Friday Report - June 10, 2021
The House took up the budget bill (H. 4100) this week. The Senate met on Tuesday to take up conference committee reports and then met in perfunctory session on Wednesday. The House made several amendments to the bill and sent it back to the Senate. The Senate refused to concur with the House amendments, and the budget is now headed to a conference committee. The Senate conferees are Senators Leatherman, Peeler, and Setzler, while the House conferees are Representatives Murrell Smith, Bannister, and Hayes. No dates have been provided yet as to when the conference committee will meet. The budget as passed by the House will be discussed below.
As a reminder, the US Department of the Treasury has launched its portal for counties to access their allocation of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds as authorized by the American Rescue Plan. Treasury’s guidance on how these funds may be used is also available on their website. Please note that the first Interim Report for your county is due to Treasury by August 31, 2021. Also, SCAC will be hosting a virtual meeting with representatives from NACo today at 2:00 pm to answer questions you may have about how to access and/or utilize these funds. For those unable to attend, the meeting will be recorded and placed on our website.
H. 4100 – State Budget.
The House debated the budget as passed by the Ways and Means Committee last week. The first amendment adopted by the House was the Committee amendment that made several modifications to the line-item part of the budget, but kept the increase in the Local Government Fund (LGF) of $17.92 million statewide. This represents full funding to the LGF, including all back funding that was imperiled because of the state operating under a Continuing Resolution in light of the ongoing pandemic. The adopted amendment also kept the library per capita raise in funding from $2 to $2.25, an SCAC policy position, and included $71.4 million to cover a 3 percent base pay increase for all state employees.
Other funding of note in the House budget includes:
- $15 million for destination specific tourism;
- $5 million for tourism advertising;
- $3.784 million for the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Plan;
- $50 million to County Transportation Commissions for road improvement projects;
- $8 million to SC Department of Transportation for litter pickup;
- $10 million to be for the Rural County Stabilization Fund (discussed below);
- $500,000 for PTSD treatment for first responders;
- $10 million for broadband expansion;
- $50 million to the Office of Resiliency for Disaster Relief; and
- $3.5 million under Rural Infrastructure Authority for a Water and Sewer Regionalization Fund.
Please thank the members of the House for keeping their promise to counties and working to return much needed funding to county government throughout the state.
Upon adoption of the Ways and Means Committee amendment, the House began taking up floor amendments to the budget. Provisos adopted from the Ways and Means Committee amendment are available as a PDF. The following additional amendments were adopted on the House floor:
Prohibition on COVID-19 Procedures for Educational Facilities. The House adopted two amendments prohibiting school districts and public institutions of higher learning, including technical colleges, from requiring that its students and/or employees receive the COVID-19 vaccination to avoid being required to wear a facemask. The House also adopted an amendment prohibiting a school district from requiring its students and/or employees to wear a mask at any of its educational facilities.
Actions of Election Law. This proviso provides, among other things, that no county election commission may accept or expend any funds other than public funds to prepare for or conduct elections.
DHEC Permit Extension. This proviso extends the expiration and any associated vested right of a critical area permit or navigable water permit issued by DHEC for the construction of a dock until June 30, 2022, provided the permit is valid on July 1, 2021, or at any time during the previous 18 months.
Funds Transferred to Santee Cooper. This proviso provides that the funds held by the Department of Administration, related to the implementation of Act 95 of 2019, shall be transferred as follows for the purposes of reforming Santee Cooper: $2 million to the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS); $1 million to the Public Service Commission (PSC); and the balance to Santee Cooper. The PSC and the ORS are authorized to employ, through contract or otherwise, third-party consultants and experts in carrying out their duties for purposes of reforming Santee Cooper.
DHEC Onsite Wastewater Systems. This proviso provides that in the current fiscal year, DHEC may expend funds appropriated and authorized in this act to regulate onsite wastewater systems, including septic tanks and other sewage treatment and disposal systems, but the department only may regulate such onsite systems in the same manner as such systems were regulated on January 12, 2021.
Santee Cooper – H. 3194.
The House and the Senate adopted the conference report on H. 3194 this week and agreed to move forward with implementing reform measures at Santee Cooper rather than seeking an option to immediately sell the public utility. The bill provides that Santee Cooper’s 12-member Board of Directors will be replaced in increments starting in 2022. An exception was added to this provision to allow for the reappointment of directors who were selected after January 1, 2018. Santee Cooper will also be subject to similar oversight processes that for-profit electric providers must go through such as regulatory approval of electric rates and new energy generation facilities. During the budget debate on the House floor this week, the House adopted a proviso allocating funds for a third-party contract to offer suggestions on reform measures for Santee Cooper. H. 3194 has been enrolled for ratification.
Other Items of Interest
Call for NACo Policy Steering Committee Nominations
Do you want a voice in creating the national legislative policies of the National Association of Counties (NACo)? Consider filling out the NACo nomination form to be appointed to one of the policy steering committees. As a steering committee member, you are responsible for developing national policies and priorities affecting counties and serve as NACo’s frontline for grassroots efforts. Committees meet at the NACo legislative and annual conferences, and one other time during the year. You will be responsible for your own travel and conference expenses. To learn more about NACo’s steering committees and legislative development process, visit NACo’s website.
Completed forms must be submitted to SCAC by Friday, June 25. The nominations will be processed by SCAC and forwarded to NACo for approval by the NACo President after the NACo Annual Conference in July. Appointments will be announced in September and NACo will contact the committee members directly. If you have any questions regarding the NACo Policy Steering Committee nomination process, please contact Anna Berger with SCAC at 1-800-922-6081 or via email@example.com.