Friday Report - April 28, 2023
The House continued to work through its calendar and spent time in committees to advance bills to the floor prior to sine die on Thursday, May 11. The Senate spent most of the week debating an abortion bill (H. 3774) but also heard testimony in subcommittees on several bills relevant to counties. Bills of interest are discussed below:
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
SCAC Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Owen McBride testifies about H. 3948 and H. 3072 at a House Ways and Means subcommittee.
Commercial Solar Property Tax Exemption – H. 3948. As drafted, this bill would have provided a property tax exemption on renewable energy resource property including solar energy equipment, facilities, or devices that support, collect, generate, transfer, monitor, or store thermal or electric energy, no matter the operating power of the property. SCAC worked with representatives of the solar industry on an amendment to limit the exemption to residential and commercial rooftop solar panels and to ensure that solar farms were not given the exemption. Under the amendment, only those customer-generator resource properties that operate at a capacity of less than 1,000 kilowatts, are intended primarily to offset part or all of the customer-generator’s own electrical energy requirements and meet the other requirements of the definition of customer-generator provided for in Section 58-40-10(C) of the Code would qualify for the exemption. A House Ways and Means subcommittee adopted the amendment and gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. H. 3948 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Assessment Ratio following Owner’s Death – H. 3072. This bill would provide that when an owner receiving the 4 percent special assessment rate dies, the property would continue to receive the special assessment rate until the decedent’s estate is closed, upon the recording of a deed or deed of distribution out of the estate, or after December 31 of the year following the date of death, whichever occurs first. The extension does not apply if the property is rented for more than 72 days in or following the calendar year of death or if a change of use occurs. A House Ways and Means subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and H. 3072 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Police Officers Retirement Earnings Limitation – H. 3425. This bill would remove the earnings limitation for a retiree of the Police Officers Retirement System if the employee is separated from covered employment for at least 12 months before returning to covered employment or if the retiree returns to employment in a critical needs law enforcement position. Also, the bill would remove the earnings limitation for a retiree of the South Carolina Retirement System if the employee is separated from covered employment for at least 12 months before returning to covered employment. A House Ways and Means subcommittee adopted a technical amendment and gave H. 3425 a favorable report, as amended. The bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Disabled Veterans Property – H. 3116. This bill would provide that a veteran of the US Armed Forces, who is permanently and totally disabled because of a service-connected disability and who files with the department and meets the other requirements of Section 12-37-220(B)(1) may immediately claim the exemption for the entire year in which the disability occurs. Also, a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled for any part of the year would be entitled to the exemption for the entire year. A House Ways and Means subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and H. 3116 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Craft Beer Economic Development Act – S. 566. This bill would allow a craft brewery to sell beer wholesale and retail to licensed retailers in the state. It would also allow the brewery to transfer beer brewed at its brewery to other facilities owned, leased, or rented by the brewery without being subject to state or local taxes. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill this week to include several changes that represented a compromise between craft brewers and beer wholesalers such as raising the amount of beer a brewery could sell for off-premises consumption to 864 ounces per day. The Committee also removed the provision that would allow the brewery to transfer beer created at its brewery to other facilities owned, leased, or rented by the brewery without being subject to state or local taxes. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and S. 566 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Tax Conformity – H. 4017. This bill would conform the state tax code with any changes to the federal tax code and updates the reference year to 2022. The Senate Finance Committee gave H. 4017 a favorable report and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Recreational Trail Easements Tax Credit – H. 3121. This bill would provide an income tax credit to a property owner who encumbers his property with a perpetual recreational trail easement held by a municipality, or county within the state or by a Land Trust Alliance accredited land trust. The easement must be recorded with the register of deeds and must include an agreement with the municipality, county, or land trust. A House Ways and Means subcommittee adopted an amendment to include special purpose districts on the list of entities that can hold the easement and gave the bill a favorable report. H. 3121 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Death Benefits for First Responders – S. 108. This bill would provide for a $150,000 death benefit for a law enforcement officer or volunteer officer killed while in the line of duty. The bill was amended prior to passing the Senate to expand this benefit to first responders including emergency medical services providers (including volunteers), a fire department worker (including volunteers), and a coroner or deputy coroner who is directly engaged in examining, treating, or directing people during an emergency. Adding a coroner as a first responder is an SCAC policy position. A House Ways and Means subcommittee gave S. 108 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Constitutional Carry – S. 109. This bill, as introduced, would have enacted the “South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act of 2023.” The Senate replaced the bill’s original language with the language contained in H. 3594, the "Open Carry Without Training Act," with the exception of Section 16 relating to criminal penalties. As amended, S.109 would allow a person to carry a concealable weapon openly on his person and openly about his person in a vehicle without having a concealed weapons permit. A person would still be prohibited from carrying a firearm into a courthouse, jail, school, daycare, church, hospital, or a business that has a sign prohibiting firearms. An owner of a firearm would be required to report the loss or theft of such a weapon to local law enforcement within 30 days. Clerks of courts would be allowed to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the state if they possess a valid concealed weapons permit, a prior SCAC policy position. Public defenders and assistant public defenders would also be permitted to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the state, except in local or state correctional facilities. After some discussion regarding an additional amendment that was not taken up in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, the full committee sent the bill back to the subcommittee to consider the amendment.
