Friday Report - February 18, 2022
The Senate and the House spent much of the week debating and advancing legislation to appropriate the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These bills and several others will be discussed below in this week’s Friday Report.
SCAC will host its Mid-Year Conference on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia. NACo will provide an update on ARPA and US Treasury’s Final Rule. County officials will also receive an economic update and information regarding broadband opportunities. Members are encouraged to meet with their delegation members at the State House. A legislative reception will be held at The Palmetto Club that evening from 5-7 p.m. More details are available at the end of this week’s Friday Report.
Revenue, Finance and Economic Development
User Fee Authorization – S. 984. This bill would provide that a service or user fee, including a road use fee, is authorized as long as there is a benefit to the payers, even if the general public also benefits. S. 984 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, but a hearing on the bill has not been scheduled.
Please contact your Senators and ask them to support and request A Subcommittee hearing on S. 984!
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – S. 952. On Tuesday, members of the Senate debated S. 952 regarding the expenditure of the state’s $2.499 billion share of ARPA funds. This legislation would allocate approximately $1.75 billion in funding. Phase one of the Senate’s plan would provide over $453 million in funding to SCDOT, $400 million to the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) for the State Broadband Office to expand access to high-speed broadband internet, and $900 million to the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA). The RIA would be directed to use approximately $800 million of the designated funds to establish three separate grant programs for water, wastewater, and stormwater projects to provide local governments with opportunities to build and update aging infrastructure across the state. The RIA would also designate $100 million of its allotment for projects that are deemed significant to economic development. Additionally, the RIA would be required to transfer $500,000 to each of the 10 Council of Governments (COGs) for planning assistance, development of grant proposals, and compliance assistance related to improvements in water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure for smaller systems. S. 952 received a third reading and was sent to the House.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – H. 4408. The House also took up a bill outlining its plan for allocating ARPA funds. Much like the Senate plan, H. 4408 would provide over $453 million in funding to SCDOT and $400 million to the Office of Regulatory Staff to expand access to high-speed broadband internet. However, under the House plan, $100 million would be allocated to the Office of Resilience and $800 million would be sent to the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) for three separate grant programs regarding water, wastewater, and stormwater projects. The RIA grants would provide local governments with opportunities to build and update aging infrastructure across the state. Additionally, $500,000 would also be transferred to each of the 10 Council of Governments for planning assistance, development of grant proposals, and compliance assistance related to improvements in water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure for smaller systems. H. 4408 received a third reading and was sent to the Senate.
Additional information regarding ARPA.
Savannah River Site Settlement Funds – S. 956. In addition to taking up legislation regarding ARPA funds, the Senate also debated S. 956 relating to the distribution of funds from the “Savannah River Site Settlement Account.” This legislation would appropriate the $525 million that the state received from the SRS Settlement that will be housed within the Department of Administration. Under the Senate’s proposal, 65 percent ($341 million) would be sent to the “primary” counties affected by the lawsuit which include Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale. Ten percent ($52 million) would go to “perimeter” counties also affected including Bamberg, Colleton, Edgefield, Hampton, Lexington, Orangeburg, and Saluda. The remaining 25 percent ($131 million) would be sent to the County Transportation Committees (CTCs) in all counties except the three counties that were deemed “primary.” These funds would be distributed under the existing CTC funding formula.
Counties deemed either “primary” or “perimeter” under the legislation would be required to submit a written request for the funds to the Department of Administration’s Executive Budget Office (EBO). The appropriations may then be released to the county to fund eligible projects at the direction of the EBO following the receipt of the written request and subject to approval by the Joint Bond Review Committee. S. 956 received a third reading and was sent to the House.
Qualified 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. S. 233 received a favorable report from a Senate Finance subcommittee and will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
County Government and Intergovernmental
Vaccine Mandates – H. 3126. This bill would prohibit political subdivisions from enforcing a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate or enacting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. If any political subdivision is subject to a federal requirement that would lead to the forfeiture of federal funds due to a failure to require employees, independent contractors, or nonemployee vendors to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, the employer may require an unvaccinated employee, independent contractor, or nonemployee vendor to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing if the federal requirement allows for testing as an alternative to vaccination. If the federal requirement does not allow for testing, the employee would be eligible for unemployment benefits. The bill also prohibits political subdivisions from terminating, suspending, or otherwise reducing the compensation of a first responder if the first responder does not receive a COVID-19 vaccination. A Senate Finance subcommittee gave H. 3126 a favorable report as amended and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
“South Carolina Religious Freedom Act” – H. 3105. This legislation would designate religious services that take place in “houses of worship” as essential services during a declared state of emergency. As a result, religious services, as defined under the bill, would be allowed to continue operating throughout the duration of any such state of emergency. Any “houses of worship” that are denied their right to worship in such conditions would be provided the right to seek declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to compensatory damages for pecuniary and nonpecuniary loses. H. 3105 received a favorable report as amended by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and will move on to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for further debate.
Early Voting and Absentee Ballot Voting – H. 4919. H. 4919 would provide for a two-week period of no-excuse early voting prior to an election, to include two Saturdays. County boards of voter registration and elections would have the discretion to determine the number of early voting locations in each county. Beginning on the Sunday immediately preceding the election day at 7:00 am, poll managers may begin to examine the returned-addressed envelopes of absentee ballots to make sure the oath has been signed and properly witnessed. Beginning at 7:00 am on the day immediately preceding an election, poll workers may begin to tabulate absentee ballots, The results would not be released until after the polls are closed. A House Judiciary subcommittee made some technical amendments to the bill and gave it a favorable report. The full Judiciary Committee began debating the bill but adjourned before taking any action.
