State House Report

It was quite a week in the State house this week! There was a 14 ½ hour marathon session on Wednesday, mostly spent debating H. 4950, the General Appropriations bill. The House amended the Senate’s amendments to the Bill in order to return it, for the most part, back to the version approved by the House earlier this year, with notable exceptionsI voted for the following amendments:$15 million is provided from the Education Lottery for School Safety Facility and Infrastructure Safety Upgrades.In order to assist state and local agencies and departments that are experiencing difficulties in hiring needed personnel, earnings limitations are eliminated in the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System for the fiscal year as a means of encouraging retirees in these systems to return to work as school resource officers, classroom teachers, correctional officers, and other crucial positions. Those who retired on or before December 31, 2017, are eligible.$8 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the Department of Corrections for critical security upgrades in the state’s prisons including the installation of window frames and glazing and new door locks for inmate cells.$54 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the State Law Enforcement Division for the construction of a new Forensic Laboratory Building.The Public Service Commission is afforded additional time to make a decision on whether the Base Load Review Act has been properly used to finance the failed nuclear power project in Fairfield County by providing for a PSC hearing on the matter no earlier than November 1, 2018, and requiring a PSC ruling by December 21, 2018.The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to prepare and submit to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) such waivers and state plan amendments that are necessary to ensure that no family planning funds may be expended to subsidize abortion clinics and none of the funds appropriated may be paid or granted to an organization that owns or is owned by an abortion clinic. Funds must be held until a decision is made as to whether to grant the waiver. If the waiver is not granted, then all funds must be submitted back to CMS. Strengthening South Carolina’s laws prohibiting sanctuary cities that disallow the adoption of ordinances and policies by municipalities and other local governments to prohibit, restrict, or interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws. If a court finds that a political subdivision has violated provisions that prohibit interference with the enforcement of immigration laws, the political subdivision is not allowed to receive Local Government Fund appropriations.$350 thousand is provided from the Education Lottery for a Military Connected Children Program to ease the transition into public schools for students of military families assigned to bases in South Carolina. A definition of anti-Semitism derived from the U.S. State Department is provided for South Carolina’s public colleges and universities to use when reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion.$5 million in excess debt service funding is provided to the State Ports Authority for Jasper Ocean Terminal Port Permitting. I did not vote for the amendment to provide for solar power and other distributed energy resources and net-metering provisions for the electrical power they generate. The legislation increases the cap placed on solar power generation and other distributed energy resources, currently set at 2%, to 4% of the previous five year average of the electrical utility’s South Carolina retail peak demand (that part I agreed with). In a puzzling section, the legislation supposedly discontinues existing arrangements where all of an electrical utility’s customers are subsidizing solar power programs, regardless of whether they are participating in the first programs, by providing that nonparticipants in net energy metering programs are not required to subsidize the costs of customer generators. This made little sense to me as the utility companies will have to absorb the loss they incur from “buying” solar energy from the customer-generators at full retail price. My question is: “How are they going to absorb it?”I voted in the affirmative for the following sections:The Public Service Commission is directed to require public utilities to implement any reasonably achievable cost savings that may be achieved from such resources as renewable power generation. A “Renewable Energy Development Joint Study Committee” is created to make recommendations to lawmakers to support the development of renewable energy resources and production facilities to generate electricity.In a final step on the budget, a conference committee has been appointed to address the differences between the House and Senate on to H.4950, the fiscal year 2018-19 General appropriations.In other bills voted on, I supported Senate amendments to H.4705, a bill enhancing requirements for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.The House approved to S.27 (and I voted against), a bill making provisions for the appointment of the State Superintendent of Education by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Under the provisions of the legislation, the State Superintendent of Education is no longer to be elected through a statewide vote and is, instead, to be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve at the Governor’s pleasure. Qualifications are established for the office of State Superintendent relating to educational attainment and professional experience. Compensation for the position is to be set by the Agency Head Salary Commission. A procedure is established for filling a vacancy in this office.I voted for and the House approved and sent the Senate H.5341, a bill conforming SC’s income tax provisions to federal income tax provisions and making accommodations for the federal tax changes that were enacted by Congress in December 2017 so that these changes at the federal level will not result in increased tax collection at the state level. The legislation continues the practice of conforming state tax provisions to federal provisions to simplify tax preparation, but