I want to wish each of you a very Happy Fourth of July. We need to pause by giving thanks to God for the freedoms we enjoy by living in this great country and to those men and women who have served and are serving in our military to insure we continue to be free!
The House returned to Columbia on June 26 to address the Governor’s vetoes and we are now adjourned until January 14, 2014. Below is an update on many issues taken up by the House and their current status. It is a long report and you can scroll down to review whatever interest you. I will report to you via eblast during the off-session if there is something I believe will interest you.
H.3298/S.2 – Election Reform – Signed by Governor (6/13).
This legislation addresses the filing conflicts that spawned last year’s ballot controversies. This bill removes the filing of a statement of economic interests from election law requirements and makes such filings an ethics law matter, exclusively, for new candidates and incumbents alike. The procedure for becoming a candidate were also completely revised by the legislation so that the involvement of political party officials is no longer required, and all necessary filings, attestations, and payments of fees are conducted through governmental offices. It also revises the rules parties follow to nominate candidates by convention.
H. 3176 – Early Voting – Passed by House (5/1). Awaiting action in Senate Judiciary.
This legislation creates the state’s first official early voting period, nine days before the election, excluding Sundays. Each county must establish one early voting center which must be supervised by election commission employees and located in a public building within the county seat or another location that is as centrally located for the entire county as possible. This legislation requires elections to be conducted on one of the four following days: (1) the second Tuesday in March; (2) the second Tuesday in June; (3) the second Tuesday in September; or (4) the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This legislation also ends the practice of fusion voting.
HOUSE RULE – House Ethics Committee – Passed by House.
The House approved a new rule expanding the House Ethics Committee to ten members, including five from the majority and five from the minority.
H. 3101 – Fighting ObamaCare – Passed House. On Senate calendar.
This legislation prohibits the enforcement of the unconstitutional parts of Obamacare in South Carolina. The General Assembly has the sovereign authority to refuse to enforce the unconstitutional provisions of this federal health care legislation when they exceed the powers delegated to the federal government under the United States Constitution.
H.3710 – State Budget – Approved. Considered Governor’s Vetoes on 6/26‐27.
Highlights of the 2013/2014 State Budget:
- Fully funds the required health insurance increases for employees.
- K‐4 Education –New funds for K4 programs allocated for districts that have a poverty index of 75% or greater and are not named in the Abbeville School District vs. the State of South Carolina lawsuit.
- School Choice ‐ A scholarship granting organization may offer scholarships to special needs children for up to $10,000 per year. The credit is capped at 60% of the taxpayer donors liability. The tax credits are capped at $8 million. An additional part of the compromise was a commitment from the Senate conferees to allow the stand alone school choice bill to be given consideration by the full Senate early next year.
- Data Security‐ Directs $10 million to be used to begin information security structural improvements. The remaining $15 million will provide an additional year(s) of consumer protection services free of charge. The budget also adds a proviso that strengthens the reporting requirements when a public entity experiences a breach of personal data. Effected persons must be notified within seventy‐two hours, with only the Attorney General approving any delay requested by law enforcement. The budget also allows a $300‐$1,000 tax deduction for the purchase of consumer protection services and identity theft resolution services.
- Transportation –$150 million is allocated towards transportation/infrastructure improvements – $100M recurring and $50M nonrecurring. House conferees eliminated all of the fee/tax increases (both at the state and local level) proposed by the Senate Finance Committee.
- DOT will use $50M in recurring General Fund dollars to replace funds that can instead be directed to the Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to bond $500M for bridge and mainline interstate projects.
- 50% of the sales tax on cars will be permanently redirected to be used for secondary roads.
- $50M for the bridge replacement/repair program ‐ this will address about 80 bridges statewide.
- Adds a proviso to allow private school teachers to claim up to $275 in tax credits for classroom supplies.
- Allocated $36 million for special needs students to ‘backfill’ a loss in federal funding. Federal Courts have ruled that the Federal Government cannot continue to withhold those funds, and the state no longer has to backfill the program.
- Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is not funded.
- The General Assembly allocated $15 million for the purchase of school buses.
H. 3945 – Ethics Reform – Passed the House. On Senate Calendar.
- Abolishes the House and Senate ethics committees and replacing them with a new, bi‐partisan commission that includes public officials and members of the general public.
- Creates a “Public Integrity Unit” to investigate criminal complaints.
- Prohibits contributions to public officials from “Leadership PACs”.
- Requires all lawmakers to disclose all sources of income – public and private.
- Requires lobbyists to register if they lobby local governments or school districts, but keeps all exemptions for members of the public and local organizations such as PTAs, homeowners’ associations, or churches.
- Strengthens criminal penalties for violations of the Ethics Act.
- Eliminates the “blackout period” right before an election when candidates do not have to disclose donors.
- Expands when a public official must recuse himself from a vote to include all levels of the legislative process down to the subcommittee level.
S. 22 – Department of Administration – Passed the House. In Conference Committee.
For the fifth time, the House Republicans approved sweeping government reforms that eliminate the Budget and Control Board, cut the size of state government, and makes the state’s executive offices more accountable to the Governor.
The highlights of the bill include:
- Completely eliminating the Budget and Control Board,
- Giving the Governor’s Office more executive authority by transferring 88 percent of the current Board budget and 75 percent of the staff into the new Department of Administration,
- Protecting the state’s AAA credit rating by creating two independent agencies with broader decision making structures to ensure secure management of the state’s fiduciary responsibilities.
Last year’s legislation included a large reduction in the FTEs appropriated to the Budget and Control Board. That is not included in this year’s package because the House rolled those reductions into this year’s budget.
H. 3096 – State Health Care Freedom Act – Passed the House (1/23). In Senate Banking Committee.
This bill provides that the state of South Carolina must not elect to establish or operate Obamacare health insurance exchanges, but must not establish a governmental agency or nonprofit entity to operate an American Health Benefit Exchange, and must not participate in a regional exchange as provided for in Obamacare.
H. 3412 – Automobile Sales Tax Directed to Roads – Passed by House (2/28). Added to the Budget and to H. 3360.
This legislation redirects the sales tax on automobiles to the Department of Transportation to fund highway maintenance, representing $82.8 million each year. Motor vehicle sales tax revenues that fund the Education Improvement Act are not redirected.
S. 578– Boeing Expansion – Signed by Governor (4/23).
The House legislation authorizing the issuance of up to $120 million in economic development bonds to assist infrastructure improvements to aid an expansion of the Boeing plant in North Charleston. It authorizes up to $120 million in bonds for the expansion, bringing an additional investment of at least $400 million and at least four hundred new jobs, and for an enhanced economic development project with an investment of at least $1.1 billion and creating at least two thousand new jobs.
H. 3484 – Fiscal Impact Statements for Proposed Regulations – Passed by the House (3/6). In Senate Judiciary.
The House approved legislation requiring fiscal impact statements on proposed government regulations.
H. 3505 – High Growth Small Business Access to Capital Act – Signed by Governor (6/14).
The House approved this legislation, formerly known as the “Bill Wylie Angel Investment Act.” This establishes nonrefundable income tax credits to encourage “angel investors” providing early stage capital for emerging high‐growth enterprises in such areas as manufacturing, processing, warehousing, wholesaling, software development, and information technology services.
H. 3623 – Electronic Automobile Insurance Verification – Passed by House (4/11). In Senate Transportation
The House approved legislation that allows drivers to show proof of insurance on a mobile device. If an insurer chooses to provide verification in an electronic format, the insured may display this electronic proof of automobile insurance coverage on a smartphone or other mobile electronic device in order to provide a law enforcement officer with evidence that he satisfies the financial responsibility requirements established for drivers under state law.
H. 3340 – Session Shortening – Passed the House (2/6). Awaiting action in Senate Judiciary.
For the 10th time since 1994, the House approved a constitutional amendment shortening the legislative session. This amendment requires the legislative session begin one month later each year and end one month earlier – beginning on the second Tuesday in February and ending on the first Thursday in May. The amendment also authorizes the House and Senate to hold committee meetings and conduct hearings in January.
H. 3560 – Handgun‐Background Check for Mental Health Issues – Signed by the Governor (5/13).
The House overwhelmingly approved a bi‐partisan measure to add people who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a judge to the federal gun background check registry. This follows the incident in February where a women who had been indicted of a threat to kill President George W. Bush went to Charleston’s Ashley Hall school and attempted to shoot people. The gun did not fire because it was not properly loaded. Our state narrowly avoided a terrible tragedy.
H.3583 – Non‐Infringement on Second Amendment’s Right to Bear Arms – Passed by the House (2/28). In Senate Judiciary.
S.3 – Raffles/Gambling – Signed by the Governor (3/22).
This legislation allows charitable organizations to hold and advertise special events such as bingo, raffles, or other similar activities intended to raise money for charitable purposes. They do not have the authority to make use of video poker machines, slot machines, or other coin‐operated gambling machines.
H. 3540/H.3541 – Governor Appointment of Adjutant General – Passed by the House. Enabling legislation approved by Senate, but constitutional amendment still on Senate calendar.
The House approved a joint resolution making the Adjutant General appointed by the Governor. This also establishes provisions relating to: the duties of the office; the minimum command experience, South Carolina National Guard service requirements, and other qualifications for the office; the procedures by which the appointment is made; and the procedures by which the Adjutant General may be removed from office by the Governor only for certain reasons constituting cause. This will now be on the ballot for approval in November 2014.
H. 3504 – Legal Tender/Coins – Passed the House (4/11). Awaiting action in Senate Finance.
The House approved legislation providing that gold and silver coins minted foreign or domestic shall be legal tender in South Carolina. The legislation further provides that no person or other entity may compel another person or other entity to tender or accept gold or silver coin unless agreed upon by the parties.
H.3554 ‐ Samples and Sales of Beer at Breweries – Signed by Governor (6/6).
The House approved legislation that will allow breweries to offer on‐premises consumption in conjunction with tours. It sets limits on the alcohol content of the beer and the amount a single consumer can consume in 24 hours.
H.3027 ‐ Property Tax Classification for Active Duty Military – Passed by House (4/24). Awaiting action in Senate Finance
The legislation provides that an active duty member of the Armed Forces of the United States who receives the special assessment ratio for owner‐occupied residential property retains this four percent assessment ratio as long as the owner remains on active duty, regardless of the owner’s change of duty station and regardless of any rental income attributable to the property.
H. 3862 ‐ Balanced Budget Amendment – Passed by House (4/17). Awaiting action in Senate Finance.
H.3472 ‐ Conversion of Private School to Public School – Signed by Governor (6/12).
This legislation allows private schools to convert to public charter schools without having to dissolve and close for a period of twelve months, as long as the private school’s student population reflects the racial composition of the local school district. Private schools that successfully convert to charter schools will be held to the same requirements as all other charter schools.
H.3518 ‐ Accountability‐based Funding for Colleges and Universities – Passed by House (4/9). In Senate Education.
The House approved a joint resolution requiring performance‐based funding recommendations for public colleges and universities. This legislation directs the CHE, in collaboration with the college presidents, to make recommendations on a funding method featuring specified evaluation criteria emphasizing accountability, performance, and outcomes to ensure that public institutions of higher learning receive financial support from the state based upon the quality and effectiveness of the services they provide.
H.3086 ‐ In‐state Tuition for Military Dependents – Passed by House (3/20). In Senate Education. (Added as budget proviso by House on 6/5.)
The House expanded in‐state tuition eligibility for veterans and their dependents. Veterans and their dependents would be entitled to receive in‐state tuition rates and fees at state institutions without the requirement of one year of physical presence in this state.
H.3919 ‐ Exit Exams – Passed by House (4/30/2013). In Senate Education. (Added as budget proviso by House on 6/5.)
The House approved a bill that provides for the elimination of the high school exit exam as a requirement for graduation. Additionally, the legislation creates a study committee to consider whether the exit exam should remain the accountability assessment used by the state and to recommend an alternative, if necessary. The committee is to make a report to the General Assembly no later than January 31, 2014.