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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About Craig Gagnon for S.C. House 11 (Abbeville and Anderson Counties)

Chiropractor
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