Friday Report Issue 12-19 - March 29, 2019
Once again, it was a very busy week at the statehouse. There are several important bills that will be debated in full committees or on the House and Senate floors next week.
Local Government Fund (LGF)
The House-passed version of the budget includes $11 million in additional funding to the LGF over last year’s funding amount. This amount exceeds SCAC’s policy position by more than $2 million.
SCAC’s policy position regarding the LGF is as follows:
“Support amending the Local Government Fund Formula to set the base funding level at $223.2 million with a yearly increase in the fund that corresponds with the growth in the State General Fund up to 5 percent. Also, standardize a list of state mandates that all counties are responsible for in order to quantify the need for the LGF.”
The Senate Finance Committee will begin debating the budget on Tuesday. Please ask your senator to support increasing the LGF by at least the same amount as the House did. Please also ask your senator to support the passage of H. 3137, which encompasses SCAC’s policy position regarding the formula.
S. 7, as passed by committee, raised the existing caps on damages found in the Tort Claims Act (TCA) from $300,000 to $1 million per individual, from $600,000 to $2 million per occurrence, and indexed both increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Senate adopted a compromise amendment on Wednesday to increase the caps to $500,000 and $1 million and removed the yearly increase indexed to CPI. The amendment also contains a provision to encourage settlement of litigation covered by the TCA. This increase will still have a fiscal impact on county governments but it is less severe than the original proposal. As part of the compromise, S. 386, a companion bill to S. 7, with various provisions that would expose county governments and their departments to potentially unlimited liability, was recommitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. S. 7 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Other Bills of Interest
Rollback Taxes — H. 3596. H. 3596 reduces the amount of rollback taxes due when agricultural property is changed to another use from five years to one year. SCAC staff testified that this bill would have a negative fiscal impact across the state and especially in fast growing areas. H. 3596 was passed by the Ways and Means Committee and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Municipal Millage — H. 3457. This bill provides that a municipality without an operating millage on January 1, 2019, or a municipality that incorporates after January 1, 2019, may impose an operating millage. A House Ways and Means subcommittee adopted an amendment to “restrict” a first-time municipal millage imposition to 33 percent of the municipality’s previous year’s operating budget. If the municipality previously imposed a millage, but repealed it, then it can re-impose the previous millage with retroactive increases subject to each year’s millage cap backdated to 2007 or to the date the previous millage was repealed, whichever is most recent. H. 3457 was passed by the Ways and Means Committee and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Small Cells — H. 4262. This legislation would enact the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, the intent of which is to accelerate the placement of small cell technology in South Carolina. Small cells “boot strap” off of cellular towers to provide greater capacity to users within a dense community. Therefore, the legislation is aimed at allowing wireless providers to readily place this technology in municipalities. Generally, the more rapid placement of technology in dense communities allows the providers to then move this technology into rural areas. Additionally, small cell technology allows less stress to be placed on existing cellular towers, which should enhance the ability for these towers to serve communities outside municipalities. Beginning October 1, 2019, the bill would require any agreement between a local government and a wireless provider to comply with the provisions of this legislation. A local government would be prohibited from not allowing the placement of small cell technology within their jurisdiction. The bill requires the provider to blend their technology with local aesthetics and sets a fee structure for payment to local governments for placement of small cells. H. 4262 is pending second reading on the contested House calendar.
Internet Sales — S. 214. This bill clarifies what the requirements are for marketplace facilitators as they relate to tax collection to make it easier for DOR to enforce South Carolina’s sales tax policy and capture internet sales tax from third parties. S. 214 passed the House Ways and Means Committee and is pending second reading on the House Calendar.
Uniform Recording Fees — H. 3243. This bill received third in House and is now in the Senate. Most documents recorded with the Register of Deeds (ROD) are subject to a fee schedule based on page count. This legislation changes the fee schedule to a flat fee based on the type of document. Eliminating page counting will result in increased efficiency in ROD offices. As amended by the House, most fees would fall into either a $25 or $10 fee. Deed recording fees would be $15, except for those related to time shares which are $10.
