Friday Report - April 7, 2023
The Senate Finance Committee debated and passed the budget bill (H. 4300) out of committee this week, which included increased funding to the Local Government Fund (LGF). The full Senate will debate the bill on the floor the week of April 18. While the Senate did not meet in statewide session, several Senate committees met throughout the week to discuss multiple bills including one allowing for constitutional carry of concealed weapons (S. 109). The House debated and passed several bills ahead of the April 10 crossover deadline. Bills of interest are discussed below:
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
Budget – H. 4300. The Senate Finance Committee debated and passed the budget bill (H. 4300) out of committee this week. The Finance Committee increased funding to the LGF by $13,212,234 statewide. This represents full funding to the LGF under the statutory formula.
Other funding of note in the Senate Finance Committee budget includes:
- $155 million to cover a $2,500 base pay increase for state employees making under $50,000 and a 5 percent base pay increase for state employees making over $50,000;
- $121.5 million for the state’s share of the 3.7 percent increase in premiums under the State Health Plan, including expanded well visits, prescribed contraceptives for dependents, and annual gynecological visits for women;
- $40.1 million to cover the state’s share of the 1 percent retirement contribution increase;
- $12 million to the Rural County Stabilization Fund;
- $345,000 to registers of deeds (This represents increased funding for FY23-24);
- $690,000 to coroners (This represents increased funding for FY23-24);
- $690,000 to clerks of court (This represents the same funding as the current fiscal year);
- $690,000 to sheriffs (This represents the same funding as the current fiscal year);
- $690,000 to probate judges (This represents the same funding as the current fiscal year);
- $1,063,214 to county auditors (This represents the same funding as the current fiscal year);
- $1,063,213 to county treasurers (This represents the same funding as the current fiscal year);
- $1.5 million for magistrate salary increases (This represents increased funding for FY 23-24);
- $1.5 million to the Councils of Governments;
- $1.6 million to coroners to fund the local Child Fatality Review Team program;
- $750,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for first responders;
- $3 million to Labor, Licensing and Regulation for the V-SAFE Fund;
- $12 million for destination specific tourism grants;
- $3.894 million in recurring funds for Aid to Fire Districts – Statutory Funding Requirement for insurance premiums under Section 23-9-410;
- $2.5 million in additional money for tourism promotions;
- $25 million in additional money to the Conservation Bank for grant funding;
- $3.784 million for the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Plan; and
- $5 million to the Department of Mental Health for an alternative transportation program.
The Senate Finance Committee amended or added the following provisos of note:
- 5 PCC: Solicitor’s Office – County Funding Level. The Senate Finance Committee amended this proviso to provide that if the county reduces the amount of support provided to solicitor’s offices below the level provided in the prior fiscal year, the State Treasurer shall withhold the county’s State Aid to Subdivision funding by a corresponding amount. If this proviso passes, counties should strongly consider NOT providing increased funding to these offices since the county will be required to fund the office at the increased level as long as this proviso is in place.
- 11 PCC: Caseload Equalization Funding. The Senate Finance Committee amended this proviso to increase the amount appropriated and authorized for Caseload Equalization. The proviso will have the first $10,350,000 distributed at an amount of $225,000 per county. The remaining $12,006,872 shall be distributed based upon the average incoming caseload for each county as reported by the Judicial Department for the prior three fiscal years.
- 1 INDEF: Defense of Indigents Formula. The Senate Finance Committee amended this proviso to provide that if the county reduces the amount of support provided to a public defender’s office below the level provided in the prior fiscal year, the State Treasurer shall withhold the county’s State Aid to Subdivision funding by a corresponding amount. If this proviso passes, counties should strongly consider NOT providing increased funding to these offices since the county will be required to fund the office at the increased level as long as this proviso is in place.
- 16 PEBA: PORS and SCRS Return to Work. The Senate Finance Committee amended this proviso to delete the critical needs law enforcement and firefighter positions exception adopted by the House.
- 3 AS-TREAS: Salary Supplements. The Senate Finance Committee added this proviso which directs that salary supplements for county clerks of courts, probate judges, coroners, sheriffs, and registers of deeds be distributed to each county treasurer quarterly and directs that the amounts for county auditors and county treasurers be equally distributed to each county auditor and treasurer as a salary supplement in addition to the salary and other benefits presently provided by the county. It also:
- States the intent of the General Assembly that county appropriations for these salaries not be reduced as a result of the appropriation.
