Bills update: What to watch, what passed, what didn’t
By the time the legislative session ended last Thursday, a number of significant bills had either passed or failed. However, due to the sine die resolution which scheduled two special sessions (the first of which lawmakers cancelled) with the possibility of a third this summer to consider specified topics, a number of bills are still in play. Those bills are:
- The state budget
- Anything related to the V.C. Summer issue (including any new bills lawmakers may file on this topic)
- Legislation conforming the state tax code to the recently amended federal tax code,
- Anything in conference committee
- Local legislation if it has the unanimous support of the legislative delegation in question
Here is an overview of the bills that could pass in the coming months, the bills that are dead for the year, and the bills that passed into law.
Bills to watch
H.4950 – State budget (conference committee)
The House and Senate versions of the state appropriations bill are currently in conference committee. Total spending approved by the Senate is $28.5 billion. The final version of the House budget showed an overall decrease of $4 billion due to a reduction in projected Other Fund revenue, making the total House budget $24.5 billion. The two spending packages – along with their plethora of questionable provisos – are currently in conference committee, but the committee has announced that they will not complete the budget before the June 27 special session – days before the next fiscal year begins on July 1. Should that deadline not be met, a continuing resolution will continue to fund fund state government at the previous year’s spending level.
S.954: Temporarily suspending rate hikes (conference committee)
This bill would temporarily lift some or all of the V.C. Summer rate hikes and delay the Public Service Commission’s determination of who should pay for the project’s debt (read more). The bill is currently in conference committee.
H.4375 – Retroactively amending the Base Load Review Act (conference committee)
This bill would attempt to retroactively change the state law that guaranteed SCANA’s debt by altering the terms of the guarantee – an unconstitutional provision and unlikely to hold up under a court challenge (read more). The bill passed the House, was amended by the Senate, and is now in conference committee.
H.4379 – Amending the utility consumer advocate function (passed, amended by the Senate)
This bill originally placed the utility consumer advocate function under the Attorney General, but was amended in the Senate to place the function under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The House has not yet voted on the Senate amendment, but could do so in special session.
H.4009 – Tax incentive for the Darlington Raceway (conference committee)
This bill creates a special sales tax exemption for motorsports entertainment complexes, of which South Carolina has only one (read more). The Senate added language from an unrelated bill that doubles the budget of the South Carolina Research Authority, and the two versions are now in conference committee.
S.1183: Allowing Richland delegation to change appointment method for special purpose district (waiting on 3rd reading in the Senate)
This local bill violates a Supreme Court ruling (read more), and received second reading without a committee hearing or a recorded vote in the Senate. If the Richland delegation supports the bill, it could pass in special session this summer.
There are currently two bills that addresses the nonconformity between the South Carolina and US tax codes. It is unclear which is most likely to pass, especially since the language of the sine die resolution allows additional bills on this topic to be introduced in special session. Should no conformity legislation pass at all, a proviso in the House budget would require any additional revenue brought in due to nonconformity to be transferred to the Tax Relief Reserve Fund – unless there is a General Fund revenue shortfall.
Bills that passed
H.3146: Constitutional amendment allowing the Governor to appoint Superintendent of Education
This joint resolution would amend the State Constitution to make the Superintendent of Education a gubernatorial appointment – a much-needed reform. It passed both chambers and will be placed on the general election ballot in November.
S.805: Creating the Department of Children’s Advocacy
This bill creates a new state agency to investigate complaints regarding children under the care of other state departments such as the Department of Mental Health, etc. The bill has numerous due process and privacy issues, but passed both houses, was signed by the Governor, and is now law.
S.345: Expanded practice for nurse practitioners
This bill would allow nurse practitioners more practice freedom, including less direct supervision and expanded medical authorization. The bill passed both houses and will become law upon the Governor’s signature.
H.3622: Expanded practice for podiatrists
This legislation expands the authorized scope of practice for podiatrists to the ankle as well as the foot. Similar legislation was featured as one of the best bills of the 2017 session in last year’s Best and Worst of the General Assembly 2017. The bill will become law upon the Governor’s signature.
S.176: Prohibiting drones near correctional facilities
This bill outlaws the operation of drones within five hundred feet of a correctional facility, and provides penalties for violation. It passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House until late in the session. The bill will become law upon the Governor’s signature.
H.3653: Protecting manufacturing & industrial facilities from nuisance suits
This bill would prevent individuals from protecting their property against unwanted disturbances through nuisance lawsuits (read more). It passed the House last year and the Senate this year, and was signed into law by the Governor in February.
H.4729: Reinstituting the three-store limit on retail liquor businesses
This was originally a law struck down last year by the state Supreme Court. Lawmakers promptly re-added the language – with a one-year sunset clause – to another bill that passed last year as a stop-gap measure. This year’s H.4729 permanently reinstated the three-store limit with narrow exceptions. It passed both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor in April.
Bills that failed
H.3529: Prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags
This bill was filed last year to overrule a specific plastic bag ban by a coastal local government, although the legislation would extend to the entire state. It passed the House last year and received a favorable committee report in the Senate, but did not make it to the full Senate.
H.3038: Creating licensing for locksmiths
This bill would have required licensing for yet another occupation (along with a new revenue stream for state government) – locksmiths. Both the House and Senate passed this bill in different versions, but session ended before the House could vote on the Senate’s amendments.
H.4618: Slightly loosening requirements for car dealership license
Last year, lawmakers lowered the sales threshold for renewing a car dealer license, and this bill would have conformed the rest of state code to that change. The bill passed the House, but did not pass committee in the Senate.
S.516: Gun control – closing the “Charleston loophole”
This bill started out as a gun control measure and was the only one to move this session. It was amended to only address incident reporting requirements for law enforcement and the courts (read more). It did not pass out of committee in the Senate.
H.4421: Expanding customer-based solar generation (net-metering)
This bill would have lifted the cap on how many customers could install home-based solar panels (under current law, only 2% of a utility’s overall power generation can come from customer-based solar panels). The bill failed on its third reading vote in the House.
These bills called for conventions to amend the US and South Carolina Constitutions, respectively. The issue, however, is that the most glaring problems affecting both state and federal government are not the result of constitutional shortfalls, and the proposed conventions would likely do more harm than good. The federal constitutional convention bill stalled after passing a Senate committee, and the state bill never received a committee hearing.
H.5000: “Reforming” the state pension structure
This bill was one of two attempts to overhaul the state’s unsustainable pension system. However, H.5000 left in place many elements of the current system that have contributed to the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit. The bill was filed late in session and never received a committee hearing. Some form of this legislation will likely be refiled next year.
This legislation would have given South Carolina patients the option to use cannabis for medical purposes, while guarding against non-medical usage. The Senate bill reached the Senate calendar too late in the process to have a likelihood of passage, while the House bill never received a committee vote.
SCPC will continue to monitor legislative activity in the upcoming special sessions, and will discuss the bills covered in this piece and more in our upcoming publication Best and Worst of the General Assembly 2018.