Friday Report Issue 13-19 - April 5, 2019

The Senate Finance Committee completed their work on the budget this week. It will be placed on the calendar for a week, and the Senate will debate the budget beginning the week of April 15th. The crossover date for bills to move from one side of the chamber to the other is April 10th. Bills that don’t make the crossover date will probably not be taken up until the next year.

State Budget and Local Government Fund (LGF)

The Senate Finance Committee adopted its version of the budget on Thursday. The committee allocated $9,511,285 in additional funding to the LGF. The House-passed version of the budget included $11.1 million in additional funding to the LGF over last year’s funding amount. The $1.6 million difference between the two was allocated to fund a coroner’s mandate to establish county-level child fatality review committees. Although the committee’s LGF amount meets SCAC’s policy position, it is unfortunate that they reduced the House’s LGF allocation to fund a state mandate in a year in which they have close to $500 million in additional recurring revenue to allocate.

Provisos of Interest:

Proviso 62.23 — SLED PTSD Funding. This proviso directs SLED to distribute funds to the SC Law Enforcement Assistance Program and the SC State Firefighters Association to reimburse law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs for out-of-pocket expenses associated with mental injury not covered through workers’ compensation claims or insurance.

Proviso 67.ra — Raising the Age of a Juvenile. Act No. 268 of 2016 raised the age of a juvenile from 17 to 18 for purposes of incarceration. The Act takes effect on July 1, 2019, if funding is provided to DJJ to implement the Act. This proviso provides that funding.

Proviso 108.16 — Earnings Limitation. This proviso removed the $10,000 earnings limitation for retired employees who return to work if they have been retired for 12 consecutive months. The Senate Finance Committee deleted this proviso.

Proviso 117.131 — Retirement Funding. This proviso directs PEBA to use funds allocated to it to provide an annual credit of up to 1 percent to counties participating in the State Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System.

Proviso 117.157 — Magistrates’ Salaries. This proviso decouples magistrates’ salaries from the circuit judge’s salary. It does not decouple the masters-in-equity.

Tort Claims Act – S. 7

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 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. S. 7 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.

Other Legislative Action this Week

Retiree’s Earning Limitation — H. 3620. This bill provides that a retiree from the State Retirement System or Police Officers Retirement System can return to work for a covered employer and be exempt from the $10,000 earnings limitation. The retiree must not have worked for a covered employer in any capacity, including as an independent contractor, for at least 12 months. H. 3620 also permits PEBA to audit participating employers to determine if an employer has retained a retiree as an independent contractor or any other classification of worker to perform services normally provided by a covered employee. If they make this determination, then the participating employer must pay the employer contribution for the worker to the retirement systems. H. 3620 passed the House and is in the Senate.

Plastic Bag Ban — S. 394. This bill provides that any regulation regarding the use, disposition, sale, or imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers must be done only by the General Assembly. The bill supersedes and preempts any ordinance enacted by a political subdivision regulating these auxiliary containers. After hearing much testimony against the bill, including from SCAC and Vice Chairman of Beaufort County Council Paul Somerville, a Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry subcommittee gave S. 394 a favorable report. The bill will be on the next full Committee’s agenda.

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. After the House reconsidered second reading of the bill, H. 3307 received several amendments before being given second reading again.

First Responders — H. 3728. This bill establishes a prescription monitoring program for when an opioid antidote is administered to a patient experiencing an opioid overdose. First responders would have to submit to DHEC specific information relating to the patient and the antidote within 72 hours of administering the antidote. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee amended the bill before giving it a favorable report.

Mental Health Transport — S. 303. This bill provides that anyone who is believed to have a mental illness and requires immediate care shall be transported to a treatment facility only by a state or local law enforcement officer that is part of a therapeutic transport unit and has undergone mental health and crisis intervention training. It also allows the treating physician of the patient to notify family or friends of the patient that they can transport the person as long as they sign a statement that they assume the responsibility and liability for the transport. It would also establish a Therapeutic Transport Fund within the Department of Mental Health (DMH). State and local law enforcement agencies may apply to DMH for funds to establish their own therapeutic transport unit and pay for intervention crisis training. A law enforcement agency is not required to establish a therapeutic transport unit until it receives full funding for the unit. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee amended the bill by moving the Therapeutic Transport Fund to the Department of Public Safety and removed the requirement that members of the transport unit dress in civilian clothes and use unmarked vehicles. S. 303 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.

