Dear Friends and Neighbors:
This is my Legislative Update for March. The House passed a Budget this month and it is now in the Senate for review. We also passed a bill that I co-sponsored expanding the owner-occupied residential property tax assessment ratio eligibility for military personnel. Here are all of the highlights from the month.
On a personal note, I have filed my intention to run again in the upcoming election. It has been an honor and privilege to serve you and our community in the House of Representatives, and I hope that I will continue to have your support and confidence. Please visit my website – beth4house.com – to stay current on campaign happenings or if you would like to get involved.
As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
March 4, 2014
The House adopted and sent the Senate H.4596, a concurrent resolution declaring the General Assembly’s OPPOSITION TO ANY ADDITIONAL LIVE BOTTOM MARINE PROTECTED AREAS OFF THE COAST OF SOUTH CAROLINA associated with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s proposed Regulatory Amendment 17 or any future amendments to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.
The House approved S.953 and enrolled the bill for ratification. This legislation UPDATES REFERENCES TO THE INTERNAL REVENUE CODE IN STATE TAX STATUTES to bring them into conformity with the latest federal provisions.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
March 11, 2014
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.4576, a joint resolution AUTHORIZING SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO FORGIVE UP TO FIVE DAYS MISSED THIS SCHOOL YEAR DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Under the legislation, the governing body of a school district may waive the requirement that schools make up full days missed due to inclement weather for five or fewer full school days that students who attend schools or charter schools in the district missed due to inclement weather during the 2013-2014 school year. However, before a school district makes use of this authority to waive make-up days, it must exhaust all of the statutorily required make up days remaining on the 2013-2014 school calendar. When a district waives a make-up day under this legislation, the make‑up day also is waived for any student participating in a home schooling program approved by the board of trustees of the district in which the student resides.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3027 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the EXPANSION OF THE OWNER-OCCUPIED RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATIO ELIGIBILITY FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL. The legislation provides that an active duty member of the Armed Forces of the United States who receives the special assessment ratio for owner-occupied residential property retains this four percent assessment ratio as long as the owner remains on active duty, regardless of the owner’s subsequent relocation or change of duty station and regardless of any rental income attributable to the property. The legislation also provides that an eligible active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces who receives orders for a permanent change of station or a temporary duty assignment for at least one year, may claim the four percent assessment ratio and applicable exemptions for two residential properties located in the State for up to two years so long as the owner is attempting to sell the first acquired residence. These provisions also include the spouse of the service member who jointly owns the qualifying property.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
March 18, 2014 – Budget Week
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4701, the general appropriation bill and H.4702, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2014-2015 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The $7 billion budget includes $6.6 billion in recurring state general fund revenue, $117 million in Capital Reserve Funds, and $337 million in Education Lottery Funds.
The budget includes a total of $180 million in new funding for K-12 education. A total of $137.5 million is directed to the Education Finance Act, $54.3 million of which is new EFA money. $35 million is used to maintain the current base student cost of $2,097 and an additional $19 million is used to increase the base student cost to an estimated $2,120 per pupil
Charter schools are afforded $17.7 million in new funding, including $4 million for the charter school revolving loan program.
$12 million is provided for purchasing or leasing new school buses. $8.6 million in school transportation funds is included for bus maintenance and fuel.
Full funding is provided for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs with $28 million in new funds. A provision is also included to allow students looking to graduate on an accelerated schedule to claim scholarship awards during the summer academic semester.
The budget provides for a 1.5% state employee pay increase, with an appropriation of $23 million. $57 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health insurance plan with no increases in the premiums paid by employees, no reductions in coverage, and relatively minor increases in coinsurance payments of no more than 9%.
The budget includes $130 million for Medicaid Maintenance of Effort. The budget legislation does not include an expansion in eligibility for the state’s Medicaid Program as allowed by the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” of 2010. Funding is continued for such programs as: the Healthy Outcomes Initiative for meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients through home visits and care in other settings outside the emergency room; 100% cost reimbursement for rural hospitals; $8 million for Federally Qualified Health Centers; $2 million for free clinics; and $3 million for FQHC capital needs.
The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to study Medicaid eligibility policies and procedures in order to determine how a recipient’s eligibility is monitored so as to ensure that recipients who are no longer eligible are not enrolled.
$10.5 million is directed to the Department of Mental Health to address budget cuts sustained by the agency during the revenue shortfall of recent years, which includes provisions for 70 full-time employee positions. DMH receives $2.25 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to begin the process of converting health records to an electronic format that is necessary for meeting federal hospital certification requirements.
$1.6 million is appropriated for increasing monthly payments for foster care families.
The budget provides no additional funding for the ongoing project at the Department of Social Services to produce a computerized Child Support Enforcement System that meets federal certification requirements. A provision is included to abolish the project’s executive committee and transfer sole authority over the project to the DSS Director. Quarterly progress reports on the project must be published on the department’s website.
The Department of Social Services is directed to report to legislators on new accountability features for debit cards used in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that could reduce fraud and misuse of SNAP benefits.
The Department of Corrections is afforded $153,360 for an information security officer and IT auditor, $2.122 million in other funds for cell phone interdiction, $2.262 million for camera equipment and a surveillance network system at the Lee Correctional Institution, $450,000 for the construction of three perimeter towers at the Lieber Correctional Institution, and $40,00 for the third phase of its weapons replacement program.
The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging receives $2 million for respite caregivers, and $3 million for its meal delivery and other home and community based services for the elderly.
The South Carolina State University Deficit Monitoring Team is created under the direction of the Budget and Control Board to work with SC State to produce a plan for placing the institution in a structurally sound financial position by the end of the fiscal year. The State Auditor is directed to conduct a review to assess the accounting controls at South Carolina State University.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
March 25, 2014
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to S.19 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises BAIL AND BOND PROVISIONS in criminal court proceedings, including more stringent bond provisions that apply to someone who is charged with committing a violent crime while already out on bond for a previous violent offense.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4347, the “SOUTH CAROLINA CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY MEDICAL RESPONSE SYSTEM ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification. This legislation creates the South Carolina Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System, under the administration of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, to provide statewide coordination and medical service resources, assisting and collaborating with children’s advocacy centers and state agencies charged with the investigation, assessment, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse or neglect for children in the state.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3400, a bill addressing DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES REPORTS AND AUDITS. This legislation requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to report annually to the General Assembly on the number of Family Independence families and individuals no longer receiving welfare, the number of individuals who have participated in educational, employment, or training programs, the number of individuals who have completed educational, employment, or training programs, and the number of individuals who have become employed and the duration of their employment.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4408, legislation revising the membership of the STATE CHILD FATALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE, which reviews investigations of suspicious child fatalities and performs reporting and public education functions relating to the preventable death of children.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3361. This legislation authorizes PROTECTIONS FOR PETS IN COURT ORDERS OF PROTECTION FROM DOMESTIC ABUSE in order to prevent the mistreatment of an animal from being used as a means of threatening or coercing a domestic abuse victim.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4670, legislation establishing an EXPEDITED MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE PROCESS FOR ABANDONED PROPERTY.