With three weeks left in the session, the General Assembly is working furiously to get several pieces of legislation passed. The House debated several bills including H. 4568
, a bill dealing with chemically induced abortions, while the Senate spent the week working on the budget. S. 984
(The User Fee Bill) was voted out of Ways and Means and will be debated on the House floor next week. Please call your House members and urge them to support the passage of this important bill.
The House also elected Murrell Smith as the new Speaker of the House after Speaker Jay Lucas announced his resignation. Gary Simrill was also elected as the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Several bills of note will be discussed below in this week’s Friday Report.
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
Budget – H. 5150.
The Senate passed its $12.4 billion version of the FY 22-23 state spending plan on Thursday. This legislation also includes a $1 billion tax rebate. SCAC staff is currently analyzing the Senate-passed version of the budget and we will have a comprehensive description of what was included in next week’s Friday Report
Use Fee Authorization – S. 984.
S. 984 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 test are met.
The Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Rice that would require any county that repealed their road use fee, raised property taxes in response, and subsequently reimposes their road use fee, to lower property taxes by the amount previously raised. The amendment would also require counties to post on the county website the amount of the fee and the amount of revenue collected annually by the fee. The Senate also adopted an amendment by Senator Kimpson that states that any future legal challenges to service fees would not be subject to Section 8-21-30 of the Code which allows up to ten times damages for those challenging a fee. This amendment also deleted the language that applies the Brown test to all service or user fees imposed after December 31, 1996.
The House Way and Means Committee took up S. 984 this week and amended the bill further to update the effective date of the bill and reinsert the retroactivity language. The Ways and Means Committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and S. 984 will be placed on the House calendar and should be up for debate next week.
Please thank the members of the House Ways and Means Committee who voted in favor of the bill:
- Rep. Bruce Bannister
- Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter
- Rep. Bill Clyburn
- Rep. Heather Crawford
- Rep. Joe Daning
- Rep. Chandra Dillard
- Rep. Shannon Erickson
- Rep. Craig Gagnon
- Rep. Jackie Hayes
- Rep. Bill Herbkersman
- Rep. Lee Hewitt
- Rep. Chip Huggins
- Rep. Phillip Lowe
- Rep. Dennis Moss
- Rep. Gary Simrill
- Rep. Leon Stavrinakis
- Rep. David Weeks
- Rep. Mark Willis
Please also thank Greenville County Council member Butch Kirven and Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti for testifying in support of S. 984, as well as Horry County Administrator Steve Gosnell and Clarendon County Deputy Administrator Ted Felder for attending the committee hearing on S. 984 and for coming to Columbia to talk to House members regarding S. 984.
SCAC Staff has been notified that there will be opposition to the bill during floor debate. It is imperative that you contact your House members and express the importance to county governments for passing this bill.
Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility – H. 3948.
This bill, a SCAC policy position, would allow counties that impose a Transportation Penny Tax pursuant to Chapter 37, Title 4 to also conduct a referendum to impose a one percent Capital Project Sales Tax. The bill deletes the restriction that the area of the county can only be subject to one of those authorizations. Counties with the Capital Project Sales Tax may also conduct a referendum to impose the Transportation penny as well. This would provide flexibility to all counties across the state. H. 3948 received a favorable report by a Senate Finance subcommittee. Please thank Dorchester County Councilman Bill Hearn and County Administrator Jason Ward for testifying in support of this bill.
Please also contact your Senator and ask that they support this bill.
Surviving Spouse – S. 233.
This bill would provide that a qualified surviving spouse may qualify for a property tax exemption in an instance where they own the house. The statute previously required that the house be transferred to the surviving spouse by the deceased spouse. The bill also now provides the exemption to surviving spouses of those killed in action and to any structures owned by an otherwise qualified surviving spouse even if these structures are located on heirs’ property.
