House Week Review Feb. 13-15, 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.

I voted in the affirmative for each of the following:

The House approved second reading (108-1) of H.4377, a bill providing reforms for the Public Service Commission (PSC), 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 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 SC 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. These revisions include adding the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Secretary of Commerce, or their designees, and eliminating one of the Governor’s at-large appointments. The members from the Department of Natural Resources, the Forestry Commission, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce are afforded voting privileges, but may not serve as chairman.

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. 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 legislation includes authority for a licensed wholesaler to deliver new alcoholic liquor in certain size bottles directly to those licensed to sell alcoholic liquors for on premises consumption, in such places as bars and restaurants, for a limited period following the product’s introduction.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4643 (which I co-sponsored), 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 approved and sent the Senate H.4858, a bill designating the twenty first day of October of each year as “Dr. Ronald McNair Day” so that the anniversary of McNair’s birth in Lake City, South Carolina, may be used to pay tribute to his distinguished career as a NASA astronaut and to memorialize his tragic death as a member of the space shuttle Challenger.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4077, a bill codifying income tax credits for the education of children with exceptional needs (disabilities). These provisions have been included as a budget proviso in general appropriation acts for the last five years.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4675, a bill updating and enhancing Captive Insurance provisions. The legislation enacts changes recommended by the Department of Insurance as a means of making South Carolina more competitive in the captive insurance marketplace.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4657, a bill updating administrative penalties for insurers which enacts recommendations of the Department of Insurance.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4828, legislation providing for SC 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.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4807, legislation providing an extension for Wild Turkey Hunting Season and bag limit revisions while the Department of Natural Resources conducts its required study of the state’s wild turkey population.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4478, a bill providing the Director of the Criminal Justice Academy explicit authority to determine the locations where law enforcement officer training is provided. The House Legislative Oversight Committee has recommended the legislation to affirm that the director is authorized to set up training that is offered, not only at the academy, but also in locations throughout the state.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4411, a bill that codifies a budget proviso that has been included in recent appropriation acts by eliminating the Coastal Zone Management Appellate Panel as obsolete. The House Legislative Oversight Committee has recommended the repeal of the appellate panel provisions since contested cases and appeals are now handled under a uniform procedure at the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

These bills now head to the Senate for their consideration.

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 or in Columbia at (803) 212-6934 or by email at craiggagnon@schouse.gov.

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House Week Feb. 6-9

 

In the State House this week, we had some very broad-ranging bills and interesting events take place.

The bipartisan House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee met again this week to further discuss the future of electric cooperative ratepayers who rely on Santee Cooper for their electricity. The Committee’s main concern, and my main concern, continues to be the protection of all ratepayers. The fact-finding meeting lasted several hours as representatives from the electric cooperative industry discussed their current status and future trajectory.

As with SCE&G ratepayers (including those in Calhoun Falls), Santee Cooper also passed on VC Summer costs to electric cooperative ratepayers. While each power bill might vary depending on the service region, electric cooperative ratepayers, as a whole, pay about 5% of their total electricity costs in VC Summer fees (this does NOT include Little River Cooperative customers) . The Santee Cooper bill is still pending in our ratepayer protection package and I will provide you further updates on protecting ratepayers as information becomes available.

As for the bills considered, the following action occurred:

The House concurred (as did I) in Senate amendments to H.3653. This bill imposes limitations on nuisance suits related to manufacturing and industrial uses of real property, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. 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.

The House amended, approved (which I voted against), and sent the Senate H.3529, a bill establishing the General Assembly’s exclusive authority over the regulation of auxiliary containers, such as plastic grocery bags, disposable cups, and takeout food boxes. This legislation provides that any regulation regarding the use, disposition, sale, or any imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers must be done only by the General Assembly. I voted against this bill as I feel it is an over-reach of state power, removing local authority to decide what’s best for their community.

The House approved (and I voted for) S.297, a bill relating to performing security office duties pending the issuance of a registration certificate, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions relating to private security officer registration certificates issued by the State Law Enforcement Division, to provide that, pending issuance of a registration certificate, a security officer may perform professional duties for up to thirty days, rather than twenty days, after receipt by SLED of his application for registration.

The House amended and returned to the Senate S.185 (which I also voted to do), a bill providing funeral service consumer protections that address solicitations from remote, out-of-state companies. The legislation establishes provisions that target the practice of allowing or permitting an Internet service provider, unlicensed person, establishment, or entity to engage in the practice of funeral service, embalming, cremation, or conducting business as a funeral home, funeral establishment, crematory, or mortuary. Under the legislation, an advertisement must include the physical address of the funeral home, funeral establishment, mortuary, or crematory where the advertised services will be provided. The State Board of Funeral Service is charged with promulgating regulations establishing additional requirements for advertisements relating to providing funeral services, including Internet advertisements.

The House amended, approved (as did I), and sent the Senate H.4655, the “South Carolina Insurance Data Security Act”. This legislation establishes standards for data security and standards for the investigation of and notification to the Director of the Department of Insurance of a cybersecurity event that impacts insurance licensees.

The House approved (and I voted for) and sent the Senate H.4654, a bill revising fingerprinting requirements for insurance producer licensure including provisions that allow these criminal background screening requirements to be satisfied without submitting a new set of fingerprints when a set of fingerprints is already on file, such as when a license is being renewed.

The House approved (as did I) and sent the Senate H.4656, a bill updating financial solvency requirements for reinsurers to bring South Carolina into compliance with the most recent standards of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners so that the state can retain NAIC accreditation and continue to enjoy legal reciprocity with other states.

The House amended, approved (as did I), and sent the Senate H.4612, legislation authorizing Surety Bonds for general and mechanical licensure applicants. Rather than providing financial statements showing a minimum net worth, this legislation affords applicants for general and mechanical licensure the option of satisfying financial requirements by providing a surety bond in an amount of two times the required net worth for the applicant’s license group. The surety bond option is offered as a means of accommodating those who operate under an employee option stock program arrangement which makes it difficult to satisfy minimum asset requirements.

The House approved (as did I) and sent the Senate H.4827, a joint resolution providing an extension for the Seizure Safety in Schools Committee so that the deadline for the committee to submit its report is January 31, 2019.

The House approved (and I voted for) and sent the Senate H.4868, a bill that establishes a staggered timeline for performing required audits of the SC Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA).