- Exempts these funds from any across the board cut.
- Authorizes a county governing body to reduce expenditures in the operation of these offices without any required corresponding reduction in the county’s State Aid to Subdivision distribution and directs that any reduction in the officials’ budgets must be made in consultation with the affected official.
- 147 GP: Mental Health Transport. The Senate Finance Committee amended this proviso to allow the Department of Mental Health to amend the contract to add additional counties to the program.
- Magistrate Salary Increases. The Senate Finance Committee added this proviso to provide for salary increases for magistrates. Full-time magistrates will receive a $5,000 increase in their base salary. Part-time magistrates will receive a $1,250 increase in their base salary. These salaries will remain decoupled from the circuit court judge salaries.
The Senate Finance Committee deleted the following provisos that were previously adopted by the House:
- 64. DHEC: Grant Authority. Authorizes the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to make grants to nonprofit organizations and governmental entities for public health and environmental programs. Directs the department to develop policies and procedures and promulgate regulations.
- 11. Short-term Rentals. Prohibits political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing an ordinance that prohibits short-term rentals unless the political subdivision also provides financial incentives for the purchase and rental of affordable housing and zoning allowances in exchange for an affordable covenant of at least 20 years. If a political subdivision violates this provision or enacts any such ordinance, the State Treasurer shall withhold their portion of the Local Government Fund. The proviso defines “short-term rental” as an individually or collectively owned residential house or dwelling unit or group of units that is rented wholly or partially for residential use for any period of time greater than three consecutive days.
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 the manner in which the funds may be expended. Under the bill, the money would be appropriated to the Rural Infrastructure Authority 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 adopted that would allow 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 received second and third readings by the House, as amended, and the bill was returned to the Senate.
South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act – H. 3786. This bill would reinstate a dedicated funding stream for the South Carolina Conservation Bank by requiring that $0.25 of each $1.30 collected from deed recording fees must be credited and devoted to the South Carolina Conservation Bank Trust Fund (SCCBTF) and would decrease the amount credited to the State General Fund from $1.00 to $0.75. The bill would also increase the number of board members serving on the South Carolina Conservation Bank by adding three additional members. The House amended the bill this week to provide that in FY 2025-26 the maximum amount of the state fee that may be credited to the SCCBTF in a fiscal year would equal the amount credited to the Fund in the previous year, plus or minus the percentage change in projected general fund revenues. The House gave H. 3786 second and third readings, as amended, and sent the bill to the Senate.
Tax Conformity – H. 4017. This bill would conform the state tax code with any changes to the federal tax code and update the reference year to 2022. The House gave H. 4017 second and third readings and the bill was sent to the Senate.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
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 their local law enforcement agency 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. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee took public testimony for several hours before giving the bill a favorable report, as amended. S. 109 will now move ahead to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.
Coroner Qualifications – H. 3865. This bill would extend the qualifications for a coroner to include a licensed paramedic who has at least three years of experience. The House gave H. 3865 second and third readings this week and sent the bill 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. 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 House gave H. 3691 second and third readings this week and sent the bill to the Senate.
Deed and Mortgage Derivation Clauses – H. 3500. This bill would require that any deed or mortgage of real estate executed after December 31, 2023, must identify either the contact information of the preparer of the instrument or the attorney licensed to practice in this state who assisted with the closing of the instrument. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a clerk of court or register of deeds from recording any such deed or mortgage executed after December 31, 2023, unless the instrument contains information identifying the preparer or closing attorney as mentioned above. The House gave H. 3500 second and third readings, as amended, and the bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee 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 under the Act. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave H. 3890 a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will move forward to the full committee for consideration.
County Government and Intergovernmental Relations
SCAC Staff Attorney Leslie M. Simpson testified during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on S. 251.