Bench Advertisement Revenue — S. 593. This bill relates to a code section that allows public transit authorities to install benches on public right of ways so long as a permit is obtained from the Department of Transportation. Transit authorities generate revenue by selling advertisement space on these benches. The bill was amended to also allow political subdivisions to install benches on right of ways in order to generate revenue from advertisements so long as proper permits are obtained. The bill received third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Administrative Jail Sanctions — H. 3322. This bill provides for comprehensive sentencing reform. Sections 7, 8, and 9 of the bill would have allowed the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services to impose an “administrative” jail sanction on probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their supervised program. Probation agents would have the discretion to impose these jail sanctions for a term of up to three days for the first violation and up to 10 days for a second violation. These sanctions would be served in county jails, which shifts the financial burden from state prisons to the counties. Fortunately, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to remove numerous sections. Sections 7, 8, and 9 contained the administrative jail sanction provisions and were among the sections removed. As amended, this bill will no longer place an unfunded mandate on our county jails. The bill received a favorable report as amended.
Inmate Restraints — H. 3967. This bill provides that pregnant inmates may not be restrained except for when being transported. The bill also provides that during certain situations that are related to pregnancy such as labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery, the inmate may only be restrained if they pose a risk to themselves or others, or if they are a flight risk. The bill provides for the method of restraint when restraint is allowed. The House Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report.
Annexation — H. 3661. H. 3661 expands the definition of “contiguous” to allow a municipality that is located entirely within the borders of a special purpose district to annex an unincorporated area within the special purpose district that would be adjacent with the municipality and share a continuous border but for an intervening break in the contiguity of the area of the special purpose district. This appears to only apply to the Town of James Island. A House Judiciary Committee amended H. 3661 to grandfather any existing outdoor advertising in the unincorporated area that is annexed and gave the bill a favorable report.
Seized Property Tracking System — H. 3307. This bill would require SLED to establish a tracking system and searchable public website that includes information about property seized by state and local law enforcement. The law enforcement agency that seizes the property or expends forfeiture related proceeds would be responsible for updating the property’s information and status on the website. The bill received second reading in the House.
Court Reporting — S. 640. This bill amends Section 14-17-325 to change the 30-day time period that clerks of court have to report General Sessions case dispositions to SLED. The bill would reduce the time period from 30 days to 10. Additionally, clerks would now be required to report to SLED, within 48 hours, certain “VIP” orders, such as permanent restraining orders or orders prohibiting firearms. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to provide that the “VIP” orders that are to be reported to SLED within 48 hours would have a standard court administration form or be flagged by a judge. S. 640 was further amended in full committee to remove criminal indictments and to start the 48-hour timeframe when the order is received. An amendment will be offered to extend the timeframe from 48 hours to five days. S. 640 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Sheriff Qualifications — S. 534. This bill would impose additional qualifications on sheriffs and sheriff candidates such as having the ability to obtain a Class 1 law enforcement certification and having no convictions of a felony or crimes of moral turpitude. The new qualifications would not apply to sheriffs currently in office. The House Judiciary Committee adopted a subcommittee amendment and gave the bill a favorable report.
Certification of Coroner and Sheriff Candidates — S. 17. S. 17 requires the county board of registration and elections to certify the candidates for the offices of coroner and sheriff. The Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report, but plans to make amendments on the floor. One of the questions raised in the committee was defining the role of the board of registration and elections in certifying candidates. S. 17 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Utility Relocation — S. 401. This bill provides circumstances under which a public entity undertaking a transportation improvement project must bear the costs related to relocating water and sewer lines. S. 401 requires the entity undertaking the project to pay 100 percent of the costs of relocating any water and sewer lines that are within the right-of-way and owned by a public utility that has 10,000 or fewer taps or connections and serves a population of 30,000 or less. The entity undertaking the project must pay 100 percent of the costs, up to 4 percent of the total project costs, of relocating water and sewer lines within the right-of-way and owned by a public utility with more than 10,000 taps or connections or that serves a population of more than 30,000. A Senate Transportation subcommittee amended the bill to include a seven year sunset and yearly review of the program by the Legislative Oversight Committee. Another amendment was adopted by the Senate Transportation Committee requiring the utility to submit all documents necessary for the inclusion into the transportation improvement project to be submitted at least 180 days prior to the bidding of the project. S. 401 received third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House.
