Friday Report - April 1, 2022
The House worked in committees and on the floor to advance bills before next week’s crossover deadline (the last day a bill can move from one chamber to the other). The Senate spent most of its time on the floor debating and passing a school choice bill before moving through the calendar on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Senate debated and gave S. 984, the user fee bill, a second reading. Amendments will be offered on third reading before a roll call vote will be taken. Thanks to Sens. Davis and Hembree for guiding the bill through the Senate and explaining to other members how important the bill is for counties. Please help us make one final push to get the bill third reading before crossover by calling your Senators and asking for their support of the bill!
S. 984 and several bills of note will be discussed below in this week’s Friday Report.
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
User Fee Authorization – S. 984. S. 984, an SCAC priority, is in response to the June 30, 2021, SC Supreme Court decision in Burns v. Greenville County, which imperils various user fees, especially road use fees, imposed by counties and cities in South Carolina. Prior to this decision, user fees were analyzed under the Brown test that found a fee to be valid if:
- the revenue generated is used to the benefit of the payers, even if the general public also benefits;
- the revenue generated is used only for the specific improvement contemplated;
- the revenue generated by the fee does not exceed the cost of the improvement; and
- the fee is uniformly imposed on all the payers.
Under the newly imposed Burns test, fees must benefit fee payers differently than the general public regardless of the purpose of the fee or how it benefits the fee payer. S. 984 would legislatively reinstate the Brown test and allow the general public to benefit from a user fee provided the fee payer benefits and the other elements of the Brown tests are met. The Senate gave second reading to S. 984, carrying over all amendments and requiring a roll call vote on third reading.
Tax Credits – S. 1120 / H. 5075. S. 1120 and H. 5075 are a pair of companion bills that would cap the state’s Workforce and Senior Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program at $15 million each year. In January, a moratorium was put in place on this tax credit program after demand exceeded financial expectations by hundreds of millions of dollars. As amended, this legislation would preserve no less than 50 percent of the $15 million cap specifically for projects in rural areas that apply for the 9 percent federal low-income housing tax credit. A new scoring program through the Joint Bond Review Committee would also be implemented to award funds to projects that are deemed to be the highest priority setting up a more competitive process for developers to receive tax credits. The Senate gave second reading this week to S. 1120, carrying over all amendments and requiring a roll call vote on third reading. The House Ways and Means Committee amended H. 5075 to mirror the updated language in S. 1120 and reported the bill out favorably to the floor.
Telephone Cooperative Property Tax Exemption – H. 5144. Section 12-37-220(B)(10) provides a property tax exemption to telephone companies and rural telephone cooperatives that were exempt from property taxes as of December 31, 1973. H. 5144 amends this exemption to further exempt all property of these cooperatives, including property used for broadband and other services, which essentially codifies the Farmers Telephone court case. H. 5144 was introduced and received a favorable report from a Ways and Means subcommittee on Tuesday and received a favorable report from the full Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. H. 5144 is pending second reading on the House Calendar.
Hurricane and Flood Damage Property Assessments - H. 4243. This bill would require an adjustment in assessed value for real property and improvements which have sustained damage as a result of flooding or a hurricane, provided that the application for correction of the assessment is made prior to payment of the tax. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to include wind events such as hurricanes and tornadoes. H. 4243 received a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Electrical Utility Storm Recovery Fees – S. 1077. This legislation would allow the Public Service Commission (PSC) to authorize an electric utility's issuance of securitized bonds to offset and reduce costs incurred for storm recovery activity. The PSC would be responsible for reviewing securitization mechanisms to determine approval, which may only be granted if the electric utility's use of this mechanism provides quantifiable net benefits to customers and will result in the lowest storm recovery charges. The bill further establishes the processes for the authorization of these bonds, and as part of the requirements electric utilities are required to provide functional exhibits and workpapers to the PSC and to the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) supporting any petitions, testimony, and exhibits. S. 1077 received a favorable report as amended from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is pending a second reading on the Senate calendar.
SCRS and PORS Contributions – H. 3106. This bill provides that an employer may elect to pay all or a portion of the required employee contributions to either the South Carolina Retirement System or the Police Officers Retirement System. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to clarify that employee contributions picked up by an employer pursuant to Section 9-11-225(E) without a reduction or offset from the member's compensation are not compensation for the purposes of the system. H. 3106 received a favorable report as amended and the bill is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Earnings Limitation – H. 4918. This bill increases the amount that may be earned without affecting the monthly retirement allowance from $10,000 to $50,000 for certain members of the South Carolina Police Officers Retirement System. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to include members of the South Carolina Retirement System as well as critical needs law enforcement positions as determined by the Law Enforcement Training Council and gave H. 4918 a favorable report. H. 4918 is an SCAC policy position and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption – H. 3669. This bill provides that veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States that are permanently and totally disabled as a result of a service-connected disability and who file with the department a certificate signed by the county service officer may immediately claim a property tax exemption for the entire year in which the disability occurs. H. 3669 received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means Committee and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Permit Extension – S. 17. This joint resolution, also known as the Permit Extension Joint Resolution of 2021, extends the approval of certain permits issued by DHEC. The permit must be current and valid at any time between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2023. DHEC indicates that there is no expenditure impact on the agency because the bill's implementation will be accomplished using its existing resources. The Senate gave the bill second and third readings, and the bill has been sent to the House.
