Phone: 803.212-6940 
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Email: beth@bethbernsteinsc.com | Copyright 2016. Beth for House

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  • Beth Bernstein

Copy of January/February 2020 Legislative Update and the Coronavirus



Dear Friends and Neighbors: Here is my first Legislative Update this session. In the first 6 weeks, we have been working mostly in committees and have not been debating much legislation on the floor. In the next few weeks, we will be working on the budget and working toward passing an education reform bill as well as addressing Santee Cooper's future. The bills which we have passed are outlined in more detail below.

In light of the recent news report of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), here is an update on what we are doing locally and how the virus may impact you. At this time, NO cases have been identified in South Carolina, and DHEC is closely monitoring for potential cases both domestically and abroad. While this is a serious and rapidly evolving public health matter, the CDC continues to believe the risk to the American public remains low at this time.


DHEC continues to encourage people who are unvaccinated to get the flu vaccine. This protects individuals and the public, GG and reduces confusion of more common respiratory illnesses with possible COVID-19 illnesses.


Other steps we can take to help stay healthy include:

  • washing your hands often;

  • covering your cough;

  • staying home when you’re sick; and

  • appropriately disposing of tissues and other items to which you've sneezed or coughed.

As part of its ongoing communications efforts, DHEC has updated several of its outreach materials to help us stay up-to-date on the latest national recommendations.

As more is learned about this virus, DHEC will continue to update its website at scdhec.gov/COVID19. Please access this site for more detailed information and to stay up-to-date on the latest national recommendations.

As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on any of these issues. Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you and our community at the State House. Best,





WEEK BEGINNING JANUARY 14, 2020


Lawmakers returned to the State House on January 14, 2020, to commence the second regular session of the 123rdSouth Carolina General Assembly.


The House of Representatives approved S.11 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that, if the United States Congress amends federal law to authorize states to observe DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME year round, it is the intent of the South Carolina General Assembly that daylight saving time be the year round standard of the entire state and all of its political subdivisions.


The House returned S.194, a bill addressing PROSTITUTION AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation makes revisions to prostitution crimes that include an increase in the fines for second and subsequent misdemeanor offenses relating to soliciting prostitutes or abetting prostitution. An enhanced felony offense is established for violations involving a prostitute who is severely or profoundly mentally disabled. The legislation revises offenses of engaging in prostitution to establish an affirmative defense against prosecution for a violation when the defendant is a victim of human trafficking. The legislation adopts recommendations for eradicating human trafficking from the organization Shared Hope International. These initiatives include: the establishment of criminal offenses for combatting sex tourism enterprises more effectively; the inclusion of human trafficking among the offenses for which law enforcement may seek a court order authorizing wiretapping or the interception of electronic communications to further their criminal investigations; provisions for appointing special advocates trained in handling human trafficking cases to assist minor victims; and, enhancements to training on trafficking in persons and sex trafficking for law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and judges.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4533, a bill renaming the state’s Commission for Minority Affairs the COMMISSION FOR MINORITY AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS.


