The House and Senate met in Joint Session on Wednesday to elect a new Supreme Court Justice as well as Court of Appeals, circuit court, family court, and administrative law court judges. The Senate spent much of their week passing S. 27, which makes the Superintendent of Education a cabinet position. The House chamber took action on several bills, some of which are discussed below.
Local Government Fund (LGF) and State Budget
Ways and Means subcommittees continued to work on the budget this week, and are projected to complete their work next week. The proviso subcommittee will meet February 14, and the full committee will take up the budget February 20.
State Health Plan: PEBA testified before the Ways and Means Healthcare subcommittee this week. Remaining grandfathered and retaining current benefits will require a 2.5 percent increase this year. This equates to a $25.456 million cost to the state general fund if absorbed by employers only. (This $25 million does not include the cost to local governments, which would also need to absorb the cost.) If costs were shared equally by employees and employers, the state would be required to pay $22.208 million and increase employee premiums $3.86 per month. Total absorption of the costs by employees would require a $16.74 increase in premiums per month.
Body Cameras: In its budget request to the Ways and Means Law Enforcement subcommittee, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) asked that Proviso 63.8 be deleted. This proviso authorizes DPS, who is tasked with disbursing body camera funding to local agencies, to carry forward any unexpended funds for body cameras from the previous year into the current year to be used on body cameras. $2.4M was appropriated to the body camera fund for FY16 and DPS indicated that all of the funding will be disbursed.
Local Government Fund: Please continue to support SCAC’s position regarding funding:
“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!
Alternative Energy Property Tax Exemption
S. 44, which grants a substantial property tax exemption for alternative energy was amended by, and passed the Senate this week. Senator Shane Martin proposed, and the Senate adopted, an amendment which places a ten-year sunset on the exemption.
As passed by the Senate, 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.
S. 44 also 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.
H. 3218 provides DHEC with regulatory authority over any dam that is currently unregulated if DHEC determines that the dam’s failure will damage homes, commercial buildings, public utilities, highways, or railroads.
The House adopted the committee amendment 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 emergency management officials of any failure or potential failure. It is then the responsibility of the management 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. H. 3218 received third reading in the House and was sent to the Senate.
Legislative Action of Interest
Magistrates’ Salaries — S. 148. This bill would amend the pay scale for magistrates by changing the baseline salary criteria. This bill would no longer set salaries based on the population of the county, but instead would establish a base salary of 55 percent of a circuit judge’s salary for the state’s previous fiscal year. These base salary changes would not apply to any magistrates whose salary exceeds 55 percent of a circuit judge’s salary. Full-time chief magistrates' yearly supplements would increase from $3,000 to $10,000; full-time associate chief magistrates would be paid a supplement of $5,000; part-time associate chief magistrates would be paid a supplement of $2,500.
Salary increases would be funded by increasing magistrates' filing fees by $15, which are to be remitted to the State Treasurer. The State Treasurer would retain $40,000 to offset processing costs, distribute $15,000 to State Court Administration for magistrates’ educational costs, and distribute funds to counties to cover the pay increase. Any remaining funds would be distributed to the counties to offset magistrates’ operational costs. The bill was considered by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee before being carried over. Sen. Scott Talley asked to carry over S. 148 due to concerns over the lack of a financial impact statement and the effect the bill could have on counties.
Magistrates’ Jurisdiction — S. 118 & S. 151. S. 151 increases the civil jurisdiction of magistrates’ court from $7,500 to $15,000, while S. 118 increases the magistrates’ civil jurisdiction to $10,000. Concerned about the impact that a drastic increase would have on the court, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee determined that the smaller incremental increase to $10,000 found in S. 118 would be more appropriate. The subcommittee carried over S. 151 and amended S. 118 to remove a provision requiring mediation for certain cases before giving S. 118 a favorable report.
