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New Beginnings in January 2017

February 1, 2017

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

On Tuesday, January 10, 2017, the House of Representatives gathered in Columbia to commence the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly.  The next day, we sat in joint assembly to receive Governor Haley’s annual State of the State Address.  Committees also began working on legislation to report out for consideration by the full House.  Highlights of the bills for the month of January are noted below.

This year brings with it many new changes, challenges, and a sense of cautious optimism. We have the resignation of Governor Haley, who has been appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, and the ascension of our Lt. Governor to Governor; and after 8 years, we have the inauguration of a new President.  I look forward to working with Governor McMaster in getting many things accomplished this year, especially with respect to fixing our dilapidated roads and bridges, among other issues of importance. 

We also have new leadership in the Richland County Delegation.  Representative James Smith has been elected as our new Chairman and his first order of business was to appoint an Applications Review Committee to vet and interview applicants for the Richland County Recreation Commission.  The members of this committee include:  Representatives Nathan Ballentine, Kirkman Finlay, Chris Hart, Joe McEachern, Todd Rutherford, and me, along with Senator Mia McLeod.  We received over 60 applications to fill the six vacant board seats on the Recreation Commission and more than 45 applicants attended our meeting.  We were extremely impressed by the number of qualified applicants who were ready and willing to serve. 

Chairman Smith also has updated the delegation's social media presence so that information will be more readily available and accessible.  Please visit the delegation's website for more information. http://www.rcgov.us/Government/Departments/Legislative/LegislativeDelegation.aspx

Every month, I will continue to update you as to the bills that have passed in the House and other important happenings.  As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on these issues.

Thank you for electing me to serve you and our community at the State House.

Best,

 



 


Legislative Updates:

Week of  January 10, 2017

The House adopted and sent the Senate H.3456, a concurrent resolution to declare January 2017 as “HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH” in South Carolina and to encourage all efforts to raise awareness of, and opposition to, human trafficking in all of its forms.
 
The House adopted and sent the Senate H.3398, a concurrent resolution to raise the awareness of the Bradley Blake Foundation surrounding the issue of gun violence and to declare the month of June 2017 “GUN VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH”.
 
The House adopted and sent the Senate H.3402, a concurrent resolution to declare January 18, 2017, “SC UNITED IN TEAL & WHITE LOBBY DAY” in South Carolina and encourage all citizens to be aware of the need for early screening for cervical cancer.
 
The House and Senate adopted H.3400, a concurrent resolution to RECOGNIZE AND HONOR KATHERINE “KATIE” JOHNSON, a South Carolina native and former slave who left a legacy for her descendants that still resounds and inspires today.

Week of  January 17, 2017

During the initial days of the session, committees of the House Representatives began their work on legislation to report out for consideration by the full House.  This week only local bills were voted on and none pertained to the Midlands area.

Week of  January 24, 2017

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3488, a bill that makes provisions for ELECTRONIC INSURANCE DOCUMENTS, including authorization for insurers to deliver, store, or present evidence of insurance coverage by electronic means and provisions that afford consumers the option of receiving and signing notices and documents electronically.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3441, a bill authorizing ELECTRONIC PAYMENT OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION as an alternative to traditional payment by means of a check.  The legislation affords the option of receiving workers’ compensation payments by such electronic means as an electronic funds transfer, a direct deposit, or debit card.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3406, a bill relating to WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION FUNDING.  By eliminating a five-year sunset provision included in Act 95 of 2013, the legislation provides ongoing authority for the Workers’ Compensation Commission to retain a portion of the annual revenue of the maintenance tax imposed on self-insurers as well as half of the interest charged on delinquent maintenance taxes in order to pay the salaries and expenses of the commission.  The Workers’ Compensation Commission must continue to provide a report on each July first to the Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee, the Chairman of Senate Finance, and the Governor of the amount of money the agency has received in the previous fiscal year under these provisions.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3237, a bill SIMPLIFYING THE APPROVAL PROCESS FOR HIGHWAY ROUTINE MAINTENANCE AND EMERGENCY REPAIRS in keeping with the Department of Transportation restructuring approved through Act Number 275 of 2016 which made the Secretary of Transportation directly accountable to the Department of Transportation Commission.  The legislation eliminates requirements for the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate and approve routing operation and maintenance requests or emergency repairs for highway facilities that are not included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and for the DOT Commission to review the Secretary’s report of routine maintenance and emergency repair requests.
 
Members also adopted several changes to the rules governing the South Carolina House of Representatives.