Tax Conformity – H. 5057. This bill conforms the state tax code with any changes to the federal tax code and updates the reference year to 2021. The House Ways and Means Committee made a technical amendment and gave the bill a favorable report.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Lot Clean-up – H. 5036. This legislation, an SCAC policy position, would help counties across South Carolina that continue to assume the cost of repairing or cleaning up certain properties when a landowner fails to upkeep structures on the property, an SCAC policy position. H. 5036 would allow counties to recover costs associated with repairs, improvements, or demolition and clean-up of structures on commercial or industrial properties falling under Sections 108, 109, and 110 of the International Property Maintenance Code, collected in the same manner as property taxes. The bill provides for a five-year installment for the payment of the lien, after which the property could be sold by the county at a tax sale if the debt is unpaid. An amendment during floor debate on the bill also clarifies that if a property is sold by the owner prior to all five installments becoming due, the entire balance of the lien would be due and payable as property taxes at the time of sale or disposition of the property. H. 5036 received a second and third reading this week and was sent to the Senate.
Electronic Waste – H. 4775. This legislation, an SCAC policy position, establishes a new statewide “Manufacturer Electronic Waste Recovery Program” for covered televisions and computer monitor devices (ex: old CRT TVs), an SCAC policy position. Counties are currently faced with large financial burdens to recycle these items as a result of there being no market for the devices and due to the fact that these devices cannot go into a landfill. Under the old program, manufacturers only had to recycle 80 percent of the pounds sold, leaving counties to shoulder the cost of recycling any devices that remained at county facilities.
The new program would require that all covered television and computer monitor devices must be picked up from counties providing significant cost savings for disposing of these devices. Language in the bill provides protection to counties from financial liability once these devices leave a county facility which addresses issues that have occurred in the past where counties were sued for devices that were stored offsite. The bill provides for a sunset of the program in 2029 and also requires all stakeholders to reconvene on June 1, 2026, to assess how the program is working and whether there needs to be changes or updates to the program going forward. H. 4775 received a before the House Agriculture Committee and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Raise the Age Juvenile Justice Reform – S. 90. This joint resolution proposes an amendment to Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, to specify that the General Assembly will provide for separate confinement of juvenile offenders under the age of 18. Currently, the age for separate confinement is under the age of 17. Additionally, this proposed amendment will be printed on the ballots for the next general election. If the Constitution is amended, this will require a shift of incarcerated persons who are 17 and currently housed in an adult facility to a juvenile facility. The bill is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
Juvenile Justice Reform – S. 53. This bill would provide for comprehensive juvenile justice reform. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill with a strike and insert and gave S. 53 a favorable report as amended.
Children in Adult Confinement – S. 22. This bill would require a juvenile that is being held in an adult jail or detention center must not be held in the facility for more than six hours and must be completely separated from the adults confined in the jail or detention center. It would also reduce the time a juvenile may be held in a juvenile detention for a status offense from 72 hours to 48 hours. The Senate gave S. 22 a second reading and the bill is pending third reading on the calendar.
Register of Deeds Qualifications – S. 1031. This bill would provide that in order to hold the office of register of deeds, a person must be a US citizen, must be a qualified elector of the applicable county, must hold a four-year bachelor's degree or four years of experience in law, real estate, accounting, or as an employee in a register of deeds office. They must also not have a pattern of failing to record documents in the office in the time and manner prescribed by law. Any register of deeds serving prior to the enactment of S. 1031 would be grandfathered from these requirements. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended S. 1031 to apply to both elected and appointed register of deeds, and allows an action to be brought by the Attorney General to remove a register of deeds who does not meet the qualification requirements or who has a pattern of not recording documents in a timely manner. S. 1031 was given a favorable report as amended and is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
Coroners as First Responders – H. 3958. This bill, an SCAC policy position, would deem a coroner or his designee as a first responder when administering an opioid antidote to a person experiencing an opioid overdose. The coroner must comply with all the requirements of Section 44-130-60 to be entitled to immunity from civil and criminal liability or professional disciplinary action when administering an opioid antidote to a person he believes in good faith is experiencing an opioid overdose. According to the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the bill would have no impact on county expenditures because coroners typically respond to emergency calls after a death.
Previously, the House adopted two amendments that provide that a coroner shall be considered a public safety officer under federal law if killed in the line of duty and would allow for the availability of federal death benefits for coroners killed in the line of duty. The House gave the bill second and third readings, and the bill has been sent to the Senate.
