Friday Report - February 17, 2023

This week in the General Assembly, the Senate worked through the calendar and debated several bills of interest in subcommittees. The House spent most of the week debating and passing the "Human Life Protection Act" (H. 3774) in an effort to ban most abortions in South Carolina. Bills of interest are discussed below:

Revenue, Finance, and Economic Development

License and Registration Fees for New SC Residents – S. 208. This legislation would allow a county to impose, upon conducting a successful referendum, an additional driver's license fee of $250 and an additional motor vehicle licensing and registration fee of $250 on residents that move to South Carolina. The referendum may be initiated either by an ordinance or by a petition calling for a referendum signed by at least 5 percent of the resident electors of the county. The county council must transmit the ordinance or petition calling for the referendum to the county election commission.
Upon receipt of the ordinance or the petition from county council, the county election commission shall conduct the referendum on the question of imposing an additional driver's license and motor vehicle licensing and registration fees that must be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in any year. Two weeks before the referendum, the election commission shall publish in a newspaper of general circulation the question that is to appear on the ballot. This notice would be in lieu of any other notice otherwise required by law. SCAC testified in support of S. 208 and the bill received a favorable report from the Senate Finance Property Tax subcommittee.

Public Safety, Corrections, and Judicial

Bond Reform – H. 3532/S. 367/S. 368. H. 3532 would provide for a five-year sentencing enhancement for persons 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. 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. A House Judiciary subcommittee adopted an amendment last week that would allow some discretion in setting bond along with electronic monitoring on a subsequent offense committed while out on bond, but still requires a full cash bond for certain crimes. The House Judiciary Committee adjourned debate on the bill in order to have more discussion.  
S. 367 would amend the criteria that must be considered by a court in setting bond for a person. The bill would also restrict electronic monitoring to licensed professional bondsmen, surety bondsmen, or runners. However, this restriction would not prevent the state, county, municipality, or division of the federal government from conducting electronic monitoring. S. 367 would also change the reporting requirements of bondsmen. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report with some amendments. SCAC will report on the amendments when they become available.
S. 368 would amend the criteria that must be considered by a court in setting bond for a person and would provide that if a person is out on bond for committing a violent offense or a felony involving a firearm and commits a subsequent violent offense or felony offense involving a firearm, the court may deny bond altogether or the bond must be a full cash bond. SCAC also testified on its concerns of the financial impact S. 368 would have on county detention centers because of the increase in jail populations it would create. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee carried over the bill for some additional research.
Open Carry Without Training Act – H. 3594. This bill would enact the "Open Carry Without Training Act" and 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. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to allow clerks of courts to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the state if they possess a valid concealed weapons permit, a prior SCAC policy position. The bill was given a favorable report, as amended, and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Left Lane Violations – S. 304. This bill would increase the fine for driving in the far left lane of the highway from $25 to $100. Seventy-five dollars from each fine collected would be credited to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. S. 304 is pending second reading on the contested Senate calendar.

County Government and Intergovernmental Relations

Tobacco Preemption – S. 414. 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 bill protects a county’s authority to zone and permit establishments that sell these products and also protects any county ordinance that was enacted before December 31, 2020. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee gave S. 414 a favorable report and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Veterans’ Trust Fund – S. 317/H. 3802. S. 317 would reorganize the Board of Trustees for the Veterans' Trust Fund of South Carolina by reducing the number of board members from 19 to 11. The Senate Family and Veterans' Services Committee amended the bill last week to provide that the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint the board consisting of seven members that are selected at large, two members that are currently serving as County Veterans' Affairs Officers, and two members that represent veterans' service organizations. The amendment further provides that of the 11 appointed members, at least six members must be United States Armed Forces veterans. The Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs shall serve as the executive director of the Trust Fund and an ex officio non-voting member of the board. Further, the bill provides that individuals appointed by the Governor shall serve four-year terms, and the remaining initial appointees shall serve two-year terms. No board member shall serve more than two consecutive terms or eight continuous years, whichever is greater. The Senate gave S. 317 second and third readings this week and sent the bill to the House.
The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee amended H. 3802 this week to mirror the language found in S. 317. H. 3802 is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Early Voting Ballots Tabulation – S. 406. This bill would provide that ballots cast during the early voting period may begin to be tabulated at the same time as absentee ballots. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee adopted an amendment to provide that the absentee ballots may be tabulated, the tabulated data may be collected from those ballots, and the ballots cast during the early voting period may be loaded in the election management system. Further, the amendment provides that the unofficial results returned by the managers to the county boards of voter registration and elections must be reported continuously and without undue delay in the manner prescribed by the State Election Commission. The subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and it will be on the next full committee's agenda
Election Protest Deadlines – S. 92. This bill provides that if the deadline for filing an election protest falls on a legal holiday, the deadline is extended to the succeeding day that is not a legal holiday. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to provide that the deadline extends to the "next regular business day" that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. The subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and it will be on the next full committee's agenda.

Land Use, Natural Resources, and Transportation

Beach Preservation Trust Fund – S. 282. This legislation would provide a dedicated state fund for beach preservation that would serve as a possible financial resource for cities and counties with public beaches. S. 282 renames the "South Carolina Beach Restoration and Improvement Trust Fund" to the "South Carolina Beach Preservation Trust Fund" and moves its administration from the DHEC Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT).
Under the current proposal, the General Assembly would be required to appropriate an amount equal to 25 percent of the State General Fund's portion of Admission Tax (A-Tax) revenue to the trust fund annually beginning in FY 2023-24. PRT would be charged with administering the fund and would approve and rank proposed projects according to specified criteria. Trust fund monies must be allocated for public beach restoration and maintenance or for improvements to public beach accesses and must be matched equally by the municipality or county, or a combination thereof, in which the project site is located. S. 282 received a favorable report from the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
South Carolina Waterways Protection Act – S. 484. This legislation would establish the "South Carolina Waterways Protection Fund" to be used for purposes such as the establishment of a grant program under the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide funds to public and private applicants for the removal of abandoned or unattended watercraft. The Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee adopted an amendment to provide that the fund must receive a $3 "waterways protection fee" that is attached to each county's tax notice for watercraft as provided in Section 12-37-3215. The fee must be remitted to the county and deposited by the county treasurer into the "South Carolina Waterways Protection Fund." S. 484 received a favorable report, as amended, and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

SCAC's Counties Connect: A Legislative Action Day

We look forward to seeing you at Counties Connect: A Legislative Action Day on Wednesday, Feb. 22 in downtown Columbia. Remember our new location this year is the USC Alumni Center at 900 Senate Street.

Newly-Introduced Legislation

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Senate Bills

House Bills

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