State House Report

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

The House spent little time on the floor this week, but did the bulk of their work in committees. The House is anticipating a busy schedule however as we deal with the Santee Cooper issue and the upcoming budget debate. The Ways and Means Committee is tasked each year to assemble the State Budget by reviewing every state agency and their funding requests. The committee begins working on the budget as early as September. The FY 2020-21 budget passed out of Ways and Means and is now on the calendar for floor debate starting March 10.

Among the proposed budget items:
⁃ $128 million will be refunded directly to taxpayers in an income tax credit ($100 per return)
⁃ Funds to bring the total reserve fund to almost $800 million in case of recession or natural disaster
⁃ $77 million for immediate, accelerated, and expanded road repairs on shovel ready projects for farm-to-market roads in every county
⁃ $23 million for repairs and maintenance of state-maintained roads ($500,000 per county)
⁃ $120 million devoted to lowering the income tax rate from 7% to 6.8%
⁃ $213 million for an across-the-board pay raise to our teachers, ranking SC in top 25 for teacher pay
⁃ $165 million to ensure college tuition rates are frozen so that college is more affordable for in-state students
⁃ $138 million to the Department of Corrections to fund safety upgrades
⁃ $40 million to provide pay raises based on merit for state employees
The budget will assuredly look different as it goes to the Senate and the Governor for their approval/amending.
In the few bills that were discussed on the floor. The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3197, the “Student Loan Bill of Rights Act”, which establishes consumer protection measures for those who obtain loans to finance postsecondary education or other school-related expenses. The legislation provides for the licensure and regulation of student loan servicers by the Department of Consumer Affairs. A list of prohibited activities is established for student loan servicers. I voted against this bill as I feel that federal law already covers this issue and it will cost the state at least $166,000 per year to have a full time “student loan ombudsman”.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3455, a bill that provides for the licensure and regulation of swimming pool installers by classifying them as residential specialty contractors. The legislation adds swimming pool installers to the list (which already includes HVAC installers, stucco installers, plumbers and electricians) of those classified as residential specialty contractors, who are independent contractors who contract with licensed residential builders, general contractors, or individual property owners to do certain construction work, repairs, improvement, or restoration which requires special skills and involves the use of specialized construction trades or craft.

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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State House Report

In the State House the Week of March 4th, the following bills were acted upon. I voted in the affirmative for the following:

The House approved S.326 and ordered the legislation enrolled for ratification. The joint resolution directs the State Law Enforcement Division to distribute two hundred fifty thousand dollars to the South Carolina State Firefighters Association to provide for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder insurance and programs for firefighters.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3294, a bill increasing the age limit in Safe Havens for Abandoned Babies provisions that designate locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty. The legislation provides that the safe haven provisions apply to infants who are up to one year old rather than the current standard of no more than sixty days old.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3973, a bill establishing the crime of female genital mutilation. The legislation establishes felony criminal provisions that apply to the mutilation of the genitalia of females who are under the age of eighteen or older females who are unable to consent to the procedure. The legislation also revises the Children’s Code to add female genital mutilation to provisions addressing child abuse and harm.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3263, the “Armed service Members and Spouses Professional and Occupational Licensing Act”. The legislation establishes a protocol that allows the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to expedite the issuance of professional and occupational licenses to spouses of military personnel transferred to South Carolina when the spouse holds a professional or occupational license issued by another state that has similar requirements.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3200, the “South Carolina Lactation Support Act”. The legislation requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide workers with reasonable unpaid break time and space to express milk at work. The legislation does not require employers to compensate employees for breaks taken to express breast milk unless the employer already provides compensated breaks and does not require employers to create a permanent or dedicated space for use by pumping employees.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3586, a bill revising and updating the Coordinated Statewide 911 Emergency Telecommunications System.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3601, a bill establishing a procedure that allows a court to grant a conditional discharge for a first-time offender charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3029, a bill expanding state political party executive committee jurisdiction to include county officers. The legislation expands political party state executive committee authority so that it includes hearing protests and contests in county officer, and less than county officer, elections. The legislation repeals provisions for hearings by county executive committees and appeals from decisions of county executive committees.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4157, a joint resolution to extend the deadline to submit offers for a solicitation for a statewide voting system solution for the South Carolina Elections Commission and to create a special evaluation panel to evaluate and score each proposal for new voting machines.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4054, a joint resolution to allow for the submission of less than three qualified applicants to the Governor to serve as executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce.