Also, Tuesday was Municipal Day at the State House. Members of city and town governments from around the state came to the capital for seminars and discussions on how to govern more effectively and meet with their legislators about local affairs. I met with members from the City of Abbeville and Town of Due West and discussed their needs from state government. I was chosen to speak on a panel about “Giving more local control of state funding”.

As always, it is an honor and privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 or in Columbia at (803) 212-6934 or by email at craiggagnon@schouse.gov.

 

 

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State House Review Jan 23-25, 2018

After an abbreviated session at the State House the week before last due to the inclement weather, Governor McMaster delivered his first State of the State address to the General Assembly and the House spent significant time on the floor debating two bills to reform the regulatory bodies that oversee utilities and set utility rates in South Carolina.

On Tuesday, the House passed (and I voted for) its first bill (H.4379) included in a series of legislation designed to increase protection for ratepayers who have been affected by the VC Summer nuclear debacle. This legislation creates a Utilities Consumer Advocate, grants subpoena power to the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and the Consumer Advocate, and removes a utility’s financial integrity from ORS’s concerns. By removing a utility’s financial integrity from its purview, ORS will be required to focus solely on the consumer’s interests. The House passed this bill 114-1.

The following day, the House passed a second proposal which I also voted for (H.4378) to abolish the Public Utilities Review Committee (PURC) and create a Utilities Oversight Committee e. This new committee will be comprised of House and Senate members, legislative appointments and four gubernatorial appointments from the general public. It also imposes strict ethical requirements to prohibit outside influence from utilities regulated by the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and the Public Service Commission (PSC).

After passing these two reform bills, my colleagues and I heard from Governor McMaster as he delivered his State of the State address. The address highlighted numerous matters of policy, many of which the House has already championed in our work this session. Among them are: protecting ratepayers and regulatory reform, workforce development, ethics reform and education reform to name a few. The Governor proclaimed our state to be in good order, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on legislative matters this session.

This week, the House also said farewell to our dear colleague, former representative Eric Bedingfield, and welcomed his replacement, Representative Ashley Trantham (R-Pelzer). Bedingfield leaves the House after a decade of distinguished service and was presented with the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in our state. I’m pleased to report we also added Representative Nancy Mace (R-Daniel Island) to our ranks, putting the total number of Republicans in the House at 79.

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 or in Columbia at (803) 212-6934 or by email at craiggagnon@schouse.gov.

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Update

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

May 12, 2017
This week the General Assembly concluded work on the regular legislative session, but lawmakers are scheduled to return later in the month under the terms of S.692, a resolution extending the session of the General Assembly beyond this year’s May 11 deadline for final adjournment. The resolution allows the House of Representatives and Senate to convene, beginning on Tuesday, May 23, to take up a limited list of matters including budget legislation, the Governor’s vetoes, and the reports of conference committees that have been formed to address the differences between the House and Senate on particular pieces of legislation.

I voted in the affirmative to the following:

Approved H.3516, comprehensive Infrastructure funding and Governance legislation, and subsequently voted to override the Governor’s veto to allow the bill to become law. The legislation includes reform measures for the operation of the Department of Transportation and provides, along with $105 million in ongoing yearly tax relief, new, recurring revenue sources to allow an additional $625 million each year for addressing South Carolina’s deteriorating roads and supporting the infrastructure system needed for public safety, quality of life, and economic development.

Infrastructure Funding

In order to increase infrastructure funding by an estimated $177 million in the first year and an estimated $625 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 12 cents a gallon that is phased in gradually with an increase of 2 cents each year over the course of six years. The increase is expected to generate $69 million in the first year and ultimately allow for an additional $480 million each year for the state’s roads.

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 $53 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.

Provisions are included for a DOT Rural Road Safety Program that allocates $50 million to high risk rural roads for transportation infrastructure assets such as pavements and bridges.

A $16 dollar increase is provided for the state’s biennial motor vehicle registration fees to generate an estimated $25 million a year.

New fees are established for vehicles that make little or no use of the gasoline and other motor fuels that have been the traditional revenue source for infrastructures needs. Biennial fees of $60 for hybrid vehicles and $120 for electric vehicles are established to generate an estimated $1.35 million a year. I disagreed with these fees, but they were part of the entire bill and if removed, would have effectively killed it.

The state’s motor vehicle sales tax is eliminated and an infrastructure maintenance fee is established instead. In making these changes, Education Improvement Act funding is held harmless so that the EIA continues to receive the level of funding it has been allotted in the collection of sales taxes on motor vehicles. For a vehicle purchased in South Carolina, the one-time infrastructure maintenance fee is set at 5% with a cap of $500 and is collected by dealers at the point of sale. The fee is expected to generate $74 million each year. For a vehicle purchased in another state and registered in South Carolina, the one-time fee is set at 5% with a $250 cap. Collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles upon initial registration, the fee is expected to produce $20 million a year in previously uncaptured revenue. Active duty military, spouses, and dependents are exempt from this fee for transferring vehicles into the state.

In order to collect revenue from out-of-state truckers, a motor carrier road use fee is imposed on large commercial vehicles instead of property taxes. Expected to generate $9 million a year in new revenue, the fee is based on fair market value, the average statewide millage rate, an assessment ratio of 9.5%, and the portion of miles driven in South Carolina compared to total miles driven.

The legislation makes provisions for certain revenue generated by the legislation to be deposited in a newly-created Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to be used by the Department of Transportation only for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the existing transportation system.

Governance

The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation and adds an additional at-large position, with all nine DOT commissioners appointed by the Governor, subject to a legislative approval process. All nine DOT commissioners serve at the Governor’s pleasure and may be removed without legislative approval. Each of the seven DOT commissioners who represent an area corresponding to one of the state’s Congressional Districts is appointed by the Governor and approved by the district’s legislative delegation in the General Assembly. The two at-large positions are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the General Assembly.

Provisions are included to remove the Commission from decisions involving the day-to-day operations of the Department of Transportation. The legislation provides requirements for the DOT Commission to hold at least six meetings each year and publish reports and audits online. To prevent conflicts of interest, Commissioners are prohibited from participating in such matters as awarding contracts and selecting consultants. Commissioners are prohibited from having any direct or indirect interest in a contract during, and up to one year after, their terms of service.

Tax Relief

As the state’s fees on gasoline and other motor fuels are gradually increased, a Motor Fuel User Fee Rebate program is established that allows a refundable income tax credit that covers the amount of the increased motor fuel user fee or the amount spent on preventative maintenance, whichever is less. Phased in over several years, the rebate program is capped at $114 million in the sixth year and is scheduled to expire in 2023, unless it is reauthorized.

A non-refundable tax credit is provided for lower income workers. Phased in over the course of six years, the credit is expected to provide $43 million a year in tax relief when fully implemented.

The state’s dual wage earner cap is gradually increased over the course of six years from $30 thousand to $50 thousand. When fully implemented, the increase is expected to provide $19 million in tax relief each year.

The refundable tuition tax credit is increased from 25% to 50%, capped at $1,500, for both four-year and two-year higher education institutions. The increase is ultimately expected to provide $7 million in tax relief each year.

The legislation provides for a manufacturing property tax adjustment from 10.5% to 9% over a six-year period. Ultimately expected to provide $35.8 million in tax relief each year, the state is responsible for reimbursing up to $85 million in lost local revenue.
The House and Senate adopted the conference committee report on H.3247, a bill making comprehensive statutory revisions regarding MOPEDS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. I voted for the final version which allowed mopeds to be driven on roads that are posted at 55 mph or less. It establishes new requirements for registering and licensing mopeds with the Department of Motor Vehicles. New safety measures are established including a requirement for headlights and other lights to be turned on at all times while the moped is in operation. 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. A misdemeanor criminal penalty is established for violating safety provisions subject to a fine of up to two hundred dollars or imprisonment for up to thirty days. 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.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3352 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides ENHANCEMENTS TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) provisions which guarantee citizens’ access to government proceedings and public documents. The legislation adjusts time frames for responding to FOIA requests to require more prompt compliance from public bodies, but additional time is allowed for compiling older documents. The fees that government bodies may charge for complying with FOIA requests are revised to better ensure that they do not become prohibitive. Under the revisions, fees may not exceed the actual cost of the search, retrieval, and redaction of records and fee calculations must utilize the hourly salary of the lowest paid employee qualified to perform the request. Public bodies must develop fee schedules to be posted online. Copying fees may not exceed prevailing commercial rates and public bodies may require a deposit, not to exceed twenty five percent of the total cost for reproduction of the records, before beginning work on the request. The legislation accommodates the electronic transmission of requested records. FOIA provisions are revised to exclude requests from inmates in correctional facilities. Enforcement provisions for the Freedom of Information Act are revised in an effort to make them more effective. The rarely-utilized misdemeanor criminal penalty for FOIA violations is eliminated and unfulfilled FOIA requests may instead be pursued through civil actions. The legislation makes provisions for expedited hearings in the circuit court for FOIA lawsuits brought to compel a government body to provide access to public documents. The legislation also makes provisions that allow a public body to file a request for a hearing with the circuit court to seek relief from unduly burdensome, overly broad, vague, repetitive, or otherwise improper requests, or where it has received a request but it is unable to make a good faith determination as to whether the information is exempt from disclosure.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3041, a bill ENHANCING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS FOR REAL ESTATE LICENSURE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. 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. In addition to the enhanced criminal record screening, the legislation expands grounds for denying licensure or taking disciplinary action to include a failure to disclose civil judgments brought on grounds of fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit. The legislation’s criminal record screening cycle is also applied to the renewal of property manager licenses.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3824, a bill establishing REQUIREMENTS FOR HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONERS TO REVIEW A PATIENT’S CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE PRESCRIPTION HISTORY, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation establishes a protocol for conducting a review of a patient’s controlled substance prescription history, as maintained in the prescription monitoring program, before a practitioner issues a prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3817 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation 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 potentially dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands.

Approved S.61, legislation authorizing LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION IN THE STATE HEALTH PLAN, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises eligibility provisions to allow employees and retirees, and their dependents, of any political subdivision of the state to participate in the State Health Plan.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3488 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation 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.

Concurred in Senate amendments to S.9, a bill ELIMINATING THE MEDICAL EXPENSE INSURANCE POLICY EXCLUSION FOR INTOXICATION so that insurers are not given this opportunity to deny hospital, medical, and surgical expense coverage inaccident and sickness insurance policies because the insured is intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legislation was enrolled for ratification.

Concurred in Senate amendments to S.463 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for surplus lines insurance to include SURPLUS DISABILITY INSURANCE that allows for the option of purchasing disability insurance that exceeds benefit limits available under standard policies. The legislation also revises provisions for criminal background checks required under the licensure of insurers.

Concurred in Senate amendments to S.173, a bill providing for CONTINUING EDUCATION ON MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises continuing education requirements for law enforcement officers to incorporate mandatory training in mental health issues that covers such topics as responding to situations where individuals are experiencing a mental health or addictive disorder crisis. The legislation also makes provisions for training and counseling regarding law enforcement officers who are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder.

Returned S.462, regarding HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS, to the Senate with amendments. The Senate subsequently concurred in those amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes diploma provisions for students with personalized pathways that allow them to earn endorsements based upon their course of study, which may be represented by seals added to the student’s uniform diploma. The legislation makes provisions for developing criteria for a uniform state recognized employability credential that is aligned to the program of study for students with a disability.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3215, a bill creating the criminal offense of IMPERSONATING A LAWYER, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for graduated penalties for violations, ranging from misdemeanors for initial violations to felonies for certain subsequent violations.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3647 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for vacation time sharing plans to establish new requirements that govern RESALE VACATION TIMESHARE SERVICES in order to put in place certain consumer protections that apply when interests in vacation time share arrangements are resold. The legislation also provides that vacation time sharing interests are subject to the protections afforded deployed military personnel under the Service Members Civil Relief Act.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3137. The legislation temporarily sets a limitation of three retail dealer liquor licenses held by one licensee and provides for this limitation to expire on April 5, 2018. The legislation revises provisions governing authorized tastings conducted by micro-distilleries.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3289, a bill relating to VEHICLE SPACING, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions specifying the distance that must be maintained between commercial 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.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.4003 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation enacts the “SOUTH CAROLINA PRODUCE SAFETY ACT”, to afford the South Carolina Department of Agriculture authority to oversee a new federal safety standards program applicable to certain farm produce. The program ensures that large farmers are handling and packaging produce in accordance with these national food safety standards. This legislation affects farms with an average annual monetary value of produce sold during the previous three year period of more than twenty five thousand dollars on a continuing basis. The program is federally funded and would discontinue if federal funds were to terminate.

Approved and enrolled for ratification S.271, a bill revising the process for FURLOUGHS THAT ALLOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY INMATES TO VISIT CERTAIN TERMINALLY ILL FAMILY MEMBERS OR ATTEND THEIR FUNERAL SERVICES. Under the revisions, the Department of Corrections is responsible for determining whether an inmate is eligible for such furloughs by not posing a security risk to the public or institution. The costs for such furloughs, rather than being borne by the state, must be paid in advance by the inmate, the inmate’s family, or some other third party.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3429, a bill providing for ADDITIONAL EXEMPTIONS IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation allows a surviving spouse, who has not remarried and who is at least sixty-five years old, 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 three thousand dollars in value in any rifle, shotgun, pistol, or any combination of up three of these firearms owned by the debtor.

The House and Senate adopted the conference committee report on S.234, a bill REVISING CONFIDENTIALITY PROVISIONS FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that the identities of patients and emergency medical technicians and information and data collected or prepared by emergency medical services are subject to subpoena in any administrative, civil, or criminal proceeding and may be released by court order.

Approved S.116 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes a REQUIREMENT FOR THOSE PERMITTED OR LICENSED TO SELL BEER, WINE, OR ALCOHOLIC LIQUORS FOR ON PREMISES CONSUMPTION TO MAINTAIN LIABILITY INSURANCE with coverage of at least one million dollars during the period of the permit or license.

Approved S.114 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for a SPECIAL NONPROFIT ALCOHOL LICENSE that may be obtained to hold a charitable event in which a nonprofit organization solicits and accepts donations of alcohol to be sold for on-premises consumption.

Approved and enrolled for ratification S.275, a bill revising BREWERY AND BREWPUB provisions.

Concurred in Senate amendments to S.443 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for a NIGHT HUNTING PROGRAM FOR COYOTES, ARMADILLOS, AND FERAL HOGS on property registered with the Department of Natural Resources in order to reduce the populations of these nuisance animals.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3601 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises BEAR HUNTING IN GAME ZONE 4, replacing the current lottery system for issuing bear tags.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3256 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue PALMETTO CROSS SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES to recipients of the Palmetto Cross Medal, which is a National Guard award presented by the Adjutant General in the name of the Governor to South Carolina citizens, military or civilian, who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by extraordinary heroism at the risk of their own lives under justifiable circumstances, or who have performed exceptionally outstanding service so as to make a lasting contribution to the state or nation. The legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue“LEGION OF MERIT” SPECIAL LICENSE PLATESto recipients of the award. The legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “POWERING THE PALMETTO STATE” SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES honoring South Carolina’s electrical linemen. The legislation also provides authority for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue VIRGINIA TECH SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES.

Concurred in Senate amendments to Senate H.3927 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that BONDS ISSUED BY THE JOBS-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (JEDA) to provide funds for its programs must be approved by the Coordinating Council for Economic Development rather than the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. The bill also eliminates provisions requiring approval of interest rates on bonds JEDA issues for its programs and on behalf of local government projects. JEDA is required to publish on its website a complete list of bonds it has authorized and submit annual reports to the Joint Bond Review Committee.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3861 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes 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.

Approved S.279 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation enacts the “APPRAISAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY REGISTRATION ACT” to update and revise state laws governing appraisers so that they are in keeping with federal standards, including requirements for maintaining greater separation between those who determine appraised values of homes and the banks that extend loans based upon those appraised values.

Approved S.366 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for MORTGAGE LENDING ACT REVISIONS to bring state law into conformity with federal standards.

Approved S.488 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions to assist motor vehicle dealers in addressing safety recalls by making them eligible to receive ADDITIONAL DEALER PLATES for use on loaner vehicles that are provided to customers while vehicles are undergoing repairs.

Approved S.321 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation removes motor homes from automobile franchise provisions and instead provides for the separate regulation of manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of RECREATIONAL VEHICLES.

Approved S.444, regarding AUTOCYCLES, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises motor vehicle provisions to systematically replace references to an “automotive three-wheel vehicle” and similar terminology with the term “autocycle” in order to conform state law to standard manufacturers’ definitions widely adopted by states. The legislation’s revisions do not impact the licensing, titling, and registration requirements of autocycles or motorcycle three-wheel vehicles.

Approved S.325 and enrolled the bill for ratification. This legislation implements the Department of Administration’s recommendation the administration of its Client Assistance Program be devolved upon the PROTECTION AND ADVOCACY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, INC., formerly known as the South Carolina Protection and Advocacy System for the Handicapped.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3406, a bill making TAX PROVISION REVISIONS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation allows for an extension of a workers’ compensation maintenance tax and codifies provisions regarding any amount that an accredited college or university requires a season ticket holder to pay to a nonprofit athletic booster organization that is exempt from federal income taxation in order to receive the right to purchase athletic event tickets.

Approved and enrolled for ratification S.334, a bill revising provisions allowing the issuance of biennial permits and licenses for the SALE AND CONSUMPTION OF BEER, WINE, AND LIQUOR AT SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEXESto include a baseball complex that hosts a professional minor league baseball team.

A conference committee was appointed to address the differences between the House and Senate on S.107, legislation implementing the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor beginning with the general election of 2018.

A conference committee was appointed to address the differences between the House and Senate on H.3698, a bill revising striped bass fishing.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3929, a bill revising permitting provisions for poultry farm facilities. The legislation makes provisions for a more expedited approval process for a poultry facility or another agricultural animal facility, except a swine facility, and expansions to such existing facilities. The legislation makes revisions regarding setbacks, buffers and other specific requirements for the review and appeal of decisions by the Department of Environmental Control regarding the permitting of certain agricultural animal facilities, other than swine facilities. The legislation changes the distance from two miles to one mile in which an affected person must live in order to appeal the facility’s operating permit. The legislation further provides that challenges from an affected person must be individual and not collective.

Approved and sent the Senate H.3138, which makes provisions for special festival alcohol permits.

I voted NO on the following:

H.3864, a bill revising MOTOR VEHICLE CHILD PASSENGER SAFETY SEAT REQUIREMENTS. The legislation updates age, weight, size, and position requirements for lawfully securing infants and children in approved motor vehicle child safety seats. Child passenger safety restraint system requirements provide for a progression from rear-facing seats for infants, to forward-facing seats, to belt positioning booster seats, and ultimately, when a child is at least eight years old or at least fifty seven inches tall, to a properly fitting adult safety seat belt

Although a very important issue, I felt that there was more information that needed to be considered before I could support it.

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HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

Here’s the long version of the action taken by the State House this week. I voted “aye” to each one.

May 20, 2016
The House of Representatives and the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto on H.4717 to allow the bill to become law. The legislation responds to the unprecedented damage of the October 2015 floods by creating the “SOUTH CAROLINA FARM AID FUND” to assist farmers in order to prevent the economic collapse of many of the state’s farms which could cause a severe disruption in the state’s economy and food supply chain. Established with a $40 million appropriation from the 20142015 Contingency Reserve Fund, the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund is created for making financial awards to farmers who have experienced a verifiable loss of agricultural commodities of at least forty percent as a result of the catastrophic flooding of October 2015. Grant awards must be used for agricultural production expenses and losses due to the flood which demonstrate an intent to continue the agricultural operation, such as purchases of seed and fertilizer. Awards may not be used to purchase new equipment. Grant awards that are falsely obtained or misspent must be refunded. Criminal penalties are provided to address fraud. The legislation makes provisions for each grant to equal up to twenty percent of an individual’s verifiable loss of agricultural commodities, and establishes limitations so that grants may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars and may not, when combined with losses covered by insurance, exceed one hundred percent of the actual loss. The grant program is to be administered by the Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Department of Revenue and a Farm Aid Advisory Board composed of: the Commissioner of Agriculture, or his designee, who serves as chairman; the Director of the Department of Revenue, or his designee; the Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture of Clemson Public Service Activities, or his designee, the Vice President for Land Grant Services of South Carolina State Public Service Activities, or his designee; one member representing South Carolina Farm Bureau appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; one member representing a farm credit association appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; one member representing the crop insurance industry appointed by the Director of the Department of Revenue; and, one member who is an agricultural commodities producer appointed by the Director of the Department of Revenue. Sunset provisions are included so that the Farm Aid Fund and the Advisory Board are dissolved no later than June 30, 2017.

 The Senate and the House voted to override the Governor’s veto on S.1016, the “EYE CARE CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW” to allow the bill to become law. The legislation provides that a person in this state may not dispense spectacles or contact lenses to a patient without a valid prescription from an individual licensed by the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Optometry or the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. To be valid, a prescription must meet the legislation’s requirements for including an expiration date on spectacles or contact lenses of no more than one year from the date of examination and must take into consideration medical findings from the eye examination. A prescription for spectacles or contact lenses may not be based solely on the refractive eye error of the human eye or be generated by an automated kiosk. Violations are subject to penalties established for misconduct by optometrists and physicians.

 The House adopted the free conference report on H.3114, the ”SOUTH CAROLINA PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT”, and, the Senate having already adopted the free conference report, the bill was enrolled for ratification. The legislation establishes a prohibition on the performance of abortions beginning at twenty weeks following fertilization. Exceptions are provided to permit these late term abortions in order to prevent the death or serious physical impairment of the mother as well as in instances where a fetal anomaly is present that is likely to prevent a child’s life from being sustained after birth. The bill includes legislative findings regarding substantial medical evidence indicating that an unborn child has developed sufficiently to be capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization and the state’s interest in protecting the lives of unborn children beginning at the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain. This legislation provides that, except in the case of a medical emergency or fetal anomaly, no abortion must be performed, induced, or attempted unless a physician has first made a determination of the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child or relied upon such a determination made by another physician. The legislation prohibits abortions from being performed, induced, or attempted when the determination has been made that the probable post-fertilization age is twenty or more weeks except for when there is a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal fetal anomaly or when the mother has a condition that so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions. When an abortion must be performed where the probable age of the fetus is twenty or more weeks, the legislation requires the physician to proceed in a manner which provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless terminating the pregnancy in this manner would pose a greater risk of either death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions, of the woman than would other available methods.  

Any physician who intentionally or knowingly fails to conform to these requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a fine of not less than two thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than three years. No part of the minimum fine may be suspended. For conviction of a third or subsequent offense, the sentence must be imprisonment for not less than sixty days nor more than three years, no part of which may be suspended. Reporting requirements are established for medical facilities that perform abortions at twenty or more weeks under the legislation’s medical emergency and fetal anomaly exceptions that require the facilities to report certain information about these abortions, such as the post-fertilization age, method of abortion, and the age of the patient, to the state registrar, Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC is charged with producing an annual public report on the statistics compiled. These required reports are subject to confidentiality provisions and restrictions on the use of information identifying individual patients. Late fees and other penalties are included for facilities that fail to submit reports within required timeframes. The intentional or reckless falsification of a required report is a misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.   

The House amended Senate amendments to H.3184, a bill establishing enhancements to ethics laws by providing for MORE INDEPENDENT MEANS OF INVESTIGATING ALLEGED MISCONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS in the legislative and executive branches of government, and returned the bill to the Senate. The legislation discontinues current practices of the legislative and executive branches of state government each exclusively investigating the alleged ethics violations of their own members, and instead provides for allegations of public misconduct to be investigated by a reconstituted State Ethics Commission made up of members selected by both of these branches of government. To that end, the State Ethics Commission is reconstituted from a nine-member body, composed exclusively of gubernatorial appointees, to an eight-member body made up of four selections by the Governor, two selections by the Senate, and two selections by the House of Representatives, with all eight members to be appointed with the advice and consent of the General Assembly. Provisions are included to structure the legislative and gubernatorial selections in a bi-partisan fashion and to exclude from service on the commission certain individuals that could present conflicts of interest such as legislators, recent lobbyists, and family members of legislators and statewide elected officials. A commission member who serves a full term of five years is not eligible for reappointment. Under the legislation, the State Ethics Commission is set up to conduct investigations of alleged ethics violations of those in the executive and legislative branches. The legislation includes provisions that require the agreement of at least six of the eight commission members in order for matters to proceed. If a State Ethics Commission investigation determines that there is probable cause that a legislator has committed an ethics violation, the commission’s report is relayed to the appropriate legislative ethics committee to pursue the matter and decide if it is appropriate to take such actions as imposing penalties, issuing reprimands, or recommending that the legislative body expel a member. Complaints involving alleged ethical misconduct by candidates for the General Assembly and staff of the General Assembly and legislative caucuses are also investigated by the State Ethics Commission and, when appropriate, relayed to legislative ethics committees for further action. When the commission finds evidence of a criminal violation in the course of its investigations, the matter may be relayed to the Attorney General or circuit solicitor. The reconstituted Ethics Commission continues to exercise its responsibilities over those in the executive branch of state government and others who are subject to the state’s Ethics Act provisions. The investigations of the State Ethics Commission are to be conducted in strict confidentiality, but when, the commission makes a finding of probable cause regarding alleged violations, the complaint and certain other documents and materials become public. Penalties are included for intentionally making groundless complaints.    

The House amended Senate amendments to H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget legislation was returned to the Senate with amendments that, for the most part, reinstate the version of the budget approved by the House earlier in the year with certain exceptions, such as an adjustment of Department of Transportation funding that coordinates with S.1258, the road funding legislation that was recently reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and revisions to the terms of loan forgiveness and debt service at South Carolina State University.

 The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4936, a bill designating EDUCATIONAL GOALS FOR ALL SOUTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES and the standards and areas of learning by which these goals are measured. Through this legislation, the General Assembly declares that the principles outlined in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate, published by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and approved by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, the Education Oversight Committee, the State Board of Education and Transform SC schools and districts, are the standards by which our state’s high school graduates should be measured and are this state’s achievement goals for all high school students. The state shall make a reasonable and concerted effort to ensure that graduates have world class knowledge based on rigorous standards in language arts and math for college and career readiness. Students should have the opportunity to learn one of a number of foreign languages, and have offerings in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts, and social sciences that afford them the knowledge needed to be successful. Students also must be offered the ability to obtain world class skills such as: (1) creativity and innovation; (2) critical thinking and problem solving; (3) collaboration and teamwork; (4) communication, information, media, and technology; and (5) knowing how to learn. Students finally also must be offered reasonable exposure, examples, and information on the state’s vision of life and career characteristics such as: (1) integrity; (2) self-direction; (3) global perspective; (4) perseverance; (5) work ethic; and (6) interpersonal skills.

 The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3848, the “SOUTH CAROLINA FOUNDING PRINCIPLES ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation requires the State Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee to incorporate instruction on the founding principles that shaped the United States into the required study of the United States Constitution and the South Carolina Social Studies Standards upon the next cyclical review. This required instruction must at least include the Federalist Papers, the structure of government and the role of the separation of powers and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. A biennial report on implementation must be submitted to the Senate Education Committee and the House Education and Public Works Committee. The State Department of Education must make professional development opportunities on this required instruction available to teachers by physical or electronic means.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4510, a bill establishing LIMITATIONS ON THE NUMBER OF FOSTER CHILDREN WHO MAY BE PLACED IN A FOSTER HOME, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation allows a foster home to provide full-time care for up to eight children, with up to five of them being foster children. The exceptions to this maximum number include keeping a sibling group together, allowing children to remain in their home community, returning a child to a home that was a previous placement for them, complying with a court order, and any placement in the best interest of the child. Unless one of the exceptions applies, no more than two of the five foster children may be classified as therapeutic foster care placements. If one of the exceptions apply, no more than three of the five foster children may be classified as therapeutic foster care placements.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3193, a bill REVISING CAMPAIGN FINANCE REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO PRIMARY ELECTIONS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises the manner in which campaign contributions are attributed to a primary election and to a primary election runoff by providing that, if there is a primary runoff, all contributions made after the day of the primary and continuing through the seventh day after the primary runoff are attributed to the primary runoff for the purposes of applying contribution limits.

 The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3685 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF TRAFFIC TICKETS to bring South Carolina into compliance with federal electronic ticketing provisions.

 The House approved S.693 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the INSURERS’ REHABILITATION AND LIQUIDATION ACT to make provisions that are specific to federal home loan banks and insurer-members of those banks in delinquency proceedings.

The House approved S.978, a bill addressing RISK RETENTION GROUPS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for risk-based capital plans, so as to increase the multiplier for a company action level event for a life and health insurer from 2.5 to 3.0. The legislation revises provisions relating to the chartering of a risk retention group, so as to define terms, to provide that a majority of a risk retention groups’ directors must be independent directors, to establish the maximum term of any material service provider contract, to require the board of directors to adopt a written policy, to require the board of directors to adopt and disclose its governance standards, to require the board to adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics, to require a risk retention group to comply with applicable regulations, to establish procedures for noncompliance, and to set established dates for compliance. The legislation revises provisions relating to out-of-state risk retention groups, so as to allow an out-of-state risk retention group to submit revisions to its plan of operation within thirty days of approval by the State Insurance Commission or within thirty days if no approval is required. The legislation extends certain provisions to a risk retention group licensed as a captive insurance company.

 The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3927, a bill relating to SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides authority for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue special personalized organizational license plates and special organizational souvenir license plates. The legislation provides that there is no fee for the issuance of “Korean War Veterans” special license plates. Provisions are made for “Silver Star” and “Bronze Star” special license plates to be issued for motorcycles. The legislation provides authority for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “Chase Away Childhood Cancer Special License Plates” with proceeds to be distributed to Chase After a Cure.

 The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4932, a bill making revisions to SPECIFICATIONS AND LIMITATIONS FOR VEHICLES AND TRAILERS operated along the state’s highways, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for maximum trailer lengths to provide for a greater maximum length that applies only to trailers or semitrailers used exclusively or primarily to transport vehicles used in connection with motorsports competition events. The legislation makes revisions relating to axle and weight limits for motorhomes and intrastate public agency transit passenger buses. The legislation makes provisions for increased weights associated with idle reduction systems. New provisions are included to allow motor vehicles fueled primarily by natural gas to exceed weight limitations by specified amounts. An exemption from restrictions is included to apply the large dirt-hauling trucks and other vehicles used in connection with the construction, repair, and maintenance of the shipping container terminals of the South Carolina State Ports Authority.

The House returned S.652 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation provides authority for financial institutions that do business in South Carolina to conduct SAVINGS PROMOTION CONTESTS for members and customers which encourage people to save money by adding a feature to personal savings accounts that include a chance to win prizes.