First Responder Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – S. 251. This bill would exempt first responders seeking compensation from workers’ compensation insurance (“mental-mental”) from having to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the conditions leading to stress, mental injury, or mental illness stemmed from extraordinary or unusual conditions and not the normal conditions of employment. The bill would also define the terms “first responder,” “significant traumatic experience or situation,” “witnessing,” and “grievous bodily harm.” Further, the bill would provide that a first responder who sustains stress, or mental injury, unaccompanied by a physical injury arising out of and in the course of his employment, shall be concluded to have sustained injury by accident under the following conditions:
- The injured is employed as a first responder, and the impairment causing the stress, mental injury, or mental illness, is medically diagnosed as PTSD, without regard to whether the experience or situation was “extraordinary or unusual” in comparison to the normal working conditions of the first responder’s employment;
- The first responder participates in and receives clinical care through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program, the South Carolina First Responders Assistance and Support Team, or their successor programs;
- There is an incapacity to work as determined by the treatment physician;
- When the capacity for work resulting from an injury is “total,” the employer shall pay, or cause to be paid a weekly compensation equal to 66.66 percent of the average weekly wages, but not less than $75 per week so long as the amount does not exceed the average weekly wages; if this amount does exceed the average weekly wages, the injured first responder may not be paid, each week, less than his average weekly wages;
- The injured first responder may not be paid more each week than the average weekly wage in this state for the preceding fiscal year;
- In no case may the covered by the compensation exceed 500 weeks, except as provided in section 42 -9-10 (C);
- The injured first responder is not entitled to indemnity under Section 42-9-10, or Section 42-9-30, unless the incapacity for work resulting from any injury under this section is a total incapacity to work.
- Stress or mental injuries unaccompanied by physical injury are not considered compensable if they result from any event, or a series of events, which are incidental to normal employer-employee relations; and
- Stress, mental injury, and mental illness alleged to have been aggravated by a work-related physical injury may not be found compensable unless certain elements are met.
The bill would take effect on January 1, 2024, and apply to injuries that occur on or after this effective date. Although SCAC testified in opposition to reducing the standard for mental-mental claims currently in statute, this bill represents the compromise reached by stakeholders, including SCAC, last session. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 251 favorable report, and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
E-Cigarette Preemption – H. 3681. This bill would prohibit political subdivisions from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic smoking devices, e-liquid, vapor products, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products. The House gave H. 3681 second and third readings this week and sent the bill to the Senate.
Municipal Elections – H. 3734. This bill would require that all municipal elections 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. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave H. 3734 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Absentee Ballots – H. 3823. This bill would add Section 7-15-382 to the Code to provide that it is unlawful for a person to witness the signature of more than five absentee ballot applicants on the oath imprinted on absentee ballot return-addressed envelopes in a single election. The bill would also provide penalties for violations. A House Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to increase the number of signatures a person may witness to 20 before adjourning debate on the bill to conduct further research.
Closed Primaries – H. 3695. This bill would require that an elector be registered as a member of a certified political party 45 days prior to the date of a partisan primary or advisory referendum held by that party in order to participate. The bill would also prohibit a member of a certified political party from voting in the partisan primary election or advisory referendum of another certified political party with which that elector is not registered. The elector shall have the option to indicate a preference to be affiliated with a certified political party, or a preference to be an unaffiliated voter on their application for voter registration. Finally, the elector may change his or her affiliation on the application for voter registration. A House Judiciary subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill to conduct further research.
Alternate Jurors – H. 3883. This bill would amend Section 14-7-1340 of the Code, relating to the duties and service of alternate jurors, so as to allow the court to retain alternate jurors upon submission of a case to a jury for deliberations. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and H. 3883 will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Disposal of Abandoned and Derelict Aircraft – H. 3138. This bill would allow for the disposal of abandoned or derelict aircraft by an airport manager and would outline the process for the sale or disposal proceeds of such aircraft. If the owner of the aircraft or any such person having a legal or equitable interest in the aircraft cannot be found, any net proceeds from the sale or disposal of the aircraft would be paid to the state’s General Fund. The House gave H. 3138 second and third readings this week and the bill was sent to the Senate.
DHEC Restructuring – H. 4124. This bill would restructure DHEC and amend Chapter 1 of Title 44 to create the “Department of 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 effectively and efficiently restructure the agency and to submit a report to the General Assembly with its findings by December 31, 2023. If passed, this legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2024. The House gave H. 4124 second and third readings, as amended, and sent the bill to the Senate.
Septic Tank Permits – H. 3769. This bill would prohibit DHEC from denying a property owner of rural land the right to repair and replace any well or septic tank existing on the property because of any other available water or sewer services. The House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee amended the bill, gave H. 3769 a favorable report, and the bill is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Applications for the 2023 J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards Competition 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.
You can also go to www.scstatehouse.gov and click on "Legislation," then "Introduced Legislation."
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