Firefighter Training Cost Reimbursement – H. 3466. This bill, as originally introduced, 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 Senate adopted an amendment that extends the bill to EMTs, clarifies what training is reimbursable, clarifies that reimbursement covers training costs incurred within two years of employment, and defines employer to capture all appropriate departments. After the amendment was adopted, the bill was carried over. H. 3466 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund – H. 3598 and S. 968. These companion bills establish the "Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund" within 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. In order to be a qualifying veteran, the individual must have been a resident of South Carolina for at least five years and served on active duty. The Secretary of the SC Department of Veterans' Affairs may disburse from the fund up to $100 per funeral following a request from the organization that provided the honor guard burial detail. According to the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the SC Department of Veterans’ Affairs anticipates it will be able to absorb any administrative expenses associated with appropriating these funds within current appropriations and using existing staff. However, the department's expenditures and revenues will increase beginning in FY 2021-22 by an undetermined amount, dependent on the sum of funds received and the number of organizations requesting funds. Due to the varied nature of these funds, this may increase the department's General Fund, Federal Funds, and Other Funds expenditures and revenues
The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee gave H. 3598 a favorable report. H. 3598 is pending second reading on the House calendar. Further, a Senate Family and Veterans' Services subcommittee gave the companion bill, S. 968, a favorable report as well. S. 968 will be on the next full committee's agenda.
County Veterans' Affairs Officers Monthly Reporting – S. 1033. This bill would provide that the Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs may require monthly reports from county veterans' affairs officers (CVAO), reflecting the character and progress of their official duties to analyze metrics of veterans' care across the state. Further, the bill requires that CVAOs must produce the requested reports within five days of the initial request. After discussion, the bill was amended to change the timeframe to 10 days. A Senate Family and Veterans' Services subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. S. 1033 will be on the next full committee's agenda.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Coroners as First Responders – H. 3958. This bill would deem a coroner or his designee as a first responder when administering an opioid antidote to a person experiencing an opioid overdose. The coroner must comply with all of the requirements of Section 44-130-60 to be entitled to immunity from civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action when administering an opioid antidote to a person he believes in good faith is experiencing an opioid overdose. According to the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the bill will have no impact on county expenditures because coroners typically respond to emergency calls after a death. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee gave the bill a favorable report and the bill is pending second reading on the House calendar.
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 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. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee took testimony but ran out of time before taking action on this bill.
SCAC's Mid-Year Conference and Institute of Government Classes
SCAC's 2022 Mid-Year Conference will be held Wednesday, February 23, 2022, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia. You can access a copy of the registration brochure and conference agenda on the Association’s website. A legislative reception will be held from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the Palmetto Club. You are encouraged to invite your legislators to dinner while you are in Columbia.
The Institute of Government will be held in conjunction with the Mid-Year Conference on Thursday, February 24, and Friday, February 25. The specific schedule of course offerings is available on the association’s website. The Council Chairperson’s Workshop will be held on Thursday, February 24, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. and is open only to council chairs and vice chairs. It is offered free-of-charge, but registration is required. Should you or your council members need assistance determining which classes to take, please contact Ryan Tooley at (800) 922-6081 or at email@example.com.
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. 1072 — Provides for the training, registration, and certification of fire-resistant material applicators by the state fire marshal.
S. 1073 — Establishes that an offender who is required to register, may, after a specified period of time, based on the tier of his offense, petition the circuit court for removal of the requirements of the sex offender registry upon meeting certain requirements.
S. 1077 — Allows the Public Service Commission to authorize the issuance of bonds for the purposes of offsetting and reducing prudently incurred costs for storm recovery activity and establishes the requirements and processes for the authorization of these bonds.
S. 1078 — Allows municipalities with less than $500,000 in total revenues to provide a compilation of financial statements.
S. 1087 — Enacts the "Comprehensive Tax Cut Act of 2022".
H. 4968 — Adds active clerks of court to the list of persons relating to certain persons allowed to carry a concealable weapon anywhere in this state.
H. 4969 — Provides that a statewide advisory referendum must be conducted by the State Election Commission at the same time as the 2022 General Election on the question of whether the State Superintendent of Education shall be elected on a nonpartisan basis.
H. 4970 — Provides that the State Superintendent of Education shall be elected on a nonpartisan basis.
H. 4971 — Requires the State Election Commission to remove voters from the official list of eligible voters within seven days of receipt of information affecting voter eligibility.
H. 4972 — Provides a local government found to have violated state law forfeits its next four quarterly distributions from the local government fund, and the State Treasurer may not make distributions from the local government fund to the local government during this period.
H. 4981 — Requires the payment of all reasonable costs incurred related to the conviction and prohibits a person convicted of a subsequent offense of cruelty to animals from owning an animal for a period not to exceed five years.
H. 4982 — Provides an additional 60 days of sick leave for state officers and employees who have been approved for certain FMLA leave.
H. 4984 — Enacts "The Kingston Act."
H. 4985 — Establishes the "I-95 Corridor Authority Act."
H. 4987 — Requires insurers to include cost-sharing amounts paid when calculating an enrollee's contribution.
H. 4994 — Requires the disclosure of adjacent property utilized for agricultural purposes.
H. 4996 — Prohibits contracting with companies that boycott energy companies.
H. 4997 — Authorizes the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish and operate veterans nursing homes.