 The House approved and sent the Senate H.3133, a bill that establishes a protocol allowing SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN PLACED IN THE JUVENILE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY TO PETITION THE FAMILY COURT TO REMOVE THE PERSON’S REQUIREMENT TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER once the individual has reached twenty one years of age and has been released from the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, South Carolina Department of Corrections, or South Carolina Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.

 

 

 

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HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

April 22, 2016

The House of Representatives appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3579, legislation that includes DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING AND ROAD FUNDING INITIATIVES.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4763, legislation designated as “ALICIA’S LAW” to acknowledge the advocacy efforts of Alicia Kozakiewicz of Pennsylvania who, in 2002 at the age of thirteen, survived abduction by an Internet predator. The legislation provides for a 6.1% assessment on criminal court fines to be deposited in a newly-created INTERNET CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN FUND that is to be used to investigate, prosecute, and prevent Internet crimes against children, such as cyber enticement and child pornography, including the necessary staffing, training, and equipment.

The House approved S.1090 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation names Chapter 19, Title 24 of the South Carolina Code of Laws the “JUDGE WILLIAM R. BYARS YOUTHFUL OFFENDER ACT” in recognition of the many contributions that Judge Byars has made to the juvenile justice system in such capacities as family court judge, Director of the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Director of the Department of Corrections.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3768 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the “SOUTH CAROLINA ABLE SAVINGS PROGRAM” that allows for theestablishment of savings accounts as a means of empowering individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support the individual with a disability. The legislation establishes the Savings Program Trust Fund and Savings Expense Trust Fund and provides guidelines to the State Treasurer for the maintenance of these accounts. The legislation allows for state implementation that coordinates with the federal Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014.

The House approved S.849 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR INSURANCE PLAN PHARMACY BENEFITS MANAGERS TO COMPILE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE DRUG COST LISTS that show the maximum amount for the cost of a particular generic drug that will be reimbursed to a pharmacist or pharmacy who provides covered health care services or supplies as a participating network planprovider. The legislation includes requirements for pharmacy benefit managers to make these maximum allowable cost lists available to network pharmacy providers and to review and update maximum allowable cost price information. Provisions are included that allow a pharmacy to appeal the provider’s reimbursement for a drug subject to maximum allowable cost pricing.

The House returned S.339, legislation designated as “HOPE’S LAW”, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR MAMMOGRAPHY REPORTS TO BE PROVIDED TO PATIENTS THAT INCLUDE INFORMATION ABOUT BREAST DENSITY. When a mammogram shows that breast tissue is dense, the required report must include notice to the patient explaining that dense tissue is common and not abnormal, but can, however, make it harder to evaluate mammogram results and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5140, a bill that makes revisions relating to a school district’s ANNUAL SCHOOL CALENDAR for teachers, staff, and students. The legislation provides that, beginning with the 2017‑2018school year, the school start date for students must not be before Augustfifteenth, rather than the opening date limit of the third Monday in August that is set in current law, except for schools operating on a year‑round modified school calendar. The legislation revises the deadline for notification of teaching assignments and makes provisions for the types and timing of student assessments. Beginning in the 2017‑2018 school year, the legislation requires, with certain exceptions, that school districts administer the statewide summative assessment for grades three through eight during the last twenty days of schooland that such testing may not exceed seven days each school year.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4774, a bill to provide for a two-yearREAUTHORIZATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA FIRST STEPS TO SCHOOL READINESS so that the program is extended until July 1, 2018.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4391, a bill REVISING THE UNIFORM ANATOMICAL GIFT ACT TO ALLOW FOR THE DONATION OF BRAIN TISSUEto be used only for research or education.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4574, legislation enacting the “ELECTROLOGY PRACTICE ACT” to provide for the licensure and regulation of electrologists and electrology instructors by 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.4492, a bill revising NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES CHILD PLACEMENT HEARINGS that inform foster parents, preadoptive parents, or relatives providing care to abused or neglected children so that, with certain exceptions, notification must be given at least ten days in advance. The legislation includes provisions that allow these parties to file reports with the family court.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4525, a bill extending and revising provisions for DEVOTING A PORTION OF INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX REVENUES TO THE FUNDING OF FIREFIGHTING NEEDSAND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES TRAINING. The legislation extends until June 30, 2030, the requirement for using two and one‑quarter percent of each year’s insurance premium tax revenuesto fund emergency response needs and redistributes the revenue so that one percentis transferred to the South Carolina Forestry Commission to be used for firefighting and firefighting equipment replacement, one percent is transferred to the aid to fire districts account within the State Treasury to be distributed to local fire departments for firefighting equipment replacement, and one quarter of one percent is transferred to the aid to emergency medical services regional councils within the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be used for grants to fund emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4556, a bill providing a PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR PERMANENTLY AND TOTALLY DISABLED EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS. The legislationextends to permanently and totally disabled former emergency medical technicians the homeowner property tax exemption that is currently allowed for military veterans, former law enforcement officers, and former firefighters who are permanently and totally disabled.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4712, a bill making clarifications regarding the CLASSIFICATION OF OFF‑PREMISES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING SIGNS AS PERSONAL PROPERTY FOR TAX PURPOSES. The legislation establishes conditions under which an off‑premises outdoor advertising sign is classified as tangiblepersonal property for tax purposes, and establishes provisions under which the value of a lease or lease income on such billboards may not be used in the assessment of the tax value of the real property on which the advertising sign is erected. The legislation includes provisions for any sign permit required by local, state, or federal law to be considered as intangible personal property for ad valorem property tax purposes.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4398, a bill establishing a FIREARMS EXEMPTION IN BANKRUPTCY CLAIMS. The legislation revises provisions for the real and personal property of a debtor that is exempt from attachment, levy, and sale in a bankruptcy proceeding by adding an exemption that covers any firearms not exceeding a total value of five thousand dollars owned by the debtor. The legislation revises the exemption for a debtor’s aggregate interest, not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value by providing that, except that a surviving spouse may exempt, in addition to their interest, the aggregate interest of a deceased spouse not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4795, 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 returned S.1013, a bill overhauling and updating the licensure and regulation of REAL ESTATE BROKERS, SALESPERSONS, AND PROPERTY MANAGERS, to the Senate with amendments. Notably, the bill includes provisions for the operation of real estate teams supervised by a broker-in-charge and increases continuing education requirements for real estate license renewals from eight hours to ten hours.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5023, a bill making various revisions to the SOUTH CAROLINA REAL ESTATE APPRAISER LICENSE AND CERTIFICATION ACT. Notably, the legislation makes provisions for one of the members of the Real Estate Appraisers Board to be a certified residential appraiser and includes alignment provisions for federal and state chartered banks.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3969, a bill making provisions that allow for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF INSURANCE NOTICES AND DOCUMENTSshould the insured choose to receive notices and documents electronically.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.5040, a bill updating and revising various provisions relating to the application and enforcement of the CONSUMER PROTECTION CODE.

