Weekly Legislative Update: Apr 23 – Apr 25, 2019

What they did:

This week, the House passed H.4332, a bill which would allow economic development bonds to be issued for freight projects. The bill also creates a special class of economic development project called “strategic infrastructure project” which could be exempted from job creation requirements. The House added language limiting borrowing to $50 million per strategic infrastructure project. This bill did not make the crossover deadline, so a two-thirds majority vote would be required for the Senate just to consider the bill on the floor this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate spent a lot of time debating S.678 – legislation to sell Santee Cooper. The bill would require the Department of Administration to accept, review bids and to present a recommended purchase offer to lawmakers. Selling Santee Cooper would be a big step toward reform, but only if it is done in a transparent, accountable manner – meaning a process that doesn’t centralize control in the hands of legislators and allow key decisions to be made behind closed doors. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation falls short of that. No vote was taken this week, and the debate will continue next week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed further consideration of S.110 till next year. This bill would create another legislative guarantee for SCANA’s V.C. Summer debt as part of a debt refinancing process called “securitization” (read more here). This bill will not become law this year.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee also passed H.3145, which would impose transparency and ethics regulations on electric cooperatives, and would subject them to oversight by the Office of Regulatory Staff. This bill is now on the Senate floor calendar, and as it made the crossover deadline, could become law this year.

The final day of regular session is Thursday, May 9.

 

What they filed:

While the influx of newly filed legislation has slowed to a trickle as the session winds to a close, some highly concerning bills continue to be filed. On Tuesday, a bill (S.780) was filed that would expand the use of tolls to fund new highway construction, interstate expansion, road reconstruction, bridge replacement, etc. This bill would also strike the current requirement that toll road-funded projects also have an element of federal funding, and would allow toll charges to continue even after the road project is fully paid for. This bill would allow tolls to be imposed for nearly any type of road project – despite the gas tax hike supposedly having addressed the issue of road funding.

Another new bill – H.4482 – would require state agencies and local governments to prepare impact analyses before adopting ordinances or regulations increasing (or decreasing) the cost of housing (including the costs of development and construction, costs of ownership such as utility bills, etc., and the cost of availability, such as zoning ordinances). The bill would also require local governments to prepare and publish housing plans and residential development fee reports.

This week, lawmakers also filed the annual sine die adjournment resolution. This resolution provides for a May 20-22 special session to work on the budget (which has not yet been assigned to conference committee), gubernatorial vetoes, any bills in conference committee, and – significantly – legislation pertaining to Santee Cooper and “related matters.”

To view the full list of new bills, click here.

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