S. 233 was amended to include language from several other property tax bills, including H. 4243, H. 5144, and H. 5134, in an attempt to get these bills passed before the end of the session. H. 4243, which previously passed the House, 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 bill also includes wind events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
H. 5144, which also previously passed the House, would amend Section 12-37-220(B)(10) of the S.C. Code that currently 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 would further exempt all property of these cooperatives, including property used for broadband and other services, which essentially codifies the Farmers Telephone court case.
H. 5134 (discussed below) had not previously passed any House committees or subcommittees before being added to S. 233. Please contact your legislative delegation and ask that they remove this provision from S. 233. The House Ways and Means Committee gave S. 233 a favorable report, as amended.
Agriculture Exemptions – H. 5134.
This bill would exempt all farm buildings and agricultural structures owned by a producer in this state that are used to house livestock, poultry, crops, farm equipment, or farm supplies beginning in tax year 2022. Currently, all farm machinery and equipment, excluding motor vehicles licensed for use on the highways, are exempt. The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) contacted county assessors to determine the potential local property tax revenue reduction due to this bill.
Dorchester County Auditor J.J. Messervy testified against the bill in a House Ways and Means subcommittee regarding the detrimental impacts to counties that the legislation would have. Dorchester County estimates that approximately 23 percent of agricultural property value is attributable to the structures and will become exempt. Due to the limited data, RFA anticipates this bill will have an undetermined local property tax reduction due to this bill but estimated a range of the potential property tax revenue impact assuming 10 percent to 50 percent of agricultural property becomes exempt. This results in a range of property tax revenue reductions from $5,452,000 to $27,262,000 statewide beginning in tax year 2022. A Ways and Means subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill before tacking the legislation onto S. 233, the surviving spouse property tax exemption bill discussed above. Please contact your legislative delegation and ask that they remove this provision from S. 233.
County Green Space – S. 152.
This legislation would allow counties to impose by ordinance, subject to referendum approval in the county during a general election, a green space sales and use tax of up to 1 percent for land preservation. The bill would also require a county that passes a referendum to assemble an advisory committee that would assist the Department of Revenue with directing the distribution of the taxes collected in order to ensure a transparent and equal distribution within the county. The Department of Revenue would also be required to publicly disclose all information regarding the amount of the tax that is collected, expenditures, and any remaining funds that are available at the time that an inquiry is made. A county would also be prohibited from imposing this tax when two or more existing sales and use taxes are in effect. The House Ways and Means Committee gave S. 152 a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be placed on the House calendar.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Hazardous Waste Cleanup – H. 4999.
This bill provides standards for certain types of hazardous waste cleanup, removal, and remediation. It also provides site-specific remediation standards. A Senate Medical Affairs Committee gave H. 4999 a favorable report and the bill will move ahead to the full committee.
Permit Exemptions for Certain Residential Improvements – H. 3606.
This bill would clarify what improvements homeowners may make to their homes without having to first obtain a permit. For example, the bill would clarify that homeowners may build a small deck off the homeowner’s dwelling that is no more than 200 square feet in area and no more than 30 inches off the ground without a permit. The bill would also clarify that a residential specialty contractor is not authorized to construct additions to residential buildings or structures without supervision by a residential builder or other appropriately licensed person or entity. Last February, the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee amended the bill to provide that a “residential specialty contractor” is a person who is used when undertakings exceed $500. The previous amount was $200. H. 3606 received a favorable report as amended. The House gave the bill second and third readings. The Senate made some additional amendments which the House concurred with, and H. 3606 has been enrolled for ratification.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Opioid Recovery Fund – H. 5182.
This bill is part of the requirement of the opioid lawsuit settlement for this state and the 46 counties and 43 municipalities that were a part of the lawsuit. The bill establishes the opioid recovery fund accounts with the state treasurer. It also creates the South Carolina Opioid Recovery Fund Board which will administer and distribute the funds. The Board will be composed of nine members, five of which are appointed by the Governor from a list provided by the South Carolina Association of Counties, with at least one member selected from each of the South Carolina public health regions as defined by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Last week, the House recalled the bill from the Judiciary Committee, amended it so that the Governor appoints three from the list provided by SCAC and the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate each appoint one from that list. The bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Immigration Enforcement – S. 1032.