The House amended, adopted, and sent the Senate H.5108, a concurrent resolution establishing a temporary STUDY COMMITTEE TO ASSESS THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FLEETS IN HIRING ENTRY-LEVEL COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSED DRIVERS.

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State House Week 3/15 – 3/18/2016

Not So Fast, My Friend!

The 10th week of this year’s legislative session was again dominated by road talk. The top issue for the last couple of years has been how to effectively pay more for road and bridge improvements while ensuring your tax dollars aren’t wasted.

ROADS: Finally, the Senate Decides

After nearly a year, the Senate returned to us the House legislation designed to reform SCDOT and provide additional funding (beyond the gas tax) to fix roads. Senators couldn’t buck a filibuster so their proposed 12-cent a gallon gas tax hike didn’t get included. Instead, they proposed to dip into the General Fund budget to the tune of $400 million each year. They also voted to make the Department of Transportation (DOT) a cabinet agency reporting to the Governor with the hope that will bring efficiency.

ROADS: Governor Presses for Quick Agreement

Tuesday, the very day the Senate returned the roads bill to the House, Gov. Nikki Haley met with Republican House members and insisted we concur with the Senate’s approach immediately. The Senate took nearly a year to decide on their approach and we were pressed to agree within two days.  

ROADS: Department of Transportation Audit Scheduled for Release

Within the next two weeks the Legislative Audit Council (LAC) will release the findings of its investigation into the SCDOT. LAC has been probing DOT for a year and a half at our direction. It is their most extensive audit of any state agency. It will provide insights into any issues such as evidence of gross mismanagement and/or waste. We must review their findings and include their knowledge in the decision making process for roads. We must not let this opportunity for real reform of DOT to slip by for political expediency. It’s essential we await the findings and seize the opportunity to attempt to permanently fix this agency and create real accountability. That way we have improved chances that additional monies sent to DOT will be maximized to fix roads and not wasted. We’ll be busy in April and May sorting this out.

Budget Week in the House

Next week the House focuses on one issue – approving its version of the state budget for 2016-2017 before sending it to the Senate. The state’s General Fund budget has staggered back from the ‘Great Recession’ and we’re in a lot better shape financially because business is booming in SC.

  • The last General Fund budget before the ‘Great Recession’ totaled $6.7 Billion (FY 2007-2008)
  • The General Fund spending was slashed 23% during the recovery and bottomed out at $5.1 Billion (FY 2010-2011) with many critical state services severely hampered.
  • The current General Fund budget (2015-2016) totals $7 Billion. That’s 4.3% more than the previous high of $6.7 Billion.
  • The budget proposed for next year is $8 Billion. Factor in only inflation (and not population growth) to the pre-recession budget and this year’s proposed budget represents a 5% real increase.

A big thanks to the House Ways and Means Committee and Chairman Brian White (R-Anderson) for their hard work on crafting a responsible and conservative State Budget this year.

Want to know more? Review this summary presentation of the proposed General Fund budget.

 In Other House Business:

The Tucker Hipps Transparency Act (H.4521) (Rep. Putnam, R-Piedmont)  won unanimous House approval. The legislation requires the state’s public universities and colleges maintain online for all to see a report detailing student misconduct investigations related to fraternity and sorority organizations formally affiliated with the institution. The bill was named in memory of the Clemson University student who died during a fraternity activity in 2014.

The House unanimously passed The Anti-Money Laundering Act (H.4554) (Rep. Clemmons, R- Myrtle Beach) rectifying South Carolina’s current status as the only U.S. state with no regulatory authority over money transfers of smaller amounts which has made the state a center for money laundering. Such activities facilitate organized criminal enterprises and terrorist activities.

The House unanimously passed the SC Founding Principles Act (H.3848) (Rep. Huggins, R- Columbia) requiring the study of the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the structure of government and the role of the separation of powers and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

Save a life by moving over! The House approved a bill by Rep. Donna Hicks (R-Boiling Springs) of which I am a co-sponsor, designating April every year as ‘Move Over  Awareness Month’ (H.4562) that emphasizes the importance of drivers moving over into an adjacent lane whenever possible when approaching or passing through a highway work zone, an emergency scene, or any other traffic incident. My nephew was severely injured and is now in a wheelchair when he was working an accident scene in October of 2014. Hopefully, this will reduce the chances of this happening to someone else.

The House again showed its support for training high school students CPR. We amended H.3265 (Rep.  Don Wells, R-Aiken is the sponsor and I am a co-sponsor) and returned it to the Senate. I’m hopeful differences can be worked out so at least one time during high school each student will receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Oftentimes, local entities will provide the materials and training for this so that no cost is incurred by the school districts.

The House unanimously approved and sent to the Senate H.4718, a bill creating a SC Retired Educator Certificate. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Anthony (D-Union) and I am a co-sponsor.  A retired educator certificate does not require completion of professional learning or renewal credit.

The House unanimously approved Rep Todd Rutherford’s (D-Columbia) bill authorizing Home Detention for Certain Non-Violent Drug Offenses (H.3130) so long as individuals are monitored by a GPS tracking device and bear the cost of the monitoring program.

The Emergency Anaphylaxis Treatment Act (H.3706) this bill, sponsored by Rep. Putnam and co-sponsored by me,  won House unanimous approval. It authorizes institutions, organizations, and businesses, such as colleges and universities, daycare facilities, places of worship, restaurants, places of employment, recreation camps, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, and sports arenas, to keep supplies of EpiPens, in stock to administer this potentially life-saving medication to those who are experiencing severe allergic reactions.

Election Time! Wednesday was the first day for filing to run in the June Republican Primary Election in SC. My paperwork was submitted at the Abbeville County Election Commission. I’m honored and humbled to serve the constituents of House District 11 and ask for your continued prayers and support.

I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE 

If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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