Sexually Violent Predators Act – S. 146. This bill would amend the “Sexually Violent Predators Act,” relating to the parole, release, and commitment procedures for people convicted of sexually violent offenses. Further, it would clarify whether or not a person meets the definition of a sexually violent predator and establish procedures for those individuals. The bill would also provide for supervised re-entry under certain circumstances. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 146 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Youthful Offenders Expungement – H. 3890. This bill would add the charge of driving under suspension to the list of offenses that can be expunged under the Youthful Offender Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill to further clarify that if a defendant was to receive a driving under suspension offense while sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, the defendant would still be eligible for the expungement of the arrest and conviction records relating to the original qualifying offense. The Senate Judiciary Committee gave H. 3890 a favorable report, as amended, and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Alternate Jurors – H. 3883. This bill would amend Section 14-7-1340 of the Code, relating to the duties and service of alternate jurors, to allow the court to retain alternate jurors upon submission of a case to a jury for deliberations. The House gave the bill second and third readings and sent H. 3883 to the Senate.
Coroners as First Responders – H. 3691. This legislation would allow a coroner, deputy coroner, or the coroner’s designee to possess and administer an opioid antidote pursuant to the requirements of the South Carolina Overdose Prevention Act. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) may promulgate regulations related to coroners possessing and administering opioid antidotes, and DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control must maintain data on the administering of opioid antidotes by coroners and their designees.
Further, the bill would specify that a coroner or deputy coroner is considered a public safety officer (first responder) if killed in the line of duty, an SCAC policy position. The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted a technical amendment and gave H. 3691 a favorable report, as amended. The bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Cost of Care for Seized Animals – H. 3682. This bill would remove provisions regarding a lien on the seized animals and would outline hearing procedures for ordering the cost of care of the seized animals. The care costs would go to the entity providing care for the animal (law enforcement, county animal shelter, or non-profit agency). Additionally, the bill would provide that failure of the owner to make the payment for the cost of care ordered would result in forfeiture of the animal to the entity providing the care. A Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee amended the bill to provide that if the animal owner is adjudicated not guilty, the owner would be entitled to reimbursement of the cost of care, interest, and court fees from the entity providing care for the animal. H. 3682 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Destruction of Utility Systems – S. 330. This bill would modify the penalty structure for crimes involving malicious injury to telegraph, telephone, cable, or electrical utility systems and natural gas infrastructure. Under current law, destruction of such systems or infrastructure is considered a felony offense that is punishable by a fine set at the discretion of the court or imprisonment for not more than 10 years. The Senate amended the bill this week to provide that certain violations could result in a felony conviction and to further outline a tiered penalty structure based on the cost of damage to the utility systems, the danger to the public, and whether the damage involves death or bodily injury. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 330 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
County Government and Intergovernmental Relations
Municipal Elections – H. 3734. This bill would require all municipal elections to be conducted using the voting system approved and adopted by the State Election Commission. It would also require all municipal elections to be held on odd-numbered years on one of the following three dates: (1) on the third Tuesday in March; (2) on the first Tuesday in July; or (3) on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. A county board of registration and elections shall conduct a municipal election if a municipality elects to transfer its election authority to the county. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to provide that the terms of incumbent council members elected in an odd year may be extended to the new election date and that the terms of newly elected officers do not commence until the next regular meeting of the municipal council in the month following certification of the election results by the election commission. The House gave H. 3734 second and third readings and sent the bill to the Senate.
DHEC Restructuring – S. 399. This bill would restructure DHEC and amend Chapter 1 of Title 44 to create the “Department of Behavioral and Public Health” and would add Chapter 5 to Title 38 to create the “Department of Environmental Services.” The bill would direct the Department of Administration to analyze and determine the best manner to restructure the agency effectively and efficiently and to submit a report to the General Assembly. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be placed on the Senate calendar next week.
State Health Facility Licensure Act (Certificate of Need) – S. 164. This bill, as introduced, would eliminate the requirement of obtaining a Certificate of Need (CON) from DHEC with the exception of nursing homes and ambulatory surgical facilities with more than eight operating rooms. Additionally, before acquiring a hospital facility, the bill requires the Medical University of South Carolina to submit details of the proposed acquisition to the Joint Bond Review Committee, receive approval by the Fiscal Accountability Authority, and apply for a CON or licensure. Further, the bill creates the CON study committee to examine the effect of the repeal of the CON program in rural parts of the state.
SCAC supported legislation last session that would reform the state's CON to limit the appeals process, reduce the projects that require approval, and streamline the system. Last session, the bill was passed by the Senate (S. 290) and was forwarded to the House; however, the stakeholders could not reach a consensus. Although S. 164 repeals the CON provision, the amended bill now imposes the following conditions:
- Allows hospitals to continue under CON until January 1, 2027;
- After January 1, 2027, only nursing homes would be under CON;
- Removes ambulatory surgery centers from CON; and
- Includes these exemptions for CON review: for relocation of a licensed hospital in a county, for the acquisition of an existing hospital, and for building a hospital in a county without a hospital.
