Friday Report - April 14, 2023
The Senate spent time on the floor this week debating and passing the Bond Reform bill (H. 3532) and cleared several other bills from the calendar as debate on the budget bill (H. 4300) will begin next week on the Senate floor. The House was on furlough and did not meet in statewide session this week. Several bills of interest are discussed below:
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – S. 604. This bill would authorize the expenditure of over $586 million in federal funds disbursed to South Carolina in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and would specify how the funds may be spent. Under the bill, the money would be appropriated to the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) ARPA Water and Sewer Infrastructure Account, with $100 million made available for projects designated by the Secretary of Commerce as being significant to economic development. Up to $20 million would be available for each project with no local match requirement. Only existing grant applications, as of January 1, 2023, may be considered in determining disbursements.
The House amended the bill to allow funds from the ARPA Resilience Account as a part of Act 244 of 2022 to be used for projects that mitigate the impacts from potential releases of contamination associated with natural hazards. An additional amendment was removed by the Senate this week that would have allowed any members of the General Assembly that oppose the awarding of ARPA grant funds within their respective district to notify the RIA in writing that the Authority must withhold the disbursement. S. 604 was amended by the Senate this week and sent back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence to the Senate amendment.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Bond Reform – H. 3532. As originally drafted, this bill would provide for a five-year sentencing enhancement for people who commit certain additional crimes while they are out on bond, and it would prohibit bond for certain crimes. It would also require a full cash bond for certain crimes. The bill would allow some discretion in setting bond along with electronic monitoring on a subsequent offense committed while out on bond but would still require a full cash bond for certain crimes. SCAC testified about concerns of the financial impact this would have on county detention centers due to the jail population increase that the bill would create.
The House adopted a strike and insert amendment that makes the five-year sentence a separate offense that can only be adjudicated if the person is first convicted of the subsequent violent crime while out on bond from other charges. Bond would be denied for any violent crime, as defined by § 16-1-60, that is committed while a person is out on bond for another charge.
The Senate amended the bill further by removing the five-year sentence provision. The bill as amended also requires that the Judicial Department must establish and maintain an Accessible Case Tracking System (ACTS) that contains information regarding the status of each case pending before the SC Supreme Court, the SC Court of Appeals, or any circuit court until the final disposition of the case. In addition, when the clerk of court receives an initial bond form in a criminal case or an initial filing in a civil case, the court must enter the case into ACTS. ACTS must be prominently posted on the Judicial Department’s website and made available to the public on a searchable website. The Senate gave H. 3532 second and third readings as amended and sent it back to the House.
County Government and Intergovernmental Relations
Address Confidentiality – S. 147. This bill would establish the address confidentiality program, whereby a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, human trafficking, stalking, harassment, or sexual offenses may use a designated address rather than their residential address to conceal their place of residence from assailants or probable assailants. This program would be administered by the Attorney General. The Senate amended the bill to provide that a participant in the address confidentiality program may not be mailed an absentee ballot unless they have requested an absentee ballot pursuant to Section 7-15-330. The participant’s absentee ballot must be the same ballot used in the precinct assigned to the participant’s residential address. The request for an absentee ballot by a participant is not a public record subject to the Freedom of Information Act and must be kept confidential by the county board of registration and elections to which the request was made. After amending the bill, the Senate carried over S. 147 and it is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Working Agriculture Lands Preservation – H. 3951. As originally drafted, this bill would establish the “Working Agriculture Lands Preservation Program” that outlines program criteria and creates a committee to administer the program through a new “Working Farmland Protection Program Fund.” The committee would identify and provide permanent protection through the new fund that would be used for conservation easements on significant working farmland properties whose continued availability to commercial agricultural business is deemed to be essential to the long-term future of this economic sector. Administration of the program would be contingent upon funding through the state’s General Fund.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee took up H. 3951 this week and adopted a major amendment to the bill that would place the administration of the agriculture preservation program under the direction of the South Carolina Conservation Bank and would place the “Working Farmland Protection Fund” within the State Treasurer’s Office. The amendment would also reinstate the “real estate transfer fee” that would transfer a portion of state’s fees from deed recordings to the Conservation Bank. The Bank would then be required to make appropriations to the new “Working Farmland Protection Fund” once certain funding thresholds are met. Further, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation would be added as ex officio members on the South Carolina Conservation Bank Board. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee gave H. 3951 a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be placed on the Senate calendar.
This is the final week to apply for the 2023 J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards Competition. Applications must be submitted online or received at the SCAC Office by 5 p.m. Friday, April 21. The competition will be held May 24 at SC ETV in Columbia.
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S. 723 (Sen. Talley) — Amends Section 45-2-60, relating to the ejectment of a person from a lodging establishment, to authorize an innkeeper to request assistance from law enforcement to eject a person, and to provide that a person ejected from a campground has 10 days to make a claim for property left at the time of ejectment.
S. 728 (Sen. Gustafson) —Amends Section 23-9-197(a)(3), relating to the Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan, to provide that the definition of "firefighter" shall include non-residents of South Carolina who work in the state.
S. 731 (Sen. Goldfinch) — Amends Section 38-7-20, relating to the allocation of insurance premium taxes, to direct 15 percent to the South Carolina Office of Resilience.