Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Below is my monthly review on what happened at the State House during the month of March. We passed a $26.9 billion dollar budget which is now off to the Senate. Crossover deadline is April 10, 2017, so we have been busy trying to get numerous bills passed out of the House to make this important deadline. See below for more information and highlights on the bills passed this month.
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.
Week of March 7, 2017
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3247, a bill making comprehensive statutory revisions regarding MOPEDS. The legislation establishes new requirements for registering and licensing mopeds with the Department of Motor Vehicles. New safety requirements are established for mopeds including requirements for moped operators and passengers to wear reflective vests at night. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to operate a moped on the public roads in this state that have a speed limit of greater than fifty‑five miles per hour. A moped, while traveling along a multi‑lane highway, must be operated in the farthest right lane except when making a left turn. No person may operate a moped at a speed in excess of thirty‑five miles an hour. As with motorcycles, a person under the age of twenty‑one may not operate or ride upon a moped unless he wears a protective helmet. Mopeds are exempted from ignition interlock device requirements of driving under the influence provisions. Those who sell mopeds are required to post signs that provide brief explanations of such matters as age restrictions, maximum speeds, and the definition of a moped. A moped seller is not required to obtain a motor vehicle dealer’s license. The legislation replaces the multiple, sometimes conflicting, definitions for mopeds currently found in statutes with a single new definition for mopeds and makes other revisions to allow for greater consistency in the way that the laws governing motor vehicles, including DUI offenses, are applied to mopeds.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3643, a bill which provides that in reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion, South Carolina public colleges and universities shall take into consideration the DEFINITION OF ANTI‑SEMITISM established in this legislation for purposes of determining whether the alleged practice was motivated by anti‑Semitic intent.
The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3652, a bill relating to ACCEPTABLE MATERIALS FOR WATER PIPES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT PROJECTS utilizing state funds. The legislation provides that all piping materials that comply with sound engineering practices and meet project requirements as determined by an engineer, employed or retained by a governmental body or any political subdivision, must be allowed to participate in the bidding process when a governmental agency is procuring piping materials for a water supply, wastewater, stormwater, or storm drainage project for which state funds are used.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3513, a bill creating a SOUTH CAROLINA RETIRED EDUCATOR CERTIFICATE that may be held by a retiree who previously held a South Carolina renewable, professional educator certificate. An initial retired educator certificate is valid for thirty years. A certificate may be renewed and is valid for ten years. Renewal of a retired educator certificate does not require completion of professional learning or renewal credit. An educator who works under the retired certificate must work under a letter of agreement. Holders of such certificates are not exempt from professional development that is required by the local school district.
The House returned S.198 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises provisions for MINORS OBTAINING BEGINNER'S PERMITS OR DRIVERS' LICENSES UNDER THE AUTHORIZATION OF RESPONSIBLE ADULTS who are willing to assume the obligation imposed for the licenses or permits. In an effort to ease and normalize the procedures for adults sponsoring minors under their care for permits and licenses, the legislation expands the list of those who may sign the application for a beginner's permit or driver's license of an unemancipated minor so that it includes not only mothers, fathers, legal guardians, and adults willing to assume responsibility for the minor, but also specifically references such individuals as stepparents, individuals who have custody, care, and control of the minor, as well as foster parents, pre‑adoptive parents, or persons responsible for the welfare of the child who resides in a child caring facility or residential group care home, upon written approval by the Department of Social Services.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3861, a bill making revisions needed for MAINTAINING REAL ESTATE LICENSE RECIPROCITY ARRANGEMENTS WITH OTHER STATES. The legislation revises the authority of the Real Estate Commission to recognize nonresident real estate licenses on active status from other jurisdictions which reciprocate, so as to remove the requirement that these out-of-state applicants seeking licensure in South Carolina must complete successfully the state portions of the applicable examinations before their licenses will be recognized.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3649, a bill that makes revisions to allow for greater CONFORMITY BETWEEN THE ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING PRACTICE ACTS and eliminate ambiguity concerning the issuance of local government permits for buildings and structures.
The House gave third reading approval to H.3358, a bill providing for South Carolina’s COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL REAL ID ACT of 2005, and sent the legislation to the Senate.
Week of March 14, 2017 - BUDGET WEEK
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3720, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.3721, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the $26.9 billion FISCAL YEAR 2017-2018 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget includes $7.9 billion in recurring state general fund revenue, $29 million in nonrecurring Fiscal Year 2016-2017 certified surplus, and $139 million in Capital Reserve Funds.
The Capital Reserve Fund is utilized to supply South Carolina’s share in Federal Emergency Management Agency natural disaster recovery efforts, with $82 million provided for the state’s FEMA match for Hurricane Matthew and $1.25 million provided for the FEMA match for the Pinnacle Mountain fire. $700,000 of these Hurricane Matthew FEMA match funds are allotted to the Town of Nichols which suffered particular devastation during the storm’s floods.
