Friday Report - April 9, 2021
Both chambers spent the majority of the week on the floor in order to give bills third reading to meet the crossover date of April 10th. Any bill that did not receive third reading in one chamber by yesterday is likely done for this session and will have to be taken up next year. There are several bills of interest that will be discussed below.
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility – H. 3948. This bill, an SCAC policy position, would allow the counties that impose a Transportation Penny Tax pursuant to Chapter 37, Title 4 to also conduct a referendum to impose a 1 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.
The House adopted an amendment on the floor to further allow counties with the Capital Project Sales Tax to conduct a referendum to impose the Transportation Penny, as well. This would provide this flexibility to all counties. The bill passed the House and was referred to Senate Finance. Please thank Reps. Crawford, Murrell Smith, Pendarvis, Stavrinakis, and Murphy for their help in moving this important bill for counties.
Property Tax Installment Payment Flexibility – H. 3482. This bill, an SCAC policy position, provides the treasurer, tax collector, or other official charged with the collection of ad valorem property taxes in a county with the discretion in the scheduling and collection of installment payments from taxpayers. The bill passed out of the House this week and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Please thank Reps. Gary Smith and Stavrinakis for their help in moving this bill through the House.
Legally Separated Assessment Ratio – S. 527. This bill defines “legally separated” for purposes of the certificate contained in the application for the special 4 percent assessment ratio for owner-occupied residential property, an SCAC policy position. The Senate gave S. 527 third reading, and the House referred the bill to the Ways and Means Committee. Please thank Sens. Alexander, Malloy, and Garrett for their efforts in moving this bill through the Senate.
Fire District Millage Caps – S. 401. As originally drafted, this bill would allow counties to adopt an ordinance or resolution to suspend the millage rate limitation for the purposes of supporting a fire protection district created pursuant to Chapter 19 of Title 4. SCAC staff, along with David Garner, Abbeville County Director and Vic Carpenter, Kershaw County Administrator, worked with Senator Gustafson, the sponsor of the bill, and testified at a Senate Finance subcommittee asking to amend the bill to also include those fire districts created pursuant to Title 6. The Senate Finance Committee adopted the amendment as well as an amendment limiting the suspension of the cap to two years after the effective date of the legislation. This week, the Senate adopted the committee amendment and gave the bill a second reading but did not give the bill a third reading ahead of the crossover deadline. A special thanks goes out to Senators Gustafson, Davis, and all Senators who voted for the bill.
The main reason that this bill advanced as far as it did on the floor was because of the consistent communication from county officials to their Senators. Specifically, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns, Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter, Lancaster County Council Vice Chairman Brian Carnes, Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis, Richland County Council Chairman Paul Livingston, and Richland County Councilwoman Chakisse Newton were crucial in getting this bill up for debate and second reading. Thanks to them and all county officials who contacted their Senators about this bill. There is still much work to be done to pass this bill and the continuous contacts and discussions that county officials have with their legislators are vital to ensuring its passage.
Retirement Beneficiary – S. 658. This bill would specify that a member of the state retirement system who is not retired may nominate a contingent beneficiary for receipt of payment on death of the member within all state retirement systems. Currently, only active contributing members may nominate a contingent beneficiary. This bill would allow those members who are not an active contributing member, but are not yet retired, to make this nomination. This bill would also make technical clean-ups and provides conforming language for the Public Employee Benefits Authority (PEBA) and the retirement and insurance programs. S. 658 received a third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Manufacturing Property Tax Exemption Exclusion – H. 4064. At least one major utility is paying its property taxes under protest claiming it is eligible for the manufacturing property tax exemption, which the state fully funds. H. 4064 clarifies that the manufacturing property tax exemption does not apply to utilities, which was the original intent of the exemption. The House gave the bill a second and a third reading this week, and the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Tax Conformity – H. 4017. This bill conforms the state tax code with any changes to the federal tax code and updates the reference year to 2020. This week, the bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy – H. 3354. H. 3354 would provide a property tax exemption for solar panels placed on the rooftops of residential homes. In order to qualify for the exemption, the solar panels system must be installed and running and cannot exceed 20 kilowatts. Based on SCAC’s discussion with various county taxing authorities, there are no plans to tax these solar panel systems, and this bill simply codifies that. The House gave the bill a second and a third reading this week, and the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Community Development Credits – S. 436. This bill would raise the cap on the community development tax credits, which are issued on a first-come first-served basis. A Senate Finance subcommittee amended S. 436 with a strike and insert amendment to change the cap to $9 million, allowing for $1 million in total tax credits for tax year 2021, and $2 million for 2022. The bill received a second and a third reading in the Senate this week.
Rental Assistance – H. 3770. This bill would provide procedures for disbursing the federal funds under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program by creating the South Carolina Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This program would be administered by the South Carolina State Housing Financing and Development Authority. Funds would be disbursed in accordance with the procedures in Section 2(A) of Act 135 of 2020. This week, the House concurred in the Senate amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification.