The House rejected (I voted no) H.3031, a bill revising voter registration deadlines. Although current voter registration deadlines are quite cumbersome, the efforts to move the deadline to 25 days prior to an election from the current 30 days are a rather sticky business. The deadline should be moved to 35 prior to elections, not moved up. However, the Federal Election Laws prohibit making the deadline greater than 30 days prior to the election.

This past week was “Budget Week,” the weeklong debate on the $8.7 billion 2019-2020 budget. After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote.

After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate, we passed our General Appropriation Bill for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This year’s budget is focused on investing in education and workforce development by increasing teacher pay, providing tuition assistance, and funding for workforce training programs.

Not only does the budget not increase taxes, it actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax.

Many amendments were proposed, one of which was to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Last year’s Planned Parenthood budget amendment (de-funding Planned Parenthood) was not crafted well and it backfired and ultimately cost SC taxpayer $2 million. This year’s amendment was crafted well and will wait for the Governor to receive a waiver from the Federal government before any de-funding takes place.

The budget will now go to the Senate for their consideration.

The House budget contains:

• Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.
• $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.
• $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.
• $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don’t already have one and cannot afford them.
• $41 million to raise state employee salaries.
• $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.
• $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state’s retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.

 

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HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

 

February 22, 2019

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3659, a bill furthering voluntary programs that make use of RENEWABLE ENERGY generation resources, such as solar power, and establishing ELECTRICAL POWER CUSTOMER CONSUMER PROTECTIONS in order to: shield customers from rising utility costs; provide opportunities for customer measures to reduce or manage consumption from electrical utilities in a manner that contributes to reductions in utility peak electrical demand and other drivers of electrical utility costs; and,equip customers with the information and ability to manage their electric bills. The legislation provides that every customer of an electrical utility has the right to a rate schedule that offers the customer a reasonable opportunity to employ such energy and cost saving measures as energy efficiency, demand response, or onsite distributed energy resources in order to reduce consumption of electricity from the electrical utility’s grid and to reduce electrical utility costs. The legislation makes revisions to build upon the successful deployment of solar generating capacity through the South Carolina Distributed Resource Act to continue enabling market driven, private investment in distributed energy resources across the state by reducing regulatory and administrative burdens to customer installation and utilization of onsite distributed energy resources.The legislation removes the cap on the development of solar power generation and other distributed energy resources that has been set at 2% of the previous five year average of an electrical utility’s South Carolina retail peak demand. The legislation requires the adoption of new provisions governing the way in which electrical utilities purchase power generated by renewable energy facilities and new requirements for metering customer generators. In making the revisions, the legislation discontinues existing arrangements where solar power programs are subsidized by all of an electrical utility’s customers, regardless of whether an individual customer is participating in a program. The Public Service Commission is directed to establish a new Community Solar Energy Program for each electrical utility to permit the utility’s customers to participate in a solar energy project that allows for a credit to the customer’s utility bill based upon the electricity generated that is attributed to the customer’s participation in the solar energy project. Provisions are made for neighborhood solar programs to expand access to solar energy options for all South Carolinians, including those who lack the income to afford the upfront investment in solar panels or those that do not own their homes or have suitable rooftops. The Public Service Commission, in coordination with the Office of Regulatory Staff, is authorized to initiate an independent study to evaluate the integration of renewable energy and emerging energy technologies into the electric grid for the public good.The Office of Regulatory Staff, in collaboration with the Department of Consumer Affairs, is directed to develop new consumer protection regulations.A new consumer protection protocol is established that must be followed before construction commences on a new major utility facility for power generation in the state.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3449, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA HEMP FARMING ACT” to promote the cultivation and processing of hemp, expand the state’s hemp industry, open new commercial markets for farmers and businesses through the sale of hemp products, and encourage research into hemp growth and hemp products at state institutions of higher education and in the private sector. The legislation addresses the use of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, with federally defined THC level for hemp, for such uses as cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, cosmetics, personal care products, food, and any product containing one or more hemp derived cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol. In light of the enactment of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which classifies hemp as an agricultural commodity, this legislation replaces the state’s provisions for cultivating industrial hemp