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.

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

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