Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Below is my monthly review on what happened at the State House during the month of February. In the House, we were able to approve a number of bills that have been sent to the Senate, including a bill changing our Retirement System Funding and a Roads Bill, which overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 97-18 last week. You can read the details below.
Last week, we also elected six new Board members to the Richland County Recreation Commission. There were over 60 applications submitted and all were remarkable. It was very hard to limit the number to six. The applicants chosen were Jermaine Johnson, Henry Hart, Donzetta Lindsay, Robert Lapin, Cynthia Sheppard, and Steven Venugopal. They all bring a different skill set to the table, and I know they will represent us well.
Check out the latest Winthrop Poll. I've copied the results pertaining to certain bills that I've introduced or plan to introduce, which indicate overwhelming approval by SC citizens. Let's hope my colleagues in the House and Senate also agree! http://www.winthrop.edu/winthroppoll/default.aspx?id=9804.
Revenge Porn: 4 out of 5 residents favored making it a crime to post online or share sexually explicit pictures without the expressed consent of those in the pictures.
Pregnancy Accommodation: 81% of respondents favored requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees unless the employer could demonstrate that the accommodation imposed an undue hardship on the business.
Healthy Youth Act: Nearly 70% favored requiring schools to base their curriculum on reproductive health solely on evidence-based research.
Redistricting Reform: 63% percent favored an amendment to the S.C. Constitution to create an Independent Reapportionment Commission that would be in charge of redrawing lines when the population changes.
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.
Week of February 7, 2017
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3035, a bill revising eligibility criteria for IN-STATE HIGHER EDUCATION TUITION RATES FOR VETERANS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS. The legislation provides that honorably-discharged veterans of the Armed Services of the United States, who have evidenced intent to establish domicile in South Carolina and their dependents, are entitled to receive in‑state tuition and fees at state institutions of higher learning without the requirement of a one year of physical presence in this state.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3465, a bill making revisions relating to TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS AND ADOPTION OF CHILDREN IN DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES ABUSE AND NEGLECT CASES. The legislation includes consent to an adoption among the decisions of substantial legal significance affecting the child that the parent or guardian retains the right to make unless otherwise provided by court order. The legislation includes an agency and a caregiver among those considered interested parties in court proceedings.
Week of February 14, 2017
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3429, a bill providing for ADDITIONAL EXEMPTIONS IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS. The legislation allows a surviving spouse, who has not remarried, to claim the deceased’s homestead exemption in a bankruptcy proceeding by adding an exemption from attachment, levy, or forced sale that applies to up to fifty thousand dollars owned in the inherited residence. The legislation also adds an exemption in bankruptcy proceedings that applies to no more than ten thousand dollars in value in any rifle, shotgun, pistol, or any combination of those firearms owned by the debtor.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3176, a bill providing for more expansive IRA EXEMPTIONS FROM ATTACHMENT IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS by eliminating the current limitation that individual retirement accounts and other similar plans are exempt from attachment, levy, and sale, only to the extent permitted under Section 522(d) of the Federal Bankruptcy Code.
Week of February 21, 2017
The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.3146, a joint resolution for a PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION THAT THE STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, upon the advice and consent of the Senate, rather than elected by the state’s voters. If the proposed amendment is approved by the voters, the appointment provisions would begin in January 2023, or earlier should a vacancy in the office of Superintendent of Education occur after the date of ratification.
The House approved S.338, a joint resolution AUTHORIZING AN EARLIER START DATE FOR THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR IN ORDER TO CAPITALIZE ON THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE OF THIS SUMMER’S SOLAR ECLIPSE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Since on Monday, August 21, 2017, South Carolina will be in the path of the largest total solar eclipse experienced in North America since February 1978, which offers a rare learning opportunity for people in the Palmetto State, this legislation provides flexibility in state statutory limits regarding school term start dates for the 2017‑2018 School Year only, by allowing a local school board to choose Thursday, August 17, 2017, or later, as the opening date for students attending schools in the district.
The House approved and sent to the Senate H.3591, a bill providing PERMANENT AUTHORIZATION FOR FIRST STEPS TO SCHOOL READINESS and making revisions and updates to this program for providing enhanced early childhood development, education, and family support services to enable children to reach school ready to achieve academic success. Under the legislation, First Steps to School Readiness is no longer subject to sunset provisions that require the program to be periodically reauthorized by the General Assembly in order to continue.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3719, a bill EXPANDING THE STATE FORESTER’S AUTHORITY TO PROHIBIT OPEN BURNING in the interest of protecting the public from potentially devastating wildfires.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3349, a bill UPDATING THE NURSE LICENSURE COMPACT to make the changes that are required for South Carolina to maintain its membership in the multi-state compact.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3583, a bill ALLOWING A STUDENT WHO HAS BEEN AWARDED A PALMETTO FELLOWS SCHOLARSHIP THE OPTION OF DEFERRING ENROLLMENT IN A HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION FOR ONE YEAR following high school graduation without declining the award.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3665, a bill REVISING FISHING LIMITS FOR FLOUNDER. The legislation increases the size limit for flounder from 14 inches to 15 inches statewide. The legislation reduces from 15 to 10 the individual daily limit for taking flounder with a gig, spear, hook and line, or similar device and reduces from 30 to 20 the daily on flounder for any boat.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3698, a bill revising fishing seasons and catch limits for STRIPED BASS.