$150 million is devoted to the initial 2% increase in the employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System that is in keeping with the schedule for addressing the unfunded liability facing the state’s pensions proposed by a joint legislative study committee in H.3726, the Retirement System Funding and Administration Act. The funds cover the entire 2% increase for state employees and Education Improvement Act obligations as well as 1% of the employer contribution increase for all others so that local governments and other employers that participate in these state pension systems will be responsible for funding only half of this 2% increase in employer contribution rates.
The annual salary of each commissioner who has served on the Retirement System Investment Commission for longer than two years is reduced to one dollar.
$25.4 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state's health insurance and dental plans with no increases in the premiums paid by employees.
For K-12 public education, $38 million is used to increase the base student cost by $50 to arrive at $2,400 per pupil.
$19.4 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included to address S.C. Public Charter School District growth.
$12 million in Education Improvement Act funds is provided for technology aid to school districts which has previously been funded through the Education Lottery.
The legislation suspends the National Board Certification program with its teacher salary supplements and the $54 million in savings is redirected towards teacher retention.
$375,000 in Education Improvement Act funds is included for teacher supplies.
$10 million in Education Lottery funding is allocated to purchasing or leasing new school buses.
$3 million is included to help fund the cost of industry certification exams so that students in vocational programs will not have to bear the full cost of obtaining the certifications needed for pursuing their chosen careers.
$1 million in Education Improvement Act funds is allocated for the Youth Challenge Academy boot camp program for at-risk youth.
Authorization is provided for all financial and programmatic management and operations of the John de la Howe School for at-risk youth to be suspended and all employees terminated, effective July 1, 2017. After the terminated employees final compensation has been paid all remaining funds and vacant FTE’s are to be transferred to Clemson University PSA which is charged with managing and maintaining the grounds and other property of the estate and evaluating how agricultural educational programs might be implemented that would be in keeping with the terms of Dr. John de la Howe’s will. Clemson University is to report to the Senate Finance Committee and to the House Ways and Means Committee by December 1 on its findings and recommendations.
Full funding is provided for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs. Again the scholarships are fully funded through the Education Lottery including the increases that are anticipated because of the conversion to a ten point grading scale in K-12 public education.
The Local Government Fund is maintained at a funding level of $212 million.
The Department of Health and Human Services is afforded $45.4 million in recurring funds to address Medicaid program cost growth.
The Department of Mental Health receives $11 million for forensics and the Sexually Violent Predator Program.
The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $9 million in recurring funds to increase front-line staff salaries agency wide from $10.11 per hour to $11 per hour.
$24.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for the development of the child support system at the Department of Social Services. $18 million in recurring funds is allocated to the department to address requirements from class-action lawsuit settlement agreements. $500,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for additional residential shelter for domestic violence survivors.
The Department of Transportation is appropriated $5 million in current fuel revenue diversions to allow a greater percentage of SCDOT revenue to be used exclusively for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the existing transportation system.
A voluntary local road transfer program is included to allow the Department of Transportation to enter into contracts with counties and municipalities to allow some of the thousands of miles of smaller, less-traveled, often fragmented stretches of roadways currently in the state highway system to come under local control. Mutual agreements may be reached that allow these local governments to assume responsibility for roads within their boundaries and receive compensation from SCDOT for roads transferred out of the state system that may include credits towards future construction projects, payment of funds from the state’s share of the County Transportation Committee funds, or satisfaction of debt owed to the department.
The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging receives $23,450 in recurring funds for the Vulnerable Adult Guardian Ad Litem Program and $200,000 in recurring funds for family caregiver services that allow seniors to remain their homes and avoid the more expensive alternative of institutional care.
Week of March 21, 2017
The House of Representatives approved S.218, a bill PROHIBITING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FROM REQUIRING AN EMPLOYEE BENEFIT, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises labor and employment provisions, by providing that counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions of this state may not establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to offer an employee benefit, such as health benefits, disability benefits, death benefits, group accidental death and dismemberment benefits, paid days off for holidays, paid sick leave, paid vacation leave, paid personal necessity leave, retirement benefits, and profit‑sharing benefits. The legislation does not limit the authority of political subdivisions to establish benefits for their own employees.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3666, a bill making provisions for DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS STABILIZATION UNIT FACILITIES where individuals entering hospital emergency rooms suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues may be transferred to begin receiving appropriate care. This bill makes provisions for a crisis stabilization unit facility operated or authorized by the Department of Mental Health which provides a short‑term residential program offering psychiatric stabilization services, detoxification services, and brief, intensive crisis services twenty‑four hours a day, seven days a week. The legislation exempts a crisis stabilization unit facility from the Certificate of Need process and requires a crisis stabilization unit facility to obtain a license from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3538, the “PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES RIGHT TO PARENT ACT”. The legislation establishes provisions that parental rights cannot be terminated solely on the basis of a parent’s disability. In keeping with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fourteenth Amendment, the legislation requires that reasonable efforts must be made, that are individualized and based upon a parent’s or legal guardian’s specific disability, to avoid removal of a child from the home of a parent or legal guardian with a disability, including referrals for access to adaptive parenting equipment, referrals for instruction on adaptive parenting techniques, and reasonable accommodations with regard to accessing services that are otherwise made available to a parent or legal guardian who does not have a disability
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3132, a bill revising the licensure and oversight of HOSPICE PROGRAMS which offer medically supervised palliative and supportive care for terminally ill patients and their families. The legislation revises hospice program licensure and regulation with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to establish new provisions governing the operation of multiple locations in addition to a hospice program’s primary office and the expansion of a hospice program beyond its licensed geographic service area into additional counties.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3034, a bill revising eligibility criteria for IN-STATE HIGHER EDUCATION TUITION RATES FOR VETERANS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS to bring state law into conformity with federal G.I. Bill provisions for scholarship assistance.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to S.198 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for MINORS OBTAINING BEGINNER'S PERMITS OR DRIVERS' LICENSES UNDER THE AUTHORIZATION OF RESPONSIBLE ADULTS who are willing to assume the obligation imposed for the licenses or permits. The legislation provides for a more expansive list of adults who are authorized to sign the application for a beginner's permit or driver's license of an unemancipated minor. The legislation includes provisions for sponsoring minors in obtaining beginner’s permits and driver’s licenses when the Department of Social Services has guardianship or legal custody. The disclosure of information by DSS to the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to provide approval is not to be considered an unlawful dissemination of confidential information.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3463, a bill allowing for the RETENTION OF AN AGRICULTURAL PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATE. The legislation provides that if property was assessed as agricultural property or as farm machinery, buildings, and equipment in 2016, the property must continue to be assessed with the same assessment ratio unless a change of use occurs.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3653, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON NUISANCE SUITS RELATED TO MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRIAL USES OF REAL PROPERTY. Addressing situations where urban growth has prompted residential development to expand into previously outlying areas where established industrial facilities have been operating, the legislation imposes limitations on nuisance suits that nearby residents can bring against pre-existing industrial, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing facilities that are complying with environmental permits and are otherwise operating lawfully. Affording legal protections like those already provided for agricultural operations, the legislation proposes to codify the common law defense of ‘coming to the nuisance’ as a means of promoting economic development.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3427, a bill enacting the "SOUTH CAROLINA COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION INITIATIVE" to expand access for all students to computer science learning experiences that support literacy, math, problem‑solving, and technological skills, and advance productivity in every discipline, industry, and profession. The legislation charges the State Board of Education with developing grade appropriate standards for computer science and computational thinking and computer coding for grades 9‑12 and adopting these standards by August 1, 2018. No later than the 2019‑2020 School Year, each public high school and public charter high school must offer at least one rigorous, standards‑based computer science course. Beginning in the 2018‑2019 School Year, the Department of Education is required to: employ a full-time coordinator for the Computer Science Education Initiative; support K‑12 academic and computer science teachers in designing interdisciplinary, project‑based instruction and assignments that engage students in applying literacy, math, and computational thinking skills to solve problems; design career pathways that connect students to postsecondary education in high‑demand career fields identified by the Department of Commerce, such as cybersecurity, information systems, informatics, computer engineering, and software development; offer professional development and teacher endorsements to new teachers that will teach computer science who complete a two to four‑week, full‑day summer institute; develop criteria for postsecondary computer science teacher preparation programs; provide information and materials which identify emerging career opportunities in computer science and related fields to parents, students, teachers, and guidance counselors; and, assist districts in developing partnerships with business, industry, higher education, and communities to provide afterschool and extracurricular activities that engage students in computer science. To provide for effective instruction, the Department of Education is charged with developing guidelines for the educational and degree requirements appropriate for computer science teachers. The Commission on Higher Education shall determine what financial incentives might be needed by institutions of higher education to design programs to prepare and credential computer science teachers. To improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in South Carolina, the Governor’s Office, beginning in fiscal year 2018‑2019, is charged with establishing criteria and a process for designating a STEM community or STEM region, which involves collaboration among educators, administrators, business leaders, students, parents, governmental officials, and business and industry groups.