Sheriff Qualifications — S. 534 & H. 3951. These bills 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. S. 534 received second reading on the Senate calendar. H. 3951 is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Professional Licenses — H. 3263 & S. 455. H. 3263 and S. 455 would allow military members and their spouses who hold a professional license in another state to have reciprocity to practice their profession while stationed in this state. This is an SCAC policy position. The House amended H. 3263 to exclude lawyers, educators, and military service members. The House further amended the bill to give the Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (LLR) the discretion to determine whether or not the out-of- state license meets the requirements for this state. The Senate recalled H. 3263 from the Banking and Insurance Committee and sent it to the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee (LCI). S. 455 was amended by the Senate to include the language that gives LLR the discretion to determine if the out-of-state license meets the requirements of this state. S. 455 is pending in the House LCI Committee.

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. The House amended the bill so that any agreement between a local government and a wireless provider after December 31, 2019, has 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 has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Internet Access for Rural Counties — H. 3780. This bill would provide for grants to internet companies providing service to rural counties in order to expand broadband access and increase internet speeds to areas of the state that are economically disadvantaged. Private internet companies would apply for state funds from the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA); grant recipients would be required to match any funds received. At this time, no funds have been allocated to the RIA for these grants. The House amended the bill before giving it third reading and sending it to the Senate for consideration.

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. S. 17 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.

Veterans’ Affairs Officers (VAO) — H. 3438. This bill would establish the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs as an agency within the executive branch. The bill removes the statutory requirement that VAOs be veterans. Under this bill, the qualifications of the county VAO will be set by the legislative delegation. The House concurred with the Senate amendments and the bill has been enrolled for ratification.

Conservation Easements — H. 3090. This bill allows the holder of a conservation easement to contest a condemnation action within a 30-day period. In effect, the holder of a conservation easement could delay or end county projects. A House Judiciary subcommittee failed to give the bill a favorable report; however, the bill will be heard at the next full House Judiciary meeting per the committee rules.

County Conventions — H. 4046. This bill deletes the requirement that county committees must advertise a county convention in a newspaper having general circulation in that county. The current requirement is antiquated and costly to the political parties as they use other forms of communication to advertise conventions. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.

Poll Worker Residency — H. 3035. This bill would allow a poll worker to serve anywhere in the state as long as they are a resident of the state and registered to vote in the state. This is a past SCAC policy position. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to require the clerk of the polling precinct to be a resident of the county or the adjacent county they are serving in. The bill was given a favorable report as amended.

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 is pending second reading on the House contested calendar.

Operation of Golf Carts at Night — S. 666. This bill allows certain municipalities to adopt an ordinance that allows golf carts equipped with working headlights and rear lights to be operated up to 60 minutes after sunset on certain roads. It was amended on the Senate floor to include municipalities with a population of less than 20,000. S. 666 is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.

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. The House Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report.

Newly-Introduced Legislation

View/Download Full Text for Newly-Introduced Legislation

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Senate Bills

S. 730 — Creates the Mass Transit Feasibility Study Committee to examine the feasibility of connecting with the mass transit system in Charlotte, NC.

S. 739 — Urges local governments and law enforcement to accelerate their efforts to improve the safety of transportation network companies and ride-hailing services.

House Bills

H. 4389 — Provides for the funding of transportation services within a county.

H. 4398 — Provides that a candidate for coroner in this State must be a resident of the county in which he seeks the office of coroner.

H. 4401 — Provides that counties may establish subcontracting goals to obtain participation in the transportation construction and renovation contracting process by ethnic groups and women.

H. 4402 — Allows for a refund in any year when taxes are overpaid because the property was eligible for the special four percent assessment ratio if the owner was financially disabled during such period.

H. 4404 — Enacts the “Veterans Nursing Degree Opportunity Act.”

H. 4418 — Establishes a “Displaced State Employee Readjustment Fund” within the Department of Administration.

Legislative Session: