Friday Report - January 24, 2020
This was a busy week at the General Assembly. The Governor gave his State of the State address on Wednesday outlining his budget priorities. These include tax relief in the form of a rebate check of approximately $200 per tax payer, an income tax reduction, and a merit-based 2 percent raise for state employees. There was also movement on several bills that are SCAC policy positions and will be discussed below.
SCAC’s Mid-Year Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 19, provides an excellent opportunity to meet with your legislators and discuss issues important to your county. See the detailed information regarding the conference and the Institute classes that follows the legislative items in this week’s Friday Report.
Revenue, Finance, and Economic Development
Business License Tax — H. 4431. This bill would standardize business license application forms, renewal dates, the appeals procedure regarding an imposed tax, and class schedules. Importantly, the bill does not inhibit a county’s ability to impose a business license tax. The bill also creates a centralized online payment portal within the Secretary of State’s office. SCAC staff testified at the House Labor, Commerce and Industry ad hoc subcommittee on Wednesday in support of the bill’s standardization language and requested that if any centralized payment portal is created, the portal be administered by a governmental agency and not a private, nongovernmental agency.
The bill’s current language would amend the tax bases from a business’s gross revenue to net revenue. SCAC staff also testified about our concerns with that change and a provision that would prohibit a county from adjusting its tax base for two years. SCAC staff insisted that any passed language be revenue neutral.
The ad hoc subcommittee will be meeting again in about two weeks to discuss any amendments.
Rollback Taxes — H. 3596. This bill initially reduced the amount of rollback taxes due when agricultural property is changed to another use from five years to one year. The House amended
H. 3596 to reduce rollback taxes from five years to three years, effective January 1, 2020. A Senate Finance subcommittee agreed to the three-year term as a compromise and adopted an amendment correcting the effective date. Further, Senator Davis recommended an additional amendment that would clarify the triggering mechanism(s) for rollback taxes as it appears that the process varies in each county. The subcommittee adopted Senator Davis’ amendment and gave the bill a favorable report. Immediately following the subcommittee meeting, the full committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended, and it is pending second reading on the Senate floor. Although, SCAC voiced opposition to any legislation that reduced rollback taxes, please contact your Senator if you have any concerns with the three-year compromise.
Stormwater Fees — S. 497. This bill would limit the amount of a stormwater fee to 15 percent of the amount of ad valorem taxes levied on the property by the local governing body imposing the fee. At the Senate Finance subcommittee meeting, Representative Rice testified in favor of the bill, but recommended to carry over the bill to receive additional testimony from interested parties. SCAC does not anticipate any action on this bill in the near future.
Property Assessment — S. 545. This bill would require the Department of Revenue to follow certain North American classification system manual provisions and would repeal a provision relating to the appraisal and assessment of personal property of businesses under the jurisdiction of the county auditor. A Senate Finance subcommittee meeting adjourned before the bill could be discussed. This bill will remain on the agenda for the next scheduled subcommittee meeting, which could be as early as next week. Please ask your Senator to oppose passing this bill.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Farm Structures — H. 4327. This bill exempts structures without a commercial kitchen that are used in agritourism activity and accommodate 300 or fewer guests from the Building Code requirement of installing a sprinkler system. The Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee gave the bill a favorable report and H. 4327 is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Waste Tire Regulations — H. 4504. This bill increases the criminal penalties for violating waste tire regulations and also authorizes the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to promulgate additional regulations, an SCAC policy position. These additional regulations will allow DHEC to inspect waste tire processing facilities to ensure compliance and invoke sanctions for noncompliant recyclers. The House adopted an amendment removing solid waste facilities from the scope of the regulations, and gave the bill third reading.
Affordable Housing — H. 3998. This bill is titled the “Workforce and Senior Affordable Housing Act” and allows taxpayers who are eligible for a federal low-income housing tax credit to also claim a low-income state tax credit through approval from the South Carolina Housing and Finance Development Authority, an SCAC policy position. The Senate Finance Committee adopted an amendment deleting a provision that exempted these projects from all property taxes and municipal fees for 10 years, and gave the bill a favorable report as amended. H. 3998 is pending second reading on the Senate Calendar.
County Government and Intergovernmental
Pregnancy Accommodation — H. 3200. This bill enacts the “South Carolina Lactation Support Act” which provides that employers shall provide employees with reasonable break times (paid or unpaid) to express breast milk. Further, employers would be required to make reasonable efforts to provide certain areas where employees may express breast milk; however, the employer would not be required to make structural changes to the facility in order to accommodate the employee. The Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee gave the bill a favorable report and it is pending second reading on the Senate calendar.
Municipal Elections — S. 866. This bill changes the election certification and protest dates for municipal elections to the same dates as county-wide elections and authorizes county boards of voter registration and elections to hear contests in municipal elections. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave S. 866 a favorable report.
Absentee Ballots — S. 867. South Carolina has seen a steady increase in the number of voters voting by absentee ballot for the last several elections. This has resulted in longer working time for poll workers, who under current law cannot begin to process the absentee ballots until 9:00 am on election day, and therefore, has led to delayed election results. S. 867 would solve this problem by allowing poll workers to open and scan absentee ballots beginning at 9:00 am on the day preceding an election. The absentee ballots would not be tabulated until the polls close on election day. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to address the problem of not having a procedure to process a challenge to an in-person absentee ballot as a result of the new paper-based voting system. The bill was given a favorable report as amended.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
Handsfree Act — S. 723. This bill would enact the "South Carolina Hands-Free Act". More specifically, the bill would prohibit holding a device while driving to compose, read, or send any text-based communication, including text, email, internet data, or video. A Senate Transportation subcommittee adopted an amendment which increased the fine for the first offense from $100.00 to no more than $150.00. The fine for subsequent offenses remained no more than $300.00. The Department of Public Safety would still receive $25.00 of the $150.00 fine for first offense and $75.00 of the $300.00 fine for a second or subsequent offense. These funds must be used to conduct public awareness campaigns and activities to educate the public on the hands-free requirements and the dangers of distracted driving. The subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended. It will be on the next full committee’s agenda.
SCAC's Mid-Year Conference and Institute of Government Classes
The SCAC Mid-Year Conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia on Wednesday, February 19. Copies of the registration material and conference agenda are available on the SCAC website where you can also register online. The program will include a legislative panel and other timely topics. Following lunch, buses will provide transportation to the State House for visits with legislators. The legislative reception will be Wednesday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at The Palmetto Club in downtown Columbia. Now is the time to start lining up appointments to see your Senators and Representatives or arranging a joint meal, function, or meeting.
The Institute of Government classes are being offered on Thursday, February 20 and include: Employment Law: What Counties Need to Know, Measuring and Reporting County Performance, The Property Taxation Process, and Understanding and Seeking Differences. The Council Chairperson's Workshop will be offered free-of-charge on Thursday, February 20, from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. This workshop is open to all council chairmen and vice chairmen and registration is required. You may register for the Institute classes and the Council Chairperson's Workshop on the SCAC 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. 1020 — Adds Crescent and Hands Mill voting precincts in York County.
S. 1022 — Directs the Department of Health and Environmental Control to develop a five-year plan to reduce the State’s production of organic waste.
S. 1023 — Directs the Department of Health and Environmental Control to conduct research into microplastic contamination.
S. 1034 — Reduces each tax rate by 1 percent over a five-year period in certain circumstances and repeals Section 12-6-515 relating to a bracket reduction.
S. 1035 — Provides that for purposes of obtaining the special 4 percent assessment rate, a person who owns and occupies a residence as his legal residence is deemed to be domiciled at that residence if the person is in the United States on certain visas.
S. 1036 — Enacts the “South Carolina Act Concerning Interpretation of Insurance Laws”.
S. 1045 — Redesignates the map number on which the names of the voting precincts may be found and maintained by the revenue and fiscal affairs office for Georgetown County.
H. 4965 — Provides that inmates may use electronic communication devices to communicate with visitors.
H. 4974 — Increases the number of circuit court judges from 16 to 17 and family court judges from 8 to 10.
H. 5012 — Prohibits the approval of a plan, license, or permit application by a city, county, municipality, or other local government or political subdivision for infrastructure used to facilitate the transportation of crude oil or natural gas from the Atlantic ocean into this state, or for the exploration, development, or production of offshore crude oil or natural gas.
H. 5016 — Includes school board members as employees and retirees who are eligible for state health and dental insurance plans.
H. 5019 — Requires the directors of county boards of voter registration and elections and municipal election commissions to issue a report detailing certain voting-related issues, complaints, problems, or difficulties within 90 days following each general, municipal, special, primary, or primary runoff election.