Friday Report - May 12, 2023

The House and Senate spent the final week of the regular statewide session finalizing committee deliberations and debating numerous bills in their respective chambers. As a result of a disagreement over the future of the Comptroller General’s office, no sine die resolution was adopted to allow the General Assembly to return to deal with specific bills such as the budget and other bills that are in conference committees. Governor Henry McMaster has indicated he will call both chambers to return next week when the House is expected to debate the six-week abortion ban bill (S. 474). SCAC will continue to report on any new developments. Bills of interest are discussed below:

Revenue, Finance and Economic Development

Budget – H. 4300The House took up the budget as previously amended by the Senate this week. Both chambers increased funding to the LGF by $13,212,234 statewide. This represents full funding to the LGF under the statutory formula. The House amended the budget to reinsert their original provisos and line items and also to spend surplus money that was realized by the Board of Economic Advisors on Tuesday. The House returned the budget bill to the Senate and the Senate insisted on their version. As a result, H. 4300 will go to a conference committee where deliberations will need to conclude by July 1, 2023, in order to fund the obligations of the state. The conferees are Reps. Bannister, Herbkersman, and Weeks and Sens. Peeler, Setzler, and Alexander. SCAC will report on the final version of the budget bill once negotiations have completed.

Commercial Solar Property Tax Exemption – H. 3948As drafted, this bill would have provided a property tax exemption on renewable energy resource property including solar energy equipment, facilities, or devices that support, collect, generate, transfer, monitor, or store thermal or electric energy, no matter the operating power of the property. SCAC worked with representatives of the solar industry on an amendment to limit the exemption to residential and commercial rooftop solar panels and to ensure that solar farms were not given the exemption. Under the amendment, only those customer-generator resource properties that operate at a capacity of less than 1,000 kilowatts, are intended primarily to offset part or all of the customer-generator’s own electrical energy requirements and meet the other requirements of the definition of customer-generator provided for in Section 58-40-10(C) of the Code would qualify for the exemption. The House adopted the amendment, gave the bill second and third readings, and sent H. 3948 to the Senate where it was referred to the Finance Committee.

Local Sales Tax for Workforce Housing – S. 284This bill would allow local accommodations and hospitality tax proceeds, as well as a special fund for tourism, to be used for workforce housing. It would also allow local governments to issue bonds to finance workforce housing projects. Proceeds used for workforce housing projects must promote home ownership. Also, if the local government intends to use the funds for workforce housing, the governing body must prepare a housing impact analysis prior to the second reading of the enabling ordinance. All local governments that have adopted a local comprehensive plan must solicit input for their analysis required in Section 6-29-510(D)(6) of the Code from homebuilders, developers, contractors, and housing finance experts. The bill also creates a Land Development Study Committee to examine current and future methods to plan for and manage land development in the state. The study committee would be composed of three members of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate and three members of the House appointed by the Speaker of the House. The study committee would seek assistance from several governmental agencies and private organizations, including SCAC. 

The House adopted an amendment that:

  • Deletes the reference to the Hospitality Tax in the bill entirely so that only Accommodations Tax revenues could be used for workforce housing;
  • Imposes an annual 15 percent cap on the amount of Accommodations Tax revenues that a local government could devote to workforce housing;
  • Includes a sunset of December 31, 2030, on the ability of a local government to use Accommodations Tax revenues for workforce housing; and
  • Requires that on or before the sixth year of the Act’s effective date, the directors of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture shall issue a report to the General Assembly on the effect S. 284 has had on tourism and workforce housing. The purpose of the report is to assist the General Assembly in deciding whether or not to reauthorize local governments to continue to use the revenues for workforce housing after the sunset of the bill.

The House gave S. 284 second and third readings, as amended. The Senate concurred with the House amendment and S. 284 is enrolled for ratification.

Continuing Resolution – H. 4299This bill would provide authority for the operation of state government and the payment expenses at the current funding levels approved in Act 239 of 2022 in the event that the 2023-24 state fiscal year was to begin without the passage of the general appropriations act. The Senate gave H. 4299 second reading and the bill remains pending on the contested third reading calendar.

Assessment Ratio following Owner’s Death – H. 3072This bill would provide that when an owner receiving the 4 percent special assessment rate dies, the property would continue to receive the special assessment rate until the decedent’s estate is closed, upon the recording of a deed or deed of distribution out of the estate, or after December 31 of the year following the date of death, whichever occurs first. The extension does not apply if the property is rented for more than 72 days in or following the calendar year of death or if a change of use occurs. The House gave H. 3072 second and third readings and sent the bill to the Senate where it was referred to the Finance Committee.

Police Officers Retirement Earnings Limitation – H. 3425This bill would remove the earnings limitation for a retiree of the Police Officers Retirement System if the employee is separated from covered employment for at least 12 months before returning to covered employment or if the retiree returns to employment in a critical needs law enforcement position. Also, the bill would remove the earnings limitation for a retiree of the South Carolina Retirement System if the employee is separated from covered employment for at least 12 months before returning to covered employment. The House gave H. 3425 second reading, as amended, and the bill is pending third reading on the House calendar.

Disabled Veterans Property Tax – H. 3116. This bill would provide that a veteran of the US Armed Forces, who is permanently and totally disabled because of a service-connected disability and who files with the department and meets the other requirements of Section 12-37-220(B)(1) may immediately claim the tax exemption for the entire year in which the disability occurs. Also, a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled for any part of the year would be entitled to the exemption for the entire year. The House gave H. 3116 second and third readings and sent the bill to the Senate where it was referred to the Finance Committee.

Streaming Service Franchise Fees – H. 3782. This bill would amend the definition of “Video Service” in Section 58-12-300 of the Code by adding “any video programming provided by direct-to-home satellite services” and “streaming content.” The purpose of the bill is to codify that streaming content revenue is not subject to franchise agreements between a governmental entity and a video service provider. The Senate recalled H. 3782 from the Judiciary Committee and adjourned with the bill pending second reading on the Senate calendar.

Tax Conformity – H. 4017This bill would conform the state tax code with any changes to the federal tax code and updates the reference year to 2022. The Senate gave the bill a third reading and H. 4017 is enrolled for ratification.

Education and Workforce Development – H. 3726H. 3726 would enact the “Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act,” which is a work product of the House Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad-Hoc Committee to streamline the state’s workforce development efforts through the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW).

The bill would:

  • Establish within DEW the Office of Statewide Workforce Development Coordination (OSWD) and the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development (previously under the Department of Commerce); 
  • Require the OSWD to establish 10-year goals to reduce unemployment and increase the number of South Carolinians with high-quality or post-secondary degrees;
  • Require all state and local government agencies, non-profit groups, and quasi-governmental groups that receive state funds or are authorized to expend federal funds, to provide information requested by the OSWD prior to the Comptroller General approving the release of such funds;
  • Ensure proper reporting of any activities that may be workforce development related and require these groups to prepare an annual report detailing anticipated workforce development related projects by August 1; and
  • Require the submission of a comprehensive report by the OSWD annually by October 1 to the General Assembly detailing the findings and listing all state and local governmental entities that failed to comply with the reporting requisites.

The Senate amended H. 3726 with some mostly procedural amendments, gave the bill second and third readings, as amended, and the House concurred with the Senate amendments. H. 3726 is enrolled for ratification.

Municipal Audits – S. 31This bill would allow municipalities with less than $500,000 in total revenues to provide a compilation of financial statements in place of an annual audit report. SCAC worked with the stakeholders and members of the Ways and Means Committee to include a provision giving counties flexibility in providing their annual audit report to the state before their allotment of the Local Government Fund could be withheld. Under the amendment, the annual audit report would have to be provided to the State Treasurer by January 1 of each year. Upon showing proper cause, as determined by the State Treasurer, the county will receive an automatic 90-day extension. To be considered, a request for an extension must be signed by the chair of the council prior to the deadline for filing. The House adopted the amendment and gave S. 31 second and third readings, as amended. The Senate concurred with the House amendment and S. 31 is enrolled for ratification.

