Friday Report - February 25, 2022
This was a very busy and productive week at the State House as the House Ways and Means Committee debated the budget and the Senate debated bills on the floor. SCAC’s Mid-Year Conference and Institute of Government classes were well attended, and your visits and conversations with members of the General Assembly will certainly have an impact on moving bills forward that are important to our counties. Several bills of note will be discussed below in this week’s Friday Report.
|Fairfield County Council Chairman Moses Bell, Vice Chairwoman |
Shirley Greene, and County Administrator Malik Whitaker meet with
Senator Fanning to discuss legislation.
|SCAC staff members discuss legislation with Beaufort County Council |
Chairman Joe Passiment and County Administrator Eric Greenway.
|McCormick County Council Chairman Charles Jennings speaks with |
Senator Vernon Stephens during the State House visit.
|SCAC Staff Attorney John Wienges provided an ARPA update during an |
Institute of Government Class at the Mid-Year Conference.
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.
Thank you to those who talked to your Senators during the Mid-Year Conference. For those who may not have had a chance, please contact your Senators and ask them to support and request a subcommittee hearing on S. 984!
State Budget – H. 5150.
The House Ways and Means Committee worked on the budget this week and passed H. 5150 out of committee on Thursday. Floor debate on the budget is scheduled for the week of March 14th. The committee increased funding to the Local Government Fund (LGF) by $12,583,080 statewide. This represents full funding of the LGF under the statutory formula. The Committee also directed an additional $2 million into the rural stabilization fund (discussed below), increasing the total amount of the fund to $12 million. The Committee also allocated $250 million in additional funds to County Transportation Committees (CTC) for secondary and low volume primary roads. View the county-by-county distribution of these funds.
Other funding of note in the House budget includes:
- $72 million to cover a 3 percent base pay increase for all state employees as well as over $45 million to cover a one-time $1,500 bonus for state employees;
- $850,000 to the Department of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation for EMT training;
- $37 million to cover the state’s share of the 1 percent retirement contribution increase;
- $101 million for the state’s share of the state health plan, including expanded well visits;
- $500,000 for PTSD treatment for first responders;
- $3.784 million for the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Plan;
- $15 million for destination specific tourism grants;
- $4 million in additional funds for tourism advertising;
- $20 million to the Department of Public Safety for grants to fund local law enforcement body cameras and vests;
- $87.5 million to the Office of Resiliency for disaster relief;
- $1.6 million to coroners to fund the local child fatality review team program;
- $617,550 to supplement the clerks of court; and
- $2 million to supplement the Council of Governments.
Rural Stabilization Fund – The House Ways and Means Committee recognized this and put $12 million into a Rural County Stabilization Fund in their most recent version of the budget which was passed out of Committee on Thursday. Under this proviso, any county that had a population growth, as determined by the 2020 Census, of less than 5.35 percent since the 2010 Census shall be eligible to receive monies from the fund as follows:
- a baseline of $300,000 to each eligible county;
- an additional $100,000 to eligible counties with a population between 50,000 and 99,999;
- an additional $200,000 to eligible counties with a population of more than 100,000.
After disbursal of funds, any monies remaining shall be distributed to each eligible county on a pro rata basis. In the event the amount of funds in the Fund is not sufficient to provide monies to counties according to the above formula, the amounts distributed to counties shall be reduced on a pro rata basis.
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 provisos of interest:
27.1. Aid to Counties Libraries Allotment. Raises the minimum amount allocated to each county on a per capita basis from $100,000 to $150,000.
86.eal. CTC Expenditure Authority. Authorizes CTCs to expend all cash balances brought forward from the previous year. A listing of cash balances shall be provided to the Executive Budget Office which shall establish the expenditure authorization upon review of the listing provided.
117.dp. Disinfection and Cleaning. Allows agencies and political subdivisions to utilize federal funds to implement cleaning, sanitization, and disinfection to meet the most current requirements issued by DHEC.
117.jocpp. Job Order Contracting Pilot Program. Allows Procurement Services of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to pilot test a job order contracting method on behalf of one or more governmental bodies or public procurement units by entering into job order contracts to acquire construction services when the exact time or exact quantity of future jobs are not known at the time of contract award.
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 was amended by the Senate Finance Committee to extend the exemption to surviving spouses of those killed in action and to any structures owned by an otherwise qualified surviving spouse even if these structures are on heirs property. S. 233 received a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Raise the Age Juvenile Justice Reform – S. 90. This joint resolution proposes an amendment to Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, to specify that the General Assembly will provide for separate confinement of juvenile offenders under the age of 18. Currently, the age for separate confinement is under the age of 17. Additionally, this proposed amendment will be printed on the ballots for the next general election. If the Constitution is amended, this will require a shift of incarcerated persons who are 17 and currently housed in an adult facility to a juvenile facility. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
SC Handsfree Act – S. 248. This bill would enact the "South Carolina Hands-Free Act." More specifically, the bill would prohibit holding a device while driving in order to compose, read, or send any text-based communication, including text, email, instant message, internet data, or video. After the Senate Transportation Committee gave the bill a favorable report with amendments, S. 248 was debated on the Senate floor this week in special order status. As amended, S. 248 does the following:
- Allows a driver to use Bluetooth and other technology that would allow a person to talk on a cellphone without holding the device;
- The provisions of this bill are not subject to the provisions contained in Section 17-13-10 and Section 17-13-20, both of which are related to what is commonly referred to as "citizens' arrest";
- Exempts public safety officials and first responders, while performing occupational or officials duties;
- Provides fines, points, and suspensions for distracted driving;
- Directs 25 percent of the funds from fines to the Department of Public Safety. The funds must be used to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving;
- Establishes a reasonable suspicion standard instead of a probable cause standard for law enforcement officers;
- The Department of Public Safety shall report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee the age, gender, and race of every driver issued a citation, as well as every instance that a citation is not issued following a traffic stop made pursuant to this Act. The data must be reported at least by statewide totals for local law enforcement agencies, state law enforcement agencies, and state university law enforcement agencies. The statewide total for local law enforcement agencies shall combine the data collected by county and the municipal law enforcement agencies; and
- Preempts ordinances, regulations, and resolutions adopted by political subdivisions regarding persons using "mobile electronic devices" while operating motor vehicles on the public highways of this state.