Family Leave – H. 3560. H. 3560 would provide for 12 weeks of paid family leave for state employees due to birth, adoption, or foster care of a son or daughter. This leave expires at the end of 12 months beginning from the date of the birth or placement and must run concurrently with leave taken pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to repeal Section 8-11-55 (sick leave to care for an adopted child) and gave it a favorable report. H. 3560 passed the House and been sent to the Senate.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Billboard Relocations Involving Highway Projects – S. 667. This bill would provide options and parameters to adjust or relocate outdoor advertising signs due to highway projects in order to restore visibility and would provide for the costs of adjustment or relocation. An owner of a conforming outdoor advertising sign, whose property interests in the sign are acquired by a state or local highway project along an interstate or federal-aid primary routes would have the option to relocate the sign within 500 feet of original site under certain circumstances. Alteration or relocation costs would be capped at $5 million and would be paid by the SC Department of Transportation or the political subdivision that is responsible for the highway project. A House Education and Public Works Transportation Subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
Commercial Vehicle Registration – H. 3689. This legislation would provide that if a commercial motor vehicle is registered through the international registration plan and is operated under a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number assigned to a person other than the vehicle's owner, then the person to whom the USDOT number is assigned may register the commercial motor vehicle by submitting the appropriate application and fees to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bill also codifies existing agency procedures. The Senate Transportation Committee amended the bill to add language that provides further clarification to the registration process and would require counties to mail bills for road use fees and registration to large commercial motor vehicles operating intrastate until 24 months after the new program is fully funded. H. 3689 received a favorable report as amended and is on the Senate calendar.
Golf Cart Ordinance – S. 296. This legislation would allow a municipality of a certain size and population to enact an ordinance allowing for the operation of golf carts during non-daylight hours. The golf carts must be equipped with working headlights and rear lights. The bill is targeted specifically for the municipality of Tega Cay. S. 296 received a third reading this week in the Senate and was referred to the House Education and Public Works Committee.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Firefighter Training Cost Reimbursement – H. 3466. This bill would provide that a fire department that assumes the cost of training a firefighter may be reimbursed for these costs by another fire department that subsequently hires the firefighter within a certain period of time. This is an SCAC policy position. The House gave the bill a second and a third reading this week. The bill was referred to the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.
Constitutional Carry – H. 3096. This bill would enact the “South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act of 2021.” Constitutional carry would broaden where a person, with or without training, may carry a firearm. This bill provides that it is unlawful for anyone to carry about the person any handgun unless authorized in several county operated locations including detention centers, courthouses, polling places, meeting offices, etc. This bill received a second and a third reading in the House and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Discharged Inmates – S. 351. This bill would require inmates being discharged from state prisons, as well as certain persons who have been discharged from jails or detention centers, have completed terms of probation, or have been released on parole to be provided with written notice of their eligibility to register to vote and instruct the individual how to register. The bill was amended on the Senate floor to provide that a person formerly disqualified from being registered to vote due to a felony conviction must provide verification at the time of registering to vote that he has served his disqualifying sentence, including probation and parole time. S. 351 received a third reading and was sent to the House.
County Government and Intergovernmental
COVID-19 Vaccinations – S. 177. This legislation would prohibit businesses from firing employees if they do not receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The bill was amended by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee to provide an exception that would remove this protection for individuals that work in a healthcare setting or with vulnerable populations that are age 65 or older. S. 177 received a third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Building Codes – H. 4060. This bill would provide for a six-year cycle adoption only for Residential Codes, but Commercial and all other codes would be on a three-year, not to exceed four-year, cycle. The House gave the bill a second and a third reading this week, and the bill was referred to the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.
Vaping and Tobacco Ordinances – H. 3681. This legislation would provide that after December 31, 2020, political subdivisions would be preempted from regulating the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic smoking devices, e-liquid, vapor products, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products. However, the use of these products in public areas would still be subject to local laws and ordinances. SCAC testified in opposition to the bill. The bill passed out of the House and is now in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.
State Election Commission Restructuring – S. 499. This legislation would allow the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to intervene on behalf of their respective bodies in a court action challenging the validity of an election law or policy, or the manner in which an election was conducted. It would also restructure the State Election Commission to be composed of five members to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Commission would appoint an executive director upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The bill received a third reading in the Senate, and the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
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 received a second and a third reading in the House this week and was referred to the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.
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S. 726 — For purposes of the sales tax exemption, includes an agribusiness processor as a manufacturing facility for purposes of the exemption on construction materials.
S. 727 — Provides for the annual payment of vehicle registration and license fees.
S. 730 — Provides that an airport management entity may regulate the use of airport companies by vehicle companies.
H. 4133 — A joint resolution to restate the General’s Assembly’s expectation that the Greenville Health Authority Board of Trustees shall supervise the lessee’s compliance with all of the provisions laid out in Act 274 of 2018.
H. 4146 — Enacts the “Livable Homes Tax Credit Act.”
H. 4147 — Requires a golf cart to be equipped with seat belts and requires the operator of a golf cart and each passenger to wear a seat belt while the golf cart is in operation.
H. 4150 — Establishes a 14-day period preceding a general election for voters to cast an early in-person ballot and allows that absentee ballots to begin to be tabulated beginning at 7:00 am on the calendar day before the election.
H. 4151 — Provides for the annual payment of vehicle registration and license fees.
H. 4156 — Allows members of the General Assembly to use athletic clubs or gymnasiums owned by a state or local entity without charge.
H. 4159 — Limits the time a train may block 4-lane street intersections in municipalities during certain periods of time.
H. 4162 — Provides than an absentee ballot application shall require the voter's date of birth and the voter's South Carolina driver's license number or the voter's personal identification card number, or another form of identification containing a photograph issued by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. It also includes other statutorily-approved identification cards such as a passport of military identification card.
H. 4171 — Provides that an employer may grant an employee a specified additional amount of paid leave each year for the employee to attend certain elementary and secondary school conferences or activities.
H. 4173 — Prohibits smoking in motor vehicles owned by the state, local government, or by school districts.
H. 4174 — Adds certain synthetic cannabinoid and cathinone compounds as Schedule I controlled substances.
H. 4178 — Provides that only property owners may appeal staff action or planning commission decisions to approve land development plans.