Recreational Trail Easements Tax Credit – H. 3121This bill would provide an income tax credit to a property owner who encumbers his property with a perpetual recreational trail easement held by a municipality or county within the state or by a Land Trust Alliance accredited land trust. The easement must be recorded with the register of deeds and must include an agreement with the municipality, county, or land trust. The House adopted a committee amendment to include special purpose tax districts in the list of entities that can hold the easement and gave H. 3121 second and third readings before sending the bill to the Senate.

Public Safety, Corrections and Judicial

Death Benefits for First Responders – S. 108This bill would provide for a $150,000 death benefit for a law enforcement officer or volunteer officer killed while in the line of duty. The bill was amended to expand this benefit to first responders including emergency medical services providers (including volunteers), a fire department worker (including volunteers), and a coroner or deputy coroner who is directly engaged in examining, treating, or directing people during an emergency. Adding a coroner as a first responder is an SCAC policy position. The House amended the bill to have benefits paid for through the general fund instead of the Public Employee Benefit Authority. The House gave S. 108 second and third readings, as amended, and sent the bill back to the Senate. The Senate non-concurred with the House amendments and the bill will go to conference committee.

Coroners as First Responders – H. 3691. This legislation would allow a coroner, deputy coroner, or the coroner’s designee to possess and administer an opioid antidote pursuant to the requirements of the South Carolina Overdose Prevention Act. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) may promulgate regulations related to coroners possessing and administering opioid antidotes, and DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control must maintain data on the administering of opioid antidotes by coroners and their designees.

Further, the bill would specify that a coroner or deputy coroner is considered a public safety officer (first responder) if killed in the line of duty, an SCAC policy position. The Senate adopted an amendment on the floor to require that the medical examiner’s duties be specified in an annual written contract between the county governing body and the medical examiner. The Senate then gave H. 3691 second and third readings, as amended, and the House concurred in the Senate amendments. H. 3691 is enrolled for ratification.

Law Enforcement Personal Privacy Protection Act – S. 252This bill would create the “Law Enforcement Personal Privacy Protection Act” and provide that any personal identifying information of an active law enforcement officer held or maintained by any state or local governing entity would be confidential and must not be disclosed to the public if the officer has filed a formal request with the entity. Information relating to the personal identifying information of the officer or revealing whether the individual has family members would be deemed confidential. Any government entity that redacts or withholds information under this article would be required to provide the request or a description of the redacted or withheld information. The Senate amended the bill this week to include the “Judicial Personal Privacy Protection Act” that would provide similar requirements for the withholding of personal information for judges.

The House adopted an amendment striking the word “home” in the bill, striking the phrase, “or that reveals whether the individual has family members,” and making the effective date of the bill July 1, 2024. The Senate concurred with the House amendment and S. 252 is enrolled for ratification.

Cost of Care for Seized Animals – H. 3682This bill would remove provisions regarding a lien on seized animals and would outline hearing procedures for ordering the cost of care of the seized animals. The care costs would go to the entity providing care for the animal (law enforcement, county animal shelter, or non-profit agency). Additionally, the bill would provide that failure of the owner to make the payment for the cost of care ordered would result in forfeiture of the animal to the entity providing the care. A Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee amended the bill to provide that if the animal owner is adjudicated not guilty, the owner would be entitled to reimbursement of the cost of care, interest, and court fees from the entity providing care for the animal. The Senate adjourned with H. 3682 on the second reading contested calendar.

Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit – H. 4120This bill would transfer the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit from the Department of Public Safety to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). This unit would be tasked with enforcing immigration laws as authorized pursuant to federal and state laws. The bill would also require SLED to develop an illegal immigration enforcement training program and to make the program available to all local law enforcement agencies. The Senate recalled H. 4120 from the Judiciary Committee and placed the bill on the calendar but adjourned before acting on the bill.

Trafficking in Fentanyl – H. 3503As introduced, H. 3503 would create the criminal offense of trafficking in fentanyl and would provide substantial penalties for such offenses. The Senate amended the bill to the version of the bill (S. 153) it passed earlier this year. As a result, H. 3503 would add fentanyl-related substances to the list of Schedule I controlled substances and would create the felony offense of trafficking in fentanyl. The bill would also increase penalties for trafficking in fentanyl compared to other drugs and would establish a mandatory minimum sentence. The bill contains the following guidelines:

  • For a first offense, a term of imprisonment of not less than seven years nor more than 25 years, no part of which may be suspended or probation granted, and a fine of $50,000;
  • More than two grains of fentanyl or fentanyl-related substance is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction must be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000 or both;
  • For a second offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than 10 years or fined not more than $7,500, or both; 
  • For a third or subsequent offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than 15 years or fined not more than $10,000, or both: and
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person convicted and sentenced pursuant to this item for a first or second offense may have the sentence suspended, and probation granted and is eligible for parole, supervised furlough, community supervision, work release, work credits, education credits, and good conduct credits.

The Senate gave the bill a second reading, as amended, and the bill is pending third reading on the Senate calendar.

Destruction of Utility Systems – S. 330. This bill would modify the penalty structure for crimes involving malicious injury to telegraph, telephone, cable, or electrical utility systems and natural gas infrastructure. Under current law, destruction of such systems or infrastructure is considered a felony offense that is punishable by a fine set at the discretion of the court or imprisonment for not more than 10 years. The bill further provides that certain violations could result in a felony conviction and to further outline a tiered penalty structure based on the cost of damage to the utility systems, the danger to the public, and whether the damage involves death or bodily injury.

The Senate amended the bill this week by removing provisions of the fentanyl bill (H. 3503) that was added by the House. An additional amendment was adopted by the Senate that would allow actual, consequential, and potentially punitive damages against any person or persons acting as an accessory that commit violations as outlined in the bill. The Senate returned S. 330 to the House, as amended further, and the House adjourned before taking up the Senate amendment.

County Government and Intergovernmental Relations

Expediting Voting Tallies – S. 406This bill specifies that ballots cast during the early voting period may begin to be tabulated at the same time as absentee ballots. Additionally, this bill creates a new felony for those who intentionally publicly report the results of the early voting period before the polls are closed. A House Judiciary subcommittee amended the bill to require that these tabulated ballots be reported prior to the precinct results in a manner to be prescribed by the State Election Commission Executive Director. The House adjourned debate on S. 406 until 2024.

Omnibus Tobacco Enforcement Act (E-Cigarette Preemption) – H. 3681This bill would prohibit political subdivisions from enacting any laws, ordinances, or rules pertaining to the ingredients, flavors, or licensing of cigarettes, electronic smoking devices, e-liquid, vapor products, tobacco products, or alternative nicotine products. The Senate amended the bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors. The House concurred with the Senate amendments and H. 3681 is enrolled for ratification.

DHEC Restructuring – S. 399. This bill would restructure DHEC and amend Chapter 1 of Title 44 to create the “Department of Public Health” and would add Chapter 5 to Title 38 to create the “Department of Environmental Services.” The bill would direct the Department of Administration to analyze and determine the best manner to restructure the agency effectively and efficiently and to submit a report to the General Assembly. The new structure would take effect July 1, 2024, after receipt of the report and approval by the General Assembly.

