Friday Report Issue 8-19 - March 1, 2019

Municipal Capital Projects Sales Tax Act — S. 171.

S. 171 would allow municipalities to call for the creation of the Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission (the commission that forms the question of what projects will be put on the referendum). If a countywide Capital Projects Sales Tax fails, municipalities within the county could then adopt a Municipal Capital Projects Sales Tax, subject to a referendum. A county could also opt out of the provisions of the countywide Capital Projects Sales Tax and allow a municipality to adopt a Municipal Capital Projects Sales Tax, subject to a referendum. There was considerable testimony on the bill before a Senate Finance subcommittee. The Mayor of Florence testified that he would like to see the bill amended to allow a Municipal Capital Projects Sales Tax completely independent of any involvement or input from the county. S. 171 was carried over to take additional testimony and to address some questions raised about how this might affect existing taxes.

Please contact your senators and ask that they oppose this bill.

Please tell them:

The cities already have a Capital Projects Sales Tax. The countywide capital projects sales tax requires the creation of a commission that consists of three representatives appointed by the municipalities and three appointed by the county. The cities have as equal representation as the county.

Everyone Benefits from the countywide Capital Projects Sales Tax. The countywide capital projects sales tax allows for projects that benefit the county as a whole, and not just the citizens in a small area.

This could end the ability for counties and small municipalities to use the Capital Projects Sales Tax. Large municipalities could oppose the countywide penny, ensuring its defeat. Defeating the countywide Capital Projects Penny in this manner would then ensure the city gets one instead, leaving the rest of the county and other cities shut out of projects that could help the county as a whole.

Tort Claims Act Changes — S. 7 and S. 386

S. 7 raises the existing caps on damages found in the Tort Claims Act from $300,000 to $1 million per individual, from $600,000 to $2 million per occurrence, and indexes both increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If this bill were to pass, it would codify a 333 percent increase in the existing caps. The current fiscal impact statement on the bill predicts a $40 million increase in premiums charged by the Insurance Reserve Fund(IRF). The actual fiscal impact will be much higher when all entities not insured by the IRF are taken into account. County budgets that are already pushed to the limits will be further strained by such a change.

S. 7 is on the contested Senate Calendar and it is imperative that you contact your Senate delegation. Please let them know about the severe negative impact this bill would have on your county and ask that they help keep the bill on the contested calendar until a successful resolution can be reached.

S. 386 has various provisions that would expose county governments and their departments to potentially unlimited liability, drastically increase their insurance costs and the amount of taxpayer dollars going to defend increased litigation, and, if passed, pass perhaps the biggest unfunded mandate to county governments since the dawn of Home Rule. Please remind your Senators that when they pass legislation that includes an enormous fiscal impact to county governments, the taxpayers that you both represent are left footing the bill.

S. 386 is also on the contested Senate Calendar. Please ask your Senator to oppose S. 386 in its entirety and to do what is within their authority to defeat S. 386.

Other Legislative Action this Week

Tobacco Preemption — H. 3274 & S. 492. These bills prohibit political subdivisions from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products after January 1, 2019. Any ordinances adopted prior to January 1, 2019, are exempt from the preemption. SCAC has a policy position opposing this type of preemption. H. 3274 passed the House and is pending in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee carried over S. 492 in order to take additional testimony. Please contact your Senate members and ask that they oppose H. 3274 and S. 492.

Emergency Medical Agencies — H. 3454. H. 3454 states that the failure of emergency medical responder agencies (EMS) and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to maintain proper amounts of pediatric supplies and oxygen in transport vehicles is considered grossly negligent and that the Tort Claims Act caps would not apply in any civil actions against the EMS and EMTs. EMS transport vehicles are currently required to have these supplies. This bill would expose county EMS systems to unlimited liability. After hearing testimony from SCAC and the EMS Association about the costs of removing the civil caps, the House Judiciary Special Laws subcommittee carried the bill over to look at strengthening the inspection requirements for EMS transport vehicles and the penalties for failure to maintain the proper supplies and equipment on the vehicles.  

Plastic Bag Ban — S. 394. This bill preempts local governments from attempting to regulate the use, disposition, sale, or imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers. A Senate LCI subcommittee heard testimony from SCAC and Paul Sommerville, Vice Chairman of Beaufort County Council, in opposition to the bill before adjourning debate on S. 394. The plan is for the subcommittee to meet in a couple weeks to hear more testimony.

Statewide 911 System — H. 3586. This bill charges the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office with creating, updating, and implementing a statewide 911 system. The system must be developed and updated with recommendations from a South Carolina 911 Advisory Committee. The House LCI Committee adopted an amendment proposed by SCAC to include adding a county administrator recommended by SCAC to the Advisory Committee and gave H. 3586 a favorable report.

Penalty for Failing to Register Motor Vehicles — H. 3916 & S. 162. Both bills increase the penalty for failing to register a motor vehicle from $100 to $500. This is an SCAC policy position. The current registration fee creates a disincentive to register because of a new $250 registration fee to register a vehicle when you move into the state. Increasing the penalty will remove that disincentive to register and help defray costs incurred by the county in enforcing this requirement. H. 3916 passed the House and is now pending before the Senate Finance Committee. S. 162 received a favorable report before a Senate Finance subcommittee and should be before the full committee next week. Please contact your Senate member and ask that they support both bills.

Professional Licenses — H. 3263. H. 3263, an SCAC policy position, 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. The House LCI Committee amended the bill to exclude lawyers, educators, and military service members and gave it a favorable report.

Employee Benefits — H. 3722. H. 3722 would prohibit counties and other political subdivisions from requiring employers to pay employees additional wages to employees if they adjust or alter their work schedule. A House LCI subcommittee gave H. 3722 a favorable report.

Flat Recording Fees — H. 3243. Most documents recorded with the Register of Deeds (ROD) are subject to a fee schedule based on page count. This legislation would change the fee schedule to a flat fee based on the type of document. By eliminating page counting, this change will result in increased efficiency in ROD offices. The House Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment reflecting a compromise reached with the timeshare industry; recording fees for timeshare deeds would be $10 as opposed to $25. House bill 3243 received a favorable report, as amended by the committee, and is pending second reading in the House.

Seized Property Website — H. 3307. This bill requires SLED to establish and maintain a public website that includes information relating to seized and forfeited property held by the agency. A House Judiciary constitutional subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.

Sunday Alcohol Sales — H. 3082. This bill authorizes a referendum for liquor stores to open on Sunday in counties with at least $1 million in accommodations tax. Currently, liquor stores cannot sell alcohol on Sundays. The House Judiciary Committee had lengthy debate over whether the $1M accommodations tax threshold should be increased or removed entirely so that all counties could put up a Sunday sale referendum. The bill was recommitted to a subcommittee for further study.

Veterans’ Affairs Officers — H. 3438. Current law requires a county veterans’ affairs officer (VAO) to be a veteran but also provides an exception for a nonveteran candidate to fill this position if a nonveteran is more qualified than a veteran candidate. This bill, among other things, would remove the exception for qualified nonveteran candidates. The House amended the bill to maintain the exception of allowing a nonveteran to fill this position and sent it to the Senate.

Coroner Continuing Education — H. 3726. This bill requires coroners and medical examiners to complete continuing education on identifying deaths caused by opiates. The bill passed the House has been sent to the Senate.

Pregnancy Accommodations — H. 3200. This bill requires employers to make reasonable accommodations in the work place for a nursing mother who wishes to express breast milk in privacy while at work. Employers are not required to create a permanent or dedicated space, but the room or location cannot be a toilet stall. Also, employers will not be required to compensate employees for breaks taken to express breast milk unless the employer already provides compensated breaks. The House LCI Committee amended the bill to hold employers harmless if they make reasonable accommodations and does not require an employer to provide break time if doing so would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer. The bill was given a favorable report as amended.

Clerk of Court Elections — H. 3032. This bill would require elections for the county clerk of court to be nonpartisan. The bill would also require candidates to obtain a petition containing signatures of at least 5 percent of the voters in the county but not to exceed 10,000 signatures. A House Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony on the bill and indicated it would either decrease or remove the signature requirement. The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill for further study.

Primary Election Disputes — H. 3029. Currently, hearings for primary protests or disputes at the local level are held by the local executive committee by partisan party. This bill would remove those hearings from the local level. Instead, all hearings for local primary protests would be held by the state executive committee in Columbia. After adopting a minor amendment, the House Judiciary Committee gave the bill a favorable report.

Jury Duty — H. 3052. This bill would prohibit a court of the unified judicial system from requiring jurors to serve on jury duty on the day of a primary or general election. A House Judiciary subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

Compassionate Care — S. 366. This bill would legalize production, dispensing, and use of medicinal marijuana in the state. It is a lengthy bill that would impose stringent regulations on medical cannabis. The bill does provide that local government may enact ordinances or regulations relating to medical marijuana that are not in conflict with state law. However, the bill would not allow local government to prohibit medical establishments in its jurisdiction. Local government would be prohibited from imposing any tax or fee for the sale of medical cannabis. A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee held an organization meeting on the bill this week.

Newly-Introduced Legislation

View/Download Full Text for Newly-Introduced Legislation

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Senate Bills

S. 565 — Allows an exemption from all property tax of an owner-occupied residence if the owner is 75 years old and the property has been his residence for 30 years.

S. 566 — Provides that applications for state identification cards and driver’s licenses serve as a voter registration application.

S. 574 — Provides that post-use polymers and recoverable feedstocks used in pyrolysis are not “solid waste.”

S. 589 — Provides for the circumstances in which policies and procedures regarding body-worn cameras must be activated.

House Bills

H. 4075 — Repeals Section 1-7-730, relating to the examination of county offices by the Attorney General and solicitors.

H. 4077 — Creates the Local Government Financial Reports Study Committee.

H. 4079 — Provides that the director of the Criminal Justice Academy must determine training locations and select aptitude tests to be taken by officers.

H. 4080 — Revises the certification process for becoming a law enforcement officer.

H. 4081 — Deletes the provision that allows the director of the Criminal Justice Academy to bring a civil action for injunctive relief against a law enforcement agency.

H. 4125 — Authorizes a county, by ordinance, to institute a convenience fee for paying traffic and other tickets electronically.

H. 4128 — Provides that the process of examining absentee ballots may begin at 9:00 a.m. the day before election day.

H. 4147 — Provides that certain medical conditions must be presumed to be occupational diseases for the purposes of workers’ compensation for a firefighter.

H. 4152 — Provides that post-use polymers and recoverable feedstocks used in pyrolysis are not “solid waste.”

H. 4153 — Requires a county to consult with other affected taxing entities prior to entering into a fee in lieu tax agreement.

H. 4154 — Sets the minimum wage to $17 per hour.

Legislative Session: