It's official! On Friday, I filed for re-election!
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is my 2nd Legislative Update for this session. We have had a busy five weeks since my last update. Last week, the House passed a $8.8 billion Fiscal Budget as outlined below and now the Senate will review it and make its recommendations. Other bills that have passed are also highlighted below.
In light of the tragic events of the Parkland, Florida school massacre shooting last month, I think it is important to discuss strengthening our gun safety laws and ensuring that our s
chools are safe when we send our children to school. I was fortunate to serve on the Governor's School-Safety Summit panel to discuss these important topics. I also will be requesting that a subcommittee hearing be held on a bill that I filed on December 15, 2016, which would strengthen our gun safety laws by requiring a clear background check for all purchasers of firearms.
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.
Week of February 13, 2018
The House of Representatives took up legislation that draws upon the work of the special House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee which was appointed by the Speaker of the House following the announcement from Santee Cooper and SCANA’s South Carolina Electric and Gas that construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear reactors in Fairfield County was being abandoned after billions of dollars in fees had been collected from South Carolina’s ratepayers under the Base Load Review Act to support the failed nuclear power project. The House gave second reading approval to H.4377, a bill providing REFORMS FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, the body that provides oversight and renders decisions in public utility matters. The legislation ends the terms of those currently serving on the Public Service Commission and sets up new staggered terms so that the General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections to fill some of the seven PSC seats this year and the rest of the seats next year. The legislation requires all the members of the Public Service Commission to meet the qualifications established for educational attainment or technical experience by eliminating an exception that allows the criteria to be waived through a supermajority vote of those screening PSC candidates. Continuing education requirements are expanded to require the commissioners and their employees to attend at least six hours of classes each year with a curriculum which directly relates to the subject matter for which the commission is responsible. New restrictions and reporting requirements are imposed on reimbursements for such costs as travel, food, and lodging incurred in fulfilling continuing education requirements in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety and prevent payments that could influence the performance of official duties. The legislation eases restrictions on communications with members or staff of the Public Utilities Review Committee or any other legislative committee charged with review of the commission. The PSC is afforded more expansive authority to conduct examinations, including physical inspection of facilities, of all those who are subject to its jurisdiction. The legislation provides that, before making a determination, the commissioners shall question the parties thoroughly during hearings of contested cases when appropriate.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4727, legislation RESTRUCTURING AND REAUTHORIZING THE SOUTH CAROLINA CONSERVATION BANK on a permanent basis. The legislation revises the composition of Board that governs the South Carolina Conservation Bank which acquires interests from willing sellers in real property that is worthy of conservation for environmental, aesthetic, or historical reasons.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4376, LIQUOR SALES legislation which follows a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling that found limitations placed on the issuance of retail liquor licenses to be unconstitutional. Through this legislation, the General Assembly affirms its police power to regulate the business of retail liquor sales in the interest of the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Under the legislation, an individual continues to be subject to the limitation that no more than three retail dealer licenses may be issued to any one licensee.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4643, a bill facilitating DIRECT PRIMARY CARE AGREEMENTS between patients, or their legal representatives, and health care providers, who in exchange for a fee, agree to provide routine health care services, such as screening, assessment, diagnosis, laboratory work, and the provision of medical supplies and prescription drugs that are prescribed or dispensed in a health care provider’s office. As a means of ensuring that these direct arrangements between patients and physicians are available as an option and free from undue regulation, the legislation provides that a direct primary care agreement is not a contract of insurance and is not subject to regulation by the Department of Insurance.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4077, a bill CODIFYING INCOME TAX CREDITS FOR THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH EXCEPTIONAL NEEDS. These provisions have been included as a budget proviso in general appropriation acts for the last five years.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4828, legislation providing for SOUTH CAROLINA YOUTH HUNTING DAY to be held on the Saturday before the regular Game Zone season framework for hunting antlered deer only. The daily bag limit on this day is one antlered deer.
Week of February 20, 2018
The House of Representatives took up three bills that draw upon the work of the special House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee that was appointed by the Speaker of the House to examine the growing misuse of prescription painkillers and recommend legislative actions to counter the epidemic of ruinous addiction and fatal overdoses. The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4492, a bill that provides new DOSAGE LIMITATIONS ON PRESCRIPTIONS FOR SCHEDULE II CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES, including opioid painkillers. The legislation revises the thirty-one day supply limitation imposed upon prescriptions for controlled substances classified in Schedule II to provide that this supply must not exceed one hundred twenty tablets or capsules or four hundred eighty milliliters of an opiate containing liquid.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3819, a bill establishing new REQUIREMENTS THAT MUST BE MET BEFORE PRESCRIBING OPIOID ANALGESICS TO MINORS.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3820, a bill requiring OPIOID ABUSE EDUCATION IN PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS. This bill requires, as a part of the public school Comprehensive Health Education Program, certain instruction in prescription opioid abuse prevention in grades nine through twelve beginning with the 2017‑2018 School Year.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4705, a bill ENHANCING REQUIREMENTS FOR MANDATORY REPORTING OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT. The legislation expands the category of those who are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect by adding firefighters, camp counselors, scout leaders, school or college administrators, coaches, and clerical or nonclerical religious counselors who are licensed counselors or holds themselves out as counselors or regularly counsel others.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3329, a bill providing ENHANCEMENTS TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING PENALTIES that draws upon the work of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children. The legislation includes revised criminal definitions, more stringent penalties that apply when a victim is under the age of eighteen, and provisions for human trafficking specialized service providers and Human Trafficking Acute Crisis Care and Resource Centers.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4434, a bill making provisions for comprehensive DYSLEXIA SCREENING AND INTERVENTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4529, a bill that revises practice acts to provide AUTHORIZATION FOR NURSES AND PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS TO UTILIZE TELEMEDICINE.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4672, a bill REINSTATING VISION SCREENING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWALS. The legislation provides, after October 1, 2019, individuals will once again be required to satisfy vision screening requirements in order to renew a driver’s license by either passing a vision test administered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or providing a certificate of vision examination form executed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
The House and Senate adopted a conference committee report on H.3649 and the bill was enrolled for ratifications. The legislation 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 amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3337, a bill REVISING FILING AND RECORDING FEES CHARGED BY THE REGISTER OF DEEDS AND CLERKS OF COURT to make provisions for charging certain flat fees.
Week of February 27, 2018
The House of Representatives approved S.105 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes revisions to AUTOMATIC STAYS IN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT cases contesting permits, certificates, and other approvals issued by state agencies, boards, and commissions. Under the legislation, any party affected by an Administrative Law Court [ALC] automatic stay could petition for relief from it 90 days after the ALC contested action has been commenced. The hearing on any petition for relief from a stay would have to be held within 30 days after it is requested. These ALC cases must be resolved within twelve (12) months after their commencement unless all parties to the contested case consent to an extension or the court finds substantial cause for an extension. Nothing in this legislation applies to lifting stays on permits or licenses involving hazardous waste operations. Frivolous filings could be sanctioned under the South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3565, a bill addressing ADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT CONTESTED CASES INVOLVING THE CERTIFICATE OF NEED PROGRAM which requires providers of health care services, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to obtain approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control for additions to, or significant expansions of, their facilities and services. To allow for consistency in contested matters before the Administrative Law Court, the legislation applies the same twelve-month time period approved in S.105 for resolving a contested case arising from DHEC’s decision to grant or deny a Certificate of Need application.
The House returned S.955 to the Senate with amendments. The Senate subsequently concurred in the amendments and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The joint resolution extends the screening process for candidates for PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SEATS 2, 4, AND 6 by directing the Public Utilities Review Committee to resume advertising for these positions and accept additional applications through noon on Monday, March 26, 2018. These applications are to be considered by the Public Utilities Review Committee in addition to those previously submitted.
Week of March 6, 2018
The House of Representatives returned S.954 to the Senate with amendments ELIMINATING ALL CHARGES ON THE ELECTRIC BILLS OF SCE&G CUSTOMERS THAT SUPPORT THE FAILED V.C. SUMMER NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT. As approved by the Senate, this joint resolution affords the Public Service Commission additional time to make a decision on whether the Base Load Review Act has been properly used to finance the failed nuclear power project in Fairfield County by providing for a PSC hearing on the matter no earlier than November 1, 2018, and requiring a PSC ruling by December 21, 2018. The House amended the legislation to provide that, while the PSC is conducting its review and rendering its decision under this timeline and during any appeals of decisions that could follow, the nuclear premium charge is to be removed from the power bills of SCE&G customers. The legislation orders new electricity rates for customers of SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas to be reduced by eliminating all of the increases that have been imposed in recent years under the Base Load Review Act to finance the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power project in Fairfield County. These lower experimental rates would no longer include the increases, amounting to around 18% to 19.5%, that have been included on the power bills of SCE&G customers to fund construction of the nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville which have now been abandoned.
Week of March 13, 2018- BUDGET WEEK
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4950, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.4951, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the $8.8 billionFISCAL YEAR 2018-2019 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget includes $8.2 billion in recurring state general fund revenue and $145 million in Capital Reserve Funds.
$32.4 million is devoted to the 1% 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 established in Act 13 of 2017.
$56.4 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state's health and dental insurance plans with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and small increases in deductibles and copayments. Coverage is expanded to include well visits.
For K-12 public education, $32 million is used to maintain the base student cost at $2,425 per pupil.
$60 million is provided for a statewide 2% teacher salary increase.
$5 million is used to increase the statewide minimum starting salary for a teacher from $30 thousand to $32 thousand.
$11 million is devoted to technical assistance for low performing schools.
$13 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included to address S.C. Public Charter School District growth. For Fiscal Year 2018-19, and with funds provided to charter school authorizers, institutions of higher education and the South Carolina Public Charter School District may not sponsor more than a combined total of sixty schools.
The Department of Education and the State Law Enforcement Division are directed to form a Crisis Intervention Team to develop a report on school safety plans with recommendations for the General Assembly to consider which may include such school safety measures as physical building security, bullet proof and access controlled doors, RFID chip in student identification cards, mental health services, and school resource officers.
For Fiscal Year 2018-19, local school districts must observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day as legal holidays and schools and offices of the school districts must be closed on those dates. Districts may not use these dates for scheduling make-up days. Schools and school districts may utilize the funds realized from observing those holidays to provide educational training related to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day observance.
$3 million in recurring funds and $5 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated to purchasing or leasing new school buses.
The Department of Administration is charged with reviewing the state transportation operations at the Department of Education to determine if safety improvements, efficiency, and cost savings are possible. The Department of Education is directed to take part in various state fleet programs and services.
$2 million in Education Improvement Act funds is provided for career and technology education.
A total of $49 million in nonrecurring funds is distributed among the state’s institutions of higher learning to address various capital needs and maintenance issues.
For the upcoming fiscal year, South Carolina public colleges and universities, when reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion, must take into consideration a definition of anti‑Semitism adopted by the U.S. State Department.
Full funding is provided from the Education Lottery for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs.
The Commission on Higher Education is afforded $17.5 million in lottery funds for need-based grants, $8.8 million in lottery funds for tuition grants, $496 thousand in lottery funds along with $1.9 million in unclaimed prize money for National Guard Tuition Repayment, and $6 million in unclaimed prize money for the Higher Education Excellence Enhancement Program.
$51.1 million in lottery funds is allocated for tuition assistance through the Commission on Higher Education and the Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education.
The Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education is afforded $9.4 million in lottery funds for the Ready SC Program that provides customized worker training for new and expanding business and industry at the state’s technical colleges, $9.8 million in lottery funds for high demand skill training equipment to be distributed to all technical colleges, and $11 million in unclaimed prize money for workforce scholarships and grants through Career Pathways.
The Department of Health and Human Services is afforded $26.4 million for Medicaid maintenance of effort to address program cost growth, $3.8 million to enhance access and increase provider reimbursement rates for Autism Spectrum Disorder Services, and $4.4 million for opioid use disorder treatment and services.
$7.7 million is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund for a Medicaid Management Information System.
The budget provides for the continuation of Medicaid accountability and quality improvement programs as: the Healthy Outcomes Initiative for meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients in settings outside the comparatively expensive emergency room; a Primary Care Safety Net utilizing such resources as Federally Qualified Health Centers and free clinics; and efforts to enhance provider capacity in rural and underserved areas.