S. 399 would do the following:

  • The authority to manage certain veterans nursing homes would be transferred to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs;
  • The food safety program would be transferred to the Department of Agriculture;
  • The flood mitigation program currently housed with the Department of Natural Resources would be transferred to the Office of Resiliency;
  • The current process involving decisions on environmental permits or other approvals that give rise to a contested case hearing or the removal of an automatic stay would remain in place;
  • Both the Department of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Services would become cabinet agencies with their directors being appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the Senate; and
  • Water Resources would be transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the Division of Water within the Department of Environmental Services.

The House gave S. 399 second and third readings, as amended, but the Senate amended the bill back to the version it passed earlier this year. The House then insisted on its version and the conference committee met to decide what language to include in the final version of the bill. The conference committee agreed to the language found in the version passed by the Senate and described above. S. 399 is enrolled for ratification.

Permit Extensions – H. 3209This joint resolution would provide for the extension of certain permits, certificates and other governmental approvals affecting economic development within the state. For development approvals that are current and valid at any point between January 1, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2023, the running of the clock regarding the period of validity and any associated vested rights are suspended. The bill was previously amended in the House to delete references to several state and federal permits that cannot be extended beyond a period of five years. Examples of permits that were removed from the bill include approvals of stormwater management plans that are granted by a local government or DHEC and 401 Water Quality Certification Permits that are issued by DHEC. The legislation also no longer impacts existing county development plans and building permits. The Senate amended H. 3209 to exclude development agreements entered pursuant to § 6-31-10 (The South Carolina Local Government Development Agreement Act) from extension, gave it second and third readings as amended, and sent it back to the House. The House concurred in the Senate amended version and H. 3209 is enrolled for ratification.

Veterans’ Trust Fund – S. 317. This bill would reorganize the Board of Trustees for the Veterans' Trust Fund of South Carolina by reducing the number of board members from 19 to 11. The House gave S. 317 second and third readings, as amended, and returned the bill to the Senate. The Senate did not concur with the House amendments and the bill went to a conference committee. The conference committee made a report that was adopted by both chambers which included the following:

  • A total of 11 board members;
  • Three of the seven at-large members must be from rural counties;
  • At least six of the 11 members must be US Armed Forces veterans;
  • No more than one board member can be from a single county; and
  • Two of the 11 members must be currently serving as county veteran’s affairs officers.

S. 317 is enrolled for ratification.

First Steps Partnership Board – H. 4023. This bill would revise the composition, manner of appointment, and terms of membership of the Local First Steps Partnership Board. The Senate adopted an amendment on the floor to require each legislative delegation to determine the number of members to serve on the Board and to appoint the members of the Board. However, under the amendment, the legislative delegation may by resolution delegate its appointments to county council. The Senate adopted the amendment, gave the bill second and third readings, and sent H. 4023 to the House. The House did not concur with the Senate amendment and the bill will go to conference committee.

Certificate of Need: Crisis Facilities – S. 343. This bill includes all short-term residential stabilization and intensive crisis services in the definition of crisis stabilization unit facilities and changes the age of the individuals served from 18 and older to five and older. The House gave S. 343 a second reading and the bill is pending third reading on the House calendar.

Land Use, Natural Resources and Transportation

Solar, Agricultural, Farmland, and Environmental Act – H. 3989. This bill would establish the Solar, Agricultural, Farmland, and Environmental (SAFE) Act to provide for the application and certificate requirements to construct a photovoltaic energy facility. The House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee amended the bill to remove a provision that would have established the Agricultural and Farmland Viability Protection Fund under the purview of the Department of Revenue to be used for agricultural and farmland protection activities. The House adjourned debate on the bill until 2024.

Newly-Introduced Legislation

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House Bills

H. 4462 (Rep. Forrest) Adds Section 37-1-110 to provide that an individual may opt out of receiving commercial circulars or handbills that are distributed on his private property and to provide that an entity that distributes commercial circulars or handbills to an individual who has notified the entity of his desire to opt out is in violation of certain littering provisions.

H. 4463 (Rep. Forrest) Adds Section 37-5-120 to provide that a contractor or company may repossess any and all removeable equipment under certain circumstances.