WEEK BEGINNING JANUARY 21, 2020


The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4404, a bill enacting the “VETERANS NURSING DEGREE OPPORTUNITY ACT” as a means of both addressing the state’s nurse shortage and smoothing the transition for veterans from military life to professional civilian careers. The legislation establishes programs to enable veteran military clinical personnel, such as medics and corpsmen, to accelerate the process at participating South Carolina public and independent colleges and institutions for obtaining associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in nursing by awarding academic and clinical credit or waivers for relevant education, experience, and skills acquired from their military service.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3199, a bill REQUIRING INSTRUCTION ON STUDENT LOANS IN HIGH SCHOOL FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAMS. The legislation expands high school financial literacy program requirements so that they also include instruction on college and education loans, key loan terms, monthly payment obligations, repayment options, credit, and education loan debt. The State Board of Education is directed to incorporate these new instructional topics with the adoption of the next revisions scheduled for the social studies academic standards under cyclical review.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3257, a bill that provides for updating public school INSTRUCTION ON MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SOCIAL HEALTH under the Comprehensive Health Education Act. The legislation provides that, at the next cyclical review of the health standards, the State Board of Education shall continue to revise existing age appropriate standards and concepts that address mental, emotional, and social health. Before September 1, 2020, in addition to the current standards, the board shall continue to make standards aligned instructional materials available to districts. Districts shall continue to adopt or develop curriculum locally. Beginning with the 2020-2021 School Year, each seventh grade student must be offered one unit of instruction in mental health and wellness based on the instructional unit selected or adopted by the board, and each ninth grade student shall receive and successfully complete a one unit course of study in mental health and wellness based on the instructional unit selected or adopted by the board.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4403, a bill revising provisions relating to BULLYING PROHIBITION POLICIES that must be adopted by school districts. The legislation provides for a more expansive definition of “harassment, intimidation, or bullying”. Procedures are established for responding to and remediating allegations of bullying. The legislation requires an appeals procedure. Local districts are required to adopt policies for the prevention of harassment, intimidation, or bullying that are at least as stringent as the model policies developed by the State Board of Education. A procedure is established that requires the state board to approve local policies to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4076, a bill REQUIRING BOARD AND COMMISSION MEMBERS TO SIGN STATEMENTS ACKNOWLEDGING THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES AND AUTHORITY. The legislation establishes a protocol under which an agency or instrumentality in the executive branch of state government or a public institution of higher learning with a governing board or commission is required to have its board or commission members sign a written document outlining statutory duties and powers. Board or commission members are not eligible to receive mileage, subsistence, or per diem unless these documents are signed in a timely manner. Repeated refusal to sign the required documents constitutes grounds for removal from office by the Governor for persistent neglect of duty. The bill implements recommendations arising from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense.


The House approved and sent the Senate H.4811, a bill revising beachfront management restrictions placed on erosion control structures or devices seaward of the setback line to allow for the placement of shoreline perpendicular WINGWALLS that extend landward at a ninety degree angle from the ends of existing erosion control structures or devices that are consistent in height and composition with the existing erosion control structures to which they are attached subject to any special conditions imposed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4286, a bill revising requirements for PRESCRIPTION DRUG LABELS to provide that the lot number of the prescription must be indicated on the label, patient receipt, or bar code.


THE WEEK BEGINNING JANUARY 28, 2020


The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4760, a bill revising the STUDENT ASSESSMENTSthat are administered in the state’s public schools as a means of: ensuring that standardized testing is not unnecessarily burdensome; improving notification about upcoming assessments; and, affording parents, guardians, and teachers with timely access to test results so that this information might be better used to improve student achievement. The legislation eliminates the summative assessments in social studies and United States History that are not required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability provisions. In addition to streamlining summative testing, which is conducted at the end of a school year to determine what a student has learned in a course of study, the legislation also places limits and conditions on formative testing, which is conducted during the course of a school year to determine what progress a student is making towards mastering particular subjects. With certain exceptions, the legislation provides for students to be administered no more than one state or locally procured formative assessment, and for that one standardized test to be given no more than three times during an academic year. A protocol is established that requires schools to provide notification to parents and guardians about upcoming formative assessments and their purpose at least one week before testing. No more than one week after the administration of a formative assessment, schools are required to provide teachers, parents, and guardians with test results. In addition to test scores, the material that parents and guardians receive must include information on how the formative assessment aligns with state standards and summative assessments, and suggestions for how to support the child’s learning at home.