Week of February 7, 2017
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3516, a bill revising INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING AND GOVERNANCE as a means of providing reliable sources of additional revenue for addressing South Carolina’s deteriorating roads and supporting the infrastructure system needed for public safety, quality of life, and economic development. In order to increase infrastructure funding by an estimated $177 million in the first year and an estimated $532 million a year upon full implementation, the legislation increases existing fees and establishes new fees to allow for more effective collection of revenue from all those who make use of South Carolina’s roads, including out-of-state residents and businesses. The legislation provides for an increase in the state’s motor fuel user fee of 10 cents a gallon that is phased in gradually with an increase of 2 cents each year over the course of five years. The increase is expected to generate $69 million in the first year and ultimately allow for an additional $401 million each year for the state’s roads. The first 2 cents of revenue is devoted to the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rural Road Safety Program. An increase is phased in for the C-Funds that are distributed to counties so that the current 2.66 cents of the motor fuel user fee allotted for C-Funds will rise to 3.99 cents. Ultimately allowing for an additional $52 million a year for county infrastructure priorities, the additional C-Fund revenue must be used only for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the state secondary highway system. A $16 dollar increase is provided for the state’s biennial motor vehicle registration fees to generate an estimated $25 million a year.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3726, the RETIREMENT SYSTEM FUNDING AND ADMINISTRATION ACT. This bill implements recommendations of the joint legislative committee formed to study the unfunded liability facing the state retirement systems and propose changes that could allow the state’s pensions to remain viable by continuing to deliver benefits to retirees without undermining the state’s finances.
H.3726 decouples employer and employee contribution rates into pension systems by eliminating the required differential between the two rates which is currently set at 2.9% for the largest pension plan, the South Carolina Retirement System which serves most state government employees, teachers, various local government employees, and others, and 5% for the Police Officers Retirement System. The legislation provides for a 2% increase in the employer contribution rates for these systems effective July 1, 2017, so that the SCRS employer contribution rate will increase from the current 11.56% to 13.56% and the PORS employer contribution rate will increase from the current 14.24% to 16.24%. Each year thereafter, a 1% increase is scheduled for these employer contribution rates until Fiscal Year 2022-2023. The legislation increases and places a cap on the employee contribution rate for these systems with the SCRS employee contribution rate increasing from the current 8.66% to 9% and the PORS employee contribution rate increasing from the current 9.24% to 9.75%. The assumed rate of return on pension plan investments is reduced from 7.5% to 7.25%. Future changes to the assumed rate of return, beginning with Fiscal Year 2021-2022, are to be recommended by the Public Employee Benefit Authority, with the General Assembly afforded an opportunity to disagree with PEBA’s recommendation prior to the new rate taking effect.
H.3726 implements recommendations for improving governance of the retirement systems and simplifying lines of authority which draw upon findings of South Carolina’s Legislative Audit Council and the private firm that conducted the independent audit of the state’s pension systems. The legislation provides greater definition for the role of the Executive Director of the Public Employee Benefit Authority, who is designated by PEBA’s Board of Directors and serves at the pleasure of the board. PEBA’s organizational structure is clarified such that all employees are hired by and report to the Executive Director. The legislation provides revisions for PEBA’s Board of Directors in order to: extend terms for board members from two years to five years to match terms of the Retirement System Investment Commission; stagger terms so that they do not all expire at the same time; include diversity language for new appointees; allow for board members to be removed only for cause by the Governor; and, require the board to meet quarterly rather than monthly. The Board of Directors and Executive Director are named fiduciaries of PEBA, and penalties are established for failing to fulfill fiduciary responsibilities that are identical to those already established for the Retirement System Investment Commission. The legislation provides greater definition for the role of the Chief Executive Officer of the Retirement System Investment Commission, who is designated by the commission and serves at the commission’s pleasure.
The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3358, legislation that provides a framework for issuing and renewing state driver’s licenses and identification cards to bring South Carolina into COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL REAL ID ACT of 2005. South Carolina’s compliance deadline of January 31, 2017, was extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security upon the request of former Governor Haley until June 6, 2017, contingent upon the state’s commitment to attain compliance. If compliance deadlines are reached without a further extension, South Carolina driver’s licenses and identification cards would no longer be accepted where federal law requires the use of REAL ID compliant credentials for establishing personal identity and those who present South Carolina-issued ID will not be allowed to enter federal buildings and military installations, and, beginning in late January of 2018, will no longer be able to board commercial flights at airports. Other, compliant forms of identification would need to be presented, and, in the case of airport security, a United States Passport would be needed to board even domestic commercial flights. South Carolina is currently out of compliance with six of the forty-four provisions of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. To bring the state into compliance, the bill first repeals the state statute that was adopted specifically to prohibit South Carolina agencies from complying with the provisions of the federal REAL ID Act.
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