The General Assembly was back in Columbia this week. The Senate did not meet in regular session; however, they did conduct subcommittee and committee meetings in order to advance bills to the floor. The House met in regular session, introduced new legislation, and also conducted meetings to move legislation to the floor.
Tort Claims Act Damages Increase – S. 7
A Senate Judiciary subcommittee met on Tuesday to consider S. 7, which raises the existing caps on damages found in the Tort Claims Act. S. 7 increases 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 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 subcommittee amended the bill to have it apply prospectively and to make a technical change relating to the CPI. There was an attempt to remove the cap for occurrences completely but that was defeated. S. 7 was passed by the subcommittee as amended. If this bill were to pass, it would codify a 333 percent increase in the existing caps. County budgets that are already pushed to the limits will be further strained by such a change.
S. 7 will be before the full Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and it is imperative that you make contacts to your Senator, especially if they serve on the Judiciary Committee. Please let them know about the severe negative impact this bill would have on your county. Click here for a list of the members of the Judiciary Committee.
Local Government Fund (LGF) and the State Budget
Local Government Fund – H. 3137. H. 3137 encompasses SCAC’s policy position regarding the LGF. A Ways and Means subcommittee was scheduled for Thursday to consider the bill but was postponed until next week. Based on discussions with members of the House, SCAC believes there is a very good chance that this legislation will gain traction this year. Thanks to Reps. Murrell Smith, Lucas, Ott, Stavrinakis, Simrill, Rutherford, Pope, Clyburn, Shedron Williams, Cobb-Hunter, Bailey, Erickson, Bradley, Yow, Forrest, and Kirby for sponsoring this bill.
Please contact your House member and ask that they cosponsor and support passing H. 3137. Also, if your House member is on Ways and Means, please ask that they support increasing the LGF at least 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.”
Voter Election System – The State Election Commission presented its budget request before the House Ways and Means Constitutional subcommittee. The Commission is requesting $60 million for a new voting system to include the replacement of the current voting machines. The Commission has put out RFPs and is considering two types of voting machine systems. One would have electronic touch screens much like the current touch screens used. The other system would use hand-marked paper ballots. Both systems would have a paper trail that could be used to verify the votes cast. SCAC’s policy position is to support legislation that provides full funding to replace the voting machines and voting systems in this state.
Commission of Indigent Defense – The Commission met with a Ways and Means subcommittee this week to present its budget. During the presentation, the Commission mentioned that county government contributions to Indigent Defense are lacking and that it would like to see a contribution formula imposed on all counties. No details of the formula were discussed and the subcommittee made no indications of adopting such a formula, but SCAC will monitor this issue.
County Transportation Committee Funding – SCDOT met before a Ways and Means subcommittee this week to present its budget request. The agency requested the following proviso to clarify its understanding of the 2017 Roads bill to be that as the motor fuel user fee increases over time, the money sent back to CTCs will also increase and that this new money will be spent on the state highway system. The subcommittee adopted the proviso.
86.1. (CTC: increased funding) The requirement of § 13 of Act 40 of 2017 for increased funding to the County Transportation Committees shall come from the proceeds of § 12-28-310(D), and shall be used exclusively for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the state highway system.
Other Legislative Action this Week
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. At SCAC’s request, a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee adopted an amendment to make it clear that only the county governing body or chief administrative officer 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 received a favorable report as amended by the subcommittee.
Telecommunications Devices in Jail – S. 156. This bill, an SCAC policy position, prohibits the introduction or possession of a telecommunication device, such as a cell phone, in a jail or prison facility unless authorized by the facility. This offense would be a misdemeanor with a mandatory sentence of no more than three years. The Senate Corrections and Penology subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
Nursing Home Resident 4 Percent Assessment – S. 207. S. 207 allows a person who is receiving the 4 percent owner-occupied assessment ratio and becomes a patient of a nursing home or community residential care facility to retain the 4 percent assessment ratio while they are a patient of the facility. The person must intend on returning to their home and may not rent the home out for more than 72 days in any calendar year. A Senate Finance subcommittee and the full committee passed S. 207 out favorably and it will be before the full Senate next week.
Municipal Millage – S. 227. This bill provides that a municipality without an operating millage on January 1, 2019, or a municipality that incorporates after January 1, 2019, may impose an operating millage. A Senate Finance subcommittee adopted an amendment to “restrict” a first-time municipal millage imposition to 33 percent of the municipality’s previous year’s operating budget. If the municipality previously imposed a millage but repealed it, then it can re-impose the previous millage with retroactive increases subject to each year’s millage cap backdated to 2007 or since the previous millage was repealed, whichever is most recent. The subcommittee and the full Senate Finance Committee gave S. 227 a favorable report as amended.
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. A Senate Finance subcommittee and the full committee reported S. 214 out favorably, and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate Calendar.
