Weekly Legislative Update – March 17 – 19, 2020

Happenings SC State House
What they did:

This week, the General Assembly reconvened briefly to pass H.4014, which appropriates $45 million of surplus dollars to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to address the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The governor suggested that these funds be deducted from a small, nonrefundable tax credit of $100 per taxpayer (with a state tax bill of least $100) in the House version of the budget – instead of from the over $51 million of surplus funds aimed at pork projects or programs. However, where those funds are actually deducted from will be determined by lawmakers when they return to the state budget.

Specifically, the $45 million was directed to a separate account set up by the Executive Budget Office (EBO) under the governor, and can only be accessed by DHEC for COVID-19-related expenses that are “necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The EBO is required to publish a monthly report on how these funds are spent. 

The legislation also authorizes DHEC to spend funds from other sources – including the agency’s $213.3 million cash balance on hand as of Monday (March 16) – for the state’s COVID-19 response, as well as to reallocate supplies and personnel to the infection hotspots.

For any retired public employees that are rehired to fight the virus, the legislation also temporarily lifts the cap on how much they can be paid without affecting their pension payments. 

This bill was passed on Tuesday by the Senate and on Thursday by the House, and was signed immediately afterwards by the governor. The Senate also passed a continuing resolution to fund state government at the current levels should the state budget not pass before the end of the fiscal year. The measure was not taken up by the House.

The General Assembly has not scheduled a date to return and will meet at the call of the House and Senate presiding officers.

What they filed:

Despite the short legislative week, lawmakers filed a handful of bills and a number of resolutions. S.1184 significantly increases the burden on massage therapy establishments by requiring massage businesses and sole proprietorships to be licensed (under current law, only the massage therapists themselves are required to obtain licenses), and imposing significant new application fees. The bill would also greatly increase the current massage therapy licensure fees – the license application fee alone being tripled from $50 to $150.

H.5419 would prohibit the courts from processing evictions for 90 days (this week the SC Supreme Court Chief Justice ordered a similar stay on all eviction proceedings scheduled through the end of March), and H.5420 imposes a $30/ton surcharge on any coal ash transfer to a landfill in a county with population less than 19,500.The funds would be collected by DHEC and spent on water/air quality improvements and land and waste management within that same county.

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

Previous weekly updates:

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