The House approved and sent the Senate H.4753, a bill providing for TEACHER INCENTIVES. The legislation establishes a “Teacher Bill of Rights” to enumerate those things that all certified public school teachers in South Carolina should be able to expect. These include: working in an environment conducive to learning; the inclusion of their discretion with regard to disciplinary and instructional decisions; freedom from frivolous lawsuits; unencumbered daily planning time; a competitive salary; no unnecessary paperwork; and, support from school administration to meet performance standards and professional expectations. These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation. The legislation provides that each classroom teacher and full time librarian is entitled to at least a thirty minute daily planning period free from the instruction and supervision of students. Each school district may set flexible or rotating schedules for the implementation of this duty free planning period. Implementation may not, however, result in a lengthened school day. The legislation offers a tax incentive for attracting teachers to areas where they are most needed in the form of an income tax credit that covers all of the property taxes paid for five years on a residence for a K-12 public school teacher who lives and teaches in a Tier IV economically challenged county.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4945, a bill that revises coastal zone management provisions governing construction seaward of the baseline to allow for certain EROSION CONTROL STRUCTURES to have their damage assessment based on a single distinct continuous seawall or bulkhead rather than on a lot by lot basis.


WEEK BEGINNING FEBRUARY 4, 2020


The House of Representatives and the Senate adopted the conference committee report on H.3357 and the bill was enrolled for ratification. The legislation allows for a HEARING IMPAIRMENT NOTATION ON A MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION as a means of providing law enforcement officers with information that could prevent misunderstandings during traffic stops and other interactions. The legislation establishes a procedure that allows drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have a notation added to their private passenger‑carrying motor vehicle registration. This special motor vehicle registration notation would only appear when a law enforcement check is run on the vehicle’s license plate through the department’s online interface with law enforcement to alert the officer that the driver may be deaf or hard of hearing.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4209, a bill that creates the SOUTH CAROLINA FARM AID FUND to receive appropriations from the General Assembly along with private donations and establishes a protocol for using this fund to operate a grant program for providing financial assistance to farmers should the state again experience disastrous flooding or another type of catastrophic weather event. Under the grant program, financial assistance is limited to farmers who experience a verifiable loss of agricultural commodities of at least forty percent due to a catastrophic weather event. A grant may not exceed twenty percent of the farmer’s verifiable loss with a total cap of one hundred thousand dollars. Grant awards must be used for agricultural production expenses and losses due to the catastrophic weather event which demonstrate an intent to continue the agricultural operation, such as the purchase of seeds and fertilizer. The financial assistance may not be used to purchase new equipment. A Farm Aid Advisory Board is established to make recommendations and assist the Department of Agriculture in the administration of the grant program.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5018, a bill facilitating ELECTRONIC PROCESSING OF WATERCRAFT AND OUTBOARD MOTOR TITLES through the Department of Natural Resources. The legislation allows for the transmitting and receiving titles and liens and the discharging of liens online using electronic documents.


WEEK OF FEBRUARY 11, 2020


The House returned S.601, a bill SUBJECTING EMPLOYEES OF RESIDENTIAL CHILD CARE FACILITIES TO CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation enacts recommendations of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children to bring South Carolina into compliance with federal requirements by extending the criminal background checks that are required before the Department of Social Services may place a child in a foster home or adoptive home so that these background checks are also required for employees working in residential facilities, such as child caring institutions, emergency shelters, group homes, and wilderness therapeutic camps. The legislation also expands this foster home, adoptive home, and residential facility background screening by requiring a check of the registry of child abuse and neglect in every state where an individual has previously resided, rather than those states where an individual has lived within the past five years.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3066, a bill making provisions for the DESTRUCTION OF ARREST RECORDS IN CASES OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY. This legislation establishes requirements for the destruction of records of those arrested because of mistaken identity, establishing a 180-day deadline following the completion of investigations that prove arrests were due to mistaken identity. No investigating authority can charge or collect fees for these arrest record destructions. Provisions are included that authorize law enforcement and prosecution agencies to retain arrest and booking records, associated bench warrants, mug shots, and fingerprints under seal so that this information is exempt from disclosure, except by court order. The legislation also establishes a protocol for DISMISSING CHARGES FOR CERTAIN OFFENSES LEFT UNRESOLVED for more than five years and destroying records relating to arrests.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.5062, a bill that allows the option of obtaining HARD CARD HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES and other wildlife permits and tags from the Department of Natural Resources that are made of plastic or similar materials so that they will be more durable than paper versions. Those who select this option are subject to a six-dollar fee of which the issuing vendor may retain one dollar.


