Weekly Legislative Update: February 18 – 20, 2020

Happenings SC State House
What they did:

This week, lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee adopted the largest budget in state history – recommending that the state spend over $32 billion in the next fiscal year. For perspective, last year’s spending package was a little under $30 billion. Among other things, lawmakers have proposed spending an additional $101 million on roads. Despite a steep gas tax hike in 2017 that lawmakers promised would fund road repair and maintenance, The Nerve reported that comparatively few projects have been completed despite $1.04 billion having been collected over the past 2.5 years since the tax hike was enacted.

Of the additional funding House budget writers directed to roads, $23 million would specifically supplement the counties’ local share of gas-tax revenue (known as C-Funds). This is after three bills were filed (two of which have already passed one chamber and crossed over to the other) that would pay local transportation officials out of the C-Funds for attending their meetings. 

Lawmakers also spent a lot of time this week examining the Department of Administration’s report detailing three different proposals for the future of state-owned utility Santee Cooper: a purchase offer from NextEra, a management offer from Dominion, and an internal reform proposal from Santee Cooper itself. All three proposals have serious problems, and none of them would eliminate Santee Cooper’s $7 billion in ratepayer-backed debt. The only way to arrive at a real solution for Santee Cooper is to start with a transparent process where decision makers can be held directly accountable. Read more here.

In other news, the House Labor, Commerce and Industry (LCI) Committee voted to amend and advance legislation to overhaul local business license fees. As originally written, this bill (H.4431) would mandate that local business license fees be based on business taxable income, but the committee amendment would base license fees on gross income. This bill will now go to the House floor.

The House LCI committee also passed H.4776, which in its original form would have required Public Service Commission (PSC) members to wait for three years instead of one year after leaving the commission before working for a utility. The committee, however, substituted watered-down language that would allow commissioners to work for utilities after a year had elapsed from the time they left the PSC, as long as they did not actually represent the utilities before the PSC.

Meanwhile, the the House passed H.3455 to require occupational licensing for residential swimming pool contractors, and passed six road-naming resolutions – three of which named a road or intersection after individuals who are still living.

The Senate passed another resolution to name a road after a deceased police officer, and continued debating 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. This week, an attempt to end the debate and force a vote failed. Finally, the Senate passed S.867, which would allow the counting of 2020 absentee ballots to begin the day before the election.


What they filed:

This week’s newly filed bills included H.5271, which would create the felony of “coercive control of another person,” with a long list of behaviors which could fall under this offense – some of which are already illegal, and others which are problematic but not necessarily criminal. Another bill, H.5234, would require the Department of Aging to pay for emergency response systems for seniors who cannot afford them and do not qualify for similar federal programs.

H.5270 would make it illegal to possess, buy, or sell a stolen long gun or one with the serial number obliterated. H.5242 would void non-compete covenants between current/former employees and nonprofits with over $1 billion in revenue. H.5243 would prohibit homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from banning the flying of the SC state flag, while S.1116 would stop HOAs from foreclosing on homes for unpaid dues, fines, or other fees. 

S.1121 would consolidate the two Hampton County school districts, but would allow the local legislative delegation to appoint the initial board of trustees and to fill any vacancies in unexpired terms going forward – a highly inappropriate provision, as state lawmakers have no proper role in local governance. Finally, H.5262 is yet another resolution calling for a constitutional convention to amend the US Constitution – a dangerous approach that would not solve the real problems with the federal government.

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

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