House Resolution H.3494 was adopted to approve a HOUSE RULES CHANGE REGARDING THE CROSS OVER DEADLINE for considering legislation from the Senate without a super majority vote.  Under the revised rule, no bill or resolution from the Senate that is received by the House after April 10 during a regular annual session of the General Assembly may be considered unless two thirds of those members present and voting agree to waive the rule and allow for consideration of the legislation.  Any bill or joint resolution failing to receive the required vote must be returned to the appropriate committee.  The April 10 deadline replaces a May 1 deadline set for the second year of a two-year General Assembly.  The earlier deadline accommodates the shortened legislative session approved in Act Number 199 of 2016 and is consistent with the deadline for House-passed legislation that has been adopted by the Senate. 
 
House Resolution H.3497 was adopted to approve a HOUSE RULES CHANGE REVISING AND EXPANDING THE DUTIES OF THE ETHICS COMMITTEE in keeping with the enhancements to the state’s Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act approved last year to provide for more independent means of investigating alleged misconduct of public officials (Act Number 282 of 2016) and more expansive statements of economic interests for public officials and others who are required to make Ethics Act filings (Act Number 283 of 2016).
 
House Resolution H.3499 was adopted to approve a HOUSE RULES CHANGE REVISING LIMITATIONS ON AMENDMENTS PROPOSED FOR STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET LEGISLATION.  Under the revised rule, an amendment to the General Appropriations Bill or a Supplemental Appropriations Bill which has the effect of appropriating funds in excess of one million dollars must include within the amendment the corresponding appropriation reduction(s) and/or revenue increase(s) that would allow the budget to remain balanced.  This rules change lowers the threshold, which was previously set at five million dollars.  The rules change also provides that if an amendment identifies unspent projected revenue or balance as the funding source, the Speaker must consult with the Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs and confirm the existence of sufficient unspent revenue or balance before the House may consider the amendment.
 
House Resolution H.3501 was adopted to approve a HOUSE RULES CHANGE REVISING NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CONFERENCE AND FREE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORTS ON STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET LEGISLATION.  The rules change eliminates the requirement that a report of a Committee on Conference or Free Conference concerning the General Appropriations Bills, Supplemental Appropriations Bills for the ordinary expenses of State Government, or legislation appropriating the Capital Reserve Fund must be printed in the House Journal before it may be considered by the House.  Even though this printing requirement is eliminated, the House Rules continue to require that these reports must be made available online to the public for at least twenty four hours before they may be considered by the House. 

