February 22, 2019

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3659, a bill furthering voluntary programs that make use of RENEWABLE ENERGY generation resources, such as solar power, and establishing ELECTRICAL POWER CUSTOMER CONSUMER PROTECTIONS in order to: shield customers from rising utility costs; provide opportunities for customer measures to reduce or manage consumption from electrical utilities in a manner that contributes to reductions in utility peak electrical demand and other drivers of electrical utility costs; and,equip customers with the information and ability to manage their electric bills. The legislation provides that every customer of an electrical utility has the right to a rate schedule that offers the customer a reasonable opportunity to employ such energy and cost saving measures as energy efficiency, demand response, or onsite distributed energy resources in order to reduce consumption of electricity from the electrical utility’s grid and to reduce electrical utility costs. The legislation makes revisions to build upon the successful deployment of solar generating capacity through the South Carolina Distributed Resource Act to continue enabling market driven, private investment in distributed energy resources across the state by reducing regulatory and administrative burdens to customer installation and utilization of onsite distributed energy resources.The legislation removes the cap on the development of solar power generation and other distributed energy resources that has been set at 2% of the previous five year average of an electrical utility’s South Carolina retail peak demand. The legislation requires the adoption of new provisions governing the way in which electrical utilities purchase power generated by renewable energy facilities and new requirements for metering customer generators. In making the revisions, the legislation discontinues existing arrangements where solar power programs are subsidized by all of an electrical utility’s customers, regardless of whether an individual customer is participating in a program. The Public Service Commission is directed to establish a new Community Solar Energy Program for each electrical utility to permit the utility’s customers to participate in a solar energy project that allows for a credit to the customer’s utility bill based upon the electricity generated that is attributed to the customer’s participation in the solar energy project. Provisions are made for neighborhood solar programs to expand access to solar energy options for all South Carolinians, including those who lack the income to afford the upfront investment in solar panels or those that do not own their homes or have suitable rooftops. The Public Service Commission, in coordination with the Office of Regulatory Staff, is authorized to initiate an independent study to evaluate the integration of renewable energy and emerging energy technologies into the electric grid for the public good.The Office of Regulatory Staff, in collaboration with the Department of Consumer Affairs, is directed to develop new consumer protection regulations.A new consumer protection protocol is established that must be followed before construction commences on a new major utility facility for power generation in the state.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3449, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA HEMP FARMING ACT” to promote the cultivation and processing of hemp, expand the state’s hemp industry, open new commercial markets for farmers and businesses through the sale of hemp products, and encourage research into hemp growth and hemp products at state institutions of higher education and in the private sector. The legislation addresses the use of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, with federally defined THC level for hemp, for such uses as cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, plastics, cosmetics, personal care products, food, and any product containing one or more hemp derived cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol. In light of the enactment of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which classifies hemp as an agricultural commodity, this legislation replaces the state’s provisions for cultivating industrial hemp that were previously enacted and provides for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture is to submit a state plan to the USDA for approval. The legislation eliminates various restrictions that were imposed on the cultivation of hemp, such as the limitations on the number of permits issued and the maximum acreage that could be cultivated. While these maximum limits are no longer imposed, individuals may only cultivate, handle, or process hemp by obtaining a license issued by the Department of Agriculture under the state plan in a process that includes: providing a legal description and location of fields or greenhouses; providing written consent allowing representatives of the department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and local law enforcement, to enter onto all premises where hemp is cultivated, processed, or stored for the purposes of conducting physical inspections, obtaining samples of hemp or hemp products, or otherwise ensuring compliance with the requirements of applicable laws and regulations; and submitting to a criminal records check.No one who has been convicted of a felony, a drug related misdemeanor, or drug related violation in the ten years prior to the submission of the application is eligible to obtain a license. The state plan must include laboratory testing for delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol to ensure that hemp crops do not contain the high THC levels found in controlled substances. Criminal penalties continue to be provided to address the cultivation of industrial hemp as a means of disguising marijuana production or distribution operations. A violation is a misdemeanor that carries a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to three thousand dollars.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3180, the “SOUTH CAROLINA SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT”. The legislation aligns South Carolina with federal law that provides for contracts for telecommunication services, Internet services, cable, direct satellite, and other television services, satellite radio services, and athletic club or gym memberships to be cancelled, without early termination charges, when those in military service are deployed or reassigned. The legislation sets out duties for notifying service providers and establishes civil penalties for violations. The Adjutant General is directed to post on the South Carolina National Guard website a list of the rights a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependent has under the South Carolina Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3157, a bill establishing provisions for the licensure and regulation of GENETIC COUNSELORS.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3732, a bill addressing CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR VETERINARIANS WHO PRESCRIBE OPIOIDS. The legislation requires veterinarians who are authorized to prescribe controlled substances to obtain a South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Controlled Substances Registration and complete at least two hours of continuing education every two years related to approved procedures of prescribing and monitoring certain controlled substances. The legislation draws 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.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3760, legislation MERGING THE PATIENTS’ COMPENSATION FUND WITH THE SOUTH CAROLINA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE JOINT UNDERWRITING ASSOCIATION and establishing it as a market of last resort for ensuring the availability of medical malpractice and other types of liability insurance for health care providersthat it is not in competition with the private insurance market. The legislation addresses governance following the merger, makes provisions to eliminate the accumulated deficit of the JUA and the Patients’ Compensation Fund, and provide for rates for policies issued to be adequate and established at a level that permits the association to operate without accumulating additional deficits over time.

The House approved S.75, a bill providing forINSURER CORPORATE GOVERNANCE DISCLOSURES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation establishes requirements for insurers and insurance groups to submit an annual disclosure to the Department of Insurance that summarizes their corporate governance structure, policies, and practices.

The House approved S.358, a bill addressing theMERGER OF A SELF INSURER WITH A LICENSED INSURER, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislationprovides that South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association provisions do not apply to any claims or losses covered by self insurance that occurred prior to the assumption, transfer, merger, or other acquisition of a block of business by a licensed insurer. The legislation requires the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to secure an actuarial opinion before approving the transfer of a self insurer to a licensed insurer.

The House returned S.360, a bill providing INSURANCE LAW REVISIONS, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation provides for various technical changes, updates, and clean-up provisions for the laws governing insurance and regulation by the Department of Insurance.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3754, a bill addressingVACATION TIME SHARING PLANS. The legislationrevises vacation time sharing plan provisions, so as to define the term “timeshare instrument” and further provides for when a timeshare closing is considered to have occurred. The legislation enacts the “Vacation Time Sharing Plan Extensions and Termination Act”, including provisions to clarify and supplement the procedures and requirements as to how owners of vacation time sharing interests may terminate vacation time sharing plans or extend the terms of these plans.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.3253, a bill authorizing the Board of Examiners to regulate and issue permits for MOBILE BARBERSHOPS that can be moved, towed, or transported to provide barbering services on a temporary basis at such locations as a client’s home, a nursing home, or another institution or location authorized by the board. An exclusion from the provisions is provided for a master haircare specialist or registered barber while providing barbering services in a nursing home or community residential care facility.

The House amended, approved, and sent the SenateH.3750, a bill dealing with DEER HUNTING. Currently, a resident purchasing a SC Hunting License and a Big Game permit is issued three unrestricted individual antlered deer tags and eight date-specific individual antlerless deer tags which are valid only on specified days. This bill provides, instead, that a resident receives, in addition to the three antlered deer tags, two antlerless deer tags that are not date-specific with the purchases a hunting license and permit. As a result, the bill eliminates any reference to the minimum number of days for the taking of antlerless deer in Game Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3092, a bill authorizing REGULATEDSHOOTING AREAS (RSA) FORMALLARD DUCKS. In an effort to help Department of Natural Resources with mallard duck identification, the legislation provides DNRto issue permits for regulated shooting areas for privately owned, captive-raised, mallard ducks. No person may release mallard ducks for the purpose of hunting unless there is a regulated shooting area permit for mallard ducks except for bona fide dog training or field trial purposes. The fee for an annual permit is two hundred dollars and existing shooting preserves with mallards are not required to pay that fee. The permit owner must make a report annually that should include, but not be limited to, the number of captive-raised mallard ducks released and killed on the regulated shooting area and any outbreaks of avian influenza or other diseases in the captive-raised mallard ducks raised, released or taken on the regulated shooting area. A Violations is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of two hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than thirty days for each offense.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3699, a bill regarding the CONSTRUCTION OF PRIVATE RECREATIONAL DOCKS ON THE ATLANTIC INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY. The legislation provides that for permit applications to construct private recreational docks on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Federal Navigation Project in a county where more than eighty percent of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is outside of the critical area, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shall defer to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in determining the total allowable dock square footage of the structure.

The House reconsidered the vote by which H.3845 was given third reading approval and adjourned debate on the legislation until March 19. This joint resolution authorizes the transfer of certain Education Improvement Act carry-forward funds to the South Carolina Public Charter School District to provide FUNDS FOR THREE AND FOUR YEAR OLD CHILDREN WITH A DISABILITYwho are eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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

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