Tort Claims Act Changes — S. 7 & S. 386
S. 7 raises the existing caps on damages found in the Tort Claims Act 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). 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. 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. 386, a companion bill to S. 7, was taken up for a second time by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. The subcommittee presented and adopted 16 amendments that were not made available to interested parties and more than likely will negatively impact county government. SCAC’s understanding of the amended bill is that it will allow multiple occurrences to arise out of a single event. This could lead to potential “stacking” of the caps when an injured party argues that multiple occurrences caused the event that caused their injury. If this passes, county liability will essentially be unlimited, be impossible to insure against, and will place an unlimited financial burden on your taxpayers. S. 386 also allows for additional attorneys’ fees and third party claimants to bring a bad faith claim against an insurer.
S. 386 further expands the caps formerly limited to only 1983 civil rights actions to all tort claim actions. It increases these caps paid from the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA) from $1 million to $2 million, subject to a maximum of $4 million for one employee or governmental entity, and a maximum of $20 million in one fiscal year. All of these payments will be made from the State’s Catastrophic Fund, which this bill creates. The State’s Catastrophic Fund allows the SFAA to collect assessments from all of the government entities covered under the liability limits. By July 1, 2020, the State’s Catastrophic Fund will collect enough assessments to fund the State’s Catastrophic Fund at $3 million. Thereafter, $1 million will be collected every year for the Fund. Beginning June 30, 2039, and every year thereafter, any unspent money over $20 million in the State’s Catastrophic Fund goes to the General Fund. The subcommittee discussed and adopted amendments to this section to provide an enforcement mechanism to the SFAA to ensure the assessments are paid by county governments.
Because all of these amendments were hastily adopted and have not been provided to any of the stakeholders, SCAC is not certain the bill’s impact. SCAC expects to have the amendments next week and will hopefully be able to analyze their contents before the final subcommittee meeting.
S. 7 is on the contested Senate Calendar and it is imperative that you contact 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.
The Senate Judiciary subcommittee plans to meet for a final time on S. 386 on Wednesday to pass the bill out to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Please contact your Senator and ask that they oppose S. 386.
Local Government Fund (LGF) and the State Budget
Local Government Fund — H. 3137. H. 3137 encompasses SCAC’s policy position regarding the LGF and was introduced in the Senate this week and referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Please contact your Senate member and ask that they support passing H. 3137. Also, if your Senate member is on the Finance Committee, please ask that they support passing H. 3137 out of committee and increasing the LGF by at least 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.”
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.
Other Legislative Action this Week
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. SCAC has a policy position opposing this type of preemption. The bill is pending second reading on the contested House calendar. Please contact your House members and ask that they oppose H. 3274.
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. The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee gave the bill a favorable report. H. 3483 passed out of the House and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Electronic Liens — H. 3411 & S. 160. Both bills authorize the Department of Revenue to implement an internet accessible tax lien notice system to be used in lieu of the filing requirements with the county clerk or register of deeds. SCAC policy position supports this legislation. H. 3411 is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and S. 160 is pending second reading on the Senate Calendar.
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. H. 3035 passed out of the House and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Veterans’ Affairs Officers — H. 3438. Current law provides that a county veterans’ affairs officer (VAO) must be a veteran but also allows an exception for a nonveteran candidate to fill this position if a nonveteran is more qualified than a veteran candidate. This bill, among other things, would remove the exception for qualified nonveterans. The S.C. Association of County Veterans’ Affairs Officers (SCACVAO) opposes the provision of this bill that removes this exception. Several counties have VAOs and staff who are fully qualified with years of experience in veterans’ benefits but who are not veterans and, therefore, could not serve in this position. This position is often difficult enough to fill as it is and SCACVAO is concerned this bill would make it harder to find qualified candidates. A House 3M subcommittee gave H. 3438 a favorable report after adopting minor amendments.
Property Tax Penalties Moratorium for Government Shutdown Employees — H. 3630. This resolution 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. The Senate adopted an amendment stating that the burden of proof of eligibility is on the taxpayer and gave the resolution a second reading. H. 3630 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
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. 471 — Enacts the “Youth Sentencing Act of 2019.”
S. 480 — Provides that an agency authorized to conduct fingerprint background checks may conduct a federal fingerprint review.
S. 486 — Enacts the “South Carolina Remote Online Notarization Act.”
S. 487 — Enacts the “South Carolina Electronic Notary Public Act.”
S. 488 — Enacts the “’South Carolina Inclusionary Zoning Act.”
S. 492 — Prohibits counties from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products.
H. 3843 — Enacts the “Magistrates’ Education and Improvement Act.”
H. 3848 — Provides that certain disabled veterans of the Armed Forces are exempt from property taxes in the year in which the disability occurs.
H. 3849 — Provides for a grace period on the enforcement of the stamp tax on cigarettes.
H. 3910 — Adds qualification requirements for a notarial commission and provides that a notary is commissioned in the county of his employment or business if he is not a resident of South Carolina.
H. 3917 — Enacts the “South Carolina Electronic Notary Public Act.”
H. 3919 — Enacts the “Youth Sentencing Act of 2019.”
H. 3932 — Amends this State’s Constitution to restrict the sale, purchase, and possession of tobacco products, cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products by persons until they are 21 years old.
H. 3933 — Provides that a candidate for a local elective office that is elected from a specific district must be a legal resident of the district at the time he files for the office.
H. 3934 — Provides a committee created by a county legislative delegation has subpoena power if the majority votes in favor of granting that power.