State Health Plan Participation — S. 61. S. 61 provides that a political subdivision of the state and any instrumentality or governmental agency of the political subdivision are eligible to participate in the state health and dental insurance plans. Currently, any instrumentality of a political subdivision has to be specifically written into the statute to be covered. This bill would eliminate that requirement. S. 61 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Attorney Access for Inmates — H. 3278. This bill provides that a state or local detention facility cannot prohibit an in-person meeting between an inmate and his attorney. A House Judiciary subcommittee amendment provides that the meeting cannot jeopardize safety or disrupt the facility’s normal operations. H. 3278 received a favorable report as amended and will be on the full committee’s agenda.
Inmate Transport — S. 271. S. 271 requires the Department of Corrections to offer transportation to inmates whom the Department determines are not a security risk to see a family member in the hospital whose death is imminent, or to their funeral. The Department may engage the services of the sheriff of the county where the hospital is located, or where the funeral is being held to assist with the security and transport of the inmate. The sheriff may collect actual cost for their services from the inmate’s trust account or from a third party on behalf of the inmate. A Senate Corrections and Penology subcommittee amended the bill to require any victims to be notified of the inmate’s release and gave the bill a favorable report.
Drone Use over Jails — S. 176. This bill prohibits the flying of drones within 500 feet horizontally or 200 feet vertically of a prison or jail without written consent of the facility. A Senate floor amendment provides that if a jail or prison chooses to confiscate a drone that violates this prohibition, the drone may be confiscated by the facility until the case is adjudicated and must be returned to the owner if found not guilty. S. 176 was carried over and is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
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. A House L.C.I. subcommittee amended the bill to provide that nothing in the bill can be construed to affect county ordinances or agreements that regulate solid waste or recyclables. The L.C.I Committee adopted the amendment and gave H. 3529 a favorable report and it is pending second reading on the House calendar.
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. In the event of the release or escape of one or more of these animals, state and local law enforcement can assist animal control in recapturing, containing, or destroying the animal. H. 3531 received third reading in the House and was sent to the Senate.
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. The bill received second reading in the Senate this week.
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. 322 – Provides that any agency authorized to conduct fingerprint background checks may conduct a federal fingerprint review. Upon request, SLED may submit the fingerprints collected to the FBI’s Next Generation Identification program.
S. 324 – Allows active or retired clerks of court who possess a valid concealed weapons permit to carry a concealable weapon anywhere within this state.
S. 341 – Amends the Constitution to provide for an independent reapportionment commission, and to provide for membership of the commission and the manner in which members of the commission are chosen.
S. 343 – Requires an entity undertaking a transportation improvement project to bear the costs, not to exceed 7.5 percent of the total cost of the project, related to relocating water and sewer lines that are maintained by a public water or sewer system and located within the rights-of-way of the transportation project.
S. 346 – Enacts the “South Carolina Inclusionary Zoning Act” which authorizes counties to use inclusionary zoning strategies to increase the availability of affordable housing.
S. 347 – For purposes of special partisan elections, provides that a primary must be held on the twelfth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs. A runoff primary must be held on the fourteenth Tuesday after the vacancy, and a special election must be held on the twenty-first Tuesday after the vacancy occurs.
H. 3600 – Allows county employees, retirees, and their dependents to participate in the state health plan.
H. 3605 – Prohibits the S.C. Infantry Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America or any other confederate flag from being flown or displayed in or on any public building except a museum.
H. 3645 – Requires a person, prior to taking a public office, to agree that if they are convicted of certain crimes that stem from activities that occur while they are in office, they forfeit retirement benefits attributable to their time of service in office.
H. 3646 – Requires any transaction by a person in the junk or salvage business involving a junk automobile to be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicle in an electronic format.
H. 3650 – Enacts the “South Carolina Business License Tax Standardization Act,” which provides the sole manner in which a county or municipal business license tax may be imposed.
H. 3651 – Prohibits the Municipal Association of South Carolina or any other political subdivision from collecting certain business license taxes and insurance taxes.
H. 3652 – Requires governmental agencies to consider all piping materials in determining requirements for certain projects.
H. 3653 – Provides that operations or expansions of manufacturing and industrial facilities may not be considered public or private nuisance in certain circumstances.
H. 3664 – For purposes of cigarette taxes, increases the weight from 3.5 pounds to 4.5 pounds or less per thousands.