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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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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