$1.5 million in recurring funds is provided for the state’s telemedicine network and $5 million in non-recurring funds is provided for enhancing telemedicine infrastructure. This brings the recurring dollars total for the SC Telehealth Network to $11.5 million in combined funding through DHHS and MUSC.
$4 million in recurring funds is provided for a Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures. $2 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for medical contracts.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives $1 million for Best Chance Network/Colon Cancer preventative screenings, $499 thousand for communicable diseases initiatives, $500 thousand for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, $350 thousand for an EMS Performance Improvement Center, and $1 million in nonrecurring funds for water quality initiatives.
From the funds appropriated to the Department of Health and Environmental Control in the fiscal year for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, no less than $500,000 shall be authorized for the Joseph H. Neal Wellness Center and CAN Community Health Inc. to develop a partnership to provide comprehensive medical, psychological and educational services to all patients, regardless of their financial situation, insurance status, or ability to pay.
The Department of Mental Health is afforded $4.5 million for supported community housing expansion, $500 thousand for school-based services, and $2 million for Child and Adolescent Intensive Community and Residential Services.
The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $11.3 million for a frontline workforce pay increase and $500 thousand for the Greenwood Genetic Center for Autism Research.
The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services is afforded $1.25 million for an enhanced response to Opioid Use Disorder and $1.75 million for increased opioid treatment and services.
The Department of Social Services is appropriated $20.3 million for a child and family service review, $2.7 million for the state’s share in a federal child care match, and $25 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for the development of the child support system.
The Department of Social Services is directed to promulgate rules and regulations accommodating faith-based child placing agencies that do discriminate against such agencies for declining to offer services that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.
A $25 thousand increase is provided for children’s services at the Commission for the Blind.
$2.5 million in recurring funds and $2.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state. The Department of Commerce is afforded appropriations of $4 million in nonrecurring funds $6 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for Locate SC to replenish its inventory of suitable sites for business relocations, $1 million in nonrecurring funds for applied research centers, $250 thousand for the SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership, $150 thousand for Appalachian Regional Commission statewide assessment, and $600 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the Military Base Task Force.
The State Treasurer is directed to loan the State Ports Authority up to $50 million in excess debt service funding to assist with cash flow needs related to the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. When the federal government’s share of the project is received, the state is to be reimbursed for the full amount of this loan.
$1.5 million is appropriated to the Department of Agriculture for statewide agribusiness infrastructure and site preparation for relocation prospects. $500 thousand is provided for Agribusiness Development Grants to help support the production of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available as healthy food options in rural and underprivileged urban communities.
The Clemson PSA receives $2 million for water resource research, $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for water research facility renovation, and $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for research and education center infrastructure.
The Department of Natural Resources is allocated $3 million in recurring funds and $500 thousand in nonrecurring funds for statewide public wildlife and fisheries management projects, $1.9 million for salary realignment, $404 thousand for law enforcement officer step increases, $415 thousand for vehicle rotation, and $502 thousand for information technology.
The Conservation Bank Trust is afforded $3.5 million in recurring funds and $1.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund.
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism receives $11 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for beach renourishment, $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for State Park maintenance, $2.5 million for its Sports Marketing Grants Program, and $4.1 million in nonrecurring funds for the Parks and Recreation Development Fund for PARD grants to local communities.
The Sea Grant Consortium receives $50 thousand for a coastal economist.
The Forestry Commission is afforded $1.5 million for forester recruitment and retention, $945 thousand for forest inventory and analysis, and $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for safer firefighting equipment.
The Arts Commission is appropriated $350 thousand for community arts development.
A Lottery Reserve Trust Fund is established in case the state should need to pay claims from December 2017 when the South Carolina Education Lottery issued more winning tickets than intended. The trust fund is afforded $41 million in lottery funds along with all net lottery proceeds, investment earnings, and unclaimed prize money for the year.
A proviso is included to allow Education Lottery tickets to be purchased not only with cash, but also with debit cards. Credit cards and other forms of payment remain prohibited.
