Friday Report - February 24, 2023

Thanks to the more than 200 county officials who came to Columbia this week to take part in SCAC’s Counties Connect: A Legislative Action Day. The event was very successful, and members of the General Assembly were grateful for the time spent with their county officials! You all truly demonstrated the #statewideimpact of #localleaders. Check out our Facebook album for more photos of Counties Connect, the Institute of Government and Council Chairperson’s Workshop.

This week in the General Assembly, the House spent time on the floor debating and passing the “Open Carry Without Training Act” (H. 3594) and the Ways and Means Committee passed its version of the budget (H. 4300). The Senate debated and passed two bills in an effort to combat the effects that fentanyl is having in South Carolina (S. 1 and S. 153) as well as a bill to shield the manufacturer of drugs used to administer death by lethal injection (S. 120). Bills and budget provisos of interest are discussed below:

Revenue, Finance, and Economic Development

Budget – H. 4300. The House Ways and Means Committee worked on the budget this week and passed H. 4300 out of committee on Thursday. The House is scheduled to debate the bill on the floor during the week of March 13. The Committee increased funding to the Local Government Fund (LGF) by $13,212,234 statewide. This represents full funding to the LGF under the statutory formula. The Committee also allocated $250 million in additional funds to County Transportation Committees (CTCs) for continued improvement of our roads.

Other funding of note in the Ways and Means Committee budget includes:

  • $124 million to cover a $2,500 base pay increase for state employees making under $83,000 and a 3 percent base pay increase for state employees making over $83,000;
  • $121 million for the state’s share of the State Health Plan, including expanded well visits, prescribed contraceptives for dependents, and annual gynecological visits for women;
  • $40 million to cover the state’s share of the 1 percent retirement contribution increase;
  • $12 million to the Rural County Stabilization Fund;
  • $311,925 to supplement register of deeds;
  • $617,550 to supplement coroners;
  • $617,550 to supplement clerks of court;
  • $617,550 to supplement sheriffs;
  • $617,550 to supplement probate judges;
  • $1.5 million to supplement the Council of Governments (COGs);
  • $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 the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation for V-SAFE Fund;
  • $12 million for destination specific tourism grants;
  • $2 million in additional money for tourism promotions;
  • $20 million to the Office of Resiliency for disaster relief;
  • $18 million in additional money to the Conservation Bank for grant funding;
  • $3.784 million for the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Plan;
  • $4 million to the Department of Mental Health for an alternative transportation program; and
  • $400,000 to the Department of Public Safety for a mental health for incarcerated individuals pilot program.

Please thank the members of the House Ways and Means Committee for keeping their promise to counties and working to return much needed funding to county governments throughout the state!

In addition to the provisos that remain in the budget from last year, the Ways and Means Committee adopted the following new or amended provisos of interest : 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.

42.fpd. FC: Firefighting Equipment and Response Carry Forward. Authorizes the Forestry Commission to carry forward any unspent funds appropriated for firefighting equipment into the current fiscal year and to spend these funds for the same purpose.

49.16. PRT: Destination Specific Tourism. Amended to state that non-recurring funds appropriated to the Destination Specific Tourism Marketing grant program shall not be subject to a match requirement during the current fiscal year.

108.6. PEBA: State Health Plan. Amended to provide for an employer premium increase of 3.7 percent and a subscriber premium increase of 0 percent for the standard State Health Plan for Plan Year 2024. 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.