Week of March 28, 2017
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments 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, and enrolled the bill for ratification. 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, and the enactment of compliance legislation should allow the state to operate under extended regulatory relief through September 30, 2020, the final implementation date for the federal REAL ID Act.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3548, the “SOUTH CAROLINA UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION FROM DISMEMBERMENT ABORTION ACT”. The legislation prohibits the performance of a dismemberment abortion, which involves the use of surgical instruments to kill the unborn child by cutting up the body for piecemeal extraction, unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother or to prevent the mother from suffering serious, irreversible physical harm. Physicians or others who knowingly perform, or attempt to perform, prohibited dismemberment abortions are guilty of a felony punishable with a fine of ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for two years. The legislation specifies that a woman upon whom a dismemberment abortion is performed may not be prosecuted for a violation, for a conspiracy to commit a violation, or for a related offense. The legislation makes provisions for a legal cause of action that may be brought against those who perform a prohibited dismemberment abortion to obtain such relief as actual damages, punitive damages, and legal costs.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3343, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION SCHOOL FACILITIES ACT”. The legislation makes provisions for state financial assistance to school districts, through such means as the issuance of state general obligation bonds and the awarding of grants, that must be used for permanent school instructional facilities, health and safety upgrades, technology access inside the school, and fixed building assets including the costs for construction, improvement, enlargement, or renovation of school facilities.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3041, a bill ENHANCING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS FOR REAL ESTATE LICENSURE. The legislation expands criminal background check requirements for Real Estate Commission licensure, by requiring fingerprint-based screening and by requiring these background checks not only for initial licensures but also for licensure renewals under a six-year cycle that requires screening with every third renewal.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3038, a bill making provisions for the LICENSURE AND REGULATION OF LOCKSMITHS. The legislation creates the Board of Locksmiths and provides for its composition, function, and duties. The legislation requires applicants for licensure to satisfy certain criteria, complete testing requirements, and submit to state and national criminal background records checks.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3886, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION ACT” to establish new provisions governing the operation of homeowners associations. In order to be enforceable, a declaration or other governing document of a homeowners association must be recorded in the local clerk of court’s or register of deeds office so that these documents are accessible to the public as matters of public record. The legislation establishes a new requirement for disclosing to potential owners whether a property is subject to the governance of a homeowners association and how copies of HOA governing documents may be obtained. A homeowners’ association is required to provide at least forty‑eight hours’ notice to homeowners before a meeting to take action to increase an annual budget. The legislation clarifies that the magistrates court has concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate certain monetary disputes between homeowners associations and homeowners.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3789, the “SOUTH CAROLINA YOUTH CHALLENGE ACADEMY AND SOUTH CAROLINA JOBS CHALLENGE PROGRAM EXPUNGEMENT ACT”. The legislation affords eligible youthful offenders who successfully complete military and job training programs the opportunity of having nonviolent criminal offenses expunged from their records.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3125, the “SAFE CHILDREN’S ACT”, which codifies a comprehensive set of best practices for Department of Social Services protocol and interventions in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3817, a bill that provides for MORE EXPANSIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE TAKE‑BACK PROGRAMS by allowing pharmacies and certain others to register as collection centers for unused prescription drugs as a means of preventing substance abuse by keeping opioids and other dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4048, a bill requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to issue, pursuant to its Medicaid Home and Community‑based waiver, PERSONAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEMS (PERS) DEVICES to Medicaid recipients that include, in addition to emergency response services, unlimited twenty‑four hour, seven‑day a week live phone contact with experienced registered nurses for triage services.
The House approved and sent the Senate to H.3428, a bill revising provisions governing “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” ORDERS to allow a parent or legal guardian to request a do not resuscitate order for emergency services for a child under 18 years old who has a terminal condition. Provisions are also including for revoking such a DNR order.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3450, legislation enacting the “ELECTROLOGY PRACTICE ACT” to provide for the licensure and regulation of electrologists and electrology instructors through an Electrology Licensure Committee established under the Board of Medical Examiners. The legislation is offered as a means of ensuring minimum standards of competency for those who practice or offer instruction in electrology, which involves the permanent removal of hair from the skin through the application of an electric current.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3867, a bill revising an AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION to exempt all property devoted to housing low income residents if the property is owned by an instrumentality of a nonprofit housing corporation.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3428, a bill requiring the Director of the Division of Veterans’ Affairs to receive and respond to VETERANS’ COMPLAINTS REGARDING COUNTY VETERANS’ AFFAIRS OFFICERS. The Director shall forward the complaint along with his recommendation for discipline, including the possible removal of the county veterans’ affairs officer in question, to the appropriate legislative delegation for its consideration and final determination.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3898, a bill revising the INFORMATION THAT MAY DISCLOSED ABOUT ADOPTEES, biological parents, and biological siblings so that the provisions also apply to biological grandparents.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3804, a bill revising FIFTH WHEEL TOWING RESTRICTIONS to allow recreational vehicles to tow golf carts and certain other vehicles on the state’s roads. The legislation provides authorization for pick-up trucks, with features commonly referred to as ‘fifth wheels,’ to be limited to towing one trailing vehicle. Their maximum combined overall length is set at 75 feet.