The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.3114, the “SOUTH CAROLINA PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT” which establishes a prohibition on the performance of abortions beginning at twenty weeks following fertilization. The bill includes legislative findings regarding substantial medical evidence indicating that an unborn child has developed sufficiently to be capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization and the state’s interest in protecting the lives of unborn children beginning at the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain. This legislation provides that, except in the case of a medical emergency, no abortion must be performed, induced, or attempted unless a physician has first made a determination of the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child or relied upon such a determination made by another physician. Any person who intentionally or knowingly fails to conform to this requirement is guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a fine of not less than two thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than three years. No part of the minimum fine may be suspended. For conviction of a third or subsequent offense, the sentence must be imprisonment for not less than sixty days nor more than three years, no part of which may be suspended. Failure by any physician to comply constitutes unprofessional conduct. The legislation prohibits abortions from being performed, induced, or attempted when the determination has been made that the probable post-fertilization age is twenty or more weeks. An exception is allowed for cases in which the mother has a condition that so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions. When an abortion must be performed where the probable age of the fetus is twenty or more weeks, the legislation requires the physician to proceed in a manner which provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless terminating the pregnancy in this manner would pose a greater risk of either death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions, of the woman than would other available methods. Physicians performing abortions must provide certain information, including post-fertilization age, on required reports to the state registrar, Department of Health and Environmental Control. The legislation includes provisions for reports made by physicians to protect individual patient information as well as for the reporting of abortion statistics to the public by the department. The legislation includes penalty provisions for any physician who fails to submit reports within certain timeframes. Intentional or reckless falsification of any report by a physician is a misdemeanor. Any woman upon whom an abortion has been performed or induced in violation of these provisions, or the father of the unborn child, or any woman upon whom an abortion has been attempted in violation of these provisions, may maintain an action against the person who performed or inducted the abortion in intentional or reckless violation of these provisions for actual and punitive damages. The legislation allows for a cause of action for injunctive relief against any person who has intentionally or recklessly violated these provisions. If judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff in an action, the court shall render judgment for a reasonable attorney’s fee in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant. No damages or attorney’s fee may be assessed against the woman upon whom an abortion was performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced. The legislation includes provisions requiring the court to rule in every civil or criminal proceeding brought under these provisions whether the anonymity of any woman upon whom an abortion has been performed or induced must be preserved from public disclosure if she does not give her consent to such disclosure.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3125, legislation enhancing provisions for COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING. The legislation includes within the jurisdiction of the state grand jury human trafficking offenses that involve more than one county. The legislation provides new requirements for posting National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information that apply to a list of establishments such as adult businesses, massage parlors, hospital emergency rooms, agricultural labor contractors, hotels, motels, airports, train stations, bus stations, rest areas, and truck stops. Penalties are established for failing to comply with the posting requirements.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3194, a bill ENHANCING CAMPAIGN FINANCE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS. The legislation expands the definition of a candidate who is subject to the requirements of the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act so that it also includes someone who maintains an open bank account containing campaign contributions. The legislation also revises requirements for maintaining records of contributions, so as to authorize the appropriate supervisory office to request in writing the disclosure of certain mandatory financial records for the purpose of verifying campaign disclosure forms. A candidate, committee, or ballot measure committee must comply with such written requests within thirty days.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3189, a bill establishing REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES AND ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS that are made to influence the outcome of an election or ballot measure question. The legislation requires reports to be made to the State Ethics Commission by those individuals and groups, not already subject to the campaign finance requirements imposed upon committees, who make an independent expenditure in excess of five hundred dollars during a year or who engage in electioneering communications. Electioneering communications are mass communications making use of broadcast television, cable, satellite communication, mass postal mailing, or telephone banks during set periods before elections and primaries that refer to a clearly identified candidate for elected office or ballot measure. Such things as online activity through social media, news coverage, and candidate debates are not considered electioneering communications. The required reports must include such matters as detailed descriptions of expenditures, identifying and contact information for those filing the report, and identification of contributors who have made donations exceeding one hundred dollars.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3195, a bill revising campaign finance provisions for candidates and elected officeholders that relate to the USE OF CAMPAIGN FUNDS. The legislation prohibits campaign funds from being used to pay penalties, fees, or fines imposed by the State Ethics Commission or other supervisory body or by a court in a criminal matter. The legislation provides clarification on what qualifies as reasonable and necessary expenses that may be paid for with campaign funds. Any campaign account payments or reimbursements of mileage for travel associated with the campaign or office must be at the rate established for the year by the Internal Revenue Service. Payment or reimbursement for any lodging, food and beverage, or travel expenses, other than mileage, for the candidate, a member of the candidate’s immediate family or staff must be for travel for the purpose of campaigning for office or otherwise a part of the official responsibilities of an officeholder. Official responsibilities of the officeholder include such things as political party events, official appearances or meetings for which reimbursement is not offered by a governmental entity, and educational forums or conventions to which an officeholder is invited in his official capacity. The legislation eliminates the specific authorization for American Legislative Exchange Council conventions and conferences from the exceptions of allowed functions paid for by a lobbyist’s principal that legislators may attend. Communication equipment or other office equipment, such as cell phones, computers, printers, and copiers, purchased with campaign funds is considered the sole property of the campaign and must be disclosed as a campaign asset at the time of purchase. This equipment must be accounted for upon the final disbursement of a campaign account. Any payments to campaign or office staff must be made contemporaneously with the work provided. A campaign may not compensate an immediate family member of the candidate. The legislation disallows cash payments from campaign accounts by eliminating petty cash provisions and providing instead that all expenditures, regardless of amount, must be made by a check, a debit or credit card, or an online transfer.
The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3199, a bill relating to RETIRING CAMPAIGN DEBT. This legislation requires that funds raised under Ethics Act provisions that allow a candidate to accept contributions in order to retire campaign debt must be used for the sole purpose of retiring campaign debt.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3006, a bill providing for a FIVE-YEAR DURATION FOR STATE AGENCY REGULATIONS. The legislation provides that every new regulation promulgated under the Administrative Procedures Act expires five years from the date on which it becomes effective. The legislation eliminates current requirements for agencies to review their regulations every five years.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3202, the “SOUTH CAROLINA WHISTLEBLOWER AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PROTECTION ACT”. The legislation adds the Inspector General to the list of appropriate authorities who can receive a public employee’s report of alleged government wrongdoing. The legislation specifies that these reports must be filed in written form in order for a public employee to receive the legal protections afforded whistleblowers. The legislation enhances the rewards that are available for public employees whose reports of government waste or fraud result in savings of public money by removing the current cap of two thousand dollars and allowing a reward in the full amount of twenty-five percent of the first year’s estimated net savings. The legislation enhances what can be recovered through civil actions brought by public employees who are dismissed, demoted, or otherwise retaliated against because of their reports of alleged government misconduct by including such things as lost health care or retirement benefits. A more expansive statute of limitations is provided to allow whistleblowers more time to avail themselves of the law’s protections.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3168, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT LAW ENFORCEMENT ACT”. The legislation establishes procedures for the use of out-of-state law enforcement officers who are deployed to this state during declared emergencies or disasters under the provisions of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact that South Carolina has entered into with its fellow states.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3179, a bill relating to the REGULATION AND OVERSIGHT OF CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS. The legislation revises the composition of the South Carolina Board of Accountancy by expanding its membership from nine to eleven, providing for each congressional district to be represented by one certified public accountant board member, and by requiring that one of the two at-large members selected from the general public be a licensed attorney. The legislation revises certified public accountant licensure requirements by providing authorization for applicants to undergo state and federal criminal records checks and by requiring continuing education or additional experience, as applicable, for applicants who delay submitting an application for a substantial period of time after passing the certified public accounting examination or obtaining accounting experience. The legislation revises qualifications for registration of a certified public accounting firm, so as to provide that a simple majority, rather than a supermajority, of the firm ownership must be certified public accountants. The legislation further provides qualifications and continuing professional education requirements for noncertified public accountant owners of these firms. In conducting investigation of complaints and disciplinary proceedings, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation may require state and federal criminal records checks. The legislation establishes deadlines for filings applications for obtaining and renewing licenses and registration.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3519, a bill to provide for the RATIFICATION OF THE AMENDMENT TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION AUTHORIZING CHARITABLE RAFFLES CONDUCTED BY NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS that was approved by the state’s voters at the last general election.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3247, a joint resolution to provide for the CONTINUATION OF THE STUDY COMMITTEE ON THE EXPUNGEMENT OF CRIMINAL OFFENSES until December 31, 2015.