Autopsy Photos - H. 4948. This bill allows coroners the discretion to release photographs, videos, or other visual images and audio recordings related to an autopsy to family members and personal representatives of the deceased. Currently, these photographs and videos can be viewed and disseminated to these individuals. This bill is not expected to have an expenditure impact on county governments since it gives coroners the discretion to release certain autopsy information to family members. However, one county indicates that the bill could increase expenses for legal costs depending on the number of denied requests. A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs subcommittee adopted an amendment that provides that crime victims have a right to confidentiality and gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. H.4948 will be on the next full committee's agenda.
Pregnant Inmates - H. 4541. This bill establishes requirements for prisons, local detention facilities, and prison work camps regarding the treatment of pregnant and postpartum inmates. These requirements include the following:
- within seven days of arrival at a prison, detention center, or prison work camp, an inmate who is confirmed to be pregnant must be scheduled for a pregnancy examination by a qualified provider;
- pregnant inmates must receive a prescribed schedule of prenatal care visits and have access to newborn care;
- pregnant inmates who have used opioids prior to incarceration must be provided with medication-assisted treatment and information on withdrawal;
- an inmate who gives birth after incarceration must be provided with information on relevant community-based programs and be referred to a social worker;
- a pregnant inmate who is in labor must be transported to a state-licensed hospital or birthing center for the purpose of giving birth and may opt to have an approved support person present; and
- postpartum inmates must be allowed twelve weeks for recovery, during which time they must receive follow-up medical care.
A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and will be on the next full committee's agenda.
County Government and Intergovernmental
Alarm System Ordinances – H. 4889. This bill would provide that if a local government enacts an ordinance requiring a fine for a false alarm, the alarm business must not be fined or assessed a civil penalty for such false alarms which are not attributed to improper installation, defective equipment, or operational error by the alarm business contractor. Such a fine may be imposed on the homeowner if user error is determined to be the reason for the false alarm. The House gave the bill second and third readings, and the bill has been sent to the Senate.
County Recreation Commission – H. 5099. This bill provides that the county legislative delegation may, by the adoption of a resolution, appoint the members of a county recreation commission that was established as a special purpose district prior to the adoption of home rule. Further, the bill provides that the members of a county recreation commission who the county delegation appoints pursuant to the provisions of this act serve at the pleasure of the county legislative delegation and may be removed at any time by the county legislative delegation. The House introduced H. 5099, which was placed on the calendar without reference. The House gave the bill second and third readings, and the bill has been sent to the Senate.
Family Leave – S. 11. This bill provides any person employed by the State, its departments, agencies, or institutions with six weeks of paid parental leave for the birth of a child. Two weeks of paid parental leave are provided for the co-parent of a newborn or for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. The Senate gave the bill second and third readings, and the bill has been sent to the House.
Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment Program (“V-SAFE”) – H. 3252. This legislation amends and updates the “Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment Program” (V-SAFE) which would be housed within the Division of the State Fire Marshall. The program seeks to provide grants to eligible volunteer and combination fire departments for the purposes of protecting local communities and regional response areas from incidents of fire, hazardous materials, and to provide for the safety of volunteer firefighters. In order to be eligible for grant funding, a fire department must have at least 50 percent of its staff serving as volunteers, which was reduced from the 75 percent volunteer requirement in previous years. The existing funding cap of $30,000 to a single fire department once every three years was also removed. Eligible fire departments would receive annual grants totaling approximately $20,000 per department that would be funded. Funding for the V-SAFE program would be provided by increasing the percentage of the insurance premium tax revenue that is allocated to the program and crediting 1 percent of the manufacturer’s depreciation reimbursement amount to the program. The House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee gave H. 3252 a favorable report and it is pending second reading on the House calendar.
J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards Call for Entries
The Association is currently accepting applications for the 2022 J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Regional Awards Competition. All applications must be submitted online or received at the SCAC Office by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 6. Applicants who meet the submission deadline and all requirements will be scheduled to present their projects in-person on June 9 at SC ETV in Columbia. The competition will be livestreamed, and award winners will be announced during the 2022 Annual Conference.
For more information about the competition and how to apply, please see the 2022 Awards Brochure and the Awards Toolkit on the Association’s website. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Turkopuls at STurkopuls@scac.sc.
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."
H. 5143 — Provides that law enforcement training council candidates for certification must hold a state driver's license issued by this state or any contiguous state.
H. 5144 — Specifies the application of the exemption of property of telephone companies and rural telephone cooperatives.
H. 5145 — Increases certain payment caps and provides that certain reimbursements are not required relating to alcohol and drug safety action programs.
H. 5175 — Prohibits the distribution of sensitive crime scene images on social media or through other similar means.
H. 5182 — Enacts the "South Carolina Opioid Recovery Act."
H. 5192 — Enhances the notice provisions for landowners whose land is the subject of a proposed amendment and contiguous property owners.
The following bills have been passed by both chambers and have been sent to the Governor for approval or veto:
(R136) H. 3821 — Enacts the "South Carolina Uniform Transfers to Minors Act."