This bill would repeal the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit within the SC Department of Public Safety and move the unit to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to enforce state and federal immigration laws. SLED would be required to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill would also allow counties and local law enforcement agencies to enforce applicable state and federal immigration laws. The bill is now pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
Corrections Officer Age – S. 1092.
This bill would require a detention or correctional officer to be at least 18 years of age at the time of employment. The Senate adopted an amendment to exempt correctional officers employed by the Department of Juvenile Justice from this requirement. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended; however, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill by adding the provisions to H. 4919 (discussed below).
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 have 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. S. 1031 applies to both elected and appointed registers 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. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report as amended; however, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill by adding the provisions to H. 4919. (discussed below).
County Government and Intergovernmental Relations
Early Voting and Absentee Ballot Voting – H. 4919.
As initially drafted, H. 4919 provides a two-week period of no-excuse early voting prior to an election, including two Saturdays. County boards of voter registration and elections will have the discretion to determine the location of early voting locations in each county but can have no more than seven locations based on the population of the county. After receiving the bill back from the Senate with amendments, the House committed H. 4919 to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee then amended two Senate bills (S. 1031 and S. 1092) with a modified House version of H. 4919 and gave both bills a favorable report.
Municipal Elections – S. 236.
For purposes of municipal elections only, this bill would allow a municipality to pool one or more voting precincts and thereby increase the number of registered voters required for a voting precinct to have its own polling location from 500 to 3,000. The Senate amended the bill to reduce the cap on registered voters from 3,000 to 1,500. The House recalled the bill from the Judiciary Committee and placed it on the calendar.
Sign Language Interpreters Act – H. 3795.
This bill would enact the “Sign Language Interpreters Act” and require a specific level of competence for sign language interpreters used by detention facilities, police stations, and other agencies. This bill was recalled from the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee and placed on the calendar.
Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund – S. 968.
This bill establishes the "Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund" as a new fund created in the State Treasury. Revenues of the fund may include gifts, grants, federal funds, donations, and appropriations from the General Assembly. These funds are to be used to offset costs paid by organizations that provide honor guard burial details at the funerals of qualifying South Carolina veterans. A House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee amended the $100 cap provision in the bill to “no less than $100” and gave the bill a favorable report as amended. S. 968 is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Permit Extensions – S. 17.
This joint resolution, also known as the “Permit Extension Joint Resolution of 2022,” extends the approval of certain permits issued by DHEC. The permit must be current and valid at any time between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2023. DHEC indicated that there is no expenditure impact on the agency because the bill's implementation would be accomplished using its existing resources. S. 17 received a favorable report by the House Ways and Means Committee and was placed on the 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.
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. 1288 — Prohibits DHEC from denying the repair, replacement, or construction of wells and septic tanks on certain rural lands regardless of the availability of municipal water and sewer service.
S. 1289 — Relates to the extension of water and sewer systems by a municipality, so as to prohibit extensions conditioned on annexation and for other purposes.
S. 1301 — Provides persons convicted of reckless vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug or combination of drugs; or convicted of reckless vehicular homicide and having at least one prior conviction for driving motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol; or driving motor vehicles with an unlawful alcohol concentration and whose victims were parents of minor children; must pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victims' children until each child reaches 18 years of age and has graduated from high school.
H. 5286 — Relates to the extension of water and sewer systems by a municipality, so as to prohibit extensions conditioned on annexation and for other purposes.
H. 5287 — Prohibits DHEC from denying the repair, replacement, or construction of wells and septic tanks on certain rural lands regardless of the availability of municipal water and sewer service.
H. 5299 — Provides persons convicted of reckless vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug or combination of drugs; or convicted of reckless vehicular homicide and having at least one prior conviction for driving motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol; or driving motor vehicles with an unlawful alcohol concentration and whose victims were parents of minor children; must pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victims' children until each child reaches 18 years of age and has graduated from high school.
H. 5309 — Enacts the "Empower Women's Reproductive Rights Act."