$22 million is used to provide full funding for the constitutional reserve accounts that the state uses to cope with revenue shortfalls.
The Local Government Fund is maintained at a funding level of $222 million.
The Judicial Department is afforded $7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for case management modernization, $900 thousand from the Capital Reserve Fund for building maintenance, and $1.1 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for Supreme Court security.
The State Law Enforcement Division is provided $956 thousand for law enforcement officer rank change, $1 million in recurring funds for vehicle rotation to fully implement a five-year rotation cycle, $1 million in recurring funds and $1.6 million in nonrecurring funds for technology equipment and software.
The Illegal Immigration Unit is transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the State Law Enforcement Division.
The Criminal Justice Academy is afforded $992 thousand to expand training from 12 to 15 weeks.
The Department of Public Safety is appropriated $1 million in recurring funds for Highway Patrol officer overtime and $400 thousand in recurring funds for local law enforcement grants.
The Department of Corrections receives $3.7 million for its correctional officer hiring rate adjustment and retention plan to reduce turnover rate at the agency by increasing the starting salary for a correctional officer by $750 and allowing a pay increase for existing officers. $1.7 million is provided for the first half of the department’s Workforce and Reentry Services initiative for equipping inmates with skills that will help them to reenter society.
The Department of Corrections is directed head a review of the therapeutic use of cannabidioil oil for eligible incarcerated individuals and submit recommendations to legislators on the feasibility of conducting a pilot program and whether this CBD oil might be a more effective and less expensive alternative to the psychotropic drugs currently used to treat various mental illnesses and conditions.
The Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services is provided $1.1 million in recurring funds for its agent vehicle support plan and $863 thousand for an expansion of its Offender Supervision Specialist Program to 8 additional counties bringing the total to 28 counties.
The Department of Juvenile Justice receives $3.6 million for the treatment of the severely mentally ill and $170 thousand in nonrecurring funds for child advocacy centers.
The Department of Administration is afforded $3 million for its statewide Information Technology Shared Services Program Management Office, $1 million for the Guardian Ad Litem Program, and $4.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for state-owned building maintenance.
The scope of the current Healthcare Employee Recruitment and Retention Program is expanded so that agencies can use the program’s incentives to attract employees in other fields that are critically needed for the public’s safety and welfare.
The State Election Commission receives $250 thousand for election security infrastructure and $4 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for the refurbishment of the current statewide voting system. In anticipation of purchasing a replacement for the current system, $4 million is placed in a New Statewide Voting System Reserve Fund.
The State Ethics Commission receives $133 thousand for program assistants and $123 thousand for an investigator position.
The Human Affairs Commission receives $20 thousand for administrative hearings and $80 thousand for compliance programs.
Clarification is provided for how the Department of Transportation may hold emergency meetings to address such circumstances as hurricanes, floods, ice storms, and other natural disasters.
The Adjutant General receives appropriations of $451 thousand for emergency preparedness operations, $120 thousand for South Carolina State Guard personnel expenses, $115 thousand for state operations expenses, and $1 million in recurring funds along with $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to be used with federal matching dollars for armory revitalizations.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is afforded $5.6 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for REAL ID implementation costs, $379 thousand in recurring funds for operators to run the federally-mandated State to State Help Desk required to maintain compliance with the REAL ID Program, and $428 thousand in recurring funds for implementing the recently enacted Moped legislation.
$275 thousand is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund to the Division of Aeronautics for facilities maintenance.
The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging receives $20 thousand for state matching dollars.
The Department of Archives and History receives $200 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the conservation of South Carolina’s seven constitutions, $250 in nonrecurring funds for the Charleston Library Society Beaux Arts Building, and $200 thousand from the Capital Reserve Fund for architectural heritage preservation.
The State Library is afforded $167 thousand to expand the DISCUS virtual library system and $431 thousand for bookmobile services.
The State Fiscal Accountability Authority is directed to develop guidelines regarding covered contracts exceeding $50,000 that state agencies enter into which incentivizes contractors to pay their employees promptly.
If you would like any additional information on these bills, or any other legislation under consideration by the General Assembly, feel free to visit the website at http://www.scstatehouse.gov