WEEK OF FEBRUARY 18, 2020


The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3197, the “STUDENT LOAN BILL OF RIGHTS ACT”, which establishes consumer protection measures for those who obtain loans to finance postsecondary education or other school-related expenses. The legislation provides for the licensure and regulation of student loan servicers by the Department of Consumer Affairs. A list of prohibited activities is established for student loan servicers to address such misconduct as: defrauding or misleading student loan borrowers; knowingly or recklessly providing inaccurate information to a credit bureau; charging unauthorized fees; and, placing student loan borrowers in forbearance or default without determining whether they are eligible for income-based repayment programs. The legislation authorizes the Department of Consumer Affairs to conduct investigations and examinations and empowers the department to address fraud and other violations through such means as: suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew licenses; imposing fines, cease and desist orders, and other equitable and injunctive relief; and bringing civil actions. A student loan ombudsman position is created within the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide timely assistance to borrowers by performing such duties as: receiving, reviewing, and attempting to resolve complaints from student loan borrowers; compiling and analyzing data on these complaints; answering questions about student education loans; disseminating information and conducting educational programs; and, advising on policy and law changes. The department is required to submit an annual report on these student education loan consumer protection initiatives to the Senate Education Committee and the House Education and Public Works Committee.


The House approved and sent the Senate H.3455, a bill that provides for the licensure and regulation of SWIMMING POOL INSTALLERS by classifying them as residential specialty contractors. The legislation adds swimming pool installers to the list of those classified as residential specialty contractors, who are independent contractors who contract with licensed residential builders, general contractors, or individual property owners to do certain construction work, repairs, improvement, or re-improvement which requires special skills and involves the use of specialized construction trades or craft.


The House approved and sent the Senate H.4974, a bill providing for ADDITIONAL CIRCUIT COURT AND FAMILY COURT JUDGES. The legislation provides for the election of two additional resident circuit court judges: one for the Fourteenth Circuit and one for the Fifteenth Circuit. The legislation provides for the election of two additional resident family court judges: one for the First Circuit and one for the Sixteenth Circuit.


WEEK OF FEBRUARY 25, 2020


The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4431, a bill to enact the “SOUTH CAROLINA BUSINESS LICENSE TAX STANDARDIZATION ACT” as a means of: reducing the complexity of complying with the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities by bringing statewide uniformity to the deadlines, application forms, and various other parts of the process; enhancing convenience for businesses by allowing them to pay taxes owed in multiple jurisdictions using a one-stop-shopping online portal; and, allowing counties and municipalities to receive the full amounts they are owed for business licenses without subtracting the portion that has been charged in fees by third parties collecting the taxes. The legislation imposes statewide standardization upon many aspects of the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities, including: a single timeline for issuing and renewing licenses and imposing penalties; standards for computing taxes based upon the gross income of the business; a uniform business license application established and provided by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; a protocol for issuing refunds to businesses; requirements for taxing jurisdictions to make use of the Standardized Business License Class Schedule as recommended by the Municipal Association of South Carolina and adopted by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; requirements for the Municipal Association to determine and revise this Standardized Business License Class Schedule every even year using the latest available nationwide Internal Revenue Service statistics for the calculation of profitability of businesses and using the latest business classification codes of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); and, a protocol that allows county and city councils to approve reasonable sub-classifications. Provisions are made for a centralized online portal hosted and managed by the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office which businesses may use to pay the various license taxes imposed in multiple jurisdictions. In addition to allowing a payment through the business license tax portal, a taxing jurisdiction shall allow a taxpayer to file and pay its business license tax in person at a location within the taxing jurisdiction, by telephone, or by mail. The legislation imposes a prohibition on a private third-party assessing or collecting business license taxes or requiring businesses to remit confidential tax data on behalf of a taxing jurisdiction. Restrictions are imposed on how a taxing jurisdiction may contract with a third party to assist in the collection of business license taxes. The legislation disallows arrangements where a private sector auditing firm or other third party is paid on a contingency fee or success basis. Enforcement measures are provided which authorize the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs award to civil penalties to taxpayers for violations. The legislation provides an exemption from business license taxes for charitable organizations that covers their nonprofit activities.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4761, a bill providing for “SOUTH CAROLINA READ TO SUCCEED ACT” ENHANCEMENTS that emphasize early intervention for students who are having difficulty learning to read so that they can receive needed instruction before reaching the time when a low score on a literacy assessment can require a student to repeat the third grade. Under the legislation, the State Board of Education is charged with approving no more than five reliable and valid early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments for selection and use by school districts in kindergarten through third grade. Assessments must be given at the beginning of the school year. For students who need additional assistance, the screening will also occur during the middle and end of the school year. Assessment results must be reported to the State Department of Education which is responsible for monitoring student progress. Read to Succeed Act provisions are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention and at least thirty minutes of supplemental intervention by certified teachers who have a literacy add on endorsement until all students are at grade level. School districts must offer a summer reading camp as intervention for any student enrolled in the first or second grade who is substantially not demonstrating proficiency in reading, based upon the universal screening process. The legislation replaces the current “Not Met 1” benchmark for student retention, and provides, instead that a student must be retained in the third grade if the student fails to demonstrate reading proficiency at the end of the third grade as indicated by scoring at the lowest achievement level on the state summative English/language arts assessment which indicates that the student needs substantial academic support to be prepared for the next grade level. Districts are encouraged to develop policies for intensive support and retention of students in kindergarten through second grade if it is determined to be in the student’s best interest. The reading portfolio exemption from retention is strengthened. When exemptions from retention are granted because of appeals by students’ parents or guardians, school districts are required to report on the number of appeals made, the number granted, and the outcome of the students whose appeals are successful. More specific job duties and position requirements are established for reading coaches. The State Department of Education must screen and approve reading coaches for districts where more than one-third of third grade students score at the lowest achievement level on the state English/language arts assessment. Early childhood, elementary, and special education teacher candidates must pass a test on reading instruction and intervention before they can be certified. The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs with regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3328, a bill revising SCHOOL LUNCH provisions. The legislation provides that students eligible for free and reduced meal benefits must be offered the same federally reimbursable meal as students not eligible for these federal free and reduced meal provisions. Federally reimbursable meals must be offered even if the student owes money for previous meals. Schools that offer food and beverages separate from federally reimbursable meals may not allow students to accrue a balance when purchasing items, and only may accept cash payment or allow funds to be electronically drawn from a prepaid balance. A school or school district may not invoke penalties for failing to pay for a school lunch, such as prohibiting students from attending field trips, participating in graduation or other recognition ceremonies, or attending other academic-related activities. The State Department of Education is charged with developing and providing a model policy and template to each school district regarding the collection of school meal debt.


The House approved and sent the Senate H.4765, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON COLLECTING SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM DEBTS. The legislation prohibits a public school or school district from using a debt collection service to collect debts owed on a school lunch or breakfast account of a student. A public school or school district may not assess or collect any interest, fees, or other such monetary penalties for outstanding debts on student school lunch or breakfast accounts.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4758, a bill providing authority for ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS FOR EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND CERTIFICATION as a means of addressing current teacher shortages. Under the legislation, educator preparation programs housed within an institution of higher education may submit a separate and distinct educator preparation program for alternative preparation to the State Board of Education for approval. The board shall promulgate regulations concerning the granting of approval, cyclical review, and revocation of approval for alternative educator preparation programs. The State Department of Education is charged with providing each college of education and state-approved educator preparation program with information evaluating the performance its graduates on a yearly basis so that this information may be used to improve education services.



If you would like any additional information on these bills, or any other legislation under consideration by the General Assembly, feel free to visit our website at www.scstatehouse.gov. If you have a comment or opinion concerning the matters discussed in this report, or if I may be of assistance to you at any time, please feel free to call my legislative office in Columbia (803-212-6940);or write 532C Blatt Building, Columbia, South Carolina 29201. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the House of Representatives

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