HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
The House spent little time on the floor this week, but did the bulk of their work in committees. The House is anticipating a busy schedule however as we deal with the Santee Cooper issue and the upcoming budget debate. The Ways and Means Committee is tasked each year to assemble the State Budget by reviewing every state agency and their funding requests. The committee begins working on the budget as early as September. The FY 2020-21 budget passed out of Ways and Means and is now on the calendar for floor debate starting March 10.
Among the proposed budget items:
⁃ $128 million will be refunded directly to taxpayers in an income tax credit ($100 per return)
⁃ Funds to bring the total reserve fund to almost $800 million in case of recession or natural disaster
⁃ $77 million for immediate, accelerated, and expanded road repairs on shovel ready projects for farm-to-market roads in every county
⁃ $23 million for repairs and maintenance of state-maintained roads ($500,000 per county)
⁃ $120 million devoted to lowering the income tax rate from 7% to 6.8%
⁃ $213 million for an across-the-board pay raise to our teachers, ranking SC in top 25 for teacher pay
⁃ $165 million to ensure college tuition rates are frozen so that college is more affordable for in-state students
⁃ $138 million to the Department of Corrections to fund safety upgrades
⁃ $40 million to provide pay raises based on merit for state employees
The budget will assuredly look different as it goes to the Senate and the Governor for their approval/amending.
In the few bills that were discussed on the floor. The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3197, the “Student Loan Bill of Rights Act”, which establishes consumer protection measures for those who obtain loans to finance postsecondary education or other school-related expenses. The legislation provides for the licensure and regulation of student loan servicers by the Department of Consumer Affairs. A list of prohibited activities is established for student loan servicers. I voted against this bill as I feel that federal law already covers this issue and it will cost the state at least $166,000 per year to have a full time “student loan ombudsman”.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3455, a bill that provides for the licensure and regulation of swimming pool installers by classifying them as residential specialty contractors. The legislation adds swimming pool installers to the list (which already includes HVAC installers, stucco installers, plumbers and electricians) of those classified as residential specialty contractors, who are independent contractors who contract with licensed residential builders, general contractors, or individual property owners to do certain construction work, repairs, improvement, or restoration which requires special skills and involves the use of specialized construction trades or craft.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org