Friday Report - March 5, 2021
The House Ways and Means Committee completed its work on a proposed budget along with provisos. The budget legislation will be debated on the House floor beginning the week of March 22nd. The Senate spent most of the week debating a bill dealing with the execution of inmates on death row and a school choice bill. The budget and other bills of interest this week will be discussed below.
Revenue, Finance, and Economic Development
State Budget and the Local Government Fund (LGF) – H. 4100
The House Ways and Means Committee voted H. 4100, the budget bill, out of committee. The committee increased funding to the Local Government Fund (LGF) by $17,624,049 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. Here is a link to see your county’s estimated allocation of the LGF: https://bit.ly/2NWfFnd
The committee also raised library per capita funding from $2 to $2.25, an SCAC policy position. Please thank the members of the House Ways and Means Committee for keeping their promise to counties and working to return much needed funding to county government throughout the state. Please also ask your House members to support H. 4100 as passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.
As passed, here are some provisos in H. 4100 that are of interest to counties:
34.8 – Emergency Medical Services. Provides for the allocation of Emergency Medical Services funds to counties, EMS Regional Councils, and the state EMS office. Prohibits funds appropriated for EMS from being transferred to other programs within the department’s budget. Deletes the 50 percent restriction on the amount of carry forward funds that may be spent for administrative and operational support. Directs that after January 1, 50 percent of unclaimed funds used for aid to counties from the prior fiscal year be transferred to the SC EMS Association.
60.11 – PCC: Caseload Equalization Funding for Solicitors. The proviso is amended to direct that after the first $3,450,000 is distributed to the solicitors with each county receiving $75,000, the next $1,248,000 is distributed with each circuit receiving $78,000. Of the additional amounts appropriated, the first $48,000 shall be distributed at $3,000 per circuit and the remaining funds shall be distributed based on the average incoming caseload for each county for the prior three fiscal years.
60.ir – Intake and Review Funding for Solicitors. Provides for the distribution of Intake and Review Program funds to solicitors. Directs that the first $1,248,000 be distributed as follows: $78,000 to each circuit with the remaining $2,054,000 distributed based on the average incoming caseload for each county for the prior three fiscal years. Also directs that in the current fiscal year, of the additional amounts appropriated, the first $48,000 shall be distributed at $3,000 to each circuit and the remaining funds be distributed based on the average incoming caseload for each county for the prior three fiscal years.
73.obc – Office of Broadband Coordinator. Establishes the Office of Broadband Coordinator to serve as the broadband planning body for the state and coordinate with entities to encourage development of broadband access. Also directs that $30 million be appropriated to continue to fund the Broadband Infrastructure Project including projects that were approved for funding in 2020 but not constructed by December 2020.
73.bm – South Carolina Broadband Map. Directs the Office of Broadband Coordinator to contact the appropriate entities to provide information necessary to compile the county-by-county mapping plan that shows the location and broadband facility capabilities throughout the State. Also requires that any entities providing broadband service or middle-mile infrastructure in South Carolina provide the Office of Broadband Coordinator deployment data and the type of technology deployed with sustainable download and upload speeds on an annual basis.
81.fr – First Responder PTSD Treatment. Directs the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) to distribute First Responder PTSD treatment funds appropriated to the State Fire Marshal’s Office to the S.C. Firefighter Assistance Support Team to reimburse firefighters and EMTs for actual out-of-pocket expenses for mental injuries not covered through workers’ compensation claims or other insurances. The budget, as passed by the Ways and Means Committee, allocates $250,000 to SLED for law enforcement officers, and $250,000 to the Department of LLR for firefighters and EMS workers.
100.18 – Natural Disaster FEMA Match. Authorizes the Office of Adjutant General, Emergency Management Division to utilize existing funds in Fiscal Year 2021-2022 to provide the non-federal match for local governments for eligible FEMA work from Hurricanes Irma and Florence as well as the Ice Storm disaster from 2014.
106.2 – PEBA Retirement System Employee Increase. Directs that the contribution rate for the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS) and the Police Officers Retirement System (PORS) for Fiscal Year 2021-22 shall increase by 1 percent from the rate in Fiscal Year 2020-21 rates. The increase in employer contribution rate was suspended in Fiscal Year 2020-21.
108.rwe – COVID-19 Return to Work Extension. Directs that for Fiscal Year 2021-22, the earnings limitation does not apply to retired SCRS or PORS members who return to covered employment to participate in the state’s public health preparedness and response to COVID-19.