S. 248 received second and third reading and has been sent to the House.
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. After substantial testimony, including from Julie Stutts, Deputy Registrar of Mesne Conveyance, Aiken County, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee adopted a working document that clarifies the bill language and adds penalties. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and the bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
Uniform Transfer to Minors Act – H. 3821. Currently, the state follows the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. This bill repeals and replaces the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act with the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. This bill expands the types of properties that may be transferred for the benefit of a minor to include real estate, paintings, royalties, and patents, among other items. The property becomes available to the minor at the age of majority as established in the state. H. 3821 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
County Government and Intergovernmental
Permit Extension – S.17. This joint resolution, also known as the “Permit Extension Joint Resolution of 2022”, extends the approval of certain permits issued by DHEC. The permit must be current and valid at any time between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2023. DHEC indicates that there is no expenditure impact on the agency because the bill's implementation will be accomplished using its existing resources. A subcommittee amendment changed the effective date, changed the word "policies" to "provisions" and cleaned up the bill language before giving the bill a favorable report, as amended. The bill will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
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.
Senator Alexander proposed an amendment in which numerous provisions and conditions were discussed. After a contentious debate, the Senate Finance Committee adopted a working document and gave H. 3126 a favorable report, as amended. The bill has not been placed on the Senate calendar. SCAC will provide the amended bill language once it is available
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" as a new fund created in 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 2022-23 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 was given third reading and has been sent to the Senate.
Further, the Senate Family and Veterans' Service Committee gave the companion bill, S. 968, a favorable report, as amended. The full committee amendment would now remove the $100 cap and allow the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs' to set a cap annually. S. 968 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
County Veterans' Affairs Officers Monthly Reporting – S. 1033. This bill provides 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 produce the requested reports within 10 days of the initial request. The Senate Family and Veterans’ Service Committee extensively discussed how to balance the workload of veterans' county offices and the proposed reporting timeframes; however, the committee ran out of time before taking action on this bill. S. 1033 will be on the next full committee's agenda.
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 location of early voting locations in each county but can have no more than seven locations based on the population of the county. Beginning at 7:00 am on the Sunday immediately preceding the election day, 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. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill by changing the time to begin examining absentee ballots to 6:01 pm on the Saturday immediately preceding an election. H. 4919 was given a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the House contested calendar.
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. 1090 — Provides that the Department of Employment and Workforce must annually adjust the maximum weekly benefit amount by an amount by the rate of inflation and retroactively ratifies and affirms the Department of Employment and Workforce's interpretation and execution of Section 41-35-40 of the 1976 code.
S. 1091 — Provides that the tax class twenty rate must be assigned to the employer until the next computation date or until all outstanding tax reports have been filed.
S. 1092 — Provides detention and correctional officer candidates must be at least 18 years of age relating to the issuance of certificates of compliance and qualification to law enforcement officers and persons trained by the criminal justice academy, and the law enforcement training council's authority to oversee the operation of the training of law enforcement officers and receipt of certain information from governing bodies about candidates seeking certification.
H. 4999 — Provides standards for conducting certain hazardous waste cleanup, removal, remediation, or other responses.
H. 5001 — Provides that no state agency, department, or entity by regulation or otherwise may administratively increase or implement a fee for performing a service or function, or a civil penalty or fine for failure to comply with a requirement or provision of law under its jurisdiction without the specific approval of the increased or new fee, fine, or penalty by the General Assembly by concurrent resolution on a recorded roll call vote.
H. 5009 — Directs the Department of Commerce to cease operations and close its office located in Shanghai, China, consolidates the Shanghai office with the office located in Taiwan, and prohibits the Department of Commerce from operating any business location within mainland China.
H. 5020 — Defines certain terms and establishes procedures for the issuance and execution of search warrants.
H. 5021 — Authorizes the governing body of a county to adopt by ordinance the requirement that a property owner shall keep a lot or other property clean and free of rubbish and authorizes a county to place a lien on real property for actual costs undertaken by the county to abate a public nuisance in certain circumstances
H. 5022 — Provides that if an owner of heirs' property is the successful bidder at a delinquent tax sale of that property in which he owns an interest as heir, such purchase does not inure to the benefit of other cotenants.
H. 5032 — Allows the Department of Employment and Workforce to provide a one-time waiver, dismissal, reduction in penalty, or reduction in tax rate class.
H. 5036 — Extends the provisions of the chapter to buildings unfit for occupation to add a cause for which police powers may be used regarding rubbish and deletes an approval requirement.
H. 5037 — Provides that certain funds may not be used to solicit, entice, or incentivize certain companies for certain environmental reasons.
H. 5038 — Exempts deputy sheriffs from the requirement that they possess the qualifications of an elector and removes archaic references.