Friday Report - January 22, 2021
The General Assembly met primarily in perfunctory session this week. The Senate met briefly on Thursday and discussed their disappointment with the lack of COVID-19 vaccination throughout the state.
Revenue, Finance, and Economic Development
Retiree Health Insurance Fund – H. 3481. This joint resolution suspends the statutory transfer of funds from the operating account for the state's employee health insurance program to the South Carolina Retiree Health Insurance Trust Fund for fiscal year 2020-2021. H. 3481 received third reading in the Senate and will be enrolled for ratification.
County Government and Intergovernmental Relations
Gubernatorial Proclamations of Emergency – H. 3443. This bill would further define the Governor’s declaration of emergency powers and the Legislative Branch’s role with any proclamation beyond 30 days. Pursuant to this bill, 30 days after the Governor has declared a state of emergency, the South Carolina General Assembly could, by concurrent resolution, terminate, alter, amend, or consent to the terms of any declaration of emergency. The bill would further define the limitations on the Governor declaring successive states of emergency. The House Judiciary Constitutional Subcommittee gave H. 3443 a favorable report, and the bill will be on the next full House Judiciary Committee agenda.
A House Legislative Oversight Ad Hoc Committee met Thursday to hear from DHEC officials regarding the agency’s receipt and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations across the state. House Speaker Jay Lucas organized the ad hoc committee this week to identify areas of improvement that could be implemented in an effort to get the vaccine to every South Carolinian as quickly and efficiently as possible. Marshall Taylor, DHEC’s Interim Director, acknowledged that changes need to be made by the agency to expedite the vaccination process. Lawmakers also voiced concern with the Vaccine Administration Management Systems (VAMS) and the lack of vaccination locations in rural counties across the state. DHEC officials also informed the committee that a statewide appointment system for COVID-19 vaccinations and a new call center will soon be available to expedite access to the vaccine.
The committee also heard from several other entities regarding the current vaccination process. S.C. Hospital Association CEO Thornton Kirby noted that hospitals have administered approximately 83 percent of the total vaccinations across the state and that hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by using staff to administer the vaccine while providing care for patients with COVID-19. The S.C. Medical Association also noted frustration from physicians within its association regarding the inability to obtain and administer vaccinations for their respective patients.
Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Healthcare Budget Subcommittee gave a favorable report to a joint resolution that would allocate from the Contingency Reserve Fund, $63 million to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and $45 million to the Medical University of South Carolina to ramp up the vaccine distribution. An additional $100 million would be drawn from the Contingency Reserve Fund to the COVID-19 Vaccine Reserve Account. Out of these funds, $75 million would go to hospitals to pay for the cost of administering COVID-19 vaccines, and $25 million would go to other COVID-19 vaccination providers that are enrolled and activated by DHEC, to pay for the costs of administering the vaccine. The joint resolution also incorporates a recent Executive Order expanding who can give a vaccine, allowing medical students and retired nurses to administer doses. It is unclear whether this joint resolution will be incorporated into the budget or will be a separate piece of legislation.
Other Items of Interest
Mid-Year Conference and Institute of Government Classes
Due to the COVID-19 health pandemic, SCAC has cancelled the Mid-Year Conference and Institute of Government classes scheduled Feb. 10-12, 2021. An important part of this conference is the legislative briefing and Statehouse visits. In light of the pandemic, the vast majority of House and Senate subcommittee and committee meetings will be conducted virtually. The legislative session will be held in the respective chambers, however, there will be very limited interaction with the public in the lobby. In addition to the weekly Friday Reports, SCAC is planning to host a virtual legislative briefing later this session to update county officials on pertinent legislation that is progressing.
The Association will offer the following Institute of Government (Institute) classes online later in the spring: Managing and Conducting Meetings (Level I Elective) and The Policy Role of Council (Level II). More detailed information regarding how and when to access these courses will be shared in the coming months. SCAC is planning to offer 10 Institute classes in conjunction with the annual conference in Hilton Head on Friday, July 30 – Sunday, August 1, 2021. The goal is to offer these classes in-person with social distancing measures in place. To access the list of Institute classes that will be offered, visit SCAC’s website.
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. 475 — Requires NextEra Energy, Inc. to provide certain documents related to the Public Service Authority to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
S. 476 — Provides that no elected official, public employee, or member of a public board or commission may possess or use a financial transaction card that has been issued to the cardholder for any purpose.
S. 477 — Provides that the Senate and House of Representatives each have an unconditional right to intervene in certain actions filed in state court.
H. 3481 — Suspends Section 1-11-705(I)(2) of the Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976 for fiscal year 2020-2021 relating to a transfer of funds to the South Carolina Retiree Health Insurance Trust Fund.