The General Assembly wrapped up its third week of session this week. The House and Senate continued to spend the bulk of their time meeting in subcommittee and committee to be able to advance legislation to the floor. The Governor also gave his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday evening.
Tort Claims Act Damages Increase — S. 7
The Senate Judiciary Committee 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 has previously 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 committee amended the bill to have it apply prospectively and to make a technical change relating to the CPI. If this bill were to pass, it would codify a 333 percent increase in the existing caps. The current fiscal impact statement on the bill predicts a $40 million dollar increase in premiums charged by the Insurance Reserve Fund just for entities covered by the IRF. The actual fiscal impact will be much higher when all entities not insured by the IRF are taken into account. County budgets that are already pushed to the limits will be further strained by such a change. S. 7 was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
S. 7 is on the contested Senate Calendar and it is imperative that you make contacts to your Senate delegation. Please let them know about the severe negative impact this bill would have on your county and ask that they help keep the bill on the contested calendar until a successful resolution can be reached.
Tobacco Preemption – H. 3274.
H. 3274 prohibits political subdivisions from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products after January 1, 2019. Any ordinances adopted prior to January 1, 2019, are exempt from the preemption. This is an SCAC policy position. A House Ways and Means subcommittee is scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday morning at 9:30 in Room 521 of the Blatt building. Please contact your House members on the Ways and Means Committee and ask that they oppose H. 3274. Click here for the Ways and Means roster.
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 met on Thursday and passed the bill out favorably with an amendment supported by SCAC. Based on discussions with members of the House, SCAC believes there is a very good chance that this legislation will pass the House. Thanks to Reps. Murrell Smith, Lucas, Ott, Stavrinakis, Simrill, Rutherford, Pope, Clyburn, Shedron Williams, Cobb-Hunter, Bailey, Erickson, Bradley, Yow, Forrest, Kirby, and Sottile for sponsoring this bill. The House Ways and Means Committee will be taking this bill up Tuesday, January 29, immediately upon adjournment of the House.
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 passing H. 3137 out of committee and 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.”
Judicial Department — The S.C. Judicial Department presented its budget request before both a Ways and Means and a Senate Finance subcommittee this week. One request was for judicial salary increases that would result in circuit court judges’ salaries being set at $188,090. Because a magistrate’s salary is a set percentage of circuit judge’s salary, magistrates could potentially experience a significant salary increase. A Ways and Means subcommittee expressed concern with the fiscal impact the magistrates’ salary increase would have on counties. The Judicial Department stated it believed that magistrate’s salaries should be decoupled from the circuit judges’ salary and set separately by the General Assembly. SCAC is working with the subcommittee to determine the fiscal impact to counties.
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. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee adopted an amendment to provide that the county itself, and not the county facility, 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.
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. S. 207 passed the Senate and has been sent to the House LCI Committee.
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. S. 227 was amended 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. S. 227 has been sent to the House.
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. S. 214 is pending third 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. S. 217 passed the Senate and has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee.
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 is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.
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. S. 21 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
Marriage Licenses — S. 196 & H. 3369. Both bills 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, minors of the age of 16 can marry but only with parental consent. S. 196 received a favorable report by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and H. 3369 received a favorable report by a House Judiciary subcommittee.
Voting Machines — S. 182. The state is looking at funding the replacement of voting machines. This bill requires the voting machines to provide a voter-verified paper audit trail and that this system be in place by the 2020 Presidential Preference primaries. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee carried the bill over to gather more information.
Post-Election Audits — S. 202. S. 202 requires county election commissions and boards of registration to perform post-election audits prior to certification of an election. The Election Commission shall promulgate regulations regarding how the audits are to be conducted. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee carried the bill over to gather more information.
Voter Registration Deadlines — H. 3031. H. 3031 reduces the timeframe to be registered prior to an election from 30 days before the election to 20 days before the election. The House Election Laws subcommittee amended the bill change the timeframe to 25 days before an election, an SCAC policy position, and gave the bill a favorable report as amended.
Poll Worker Residency — H. 3035. This bill would allow a poll worker to serve anywhere in the state as long as they are a resident of the state and registered to vote in the state. This is a past SCAC policy position. The House Election Laws subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
Mold Remediation — H. 3127. H. 3127 creates a study committee to look at the impact of mold in public buildings and to make recommendations about how to abate mold. The committee is required to report their findings to the General Assembly by December 31, 2019. A House Environmental Affairs subcommittee made technical changes to the bill and gave it a favorable report.
Coal Ash — H. 3483. This bill makes Act 138 of 2016, which requires coal ash to be disposed of in Class 3 landfills until March 2, 2021, permanent law. A House Environmental Affairs subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
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. 389 — Provides for partisan primary and partisan referendum voting requirements and procedures.
S. 390 — Provides for tax credits or rebates against various types of taxes imposed, including local option sales and use taxes.
S. 393 — Requires SLED to create and maintain the “Immigration Compliance Report.”
S. 394 — Allows the State to occupy the field regarding plastic bags, taking away authority to regulate the use of plastic bags or auxiliary containers at the county level.
S. 395 — Provides that a person must be 18 or older to marry and repeals the sections of law relating to the issuance of a marriage license to applicants under the age of 18.
S. 397 — Provides that a county sheriff has the same power as a municipal police officer to enforce the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.
S. 400 — Enacts the “South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act.”
S. 401 — Provides that an entity undertaking a transportation improvement project bears the costs related to relocating water and sewer lines.
S. 406 — Enacts the “South Carolina Lactation Support Act.”
S. 407 — Prohibits a person convicted of animal cruelty from adopting an animal.
S. 433 — Provides that each county shall designate a tax collector for the collection of property taxes and to prepare a tax collection notice.
H. 3682 — Provides that a certain cap on rehabilitation expenses only applies to certain rehabilitated buildings on contiguous parcels within the “South Carolina Textiles Communities Revitalization Act.”
H. 3683 — Enacts “Lizzy’s Law,” which requires law enforcement to collect certain information regarding lost or stolen weapons.
H. 3687 — Extends the homestead exemption for the disabled and elderly.
H. 3691 — Allows an employer to provide employees of school-aged children up to eight hours of additional paid leave to attend school functions and provides a participating employer a tax credit.
H. 3696 — Provides that a county sheriff has the same power as a municipal police officer to enforce the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.
H. 3699 — 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
H. 3709 — Requires that fertile pit bulls be registered.
H. 3722 — Provides that political subdivisions may not require an employer to pay employees additional wages based on a scheduling adjustment.
H. 3723 — Provides that candidates and committees may accept digital currency as contributions.
H. 3724 — Provides that golf carts being operated for the purpose of conducting tourism-related tours are not subject to daylight hour restrictions.
H. 3726 — Requires coroners and medical examiners to complete continuing education on identifying deaths caused by opiates.
H. 3733 — Enacts the “Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act.”
H. 3738 — Extends to members of the United States Foreign Service certain legal residence provisions that apply to members of the Armed Forces.
H. 3740 — Authorizes a payroll deduction for certain public employees for the purpose of facilitating employee purchases of consumer offerings through an employee purchase program.
H. 3758 — Redefines the allocation of fault amongst tortfeasors (persons who commit a civil wrong).