retains, at the state level, an array of deductions that were eliminated in the federal tax changes of 2017 so that South Carolina taxpayers may still take advantage of these deductions for state income tax purposes.I also voted for and the House approved and enrolled for ratification S.888, a bill authorizing local public school policies that allow teachers to receive pay for unused annual sick leave. The legislation authorizes a local school district board of trustees or, in the case of a charter school, the governing body of a charter school, to adopt a policy that allows classroom teachers and certain other public school faculty member to receive payment at the end of each fiscal year for unused annual leave and sick leave time in excess of ninety days at the rate established for substitute teacher pay or another approved amount. These optional local policies apply only to sick leave and annual leave in excess of ninety days that is accrued after July 1, 2018.The House approved (and I voted for) and enrolled for ratification S.28, a bill addressing the criteria for public schools to award elective credit for Released-Time classes in religious instruction for high school students. Addressing situations where a student is transferring to a public high school from a private high school, the legislation provides that the criteria for awardingthe maximum of two elective credits is satisfied if a school district leaves the evaluation and assessment function for an off campus released time class to an accredited private school, and accepts the off campus released time transfer of credit without individually assessing the quality or subject matter of the class, trusting the private school accreditation process to ensure adequate academic standards.The House concurred (and I voted for) in Senate amendments to H.4672, a bill reinstating vision screening requirements for driver’s license renewals, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that individuals will once again be required to satisfy vision screening requirements in order to renew a driver’s license by either passing a vision test administered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or through the submission of a certificate of vision examination form executed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. A certificate of vision examination form executed by a certifying ophthalmologist or optometrist must be transmitted to the DMV electronically. These provisions take effect October 1, 2020.I also voted for the following: The House approved S.1042 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises insurance law provisions to define the term “International Major Medical Insurance” and include this form of insurance in the definition for the term “surplus lines insurance”. International major medical insurance is a temporary health insurance policy that covers the expenses associated with illnesses or accidents that occur while traveling or when temporarily residing outside of a person’s home country.The House approved to S.812, a bill making revisions to raffles conducted by nonprofit organizations for charitable purposes, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation modifies nonprofit, charitable organization raffle rules to increase the maximum value of noncash prizes from $500 to $950, and maximum ticket price from $100 to $300.The House approved and enrolled for ratification S.1083, a bill providing authorization for the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a uniform program for the issuance of temporary license plates for newly acquired vehicles. The program includes provisions for uniform plate design, dimensions, and materials and vehicle identifying information requirements including the date of issue, the date of expiration, the name of the issuing entity, and a unique identifying license plate text that will be assigned by the DMV.The House approved S.337, a bill that revises the authorized activities of Credit Unions so that the state’s credit unions are able to offer services that allow them to be competitive with national credit unions.The House approved S.567, a bill that revises the “South Carolina Amusement Rides Safety Code” so that its provisions govern the operation of concession go karts, but do not apply to “Super-Karts”.The House approved S.1099, a bill addressing SC Mining Act exemptions. The legislation revises provisions governing the application of the South Carolina Mining Act, to add exemptions for the Department of Commerce, Division of Public Railways, and persons acting under contract with the Department of Commerce.The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4807 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides an extension, until July 1, 2019, for wild turkey hunting season and bag limit revisions while the Department of Natural Resources conducts its required study of the state’s wild turkey population.The House refused to concur in Senate amendments to H.4727, legislation restructuring and reauthorizing the SC Conservation Bank on a permanent basis.The House returned S.345 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises the scope of practice and supervision requirements for an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The legislation includes authorization for nurse practitioners to participate in telemedicine.The House amended and approved S.1043, a bill revising tax incentives available for the revitalization of abandoned buildings and textile mill sites.The House amended and approved S.1116, a bill by which the General Assembly ratifies and confirms the actions of the Greenville Health System in entering into the amended Master Affiliation Agreement and the Lease and Contribution Agreement. The House approved and sent the Senate H.4489, a bill that specifies that kidney treatment centers are exempt from Certificate of Need review requirements of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, but these centers are still subject to licensing requirements.As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 or in Columbia at (803) 212-6934 or by email at

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

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