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. The Senate Finance Committee adopted an amendment to require that the referendum be held at the time of the General Election and gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. S. 208 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Public Safety, Corrections, and Judicial

Bond Reform – S. 367/H. 3532. 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. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill to allow two tiers of electronic devices that would have to be approved by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Department (SLED). Electronic monitoring would be allowed to be performed by an electronic monitoring company if certified by SLED. Also, the electronic monitoring devices must allow real time monitoring by law enforcement and the solicitor’s office and any violations of persons being monitored must be reported within 48 hours. It also provides a procedure for bondsmen to enter into a payment agreement with a person and steps to be taken if a person does not make the payments. S. 367 was given a favorable report, as amended, and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

H. 3532, as originally drafted, would provide for a five-year sentencing enhancement for persons who commit certain additional crimes while they are out on bond, and would prohibit bond for certain crimes. It would also require a full cash bond for certain crimes. The bill 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. 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. The House Judiciary Committee adopted a strike and insert amendment that makes the five-year sentence a separate offense that can only be adjudicated if the person is first convicted of the subsequent violent crime while out on bond from other charges. Bond would be denied for any violent crime, as defined by § 16-1-60, that is committed while a person is out on bond for another charge. The bill was given a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the House calendar.  

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. An owner of a firearm would be required to report the loss or theft of such weapon to local law enforcement 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. The House debated several amendments on the floor before giving H. 3594 second and third readings and sending the bill to the Senate.

Trafficking in Fentanyl – S. 153. S. 153 would add fentanyl-related substances to the list of Schedule I controlled substances and would create the felony offense of trafficking in fentanyl. The bill would also increase penalties for trafficking in fentanyl compared to other drugs and would establish a mandatory minimum sentence. S. 153 was debated on the Senate floor this week in special order status. As amended, S. 153 does the following:

  • For a first offense, a term of imprisonment of not less than seven years nor more than 25 years, no part of which may be suspended or probation granted, and a fine of $50,000;
  • More than two grains of fentanyl or fentanyl-related substance is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction must be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000 or both;
  • For a second offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than 10 years or fined not more than $7,500, or both; 
  • For a third or subsequent offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than 15 years or fined not more than $10,000, or both; and
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person convicted and sentenced pursuant to this item for a first or second offense may have the sentence suspended, and probation granted and is eligible for parole, supervised furlough, community supervision, work release, work credits, education credits, and good conduct credits.

The Senate passed S. 153 this week, and the bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Drug-Induced Homicide - S. 1. This bill establishes that fentanyl-induced homicide is a felony offense against the person who unlawfully delivers, dispenses, or otherwise provides fentanyl to a person who dies after injection, inhalation, absorption, or ingestion of any amount of the substance. This offense consists of the unlawful delivery, dispensation, or provision of fentanyl or a fentanyl-related substance to another person whose death is caused by his injection, inhalation, absorption, or ingestion of such substance and is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 30 years. Further, the bill also provides that a defense may not be established due to a decedent contributing to his own death by his purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent consumption of the controlled substance or by his consenting to the administration of the controlled substance by another person. After several weeks of contentious debate, the Senate gave S. 1 second and third readings this week and sent the bill to the House.

Cost of Care for Seized Animals – S. 456/H. 3682. Both bills would remove provisions regarding a lien on the seized animals and outline hearing procedures for ordering the cost of care of the seized animals. Additionally, the bill provides that failure of the owner to make the payment for the cost of care ordered would result in forfeiture of the animal to the entity providing the care.

A Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee gave S. 456 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.

A House Judiciary subcommittee amended H. 3682 to clarify that the care costs go to the entity providing care for the animal (law enforcement, county animal shelter, non-profit agency) and gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. H. 3682 will be on the next full committee’s agenda. 

Structured Settlements – S. 259. This bill would regulate settlement companies and require them to be registered in order to protect payees from high interest rate settlements. It would also add some criteria to be considered for court approval of a structured settlement transferred to a settlement company. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill with language intended to strengthen the contractual agreement for the payee and gave the bill a favorable report. S. 259 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar. 

Destruction of Arrest Records – H. 3019. This bill would provide that not later than 180 days after an investigation by a law enforcement or prosecution agency reveals that a person was arrested as a result of mistaken identity and no charges have been filed against the person nor will be filed due to the mistaken identity, the law enforcement or prosecution agency with appropriate jurisdiction shall destroy, at no cost to the person charged, the arrest records of that person made as a result of mistaken identity. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.

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 third reading on the contested Senate calendar.

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 House Judiciary subcommittee gave H. 3890 a favorable report.

