Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is my Legislative Update for April! We had several important items on the calendar this month. Most notably, we were able to pass a bill to improve our roads. We also overwhelmingly passed the Domestic Violence Reform Act, and I was proud to be a co-sponsor of an amendment limiting gun rights to those individuals convicted of a CDV. Please read the update below for more detailed information on these bills along with many others.
As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.
Thank you for electing me to serve you and our community at the State House.
April Legislative Summary
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 7, 2015 – FURLOUGH
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 14, 2015
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3579, the “SOUTH CAROLINA INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE REFORM AND TAX RELIEF ACT” comprehensive legislation that includes restructuring initiatives, along with funding mechanisms coupled with tax relief, as means of ensuring that the state can construct and maintain the system of roads needed for public safety and economic development.
The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation, but provides that the General Assembly would no longer elect commissioners and that all commissioners would, instead, be appointed by the Governor. Commissioners are to serve at the pleasure of the Governor and their terms of service are limited to a maximum of twelve years. Under restructuring, the commissioners assume the responsibility of appointing the Secretary of Transportation.
The legislation includes a voluntary program for counties to assume control over some of the roughly eighteen thousand miles of smaller, less-traveled, often fragmented stretches of roadways so that this portion of the state’s infrastructure, which accounts for only 7% of the traffic volume, could come under local control and leave the major arterial roadways, handling 93% of the traffic volume, in the state system. Counties that choose to participate in the program would assume control of roads identified by the Department of Transportation under a three-year phase-in schedule and would receive increases in their “C” Fund gas tax revenue apportionment to maintain the roads acquired.
The manner in which the state raises revenue from the sale of motor fuels is revised so that it includes not only a user fee that is tied to volume, but also incorporates a new excise tax component that is tied to value and is adjusted with changes in price. The legislation lowers the current motor fuel user fee from 16.75 cents to 10.75 cents per gallon and effectively eliminates the current sales tax exemption on fuel by establishing a new excise tax on motor fuels that is equal to the state’s 6% sales tax rate and applied at the wholesale level. Limitations are imposed on excise tax increases to avoid volatility during dramatic fluctuations in wholesale fuel prices such as when natural disasters disrupt supply. A maximum of 26.75 cents per gallon is established for the combined motor fuel user fee and excise tax. The average annual impact of these revisions for each private passenger vehicle is estimated to be $50.
The legislation increases from $300 to $500 the cap on the tax collected on sales of motor vehicles. Except for holding Education Improvement Act items harmless, the motor vehicle sales tax revenue is transferred to the State Highway Fund to be used exclusively for highway, road, and bridge maintenance, construction, and repair. This transfer is an estimated $170 million.
The legislation provides, with certain exemptions, for a moratorium on new road construction until July 1, 2020, to emphasize the repair and maintenance of existing roads.
The legislation provides income tax relief that is ultimately expected to provide the average taxpayer an annual savings of $48.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3433, theDOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFORM ACT. The legislation revises criminal penalties for domestic violence so that they emphasize not only the number of previous incidents but also better address the severity of violence as well as take into account whether certain aggravating circumstances are involved. Under the revisions, enhanced criminal penalties apply if certain egregious elements are present in an incident, such as strangulation, abuse committed in the presence of children, abuse of pregnant women, and violence that is used to prevent someone from summoning emergency assistance or reporting a crime. Penalty enhancements are provided when someone violates an order of protection in the course of committing domestic violence. The legislation establishes firearms restrictions due to convictions for certain domestic violence offenses.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 21, 2015
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3539, a bill to provide for the “JAMES B. EDWARDS CIVICS EDUCATION INITIATIVE” which requires that public school students take the United States citizenship civics test that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administers to prospective citizens to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of American history and the principles and form of the United States government. Students are not required to pass this civics test, but those who do receive at least a passing grade may be recognized by the school district.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3890, a bill revising the authority for FORGIVING SCHOOL DAYS MISSED BECAUSE OF SNOW, EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS, OR OTHER DISRUPTIONS. Under the legislation, a local school district is authorized, through a majority vote of its board of trustees, to waive make-up requirements for up to three days missed because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions requiring schools to close.
The House amended and gave second reading approval toH.3343, a bill addressing METHODS OF EUTHANASIA IN ANIMAL SHELTERS. The legislation disallows the use of lethal gas for euthanasia in animal shelters and makes provisions for the use of sodium pentobarbital and other substances that are recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association as being clinically proven to be as humane.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 28, 2015
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3147, the “SOUTH CAROLINA GIVING BACK TO OUR VETERANS ACT” legislation that provides a South Carolina income tax deduction for all military retirement benefits attributable to active duty service in the United States Armed Forces.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3149, a bill to provide for a ninety‑day PROPERTY TAX GRACE PERIOD FOR DEPLOYED MILITARY SERVICE MEMBERS.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3154, the“SOUTH CAROLINA UNIFORM MILITARY AND OVERSEAS VOTERS ACT” legislation to better facilitate the casting of absentee ballots in elections by deployed military and other overseas voters.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3156, the “UNIFORM DEPLOYED PARENTS CUSTODY AND VISITATION ACT”. The legislation establishes protocols to address issues of custodial responsibility that arise when a parent in the uniformed Armed Services is deployed, including provisions for temporary child custody orders and agreements that are put in place during the time of deployment.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3548, a bill establishing NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT ALLEGATIONS INVOLVING ACTIVE MILITARY FAMILIES.
The House approved S.391, a bill revising eligibility criteria for IN-STATE HIGHER EDUCATION TUITION RATES FOR VETERANS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS, and enrolled the legislation for ratifications.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3568, a bill establishing a SALES TAX EXEMPTION FOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS USED IN HOMES FOR THE NEEDY BY NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS. This bill provides a state sales tax exemption for construction materials used by a nonprofit organization to build, rehabilitate, or repair a home for the benefit of an individual or family in need.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3215, a joint resolution creating a temporary legislative ALIMONY REFORM STUDY COMMITTEE to examine the state’s alimony laws including such issues as the length, amount, and consistency of alimony awards.
The House amended, approved and sent the Senate H.3560, a bill revising TEACHER DISMISSAL provisions. Notably, the legislation affords school districts the option of making use of new authority to delegate the conduct of evidentiary hearings to qualified hearing officers.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3430, a billPROHIBITING SALES AND INSTALLATION OF UNSAFE USED TIRES. The legislation establishes prohibitions on the installation of unsafe used tires onto a passenger car or light truck and sales of such tires in this state.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3025, a bill providingAUTHORIZATION TO CARRY A CONCEALED WEAPON WITHOUT A PERMIT. In making its revisions, the legislation retains most of the current provisions relating to concealed weapons, including: the issuance of concealed weapons permits by the State Law Enforcement Division; the posting of notification that allows a business owner to prohibit concealed weapons on the premises; the homeowner permission required for carrying a concealed weapon into a private residence; and a list of places where concealed weapons are not allowed such as schools, daycare facilities, courthouses, and the meeting places of government bodies. The legislation also provides for South Carolina to honor valid out-of-state permits to carry concealable weapons that are held by residents of other states. With the adoption of these provisions for HONORING OUT-OF-STATE CONCEALED WEAPONS PERMITS, the legislation eliminates the current protocol for establishing CWP reciprocity with other states.