Accommodations and Hospitality Tax – S. 217. This bill would allow counties to use state accommodations taxes, local hospitality taxes, and local accommodations taxes for the control and repair of flooding and drainage at tourism-related lands or areas. This bill includes all counties. A Senate Finance subcommittee and the full committee reported S. 217 out favorably as amended and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar. Senate Finance Committee considered and adopted a verbal amendment that is technical in nature.
Property Tax Penalties Moratorium for Government Shutdown Employees – H. 3630. This bill delays the penalty schedule for late payment of 2018 property taxes for federal employees and federal contractors that have not received a paycheck because of the federal government shutdown. The penalty schedule and the commencement of a tax execution are delayed for three months, however, the taxes are still due on January 15, 2019. The county treasurer has sole discretion to determine whether someone complies with the requirements of this legislation. H. 3630 passed the House and will be introduced in the Senate.
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. After adopting a technical amendment, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 21 a favorable report.
Marriage Licenses – S. 196. This bill would 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 but only with parental consent. The bill received a favorable report by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
Reduction of Agricultural Property Roll Back Taxes – H. 3596. Legislation was introduced this week which would limit roll back taxes to one year when agricultural property is applied to another use. Current law provides for five years of roll back taxes. This bill has not received a hearing but would create a negative fiscal impact on county governments.
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. 366 — Enacts the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.”
S. 367 — Provides that an employee of a hospital that is an employer under the SCRS may opt out of being a member of the SCRS.
S. 369 — Allows for shoreline-perpendicular wingwalls that extend landward from the ends of existing erosion control structures.
S. 371 — Provides that DHEC shall defer to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in determining the permissible size of a private recreational dock being constructed on the Intracoastal Waterway.
S. 372 — Enacts the “Act to Establish Pay Equity.”
S. 374 — Establishes the South Carolina Election Security Council.
S. 378 — Deletes the provision that restricts a qualified law enforcement officer from carrying a concealed weapon onto certain premises.
S. 380 — Delays the real property tax penalty for three months for those affected by the federal government shutdown.
H. 3580 — Provides for sentence modification and sentence reduction for certain inmates.
H. 3581 — Provides for partisan primary and partisan referendum voting requirements and procedures.
H. 3586 — Updates the 911 system and requires the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office to update and implement a coordinated statewide 911 system.
H. 3589 — Prohibits certain employment practices involving disclosures and information about wages.
H. 3590 — Provides that a person arrested or within police custody is a victim of and unable to consent to sexual contact with an arresting or custodial law enforcement officer.
H. 3592 — Requires law enforcement officers transporting a person who is believed to have a mental illness to be a part of a therapeutic transport unit and to undergo mental health and crisis intervention training.
H. 3593 — Provides that certain people may not operate a drone within certain distances from a state or federal military installation without consent and provides a penalty.
H. 3596 — Limits rollback taxes to one year when land classified as agricultural real property is applied to another use.
H. 3597 — Increases the maximum time a voter may spend in the voting booth from three minutes to five minutes.
H. 3615 — Enacts the “Act to Establish Pay Equity.”
H. 3616 — Establishes the South Carolina Election Security Council.
H. 3617 — Provides that coroners and medical examiners may not charge a fee for a permit for cremation or a fee from a Burial-Removal-Transit permit.
H. 3620 — Removes the $10,000 earnings limitation on employees returning to employment who retired before January 2, 2019.
H. 3622 — Adds county to definitions relating to lobbying; and therefore, would require further lobbyist registrations and disclosures.
H. 3623 — Requires SLED to develop a pilot data integration and analytics system that would include state and local law enforcement departments and agencies.
H. 3625 — Provides that the millage rate cap can be overridden and further increased by a positive majority vote; restores funding for the residential property tax exemption; repeals the Article “Local Option Sales and Use Tax for Local Property Tax Credits;” and makes other tax-related changes.
H. 3626 — Proposes to amend § 6, Article X of the State Constitution to require the General Assembly to define fair market value for the purposes of assessing real property tax.
H. 3629 — Provides that it is unlawful for a person to use a cell phone or device while operating a motor vehicle.
H. 3630 — Delays the real property tax penalty for three months for those affected by the federal government shutdown.
H. 3634 — Allows voters to share their marked ballot via social media or other means.
H. 3639 — Expands the amount of military personnel and their dependents who are entitled to in-state tuition.
H. 3643 — Adds an exception to the Tort Claims Act relating to counsel or advisory opinions of solicitors or authorized prosecutors.
H. 3654 — Requires a county that is planning to build a new public facility to include in its planning a study of transit-rider access to the location.
H. 3655 — Provides how a county may create a transit-oriented redevelopment agency.
H. 3658 — Requires a court to issue a courtesy summons if a charge against a defendant is dismissed or not processed but the defendant is subsequently indicted by a grand jury.
H. 3660 — Enacts the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.”
H. 3661 — Clarifies the term “contiguous” when a municipality located entirely within a special purpose district annexes unincorporated property also located within the special purpose district.
H. 3664 — Exempts injuries sustained by law enforcement in the line of duty from certain limitations within workers’ compensation.