Destruction of Utility Systems – S. 330. This bill would modify the penalty structure for crimes involving malicious injury to telegraph, telephone, cable, or electrical utility systems and natural gas infrastructure. Under current law, destruction of such systems or infrastructure is considered a felony offense that is punishable by a fine set at the discretion of the court or imprisonment for not more than 10 years. This legislation would create a tiered penalty structure based on the cost of damage to the utility systems, the danger to the public, and injury that involves death or bodily injury. S. 330 received a favorable report, as amended, from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Medical Marijuana – S. 423. As initially drafted, this bill would enact the "SC Compassionate Care Act" which would create a regulated medical cannabis program to allow individuals with serious illnesses to use and access medical cannabis when recommended by a physician. Last session, the Senate passed S. 150 but pursuant to a point of order raised by a House member, the House ruled the bill was out of order because a sales tax provision in the bill raised revenue, and a revenue-raising bill must originate in the House, not the Senate. This year, the bill has been re-introduced as S. 423.

S. 423 provides:

  • That an employer is not required to make accommodations to allow an employee to use medical marijuana. An employer may also discipline or terminate an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana while at work;
  • That localities may regulate the locations, hours, and number of medical cannabis businesses but may not completely prohibit dispensaries from operating in the jurisdiction;
  • Localities may prohibit medical cannabis establishments from operating in the jurisdiction;
  • Establishes a system where cannabis establishment applicants must meet certain conditions, and in cases in which more applicants apply than are allowed by the local government, the local government shall follow the preference analysis procedure established by DHEC;
  • Imposes a 6 percent sales tax at the point of sale and cannabis would be subject to a local option sales tax pursuant to Chapter 10 of Title 4;
  • That, in order to be licensed as a medical cannabis establishment, a medical cannabis establishment principal applicant shall submit to DHEC a completed electronic application signed by each medical cannabis establishment principal as well as a copy of any local registration, license, or permit required by local government for the proposed medical cannabis establishment; and
  • That the provisions of this legislation will be repealed eight years after first sales of medical cannabis from a therapeutic cannabis pharmacy to a qualifying patient,

The Senate Medical Affairs Committee members polled S. 423 out of committee and the bill is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Lethal Injection Shield – S. 120. This bill would protect from disclosure the identity of the manufacturer or drug compounder of the drugs used to administer death by lethal injection for a person on death row. This protection would be extended to any persons or entities involved in the planning and execution of a death sentence. The Senate made several amendments to the bill and gave S. 120 third reading before sending it to the House.

County Government and Intergovernmental Relations

Certificate of Need: Crisis Facilities – S. 343. This bill includes all short-term residential stabilization and intensive crisis services in the definition of crisis stabilization unit facilities under the Certificate of Need and Health Facility Licensure Act. It would also change the age of the individuals served. A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee gave S. 343 a favorable report and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.

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 Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and it is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

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. The Senate Judiciary Committee 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 Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and it is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Heirs' Property Commission – S. 436This bill establishes the "Heirs' Property Commission" to address the legal and economic issues associated with heirs' property. The Commission, which is comprised of certain stakeholders, including a member representing county government, appointed by the Governor, will collect data to include information regarding the number and total acreage of lots that are designated as heirs' property in each county; the number and total acreage of heirs' property land sold at tax sales and whether the purchaser is an heir; the economic impact of heirs' property, including loss of economic development due to issues with land designated as heirs' property; non-profit groups that provide services to owners of heirs' property throughout South Carolina; and resources available to assist families to clear title of the heirs' property and to prevent further occurrences of heirs' property. S. 436 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Hurricane Mitigation Damage – S. 500. This bill would establish grant criteria under the Hurricane Damage Mitigation Program. The bill also provides that matching grants would be made available to local governments. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee adopted an amendment stating that the annual grant award shall be based on the total annual gross household income of the applicant adjusted for family size relative to the county area median income or the state median family income, whichever is higher, as published by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. S. 500 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Newly-Introduced Legislation

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Senate Bills

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