A large portion of the Senate’s work this week dealt with the succession of Kevin Bryant to Lt. Governor, reelecting Senator Hugh Leatherman President Pro Tem of the Senate, and doing committee work. This week the House tackled House rule changes on the calendar, and did a good bit of subcommittee work.
SCAC staff met with Rep. Bill Sandifer, Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, to discuss various issues that come before his committee. Chairman Sandifer was very receptive to our issues and expressed support for several SCAC policy positions. The meeting was very amicable and productive and Chairman Sandifer was adamant that he wanted to include SCAC in discussions of any proposals that impact county government. Chairman Sandifer’s goal is to create an open and friendly business climate AND protect the interests of county government.
Please thank Chairman Sandifer for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with SCAC staff and for supporting several SCAC policy positions.
Local Government Fund (LGF) and State Budget
Full Ways and Means met this week and heard from the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) as well as the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD). RFA testified that the General Fund will increase by roughly $320 million this year. Unfortunately, they further explained that recurring statewide funding issues, which include rising state health insurance costs, lottery scholarship costs, and retirement fund increases, will eat most - if not all - of that growth. SCEMD presented the following costs of Hurricane Matthew to the committee:
- $ 345,810,216 in total costs
- $ 138,059,422 in state costs
- $ 207,750,794 in local costs
The projected non-federal share for Hurricane Matthew is $88,320,217.
For the Pinnacle Mountain Fire, SCEMD presented the following:
- $4,860,522 in total costs
- $3,960,522 in state costs
- $900,000 in local costs
The projected non-federal share is $1.25 million.
The projected total for both disasters is $89,570,217.
As stated last week, because recurring statewide funding costs limit the availability of recurring dollars, Chairman White will only recommend an appropriation to the LGF of last year’s recurring line. This would represent a reduction of $10.6 million in nonrecurring funds from last year’s appropriation.
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.”
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!
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Rewrite
H. 3352 does the following:
- For documents two years old or less, the response time for availability is reduced from 15 to 10 business days and the documents must be produced within 30 calendar days of the date the FOI request is granted.
- For documents older than two years, the response time is 20 business days and documents must be produced within 35 calendar days of the date the FOI request is granted.
- Requires each public body to establish a fee schedule which must be posted online. Allows administrative charges to be based on the prorated hourly salary of the lowest paid employee who has the skill and training to fulfill the request. When a deposit is required, the time to produce a record does not start until the deposit is received.
- Creates the Office of FOI Act Review within the Administrative Law Court (ALC) to hear FOI violation complaints and complaints of frivolous or overly burdensome requests.
- Changes the criminal penalties under FOI to civil penalties.
H. 3352 also requires a law enforcement agency to seek an injunction in circuit court to prevent the release of dash cam video pursuant to an FOI request. Current law allows the agency to deny a request and a requester who disagrees may bring suit. Finally, H. 3352 exempts the release of the final words uttered in a 911 call before the caller dies, unless the family waives the exemption. The bill received a favorable report from the House Constitutional Laws subcommittee.
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. S. 44 is pending second reading on the contested Senate calendar.
H. 3218 provides DHEC with regulatory authority over a dam that is currently unregulated if DHEC determines that the dam’s failure will damage homes, commercial buildings, public utilities, highways, or railroads.
A House Agriculture subcommittee amended a provision of the bill dealing with the dam owner’s emergency action plan for dam or reservoir failure. The amendment states that the owner is to notify DHEC and local emergency management officials of a failure or potential failure. It is then the responsibility of the local officials listed in the emergency action plan to notify downstream landowners located in the inundation zone and, if necessary, order evacuation. DHEC is in the process of working on inundation zone maps to provide to county emergency management offices. The full committee gave H. 3218 a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be on the House calendar for second reading.
Legislative Action of Interest
Nursing Home Legal Residence – S. 75. S. 75 provides that if a person is moved to a nursing home, intends to return home, and does not rent their residence then they will not lose their owner-occupied 4 percent assessment ratio. A Senate Finance subcommittee amended the bill to provide that the owner may still rent the property up to 72 days without losing their 4 percent ratio as provided in current law. The amendment further clarified that this section also applies to persons who are moved to assisted living facilities and in-patient rehabilitation facilities. The subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report as amended.
Exotic Animal Registration – H. 3531. This bill requires a person in legal possession of a large wild cat, non-native bear, or great ape to register with the local animal control authority by January 1, 2018. The person must pay a one-time $500 registration fee and an annual $100 fee per animal to the local animal control authority. SCAC staff requested an amendment to provide that in the event of the release or escape of one or more of these animals that state and local law enforcement will assist animal control in recapturing, containing, or destroying the animal. House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee adopted the subcommittee amendment and gave the bill a favorable report.