108.op – Optional Payment of Employee Contributions by Employer. Allows an employer in the SCRS or PORS, by July 1, 2021, to elect to pay all or a portion of the employee contribution. Directs that an employer which chooses to exercise this option shall, in lieu of compensation deductions, pick up all or a portion of the required employee contributions and shall not reduce or offset its employees’ compensation.
108.naf – Non-State Agency Furloughs. Allows an employer which participates in the SCRS or PORS that is not a state agency or institution of higher learning to make both employee and employer contributions for up to 90 working days during a furlough program that was implemented due to COVID-19, if the terms of the furlough program were consistent with the requirements of an approved mandatory furlough program established by a state agency or institution.
113.cps – Capital Project Sales Tax (CPST) Revenue. This proviso allows a county that has CPST collections in excess of the amount necessary to complete all projects for which the tax was imposed to pledge and use the excess collections to fund road improvements, intersection improvements, and pedestrian transportation, as long as the tax has not yet expired. However, the county must first adopt an ordinance specifying the purposes for which the excess funds will be used.
117.143 – Lake Marion Pedestrian Bridge. Ways and Means deleted this proviso directing DOT and Santee Cooper to develop a plan and cost estimate for repairing the US 15/US 301 bridge over Lake Marion for public pedestrian and bike traffic as this plan has been developed.
Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial
First Responder Workers’ Compensation for Psychological Injuries–S. 94, S. 282, and S. 402. As originally introduced, these bills would exempt first responders from having to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that stress, mental injury, or mental illness arising out of or in the course of employment stems from conditions that are extraordinary or unusual relative to the normal conditions of employment for purposes of collecting workers’ compensation. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee decided to move forward with S. 94 as the vehicle for this issue. After three subcommittee hearings, the subcommittee adopted a strike all amendment to S. 94. The amendment mirrors similar Florida and Connecticut statutes. The new bill language would do the following:
- Exempt first responders from having to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that stress, mental injury, or mental illness diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising from a “significant traumatic experience” in the course of employment stems from conditions that are extraordinary or unusual relative to the normal conditions of employment for purposes of collecting workers’ compensation.
- Define “first responders” as law enforcement officers and firefighters, including volunteers.
- Define “significant traumatic experience” to mean one of 11 defined events. The 11 compensable events in the new language are:Witnessing a deceased minor or the death of a minor;
- Witnessing a deceased minor or the death of a minor;
- Witnessing an injury to a minor who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department;
- Participating in the physical treatment of an injured minor who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department;
- Manually transporting an injured minor who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department;
- Seeing for oneself a decedent whose death involved grievous bodily harm;
- Witnessing a death, including suicide, that involved grievous bodily harm;
- Witnessing a homicide regardless of whether the homicide was criminal or excusable, including murder, mass killing (killing three or more individuals in a single incident), voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and self-defense;
- Witnessing an injury, including an attempted suicide, to a person who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department if the person was injured with grievous bodily harm;
- Participating in the physical treatment of an injury, including an attempted suicide, to a person who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department if the person was injured with grievous bodily harm;
- Manually transporting a person who was injured, including by attempted suicide, and subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department if the person was injured with grievous bodily harm; or
- Using deadly force or being subjected to deadly force in the course of the employment, regardless of whether the first responder is physically injured, provided such first responder is the subject of an attempt by another person to cause such first responder serious physical injury or death through the use of deadly force, and such first responder reasonably believes that he was the subject of such an attempt.
- Defines “grievous bodily harm” as seriously bodily injury including fractured or dislocated bones, deep cuts, torn members of the body, serious damages to internal organs, and other severe bodily injuries.
S.94 as amended will be on the next full Senate Judiciary Committee agenda, which is likely to be on Tuesday.
Transfer Courts – H. 3927. H. 3927 would allow a criminal case where the penalty does not exceed three years of imprisonment to be transferred from general sessions court to magistrates or municipal court. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
Inspection of County Offices – H.3124. This bill would repeal an antiquated provision in the law that requires the Attorney General to perform an annual inspection of the offices of the clerk of court, sheriff, and register of deeds to ensure they are carrying out their duties. A House Judiciary subcommittee gave the bill a favorable report.