that were previously enacted and provides for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture is to submit a state plan to the USDA for approval. The legislation eliminates various restrictions that were imposed on the cultivation of hemp, such as the limitations on the number of permits issued and the maximum acreage that could be cultivated. While these maximum limits are no longer imposed, individuals may only cultivate, handle, or process hemp by obtaining a license issued by the Department of Agriculture under the state plan in a process that includes: providing a legal description and location of fields or greenhouses; providing written consent allowing representatives of the department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and local law enforcement, to enter onto all premises where hemp is cultivated, processed, or stored for the purposes of conducting physical inspections, obtaining samples of hemp or hemp products, or otherwise ensuring compliance with the requirements of applicable laws and regulations; and submitting to a criminal records check.No one who has been convicted of a felony, a drug related misdemeanor, or drug related violation in the ten years prior to the submission of the application is eligible to obtain a license. The state plan must include laboratory testing for delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol to ensure that hemp crops do not contain the high THC levels found in controlled substances. Criminal penalties continue to be provided to address the cultivation of industrial hemp as a means of disguising marijuana production or distribution operations. A violation is a misdemeanor that carries a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to three thousand dollars.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3180, the “SOUTH CAROLINA SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT”. The legislation aligns South Carolina with federal law that provides for contracts for telecommunication services, Internet services, cable, direct satellite, and other television services, satellite radio services, and athletic club or gym memberships to be cancelled, without early termination charges, when those in military service are deployed or reassigned. The legislation sets out duties for notifying service providers and establishes civil penalties for violations. The Adjutant General is directed to post on the South Carolina National Guard website a list of the rights a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependent has under the South Carolina Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3157, a bill establishing provisions for the licensure and regulation of GENETIC COUNSELORS.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3732, a bill addressing CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR VETERINARIANS WHO PRESCRIBE OPIOIDS. The legislation requires veterinarians who are authorized to prescribe controlled substances to obtain a South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Controlled Substances Registration and complete at least two hours of continuing education every two years related to approved procedures of prescribing and monitoring certain controlled substances. The legislation draws 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 and gave second reading approval to H.3760, legislation MERGING THE PATIENTS’ COMPENSATION FUND WITH THE SOUTH CAROLINA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE JOINT UNDERWRITING ASSOCIATION and establishing it as a market of last resort for ensuring the availability of medical malpractice and other types of liability insurance for health care providersthat it is not in competition with the private insurance market. The legislation addresses governance following the merger, makes provisions to eliminate the accumulated deficit of the JUA and the Patients’ Compensation Fund, and provide for rates for policies issued to be adequate and established at a level that permits the association to operate without accumulating additional deficits over time.

The House approved S.75, a bill providing forINSURER CORPORATE GOVERNANCE DISCLOSURES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation establishes requirements for insurers and insurance groups to submit an annual disclosure to the Department of Insurance that summarizes their corporate governance structure, policies, and practices.

The House approved S.358, a bill addressing theMERGER OF A SELF INSURER WITH A LICENSED INSURER, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislationprovides that South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association provisions do not apply to any claims or losses covered by self insurance that occurred prior to the assumption, transfer, merger, or other acquisition of a block of business by a licensed insurer. The legislation requires the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to secure an actuarial opinion before approving the transfer of a self insurer to a licensed insurer.

The House returned S.360, a bill providing INSURANCE LAW REVISIONS, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation provides for various technical changes, updates, and clean-up provisions for the laws governing insurance and regulation by the Department of Insurance.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3754, a bill addressingVACATION TIME SHARING PLANS. The legislationrevises vacation time sharing plan provisions, so as to define the term “timeshare instrument” and further provides for when a timeshare closing is considered to have occurred. The legislation enacts the “Vacation Time Sharing Plan Extensions and Termination Act”, including provisions to clarify and supplement the procedures and requirements as to how owners of vacation time sharing interests may terminate vacation time sharing plans or extend the terms of these plans.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.3253, a bill authorizing the Board of Examiners to regulate and issue permits for MOBILE BARBERSHOPS that can be moved, towed, or transported to provide barbering services on a temporary basis at such locations as a client’s home, a nursing home, or another institution or location authorized by the board. An exclusion from the provisions is provided for a master haircare specialist or registered barber while providing barbering services in a nursing home or community residential care facility.

The House amended, approved, and sent the SenateH.3750, a bill dealing with DEER HUNTING. Currently, a resident purchasing a SC Hunting License and a Big Game permit is issued three unrestricted individual antlered deer tags and eight date-specific individual antlerless deer tags which are valid only on specified days. This bill provides, instead, that a resident receives, in addition to the three antlered deer tags, two antlerless deer tags that are not date-specific with the purchases a hunting license and permit. As a result, the bill eliminates any reference to the minimum number of days for the taking of antlerless deer in Game Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3092, a bill authorizing REGULATEDSHOOTING AREAS (RSA) FORMALLARD DUCKS. In an effort to help Department of Natural Resources with mallard duck identification, the legislation provides DNRto issue permits for regulated shooting areas for privately owned, captive-raised, mallard ducks. No person may release mallard ducks for the purpose of hunting unless there is a regulated shooting area permit for mallard ducks except for bona fide dog training or field trial purposes. The fee for an annual permit is two hundred dollars and existing shooting preserves with mallards are not required to pay that fee. The permit owner must make a report annually that should include, but not be limited to, the number of captive-raised mallard ducks released and killed on the regulated shooting area and any outbreaks of avian influenza or other diseases in the captive-raised mallard ducks raised, released or taken on the regulated shooting area. A Violations is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of two hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than thirty days for each offense.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3699, a bill regarding the CONSTRUCTION OF PRIVATE RECREATIONAL DOCKS ON THE ATLANTIC INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY. The legislation provides that for permit applications to construct private recreational docks on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Federal Navigation Project in a county where more than eighty percent of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is outside of the critical area, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shall defer to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in determining the total allowable dock square footage of the structure.

The House reconsidered the vote by which H.3845 was given third reading approval and adjourned debate on the legislation until March 19. This joint resolution authorizes the transfer of certain Education Improvement Act carry-forward funds to the South Carolina Public Charter School District to provide FUNDS FOR THREE AND FOUR YEAR OLD CHILDREN WITH A DISABILITYwho are eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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Vote Tuesday!

I want to encourage you to go to the polls on Tuesday! I humbly ask for your vote!

To quote Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing”

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Election 2018

It’s that time again! General Elections are here. Thank you all for your support these last 6 years. They have been exciting. I wish to continue working for you, the people of the 11th House District.

Please help me to do this. I am asking for your support on Election Day – November 6th. You can even vote absentee vote now if your schedule doesn’t permit you be in town on that day.

Thank you for the opportunity of serving you in the State House. It has been a great honor and pleasure. I look forward to winning re-election as your representative in Columbia.

Encourage everyone to come out and vote!

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State House Report

It was quite a week in the State house this week! There was a 14 ½ hour marathon session on Wednesday, mostly spent debating H. 4950, the General Appropriations bill. The House amended the Senate’s amendments to the Bill in order to return it, for the most part, back to the version approved by the House earlier this year, with notable exceptionsI voted for the following amendments:$15 million is provided from the Education Lottery for School Safety Facility and Infrastructure Safety Upgrades.In order to assist state and local agencies and departments that are experiencing difficulties in hiring needed personnel, earnings limitations are eliminated in the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System for the fiscal year as a means of encouraging retirees in these systems to return to work as school resource officers, classroom teachers, correctional officers, and other crucial positions. Those who retired on or before December 31, 2017, are eligible.$8 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the Department of Corrections for critical security upgrades in the state’s prisons including the installation of window frames and glazing and new door locks for inmate cells.$54 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the State Law Enforcement Division for the construction of a new Forensic Laboratory Building.The Public Service Commission is afforded 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 Department of Health and Human Services is directed to prepare and submit to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) such waivers and state plan amendments that are necessary to ensure that no family planning funds may be expended to subsidize abortion clinics and none of the funds appropriated may be paid or granted to an organization that owns or is owned by an abortion clinic. Funds must be held until a decision is made as to whether to grant the waiver. If the waiver is not granted, then all funds must be submitted back to CMS. Strengthening South Carolina’s laws prohibiting sanctuary cities that disallow the adoption of ordinances and policies by municipalities and other local governments to prohibit, restrict, or interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws. If a court finds that a political subdivision has violated provisions that prohibit interference with the enforcement of immigration laws, the political subdivision is not allowed to receive Local Government Fund appropriations.$350 thousand is provided from the Education Lottery for a Military Connected Children Program to ease the transition into public schools for students of military families assigned to bases in South Carolina. A definition of anti-Semitism derived from the U.S. State Department is provided for South Carolina’s public colleges and universities to use 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.$5 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the State Ports Authority for Jasper Ocean Terminal Port Permitting. I did not vote for the amendment to provide for solar power and other distributed energy resources and net-metering provisions for the electrical power they generate. The legislation increases the cap placed on solar power generation and other distributed energy resources, currently set at 2%, to 4% of the previous five year average of the electrical utility’s South Carolina retail peak demand (that part I agreed with). In a puzzling section, the legislation supposedly discontinues existing arrangements where all of an electrical utility’s customers are subsidizing solar power programs, regardless of whether they are participating in the first programs, by providing that nonparticipants in net energy metering programs are not required to subsidize the costs of customer generators. This made little sense to me as the utility companies will have to absorb the loss they incur from “buying” solar energy from the customer-generators at full retail price. My question is: “How are they going to absorb it?”I voted in the affirmative for the following sections:The Public Service Commission is directed to require public utilities to implement any reasonably achievable cost savings that may be achieved from such resources as renewable power generation. A “Renewable Energy Development Joint Study Committee” is created to make recommendations to lawmakers to support the development of renewable energy resources and production facilities to generate electricity.In a final step on the budget, a conference committee has been appointed to address the differences between the House and Senate on to H.4950, the fiscal year 2018-19 General appropriations.In other bills voted on, I supported Senate amendments to H.4705, a bill enhancing requirements for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.The House approved to S.27 (and I voted against), a bill making provisions for the appointment of the State Superintendent of Education by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Under the provisions of the legislation, the State Superintendent of Education is no longer to be elected through a statewide vote and is, instead, to be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve at the Governor’s pleasure. Qualifications are established for the office of State Superintendent relating to educational attainment and professional experience. Compensation for the position is to be set by the Agency Head Salary Commission. A procedure is established for filling a vacancy in this office.I voted for and the House approved and sent the Senate H.5341, a bill conforming SC’s income tax provisions to federal income tax provisions and making accommodations for the federal tax changes that were enacted by Congress in December 2017 so that these changes at the federal level will not result in increased tax collection at the state level. The legislation continues the practice of conforming state tax provisions to federal provisions to simplify tax preparation, but retains, at the state level, an array of deductions that were eliminated in the federal tax changes of 2017 so that South Carolina taxpayers may still take advantage of these deductions for state income tax purposes.I also voted for and the House approved and enrolled for ratification S.888, a bill authorizing local public school policies that allow teachers to receive pay for unused annual sick leave. The legislation authorizes a local school district board of trustees or, in the case of a charter school, the governing body of a charter school, to adopt a policy that allows classroom teachers and certain other public school faculty member to receive payment at the end of each fiscal year for unused annual leave and sick leave time in excess of ninety days at the rate established for substitute teacher pay or another approved amount. These optional local policies apply only to sick leave and annual leave in excess of ninety days that is accrued after July 1, 2018.The House approved (and I voted for) and enrolled for ratification S.28, a bill addressing the criteria for public schools to award elective credit for Released-Time classes in religious instruction for high school students. Addressing situations where a student is transferring to a public high school from a private high school, the legislation provides that the criteria for awardingthe maximum of two elective credits is satisfied if a school district leaves the evaluation and assessment function for an off campus released time class to an accredited private school, and accepts the off campus released time transfer of credit without individually assessing the quality or subject matter of the class, trusting the private school accreditation process to ensure adequate academic standards.The House concurred (and I voted for) in Senate amendments to H.4672, a bill reinstating vision screening requirements for driver’s license renewals, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that 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 through the submission of a certificate of vision examination form executed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. A certificate of vision examination form executed by a certifying ophthalmologist or optometrist must be transmitted to the DMV electronically. These provisions take effect October 1, 2020.I also voted for the following: The House approved S.1042 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises insurance law provisions to define the term “International Major Medical Insurance” and include this form of insurance in the definition for the term “surplus lines insurance”. International major medical insurance is a temporary health insurance policy that covers the expenses associated with illnesses or accidents that occur while traveling or when temporarily residing outside of a person’s home country.The House approved to S.812, a bill making revisions to raffles conducted by nonprofit organizations for charitable purposes, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation modifies nonprofit, charitable organization raffle rules to increase the maximum value of noncash prizes from $500 to $950, and maximum ticket price from $100 to $300.The House approved and enrolled for ratification S.1083, a bill providing authorization for the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a uniform program for the issuance of temporary license plates for newly acquired vehicles. The program includes provisions for uniform plate design, dimensions, and materials and vehicle identifying information requirements including the date of issue, the date of expiration, the name of the issuing entity, and a unique identifying license plate text that will be assigned by the DMV.The House approved S.337, a bill that revises the authorized activities of Credit Unions so that the state’s credit unions are able to offer services that allow them to be competitive with national credit unions.The House approved S.567, a bill that revises the “South Carolina Amusement Rides Safety Code” so that its provisions govern the operation of concession go karts, but do not apply to “Super-Karts”.The House approved S.1099, a bill addressing SC Mining Act exemptions. The legislation revises provisions governing the application of the South Carolina Mining Act, to add exemptions for the Department of Commerce, Division of Public Railways, and persons acting under contract with the Department of Commerce.The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4807 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides an extension, until July 1, 2019, 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 refused to concur in Senate amendments to H.4727, legislation restructuring and reauthorizing the SC Conservation Bank on a permanent basis.The House returned S.345 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises the scope of practice and supervision requirements for an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The legislation includes authorization for nurse practitioners to participate in telemedicine.The House amended and approved S.1043, a bill revising tax incentives available for the revitalization of abandoned buildings and textile mill sites.The House amended and approved S.1116, a bill by which the General Assembly ratifies and confirms the actions of the Greenville Health System in entering into the amended Master Affiliation Agreement and the Lease and Contribution Agreement. The House approved and sent the Senate H.4489, a bill that specifies that kidney treatment centers are exempt from Certificate of Need review requirements of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, but these centers are still subject to licensing requirements.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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State House Report

Feb 27th – March 1, 2018

On Tuesday, Feb 27th, the House took up a Senate resolution relating to the proposal by Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA Corporation. In the resolution, the Senate extended the amount of time the Public Service Commission has to review the Dominion-SCANA acquisition bid. However, the Senate did not address the most glaring issue ratepayers are facing every month, which is the 18% nuclear surcharge SCANA is forcing its customers to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear energy project. Ratepayers are now paying $37 million a month for a nuclear plant that was never built. The House believes this is unacceptable and therefore altered the Senate resolution by completely eliminating the nuclear surcharge SCANA is charging its customers until the PSC can make a decision on the merger. The altered resolution has been sent back to the Senate for approval.

The House also acted on the following (which I voted in the affirmative):

Voted overwhelmingly (86-30) on S.105, a bill to shorten the amount of time entities (oftentimes radical environmentalists) can hold up construction of important state infrastructure projects and business development projects in court. Under current law, environmental groups have the ability to petition the Administrative Law Court for a “stay” on new construction of roads, highways and private businesses. Certain groups have a history of demanding that taxpayers and private businesses give so-called “land trusts” millions of dollars before dropping the court cases that hold up construction. For example, an environmental group forced taxpayers of the state of South Carolina to pay several million dollars to their aligned groups in order to end the delays to bring Boeing to South Carolina and deepen the Port of Charleston. Without these forced payments, these groups could have thwarted the recruitment of Boeing and the deepening on the Port of Charleston. Furthermore, the current law especially hurts small businesses who wish to create jobs in South Carolina by giving environmental advocacy groups the ability to delay projects indefinitely unless businesses pay these groups money. The new law passed by the House and Senate will limit a “stay” to 90 days. Governor McMaster has announced he will sign this important reform bill.

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.

Amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3565, a bill addressing Administrative Law Court contested cases involving the Certificate of Need (CON) 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.

Concurred in Senate amendments to H.3929, a bill revising permitting provisions for poultry farms to allow for a more expedited approval process for these facilities and expansions to them, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.

Approved and sent the Senate H.4488, a bill allowing officials who are determining causes of death to have access to prescription drug monitoring information. The legislation expands the list of persons to which the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Drug Control may provide prescription monitoring program data so that it also includes a coroner, deputy coroner, medical examiner, or deputy medical examiner who is involved in an official inquiry into the cause and manner of a person’s death.

Amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4479, a bill revising the process for addressing law enforcement officer misconduct allegations. Under the legislation, no person who has a pending allegation of misconduct may be employed as a law enforcement officer or as a telecommunications operator or perform any law enforcement duties until a decision has been made that authorizes the employment. The legislation also makes revisions to the report that must be made to the Criminal Justice Academy whenever an officer separates from a law enforcement office. Under the changes, the supervising officer making the report would be subject to disciplinary action for submitting intentionally misleading or incomplete information, such as characterizing a situation where an officer is leaving a department due to alleged misconduct as a simple resignation. The changes are offered as a means of reducing the likelihood that a law enforcement officer leaving one police department because of alleged misconduct could be hired by another department without the allegations being addressed.

Approved and sent the Senate H.4596, a bill authorizing public school districts to create Competency-Based schools that are designed to improve progress towards attaining state education goals through a curriculum that allows students to pursue their own inquiries, take ownership of learning, and master competencies along a personalized and flexible pathway. The Department of Education is charged with developing separate evaluation criteria and guidelines for schools implementing competency-based education and conducting a biennial review of such schools. If the biennial review shows that the goals or objectives of the competency-based school are not being met, the exemptions granted for that school may be revoked.

This week, I also had the pleasure this week to welcome some members of EMS groups from our area to the State House to discuss their needs and goals. Thank you to all our First Responders for the great job they do protecting our citizens.

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State House Report March 20-22

Sanctuary City Ban, Stiffer Terrorism Sentencing, & Opioid Prevention Measures Passed

On Wednesday, March 21st, the House Judiciary Committee debated a bill that would effectively ban municipalities in our state from declaring themselves, or acting as, sanctuary cities. Specifically, the legislation directs the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to create, prepare, maintain, and certify what will be known as the Immigration Compliance Report (ICR). SLED will certify compliance with federal laws related to the presence of an unlawful person in the United States as part of the ICR. The bill authorizes SLED to conduct criminal investigations to verify certifications and ensure compliance by political subdivisions. Individuals who intentionally falsify compliance documentation may be subject to persecution and municipalities could lose state-appropriated local government funds for a minimum of three consecutive years. This legislation passed in committee and will be voted on by the full House. I intend to support this legislation.

A bill to increase penalties for acts of terrorism passed out of a House committee on Thursday and will head to the House floor for a vote by the full body. The bill, pushed by House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, would result in 10-year minimum prison sentences for individuals who plot a terrorist attack and minimum five-year sentences for individuals who support or help finance a terrorist attack. This legislation was introduced in response to a foiled attack on U.S. troops by a York County teenager, Zakaryia Abdin, who had pledged himself to ISIS. Law enforcement was able to stop the attack the evening before it was planned to take place, but Zakaryia served less than one year in juvenile detention due to his age. If passed by the full House and Senate and signed by the governor, the bill will prohibit courts and parole boards from releasing offenders like Abdin early. I also intend to support this legislation.

The full House passed several bills (I voted for each of them) to help combat the opioid epidemic taking place in communities across South Carolina. The bills were created by the South Carolina House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee members appointed by Speaker Jay Lucas. The solutions passed by the full House include increased accessibility to life-saving opioid overdose antidotes, the creation of a prescription monitoring program that will keep track of information relating to opioid prescriptions, a new limit for initial prescriptions of opioid prescriptions to five days for acute pain and 14 days for post-operative pain, and improvements to decrease counterfeit prescriptions being used to obtain opioids illegally. These pieces of legislation were recently funded in the House budged passed last week. The bills will now go to the Senate for a vote.
Also, on March 22nd, I had the pleasure of introducing the 2017 AA State Football champion Abbeville Panthers on the House floor and presented them with a Concurrent Resolution commemorating their accomplishment. Congratulations to the Panthers on their third consecutive State Championship!

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House Week in Review

Feb 20-22, 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.

All of the bills voted on this week were House-originated bills that will now go to the Senate for approval. I voted in the affirmative on all of them.

The House took the following actions:

Approved 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.

Amended and approved H.3819, establishing new requirements that must be met before prescribing opiod analgesics to minors. The legislation provides that, before the first prescription for an opioid analgesic may be issued to someone under eighteen years of age who is not emancipated, the prescriber must satisfy a specific set of requirements

Amended and approved H.3820, a bill requiring opiod 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.

Amended and approved H.4810, a joint resolution creating a temporary School Metal Detector Study Committee to examine whether it is in the public interest to require the installation and use of metal detectors at public schools in the state.

Amended and approved H.4705, enhancing requirements for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect.

Amended and approved H.3329, a bill providing enhancements to human trafficking penalties. This bill 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.

Amended and approved H.4434, a bill making provisions for comprehensive dyslexia screening and intervention in public schools.

Amended and approved H.4078, the “Military Priority Registration Act”. The legislation makes provisions for the state’s public institutions of higher learning to give enrollment priority to military related students, including active duty members of the uniformed services, reservists, members of the South Carolina National Guard, and honorably discharged veterans.

Approved H.4977. This legislation implements in statute changes authorized with the adoption of the amendment to the South Carolina Constitution which provides for the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor beginning with the general election of 2018.

Approved H.4116, a bill that revises the state’s Medical Practice Act to provide that physicians cannot be required to obtain National Certification as a condition of licensure, reimbursement, employment or admitting privileges at a hospital. This prohibition applies to “Maintenance of Certification” or “MOC” continuing education programs that measure core competencies in the practice of medicine and surgery and are approved by a nationally recognized accrediting organization.

Approved H.4529, a bill that revises practice acts to provide authorization for nurses and physician assistants to utilize telemedicine..

Approved H.4672, a bill reinstating vision screening requirements for Driver’s License renewals (which was apparently left off the original bill that conformed SC to the Real ID Act). The legislation provides that, 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.

Approved H.4676, a bill to provide that those included on the list of responsible adults who can sign applications for the issuance of a Beginner’s Permit, a conditional Driver’s License, and a special Restricted Driver’s License can fulfill various requirements for accompanying young drivers which currently require the presence of a parent or legal guardian. The legislation also provides that someone on the list of responsible adults is authorized to sign the consent form at the Department of Motor Vehicles to register the applicant with the federal Selective Service System upon attaining eighteen years of age.

Approved H.4682, a bill revising options for satisfying the “Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act”. The legislation eliminates the options of filing a bond and filing of a certificate of deposit of money or securities as methods of establishing proof of financial responsibility. Drivers have been obtaining automobile insurance that satisfies “Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act” requirements and have not been using the other methods for establishing proof of financial responsibility.

Amended and approved, H.3337, a bill revising filing and recording fees charged by the Registrar of Deeds and Clerks of Court to make provisions for charging certain flat fees.

Approved H.4704, a bill that codifies current procedures for the issuance by the Department of Health and Environmental Control of general permits available for the tideland-critical areas of the Coastal Zone.

Amended and approved H.3139, 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 Complexes to include a soccer complex.

Approved H.4475, a bill enacting a recommendation from the House Legislative Oversight Committee that eliminates obsolete statutory references to divisions of the Department of Public Safety and provides for DPS to maintain a list of its divisions on the department’s website.

In other action, the House gave third reading approval to H.4377, a bill providing reforms for the Public Service Commission, and sent the legislation to the Senate.

Also, the House and Senate adopted a conference committee report on H.3649 and the bill was enrolled for ratification. The legislation makes revisions to allow for greater conformity between the Architecture and Engineering Practice Acts and eliminates ambiguity concerning the issuance of local government permits for buildings and structures.

This week, I was privileged to welcome the Calhoun Falls and Dixie High School FFAs. These groups perform a great service in our schools! Thank you to Ms. McCannon of CFC and Mr. Murdock of Dixie for taking the time to bring them to the State House!

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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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