually to Court Administration, the House rejected H. 3744 by refusing to give the bill second reading.
Expungements — H. 3209. This bill provides that if a person is convicted of an offense that is repealed, but the elements of the offense are similar to an existing offense that is eligible for expungement, then the repealed offense is eligible for expungement. The House amended the bill to expand the list of offenses eligible for expungement and to provide more flexibility for those with multiple convictions to choose which conviction to expunge. The House removed a previously adopted amendment that would allow those who have been pardoned for a non-violent offense to expunge records related to the offense. H. 3209 received third reading by the House and was sent to the Senate.
Cost of Animal Care Act — S. 3. This bill provides that an entity with custody of an animal because the animal‘s owner has been accused of a crime against the animal may petition magistrate’s court requesting the accused to deposit funds into an account to pay for the animal’s care. The Senate adopted a committee amendment which provides that the accused can avoid paying costs associated with the animal if they surrender the animal. The accused can only avoid the costs after surrender and will still be liable for all costs up to the point of surrender. The bill was given third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Dealer Tags — H. 3933. H. 3933 allows a dealer with a service department to purchase two additional dealer tags to use for dealer-owned vehicles driven by persons getting their vehicle serviced by the dealer. H. 3933 received third reading and has been sent to the Senate.
Crime Victim Services — S. 289. This bill is an attempt to consolidate victim services by creating the South Carolina Crime Victim Services Division within the Office of the Attorney General. The Division will ensure that victims throughout the state have access to the same services, regardless of where they reside. S. 289 passed the Senate and is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
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. This supplement is contingent upon state appropriation or “financial support from other sources.” After paying each coroner’s supplement, any excess amount from the funding source is to be disbursed to coroners pursuant to a formula based on county population. The Senate adopted several amendments to provide that information obtained by the Child Fatality Review Team is not subject to FOIA, subject to exceptions, but the information is subject to subpoena and discovery. The bill received third reading and was sent to the House.
Work Zone Safety — H. 4033 & S. 565. These bills drastically enhance penalties for driving infractions in a work zone. Work zones are broadly defined to protect road maintenance workers and first responders. The penalties are further enhanced if injury or death occurs. The funds collected from penalties are sent to the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation to pay state and local police officers to patrol work zones. The House adopted an amendment to H. 4033 that will remit 10 percent of the fine proceeds to local government to cover costs associated with disposing of the charges in court. H. 4033 received third reading in the House and was sent to the Senate where it was recalled from committee and placed on the Senate calendar for second reading. S. 565, which does not remit fine proceeds to local government, was recommitted by the Senate.
Coroner Qualifications — H. 3019. This bill originally provided that a coroner elected without meeting the statutory requirements for being a coroner could remain coroner if he completes the requirements within a year of being elected. It was amended to require the coroner’s office to employ a medical examiner or a deputy coroner who meets the qualifications if the coroner doesn’t meet the statutory requirements for being a coroner when elected. H. 3019 is pending second reading on the House contested calendar.
Probate Court — S. 415. This is a comprehensive bill that among other things, revises Title 62, Article 5 of the Probate Code, dealing with conservatorships and guardianships. The bill also gives probate judges the authority to waive filing fees for indigent persons. S. 415 received third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Call for Entries — J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards
SCAC is currently accepting applications for the 2017 J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards Competition. The awards program accepts applications that address all areas of county government — from simple, unique ideas that maximize limited resources, to major collaborative efforts that tackle complex issues.
Counties are invited to submit applications that describe the purpose and significance of their innovative projects. All applications must be submitted online or received at the SCAC Office by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 23. Applicants who meet the deadline and all requirements will be scheduled to present their projects during the awards competition on Sunday, July 30, at SCAC's 50th Annual Conference.
To access the rules and requirements, frequently asked questions, and examples of previous projects, please visit the Association’s website at www.sccounties.org/awards. Counties are able to submit applications online by using the online Awards Toolkit. If you have additional questions, please contact Anna Berger at 1-800-922-6081 or email@example.com.
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. 610 — Establishes a working group for the purpose of developing a long-range comprehensive beach management plan in order to quantify nourishment volume needs and the benefits of investing in beach preservation.
S. 612 — Prohibits the deletion or destruction of data from a body-worn camera with the intent to alter or influence a criminal action or investigation, or a civil action.
S. 618 — Authorizes municipalities without an operating millage on January 1, 2017, or municipalities that incorporate after January 1, 2017, to impose an operating millage.
H. 4093 — Enacts the “Employment First Initiative Act” to establish policies supportive of competitive and integrated employment of individuals with disabilities.
H. 4115 — Provides that a person is not allowed to vote in a partisan primary election or partisan advisory referendum unless the person has registered as being a member of that party.
The following bills have been passed by both chambers and are now before the Governor for signature or veto:
(R. 9) S. 218. Prohibits a county from establishing, mandating, or otherwise requiring employee benefits from employers operating within the county.
(R. 13) H. 3358. Provides that the state shall meet all of the requirements of the “Federal Real ID Act”, and a real ID card may be a driver’s license or an ID card issued by DMV.