Plastic Bag Bans – H. 3529. H. 3529 prohibits a political subdivision from passing an ordinance that regulates or prohibits the use or disposition of plastic bags and other auxiliary containers. SCAC staff requested an amendment to provide that nothing in the bill can be construed to affect county ordinances or agreements that regulate solid waste or recyclables. A House L.C.I. subcommittee approved the amendment and gave H. 3529 a favorable report.
State Guard Military Leave – S. 78. This bill provides that any officer or employee of the state or a political subdivision who is a member of the South Carolina State Guard must be granted military leave for training or when the guard is activated. There can be no loss of pay, seniority, or efficiency rating while the employee is on leave. A Senate General subcommittee gave S. 78 a favorable report.
Drone Use over Jails – S. 176. This bill, as amended, prohibits drones from flying within 500 feet of a prison or jail without written consent of the facility. The bill is on the Senate calendar for second reading and was carried over.
DSS Sign Language Interpreters – S. 220. This bill requires a local law enforcement agency conducting a child abuse investigation involving a hearing impaired child to use a sign language interpreter that is not a parent or family member of the child when the child is being interviewed. DSS shall maintain a list of qualified interpreters in each county. The interpreter may communicate with a child from a remote location by communicating with the child using video remote interpreting. The Senate Judiciary amended the bill to give DSS or law enforcement the discretion to allow the parents to be present during the interview as long as they are not the alleged abuse perpetrator. The bill was given a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
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 waives the one-year residency requirement for in-state tuition for veterans and their dependents so long as there is intent to establish domicile in the state. The House Education and Public Works Committee recommitted H. 3034 but gave H. 3035 a favorable report.
Police Dogs and Horses – S. 6. This bill would increase penalties for injuring or killing a dog or horse used by law enforcement. Restitution must be paid to the agency to replace or restore the dog or horse. A Senate Agriculture subcommittee gave S. 6 a favorable report.
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 the Senate L.C.I. Committee and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
SC House Tax Policy Review Committee – The Ad Hoc House Tax Policy Review Committee met this week to begin finalizing proposals to address sales, income, business license, and property taxes. During the meeting, legislative staff presented information relating to reducing the assessment ratios on manufacturing property, business personal property, and commercial real property. While the committee did not take any action on this proposal, a recurring discussion of the committee is to reduce the assessment ratios for property taxes. SCAC staff will continue to monitor this committee and will report on any legislation that emanates from it.
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.
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. 271 – Establishes a procedure that allows an inmate whom the Department of Corrections determines is not a security risk to attend the funeral services of certain family members and visit certain family members while they are hospitalized.
S. 278 – Provides uniform standards for formatting documents submitted to a clerk of court or register of deeds for recording.
S. 281 – Determines when roll back taxes are applicable to certain properties that are no longer used for agricultural purposes.
S. 289 – Enacts the “South Carolina Crime Victims Services Act.”
S. 301 – Removes the Department of Transportation Commission.
S. 309 – Authorizes pari-mutuel betting and other forms of gambling in specified areas of the state.
S. 313 – Allows a county to establish a windstorm protection and homeowner’s insurance program to assist a homeowner with the financial costs of qualified wind resistance improvements.
S. 314 – Allows municipalities with fewer than 8,000 residents and fewer than 11 square miles to annex certain real property, by ordinance, upon a finding that the property is blighted.
S. 315 – Authorizes the Hurricane, Earthquake, and Fire Advisory Committee to address the mitigation of property losses due to flood, and allows grants to be made to local governments to mitigate losses.
H. 3549 – Provides that when a business is applying for a permit for on-premises alcohol consumption and the business is located within the proximity of a school, the governing body of the school must affirmatively state that it does not object to the issuance of a permit.
H. 3566 – Requires the Law Enforcement Training Council to develop guidelines for a one-week training program offered by the Criminal Justice Academy to school first responders that certifies them to possess firearms on school premises.
H. 3570 – Allows a county to establish a windstorm protection and homeowners insurance program to assist a homeowner with the financial costs of qualified wind resistance improvements.
H. 3579 – Among other things, provides that a person who has been fined for an ethics violation and who has failed to pay the fine may not be a candidate for an elected or appointed position within a state or local government entity.
H. 3581 – Provides that the registered owner of a vehicle that unlawfully overtakes a school bus may be subject to a civil penalty if the identity of the vehicle operator cannot be determined.
H. 3590 – Requires that public schools provide at least one hour of instruction on November 11th on the history and meaning of Veterans Day.
H. 3594 – To provide that certain improvements made to damaged homes as a result of the floods in 2015 are not considered improvements for purposes of property taxes.
H. 3595 – Provides that the driver of a motor vehicle approaching a vehicle collecting solid waste must proceed with caution and, if possible, yield the right of way by making a lane change that is not adjacent to the vehicle collecting solid waste.