Weekly Legislative Update – February 11 – 13, 2020

Happenings SC State House
What they did:

This week, lawmakers received the Department of Administration’s (DOA) report of the top proposals for the disposal of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation instructing the DOA to hire experts and collect, evaluate and recommend proposals for the sale, external management, and internal reform of Santee Cooper. The DOA and the private industry experts they hired have recommended that lawmakers consider the purchase offer of Florida-based NextEra, and the management offer of Dominion Energy (which recently purchased SCANA), along with Santee Cooper’s own reform proposal. 

Yesterday, the Senate and House appropriations committees held a joint committee meeting on the Santee Cooper report – which state law requires them to also do for the state budget process (although they routinely ignore that provision). Lawmakers will be holding a series of committee meetings to consider the report and which proposal to adopt in the weeks to come.

A House subcommittee voted to advance legislation to overhaul local business license fees. This bill (H.4431) among other things would mandate that business license fees be based on business taxable income. This bill will now go before the full House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.

Another House subcommittee voted to advance H.4745, which would allow county councils to redirect hospitality tax revenues to interstate construction. This would apply only if the hospitality tax was imposed before 1997 and appears to be aimed at allowing Horry County to fund the proposed construction of I-73. This bill will now be considered by the full House Ways and Means Committee.

Finally, yet another House subcommittee met for the second time on legislation to call for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. While the committee did not take a vote this week, they may vote next week. (Here is why a constitutional convention would be ineffective at solving the real problems facing our nation, and why the proposal is extremely dangerous.)

The full House voted this week to place Alonzo J. “AJ” Holloway on the Ethics Commission. (For context, the ethics “reform” legislation that passed in 2016 gave lawmakers control over half of the appointments to the Ethics Commission, with the House and Senate each selecting two members.) 

The House also passed H.4940, creating the “Electricity Market Reform Measures Study Committee” and requiring this committee to hire third-party consultants to advise on market reform measures – but to do so outside of the state’s legal procurement process which governs how contractors, venders and personnel are hired. 

The House also passed H.4702, allowing the Richland-Lexington Airport Commission to apply to the federal government to set up foreign-trade zones (essentially free-trade zones where duty or excise taxes – and often state and local property taxes – do not apply) in numerous midlands counties; and H.4974, adding two new judicial circuits and judges, and two new family court judges. 

Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.867, which allows the counting of 2020 absentee ballots to begin the day before the election. The Senate also continued debate on the education omnibus bill, which approaches public education as a “workforce development system” in which schools are less about educating students, and more about supplying businesses with qualified workers. Amendments adopted this week include the addition of “disciplinary climate data” to the comprehensive report cards, and reauthorization of loans to cover the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification for teachers.

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What they filed:

This week’s newly filed bills included H.5125, which would create a new government task force to “protect” 30% of all state land by 2030. The taskforce – headed by state environmental agencies such as the S.C. Conservation Bank – would be charged with deciding how to implement conservation measures on nearly one-third of state land, including private property. Within one year, the group must submit their recommendations to lawmakers for review and necessary funding requests, and begin to execute their plan shortly after. 

Another bill (S.1108) would require owners of fertile pit bulls to obtain a $500 annual registration with a local animal control agency. This is in addition to other potential animal registration fees required by local government. Owners who fail to register their pit bulls would face a fine starting at $1,000. S.1109 would allow individuals who lose their pets resulting from an animal-related crime (that doesn’t meet the threshold of cruelty) to petition the court to have their animals returned. The individual (at the direction of the court) would have to pass a test administered by an animal advocacy organization and pay a “redemption fee” to cover court costs and the costs of the training.

H.5229 would eliminate criminal immunity related to a number of drug crimes for individuals seeking medical attention for an overdose victim.  Furthermore, it would require that someone witnessing an overdose seek immediate medical attention. 

Finally, H.5139 would establish a new benefit plan for firefighters diagnosed with cancer. 

The House also adopted 63 resolutions honoring Boy scouts who reached the rank of Eagle Scout.

To view the full list of this week’s newly filed bills, click here.

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