A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee gave S. 164 a favorable report, as amended. S. 164 is pending second reading on the contested House calendar.
Certificate of Need: Crisis Facilities – S. 343. This bill includes all short-term residential stabilization and intensive crisis services in the definition of crisis stabilization unit facilities and changes the age of the individuals served from 18 and older to five and older. A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs subcommittee gave S. 343 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Election Protests on Holidays – S. 92. This bill would extend the deadline for filing an election protest to the boards of canvassers by one day if the original deadline falls on a legal holiday. The change will apply to protests for state and local elections. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Expediting Voting Tallies – S. 406. This bill specifies that ballots cast during the early voting period may begin to be tabulated at the same time as absentee ballots. Additionally, this bill creates a new felony for those who intentionally publicly report the results of the early voting period before the polls are closed. A House Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to require that these tabulated ballots be reported prior to the precinct results in a manner to be prescribed by the State Election Commission Executive Director. S. 406 as amended was given a favorable report and will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Rural Infrastructure Authority Division of Local Government – H. 3075. This bill requires the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA), through its Division of Local Government to provide staff support and assistance for the South Carolina Infrastructure Facilities Authority and the South Carolina Water Quality Revolving Fund Authority. The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee adopted an amendment to the bill to provide that public entities would no longer be required to hold grant funds separate from any other funds or need authorization to expend funds by the individual who signed the grant application. The bill was further amended by adding language that would define “rural infrastructure projects” as eligible projects that must be located in counties designated as “Tier III or IV” pursuant to the Department of Commerce’s “Jobs Tax Credit” criteria, in the year in which the loan or financial assurance would be awarded. H. 3075 received a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be placed on the House calendar.
State Aviation Fund: Regulation on Land Use Around Airports – Doc. No. 5134. This land use regulation, proposed by the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, would place additional requirements on local governments relating to zoning requirements of properties surrounding airports. Some counties have raised concerns about these requirements and the potential impact on Home Rule. See a copy of the document for your review.
After SCAC and several other impacted entities raised concerns about the regulation, a meeting was held with the Aeronautics Commission, which SCAC attended, and the Commission agreed to withdraw the regulation with the intent to resubmit a regulation sometime in the fall after getting additional input from affected entities.
Reminder: ARPA Expense & Reporting Deadline April 30
By April 30, all counties are required to submit a Project and Expenditure Report with the U.S. Treasury for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
To learn more about how to file your report, access updated reporting requirements and see other tips, please review the National Association of Counties' step-by-step video guide.
Access and download helpful slides from the NACo webinar.
Contact SCAC Staff Attorney John Wienges with any questions.
You can also go to www.scstatehouse.gov and click on "Legislation," then "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.
H. 4364 (Reps. W. Newton, Davis, Rutherford, Bernstein, M. M. Smith, Ott, Brittain, Guest, Hewitt, Elliott, Stavrinakis, Bradley, Wooten, Murphy, Herbkersman, Leber, Sessions, Caskey, Rose, Mitchell, Brewer, Guffey, Hardee and Collins) — Amends Section 61-2-170, relating to drive-through or curbside service of alcoholic beverages, to provide certain exceptions.
H. 4375 (Rep. Burns) – Adds Section 16-11-735 to provide graduated penalties for trespassing upon the grounds or property of a publicly owned water utility.
H. 4376 (Reps. B. J. Cox, M. M. Smith, Caskey, T. Moore, Wooten and J. L. Johnson) — Amends Section 17-5-590, relating to the disposition of remains of unidentified dead bodies, to require coroners to release certain human remains that have been determined to be those of an unclaimed deceased veteran to a funeral home, funeral establishment, or mortuary for disposition pursuant to Chapter 12, Title 25.
H. 4383 (Reps. B. J. Cox, M. M. Smith, Caskey, T. Moore, Wooten and J. L. Johnson) — A House Resolution to declare that the state cannot mandate or coerce an individual to receive or penalize or discriminate against an individual for refusing a medical intervention, product, procedure, or genetic modification.
H. 4385 (Reps. O'Neal, Guffey, Harris, Magnuson, Lawson, Beach, Cromer, Felder, Sessions and Ligon) — Amends Section 56-5-170, relating to the use and display of certain lights and insignia on authorized emergency vehicles, to provide blue lights may be placed on the rear of fire department vehicles.
S. 747 (Sen. Cromer) — Enacts the "Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency and Claims Legitimacy Act" by adding Chapter 83 to Title 15 to establish required disclosures by plaintiffs in asbestos actions.
S. 748 (Sen. Alexander) —Amends Section 12-43-335(a), relating to assessing the property of merchants and other related businesses, to require the Department of Revenue to follow certain North American classification system manual provisions and by repealing Section 12-39-70 relating to classifications for purposes of appraising and assessing personal property.
S. 755 (Sen. Alexander) — Adds Part 4 to Article 6, Chapter 6, Title 62 to provide for transfer on death designations for certain categories of titled personal property.