H. 4464 (Rep. Bailey) – Amends Section 40-57-20 to provide that it is unlawful for companies to engage in the real estate brokerage business unless its activities are conducted by licensees or under the supervision of a broker-in-charge or property manager-in-charge. The bill would also include provisions concerning short-term and long-term rentals and the conduct of real estate brokerage work.

H. 4470 (Reps. J. Moore and King) – Adds Chapter 32 to Title 14 so as to establish the “Judicial Criminal Information Technology Committee,” adds Article 9 to Chapter 23, Title 16 entitled “Background Checks for Firearm Sales and Transfers,” and adds Chapter 32 to Title 17 entitled “Asset Forfeiture and Private Property Protection Act,” among other things.

H. 4471 (Rep. Forrest) – Amends Section 12-36-2120, relating to sales tax exemptions, to provide an exemption for chemicals and oils used in certain exempt farm machines.

H. 4472 (Reps. Williams, Henegan, Gilliard, Rivers, McDaniel, Howard and Cobb-Hunter) – Amends Section 16-23-210 to define the term “assault weapon” and adds Section 16-23-290 to provide the circumstances upon which an assault weapon may be manufactured, imported, distributed, sold or offered for sale in this state, and to provide a penalty.

H. 4473 (Reps. Chumley Kirby, B. Newton, Burns, Long, Nutt, Magnuson, Hiott, Haddon, Williams, Carter, Hixon, Henderson-Myers, Forrest, T. Moore, S. Jones, Willis, Elliott, Thayer, Anderson, Taylor, Cobb-Hunter, Hyde, White, Cromer, Oremus, Trantham, A.M. Morgan, Wetmore, Ott, Pace, Bustos, Gagnon and Lowe) – Adds Article 17 to Chapter 13, Title 24 to establish a state work program within the Department of Corrections.

H. 4477 (Reps. Gatch, Brewer, Mitchell, Jordan, Guest, B. Newton, Hewitt, West, Sessions, Chapman, Caskey, T. Moore, B.J. Cox and Garvin) – Amends Section 23-31-250, relating to the state not being compelled by the federal government to take any action that limits carrying concealable weapons, and the evaluation of certain federal laws by the Attorney General, to provide this section applies to all weapons and weapon accessories.

Senate Bills

S. 792 (Sen. Davis) – Amends Section 4-10-1010, relating to the definition of preservation procurements and sales and use tax, to provide for the inclusion of conservation management activities. Also, amends Section 4-10-1020, relating to the imposition of sales and use tax and enacting ordinance requirements, to prohibit the amount of revenue collected that may be used for conservation management activities from exceeding 2 percent of the funds collected and provides for the use of funds for conservation management activities on the referendum. Adds Section 4-10-1030, relating to the imposition and termination of the tax, to provide for the inclusion of conservation management activities and amends Section 4-10-1040, relating to administration and collection of the tax, to provide guidelines for the oversight committee.

S. 802 (Sen. Corbin) – Repeals various provisions of the law pertaining to the use of health care facilities or services in response to public health emergencies, provisions to control infectious diseases, and provisions pertaining to physical examination or tests and isolation or quarantine of persons refusing examination. Also repeals provisions pertaining to vaccinations and treatment, so as to provide that vaccinations must be on a voluntary basis and that isolation and quarantine may only be recommended.

S. 803 (Sen. Loftis) – Provides that motor vehicle owners have five business days after the effective date of the cancellation or expiration of their liability policies to surrender their motor vehicles’ license plates and registration certificates.

S. 806 (Sen. Alexander) Provides that the date for sine die adjournment is automatically extended if the House does not give third reading to the annual Appropriations Act on or before March 10, and allows the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to call their respective bodies into session after the sine die adjournment date to finish any unfinished business pertaining to the General Appropriations Bill or the Capital Reserve Fund Resolution, to provide the time period to finish this business.

Legislative Session: