Friday Report Issue 9-19 - March 8, 2019
The House spent most of the week clearing the calendar and debating a comprehensive education bill. They will take up the budget starting on Monday. The budget bill (H. 4000) funds the Local Government Fund at a base level of $222,619,411 with an additional $11,121,285, for a total of $233,740,696. This represents an increase of more than $2 million above what SCAC’s policy position would require. Please ask your House members to support the Local Government Fund as proposed in H. 4000.
Tort Claims Act Damages Increase — S. 7
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. County budgets that are already pushed to the limits will be further strained by such a change. Based on information received from the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, it appears that the Senate will begin debating this bill next week. There have been several different proposals mentioned as to what amount to increase the caps. Of all the proposals mentioned, SCAC would have to oppose each of them as they would represent a minimum insurance premium increase of between 30-50 percent for county governments. Depending on what is finally adopted, the impact could be even more severe.
Please contact your senator and convey to them the impact such an increase in liability would have on the taxpayers of your county who would bear the burden of funding any increase.
Other Legislative Action this Week
Broadband — H. 3780. This bill creates the “Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology” program to facilitate the deployment of broadband to unserved areas of the state in Tier III and Tier IV counties. The program would be funded by a special revenue fund in the Division of State Information Technology, a division of the Department of Administration (DOA). The director of DOA would issue grants to private broadband providers to be used solely for infrastructure costs associated with providing broadband. H. 3780 was amended by a House LCI subcommittee and carried over for additional amendments.
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. H. 3586 received third reading in the House and was sent to the Senate.
Firefighters PTSD — S. 326. This bill directs the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to distribute $250,000 to the South Carolina Firefighters Association to provide for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) insurance and programs. S. 326 received third reading in the House and is enrolled for ratification.
Telecommunications Devices in Jail — S. 156. This bill prohibits the introduction or possession of a telecommunication device, such as a cell phone, in a jail or prison facility unless authorized by the facility. This offense would be a misdemeanor with a mandatory sentence of no more than three years. SCAC has an official policy position supporting this bill. The Senate amended the bill to allow an exception for vehicles on the premises of a jail or prison. The bill received third reading and was sent to the House for consideration.
Uniform 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. Eliminating page counting will result in increased efficiency in ROD offices. During debate this week, there was concern over a potential fee increase for certain documents, particularly, for deeds. The House adjourned debate on the bill until March 19th.
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 House passed the bill as amended and sent it to the Senate. 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. The Senate passed the bill as amended and sent it to the House.
Golf Cart Rentals — H. 3952. This bill allows counties to adopt an ordinance to regulate a person or entity offering golf carts for rent or lease for less than nine months. The ordinance is limited to the use of safety devices and geographic area, distance, identification of the vehicles, and specific public roadways on which the carts may operate. The House Education and Public Works Committee gave the bill a favorable report, and it is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Administrative Jail Sanctions — H. 3322. This bill provides for comprehensive sentencing reform. Sections 7, 8, and 9 of the bill would create an “administrative” jail sanction to be imposed on probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their supervised program. Instead of going before a judge for a revocation hearing when a violation of probation occurs, 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 and on weekends, which are when county jails are at maximum capacity. This effectively shifts the financial burden from state prisons to the counties. The bill is silent on whether the counties will bear the costs of medical expenses incurred by these probationers and parolees. Presumably, county jails will have to maintain records and monitor these weekend jail visits. The fiscal impact on counties is estimated to be over $3 million; this figure does not include the costs of record keeping and healthcare for these weekend visits.
A House Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to remove numerous sections. Sections 7, 8, and 9 contained the administrative jail sanction provisions and were among the removed sections. As amended, this bill will no longer place an unfunded mandate on our county jails. The bill received a favorable report as amended and will be on the full Judiciary’s next agenda.
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 there is no qualified veteran candidate. This bill would establish the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs as an agency within the executive branch. The bill would also remove the exception for qualified nonveteran candidates. The House had previously amended the bill to maintain the exception of allowing a nonveteran to fill this position before it sent the bill to the Senate. This week, a Senate Family and Veterans’ Services subcommittee amended H. 3438 to remove all of the language and insert the Senate’s version of the bill, S. 454. The Senate further amended the bill to maintain the exception for qualified nonveteran candidates to serve as county VAOs.
Lactation Accommodations — H. 3200. This bill, as amended by the House, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations in the work place for a nursing mother who wishes to express breast milk in privacy. 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 amended the bill to make clear that employers are to be held harmless so long as they make reasonable efforts to comply with these requirements. Employers need not provide break time for expression if doing so would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate.
Primary Election Disputes — H. 3029. Currently, hearings for primary election 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 party’s executive committee in Columbia. The bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate Judiciary 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 passed the House and is currently in the Senate.
Voter Registration Deadlines — H. 3031. H. 3031 reduces the timeframe to be registered prior to an election from 30 days before the election to twenty days before the election. The bill was amended to change the timeframe to twenty-five days before an election, an SCAC policy position. H. 3031 failed to receive third reading and is possibly dead for the session.
Call for Entries — J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards
SCAC is currently accepting applications for the 2019 J. Mitchell Graham/Barrett Lawrimore Memorial Awards Competition. The awards program accepts applications that address all areas of county government–from simple, unique ideas that maximize limited resources to major collaborative efforts that tackle complex issues.
Counties are invited to submit applications that describe the purpose and significance of their innovative projects. All applications must be submitted online or received at the SCAC Office by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 21. Applicants who meet the deadline and all requirements will be scheduled to present their projects during the awards competition on Sunday, August 4, at SCAC's 52nd Annual Conference.
To access the rules and requirements, frequently asked questions, and examples of previous projects, please visit the Association’s website at http://www.sccounties.org/awards. Counties are able to submit applications online by using the online Awards Toolkit. If you have additional questions, please contact Anna Berger at 1-800-922-6081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. 591 — Redefines the allocation of fault amongst persons who commit a civil wrong.
S. 594 — Provides for the funding of transportation services within a county.
S. 611 — Provides for the funding of transportation services within a county.
S. 621 — Provides for certain notice requirements before bonds for industrial development projects may be issued.
S. 622 — Authorizes a county to, by ordinance, institute an assessment fee for the funding of traffic citations.
S. 627 — Extends property tax exemptions to institutions of higher learning for certain purposes.
S. 628 — Defines when in-person and by mail absentee voting shall begin.
S. 629 — Reduces a threshold from $900,000 to $750,000 relating to the use of revenue from the local accommodations tax and hospitality tax.
H. 4000 — Makes appropriations and provides revenues to meet the expenses of the State.
H. 4001 — Appropriates monies from the Capital Reserve Fund.
H. 4157 — Extends the deadline to submit offers for a solicitation for a new voting system by one month.
H. 4163 — Expresses the opposition to offshore drilling along the coast.
H. 4191 — Revises what disclosures must be made in statements of economic interests and other statements.
H. 4192 — Defines and regulates electioneering communication.
H. 4193 — Provides that the commencement of an ethics enforcement action shall toll the statute of limitations.
H. 4195 — Exempts admission charged by certain nonprofit business leagues and chambers of commerce from a license tax.
H. 4196 — Removes the requirement that certain artists and craftsmen obtain a retail license.
H. 4198 — Prohibits the sale of energy drinks to minors.
H. 4200 — Enacts the “Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act of 2019.”
H. 4209 — Creates the “South Carolina Farm Aid Fund.”
H. 4211 — Provides for certain notice requirements before bonds for industrial development projects may be issued.
H. 4212 — Revises when clerks of court and magistrates must report to SLED.
H. 4213 — Allows the Governor to appoint an interim county board when the Governor removes the entire membership of a county board of voter registration.
H. 4215 — Defines when in-person and by mail absentee voting shall begin.