Week of  January 31, 2017

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3218, a bill to provide for “DAMS AND RESERVOIRS SAFETY ACT” ENHANCEMENTS in light of problems experienced during the catastrophic floods of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew one year later.  The legislation affords the Department of Health and Environmental Control regulatory authority over smaller dams that are currently exempt from regulation in instances where DHEC determines that the dam’s failure or improper reservoir operation may cause serious damage to homes, industrial and commercial facilities, public utilities, main and secondary highways, or railroads.  Such smaller dams have only been subject to DHEC regulation when the department determines that their failure may cause loss of human life.  The legislation makes provisions for maintaining more extensive and up-to-date records on regulated dams and reservoirs by requiring their owners to provide DHEC annually no later than July first of each year with current contact information regarding the owner, including name, home or business address, phone number, and any email address, together with a completed dam owner checklist on a form provided by the department.  The owner of a dam or reservoir classified as a high or significant hazard is required to provide DHEC annually no later than July first of each year a current emergency action plan, including updated contact information for emergency management officials, such as police, fire, EMS, or utility departments or personnel, and for downstream residents and business owners located in the inundation zone for that dam or reservoir.  The legislation specifies that it is not, however, the owner’s responsibility to notify any downstream residents or business owners located in the inundation zone of a failure or potential failure.  The owner must, instead, notify emergency officials and DHEC’s Dams and Reservoirs Safety program of the actual or potential failure, and it is the responsibility of the emergency management officials identified in the emergency action plan to inform those located in the inundation zone and to cause them to be evacuated if it is considered necessary.  Under the legislation, DHEC shall not require any changes to a dam or its appurtenant works due to the reclassification of the dam unless failure would likely cause loss of life, or the department, through inspection, identifies repairs that must be made.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3340, a bill addressing the REPAIR OF ROADS IN THE STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM THAT RAN ALONG THE TOP OF BREACHED DAMS. In the interest of public health and safety, the legislation establishes deadlines for the owner of a failed or breached dam which has a public road or highway in the state highway system running across the top of it to provide a written notification to the State Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Environmental Control indicating whether or not the owner intends to repair the dam to appropriate standards and the date by which the repairs are anticipated to be completed.  Provisions are made for notifying dam owners of these reporting requirements.  The legislation establishes a protocol for how the Department of Transportation is to proceed with road repair efforts if no written communication is received from a dam owner, if a communication indicates a dam owner does not intend to repair the dam, or if intended dam repairs are not completed as scheduled.  
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3221, a bill establishing a statewide program for ADDRESSING UNSOUND SCHOOL DISTRICT FINANCES which affords the State Department of Education authority that extends beyond academic matters to include fiscal affairs. Under the legislation, the State Department of Education is to work with district superintendents and finance officers to develop and adopt a statewide program with guidelines for: (1) identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that, if uncorrected, could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district; and (2) advising districts that demonstrate these financial problems on the corrective actions that should be taken.  The department must establish three escalating levels of fiscal and budgetary concern so that the State Superintendent of Education can declare a ‘fiscal watch’, a ‘fiscal caution’, and a ‘fiscal emergency’ with regard to school district finances.  The succeeding levels of budgetary concern carry increasingly stringent requirements for school district recovery plans, audits, and inspections as well as more intensive technical support from the state department.  Should a school district’s finances warrant the most severe level of concern prompting the State Superintendent of Education to declare a ‘fiscal emergency’, the State Department of Education is authorized to take intensive steps including assuming control over the district’s financial operations to preclude a default on any type of debt and prevent further decline in the district’s finances.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3220, a bill reestablishing the SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL to review the progress, results, and compliance with the Education and Economic Development Act and to make recommendations for better achieving the act’s goals of implementing career pathways in the state’s public schools and fostering a better prepared workforce and student success in postsecondary education.  The council is comprised of the following members representing the geographic regions of the state and must be representative of the ethnic, gender, rural, and urban diversity of the state: (1) State Superintendent of Education or his designee; (2) Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce or his designee; (3) Executive Director of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education or his designee; (4) Secretary of the Department of Commerce or his designee; (5) Executive Director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce or his designee; (6) Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance or his designee; (7) Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education or his designee; (8) Executive Director of the Office of First Steps to School Readiness or his designee; (9) the following members who must be appointed by the State Superintendent of Education: (a) a school district superintendent; (b) a principal; (c) a school guidance counselor; (d) a teacher; and (e) the director of a career and technology center; (10) the following members who must be appointed by the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education: (a) the president or provost of a research university; (b) the president or provost of a four‑year college or university; and (c) the president of a technical college; (11) ten representatives of business appointed by the Governor, at least one of which must represent small business and one whom must represent the health care industry.  Of the representatives appointed by the Governor, five must be recommended by statewide organizations representing business and industry.  The chair is to be selected by the Governor from one of his appointees; (12) Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee or his designee; (13) a member from the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; and (14) a member from the Senate appointed by the President Pro Tempore.  A sunset provision is included in the legislation so that the council will expire after five years unless it is reauthorized by the General Assembly.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3442, a bill AFFIRMING RIGHTS TO ADOPT CHILDREN IN THE TEMPORARY CUSTODY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES in response to recent South Carolina court opinions that the state’s laws do not accommodate such adoptions.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3517, a bill providing SPECIAL AUTHORIZATION FOR CHARITABLE HUNTING AND FISHING PROGRAMS FOR TERMINALLY ILL YOUTH.  Under the legislation, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources may issue special authorization for hunting and fishing to any person not more than twenty‑one years of age who has been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness or injury where all license, tags, and fees are waived.  Those seeking special authorization must be sponsored by a nonprofit charitable organization that has within its mission to provide opportunities and experiences to persons with life threatening illnesses or injuries.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3531, a bill that imposes RESTRICTIONS ON THE OWNERSHIP of LARGE WILD CATS, NON-NATIVE BEARS AND GREAT APES as a means of protecting conservation efforts for the welfare of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species and protecting the public against potential safety risks relating to holding these wild animals in captivity.  The legislation’s restrictions on keeping all lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, snow leopards, and clouded leopards, all bears that are not native to South Carolina and not subject to oversight by the state’s Department of Natural Resources, and all species of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans do not apply to a list of exemptions, such as nonprofit animal protection organizations, veterinary hospitals, university laboratories and research facilities, and properly licensed zoos, circuses, and animal breeders. 
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3289, a bill relating to VEHICLE SPACING by revising provisions specifying the distance that must be maintained between vehicles traveling along a highway to provide that these distance requirements do not apply to an operator of any non‑leading vehicle travelling in a procession of vehicles when the speed of each vehicle is automatically coordinated.  The legislation accommodates driving practices allowed by newer technologies, such as the arrangement known as platooning where trucks are able to follow one another closely in order to reduce wind resistance by using wireless technology to coordinate the vehicles’ braking and acceleration.
 

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 http://www.scstatehouse.gov

 


 

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