County Government and Intergovernmental
Firefighter Training Cost Reimbursement – H. 3466. This bill would provide that a fire department that assumes the cost of training a firefighter may be reimbursed for these costs by another fire department that subsequently hires the firefighter within a certain period of time. This is an SCAC policy position. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee (3M) gave the bill a favorable report, and the bill is now on pending second reading on the House calendar.
COVID-19 Vaccinations – S. 177. This joint resolution would provide that COVID-19 vaccinations are purely voluntary and that an employer would be prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against its employees who chose not to undergo a COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, DHEC would be prohibited from requiring a person to quarantine or isolate if the individual chooses not to get the vaccination. S. 177 passed a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee this week and will be taken up at full committee in mid-March.
Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation
Infrastructure Maintenance Fees – H. 3505. Under current law, an infrastructure maintenance fee is assessed against a vehicle that is leased or owned upon its first registration. This legislation would provide that the fee also applies to the first titling of a vehicle. The House amended the bill to exempt the imposition of these fees on insurers for the purpose of applying for a salvage title. H. 3505 received a third reading and was sent to the Senate.
Anchored Watercraft – H. 3865. This legislation would authorize local governments to adopt an ordinance requiring a permit for a watercraft or floating structure to remain at anchorage on public waters within its local jurisdiction for more than 14 consecutive days. The cost of the permit issued by a local government may not exceed $15. The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee gave the bill a favorable report, as amended.
Permit Exemptions for Certain Residential Improvements – H. 3606. This bill would clarify what improvements homeowners may make to their homes without having to first obtain a permit. For example, the bill would clarify that homeowners may build a small deck off the homeowner’s dwelling that is no more than 200 square feet in area and no more than 30 inches off the ground without a permit. The bill would also clarify that a residential specialty contractor is not authorized to construct additions to residential buildings or structures without supervision by a residential builder or other appropriately licensed person or entity. The House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee amended the bill to provide that a “residential specialty contractor” is a person who is used when undertakings exceed $500 dollars. The previous amount was $200 dollars. H. 3606 received a favorable report as amended and is pending second reading on the House calendar.
Other Items of Interest
SCAC’s Virtual Legislative Update – Friday, March 19, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.
Mark your calendar to join SCAC’s lobbying team for a virtual legislative update on Friday, March 19 at 9:00 a.m. In addition to hearing the latest news about the state budget, you’ll also be briefed on other important legislation that affects county government. Registration information was e-mailed to all county officials on March 4th and is available on SCAC’s website. If you have any questions, please contact SCAC staff at (803) 252-7255 or tollfree at (800) 922-6081, or via e-mail at 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. 631 — Enacts the “South Carolina Notary Public Act.”
S. 633 — Requires a referendum to be held at the time of the 2022 General Election on the question of whether or not the State should increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
S. 634 — Enacts the “South Carolina Minimum Wage Act.”
S. 641 — Designates County Veterans Affairs officers as county employees that may be removed by the county legislative delegation.
H. 3985 — Extends the South Carolina Manufacturer Responsibility and Consumer Convenience Information Technology Equipment Collection and Recovery Act until December 31, 2023.
H. 3988 — Enacts a COVID-19 Vaccine Bill of Rights.
H. 3989 — Prohibits counties from adopting or enforcing regulations or ordinances that would prohibit or restrict the removal of trees or other vegetation on private property.
H. 3990 — Provides that July 1, 2022, each county must have only one school district.
H. 3994 — Reduces the percentage of time an inmate who has committed a “no parole offense” must serve before he is eligible for early release, discharge, or community supervision from 85 percent to 65 percent for certain drug offenses.
H. 4000 — For purposes of the definition of emergency vehicles, authorizes certain emergency management department vehicles to be included in the definition of emergency vehicles.
H. 4016 — Provides that at the time of sentencing, a defendant convicted of certain crimes may seek to, and the court may, limit public access to certain information presented during the hearing.
H. 4028 — Provides that all rights-of-way within the municipal boundaries of a municipality belong to the municipality for parking management.
H. 4030 — Prohibits medical service or care entities from reporting health care from reporting health care expense debt to a credit bureau or from pursuing collection activities, with some exceptions.
H. 4033 — Enacts the “Taxpayer Transparency Act.”
H. 4035 — Extends the South Carolina Manufacturer Responsibility and Consumer Convenience Information Technology Equipment Collection and Recovery Act from December 31, 2021 to December 31, 2023.