Crossover update: what passed and what didn’t

Wednesday, April 10 was the crossover deadline, which means that bills that failed to cross to the other chamber by this date will need a two-thirds majority to be taken up in the opposite house. This makes them unlikely to become law this year.

Here is a status update of important bills we have been tracking during the legislative session.

 

Bills that passed

 

H.4243 – Tax incentives for the Carolina Panthers

This bill would extend tax favors to the Carolina Panthers NFL team in an attempt to lure them to relocate their practice facility and headquarters (not their stadium) to South Carolina. Specifically, the legislation would amend the jobs tax credit law to make the Panthers eligible to receive the credit, including a new definition of “new job” that essentially means the team would not have to hire any new South Carolinians. The bill would also exempt the team from business license fees and taxes, and would protect their property from municipal annexation without prior written consent of the team. It should be noted that qualifying for the jobs tax credit would also result in eligibility for the job development tax credit.

This bill was fast-tracked through the House and is now in the Senate Finance Committee, which previously passed its own version of this bill.

 

S.342 – Mandatory training, occupational licensing for bartenders

This bill would require bartenders and their managers to complete a state-selected alcohol server training program.  New hires would have 60 days from their hire date to complete the training. The program would cost up to $35 per person, and failure to complete the training on time comes with additional fines and fees. The certificate would cost up to $15 per issuance/renewal.

The bill allows the Department of Revenue to charge an eligible service provider up to $500 to offer the program. That money would be deposited into a new fund created by the bill, and would be used for costs of implementation and enforcement of the bill. This bill passed the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

 

S.259 – A loan fund for home buyouts to create floodplains

S.259 would create a $2 million loan fund to finance “repetitive loss” home buyouts, property acquisitions and floodplain restoration, through local governments and land trusts. The land acquired must be returned to open space with an easement prohibiting future development. The bill would prioritize the buyouts of low-income household residences, and would incentivize local governments to relocate residents into “opportunity zones” – a recently created federal economic development program where investors are subject to reduced taxes for developing in a government-designated area. (To read more on Opportunity Zones click here.)

While the funds cannot be directly used for eminent domain purposes, nothing in the bill would prohibit a local government from seizing property through eminent domain and then applying for a loan to finish the floodplain’s creation. This bill passed the Senate and is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

H.4261 – Legislative elections for Santee Cooper board members, firing the current board

This bill would fire the current Santee Cooper board of directors, and would allow the General Assembly to elect seven of the 12 board members, with the Governor appointing the remaining five. The bill would also create a legislative oversight committee for Santee Cooper – despite the existence of the advisory board already created by statute and comprised of five constitutional officers. These changes would further extend the legislature’s power monopoly over the energy industry. The bill would also add conflict of interest provisions for board members, would require more transparency in rate-making proceedings, and would require Santee Cooper to obtain the Public Service Commission’s approval for any new major utility facilities.

This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

S.276 – Mental health evaluation as bond condition for threatening violence

S.276 would allow the court to require individuals accused of threatening violence by use of a dangerous weapon to undergo a mental health evaluation as a condition of bond, if “the threat [was] to occur while” on school, church or public property, or “at a public gathering place.” If the evaluation finds that the person needs further treatment, they must undergo additional mental health counseling in order to be released on bond. The bill also mandates criminal penalties ranging from one to five years in prison.

This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

 

Bills that did not pass

 

H.3757 – Data warehouse

This bill would create a massive data collecting system to track children from preschool through the workforce (and possibly beyond). Data would be pulled from a number of agencies, including the Department of Education, Department of Social Services, Department of Commerce, institutions of higher education, and more. The bill would allow any other state agency to be brought into the database as deemed necessary by lawmakers.

The database is part of a large, dangerous project that would pose numerous privacy threats. Even aside from its problematic goal – to help meet the needs of the state’s economy and to improve the workforce delivery system – the potential for abuse creates a massive risk for citizens’ privacy.

UPDATE: This bill received second reading in the House 92-8 on 5/2/19, and is now awaiting a perfunctory third-reading vote before being referred to Senate committee. As it did not pass the crossover deadline, the bill cannot become law this year unless lawmakers insert the language into another bill, or the Senate votes by a two-thirds majority to take it up immediately.

 

H.4332 – Expanding economic development bonds

This bill would expand the possible use of economic development bonds, which are backed by the taxpayers’ personal property. Currently, these bonds can be issued for anything from land acquisition to employee training. This bill would add “freight transportation” to that list.

The bill also creates a subcategory of economic development projects – “strategic infrastructure projects” – which are not subject to the job creation and capital investment requirements that companies must usually meet for bonds to be issued. This bill is currently on the House calendar.

 

S.298 – Increasing higher education spending, creating enterprise divisions

This bill would allow unaccountable university spending, borrowing and construction, would greatly increase state spending on higher education, and would limit future tuition increases.

It would let universities to establish quasi-government entities called “enterprise divisions” –  murky organizations created by resolution of a university’s board of trustees that could purchase and sell property, issue bonds, and build facilities just as a university can. However, enterprise divisions would be largely exempted from state oversight in most of these activities.

The bill would also tie university and college appropriations to General Fund revenues. For example, if the General Fund revenues are projected to increase, lawmakers would have to increase funding to colleges and universities by that same percentage (not to exceed 5%). If revenue were to decrease, however, lawmakers could only cut higher education funding by that same percentage – although they would not be required to.

This bill is currently on the Senate calendar. A standalone enterprise division bill (S.283) also failed to pass the Senate.

 

H.3045 and H.4203 – Mandating donor disclosure for non-electioneering communications, regulating political speech

H.3045 would define “independent expenditure committee” as any group that spends over $500 on election communications, and would require the disclosure of the group’s major donors. As “election communications” would include communications that support or attack a candidate within 45 days of an election, this could regulate political speech that is not campaign speech, particularly given that the primary season in South Carolina overlaps the legislative session.

H.4203 would revise the definition of “committee” struck by the state Supreme Court in 2010 for being overly broad. Committees are subject to a plethora of regulations in the Ethics Act, and accordingly should be narrowly defined in order to regulate only campaign speech, not issue advocacy. Both of these bills are broadly written with key terms left undefined, and the regulations would be triggered by expenditures too small to carry a major public concern of quid pro quo. As such, this legislation could have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected political speech.

These bills are currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

 

H.3968 – Banning civil asset forfeiture

H.3968 would ban civil asset forfeiture, which occurs when state government – through civil procedure – seizes an individual’s property that is suspected of being connected to a crime. Under this bill, property could only be forfeited (1) after a conviction and (2) when asset forfeiture is an explicit penalty for the crime committed. The bill also places parameters on the types of property that could be forfeited, stating that proceeds and property must be “derived directly” from or used in the commission of a crime.

A few exceptions would allow the state to temporarily seize someone’s property during the criminal process, such as property is seized during an arrest, or if the state believes the property is in danger of being destroyed.

The bill also would require law enforcement agencies to maintain a list of all property seized and forfeited, including when the property was taken, the crime prompting the seizure, and its market value. This bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. However, another bill (H.3307) requiring a seized property database did pass the House before the crossover date.

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