Plastic Recyclers — H. 4152. This bill exempts facilities that use pyrolysis and gasification to turn plastics into fuel from DHEC regulations under the Solid Waste Act. During testimony it was stated that these recyclers, once operating in South Carolina, will purchase plastic material from landfills or from haulers prior to its arrival in landfills. As a result of the process, 80 percent of the plastic will be turned into fuel and 10 percent will be a char material that would then be deposited back into landfills. A House Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee adopted an amendment requiring the facilities to dispose of 75 percent of the char to maintain exemption from the Solid Waste Act. H. 4152 received a favorable report as amended by the House Agriculture Committee.
Statewide Voting Solution — H. 4157. This joint resolution would extend the deadline to April 4, 2019, for the submission of offers to bid on a statewide voting system solution. It also creates a panel to evaluate and score each proposal. The state Fiscal Accountability Authority would award the contract to the highest-ranking proposal based on the scoring from the panel. The resolution received third reading in the Senate and has been enrolled for ratification.
Dam and Reservoir Safety — S. 107. This bill imposes increased regulations on dams and reservoirs. Owners of dams and reservoirs would be required to provide DHEC and state and local emergency officials with updated contact information, as well as completing a safety checklist. If DHEC requires an owner to make repairs to a dam or reservoir that is deemed to be a danger to life or property of others, this bill would allow the owner to claim a tax credit for the cost of repairs, not to exceed $50,000. After several amendments were adopted, the bill was given a favorable report by the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee. The Senate then committed S. 107 to the Finance Committee.
Proceeds from Land Rentals and Wildlife Management — H. 3383. For purposes of the provisions relating to sharing the state forest land revenues with the counties, this bill excludes the proceeds from land rentals and wildlife management area payments from the proceeds to be shared with the counties. The revenue shared with counties must be spent on education. H. 3383 was recalled from the House Ways and Means Committee, received second and third readings in the House, and has been sent to the Senate.
Examination of County Offices — H. 4075. This bill repeals Section 1-7-730, which requires the Attorney General and solicitors to examine county offices annually. This statute, reportedly, has not been enforced and would be expensive to enforce. The Attorney General will still be able to audit county offices on an as-needed basis. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report with no amendment.
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. 720 — Excludes internet video streaming services from the imposition of the sales tax on communication services.
H. 4316 — Provides for the transfer of a vehicle to an automotive dismantler or recycler or secondary metals recycler for demolition, wrecking, or dismantling.
H. 4327 — Revises the definition of “farm structure” as it relates to the regulation of such structures.
H. 4328 — Provides that the intent of the General Assembly is to provide multiple facilities to train law enforcement officers and authorizes the Law Enforcement Training Council to enter into contracts to achieve the intent of the General Assembly.
H. 4332 — Defines “economic development project” within the State General Obligation Economic Development Bond Act.
H. 4333 — Links South Carolina’s individual campaign contribution limit to the current federal campaign contribution limit.
H. 4344 — Exempts from property taxes all property devoted to housing low income residents if the property is owned by an instrumentality of a nonprofit housing corporation.
H. 4348 — Prohibits approval of the use of medical marijuana in South Carolina until medical marijuana is approved by the FDA.
H. 4354 — Allows for a dollar-for-dollar credit for payment of indemnity benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act under certain circumstances.
The following bill has been passed by both chambers and is now before the Governor for signature or veto:
(R. 22) S. 160. Authorizes the Department of Revenue to implement an internet accessible tax lien notice system to be used in lieu of the filing requirements with the county clerk of court or register of deeds.