Weekly Legislative Update

June 23 – 24, 2020

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What they did:

This week, the General Assembly returned to the Statehouse for the first of two scheduled special sessions. (They plan to return in September as well to write/pass the state budget.)

During the two-day session, lawmakers passed legislation (H.5202) appropriating $1.2 billion of the $1.9 billion in federal COVID-19 funding South Carolina received from the CARES Act. Lawmakers plan to spend the remainder when they return in September.

Here’s a breakdown of the spending in H.5202:

  • $270 million – Reimbursing state agencies, colleges/universities, and local governments for COVID-19-related expenses
  • $500 million – Unemployment trust fund
  • $222.7 million – Department of Education to use for summer reading/math camps and five extra school days
  • $42.4 million – Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to use for statewide COVID-19 testing and monitoring
  • $16.8 million – Adjutant General’s Emergency Management Division to build a state stockpile of personal protective equipment
  • $125 million – hospital relief, to be distributed by the Executive Budget Office (EBO)
  • $50 million – Office of Regulatory Staff to fund launching a statewide broadband program, and to buy mobile hotspots
  • $10 million – EBO to spend on grant management oversight and compliance (including paying the state’s recently-hired independent grant manager)

Since these funds will be distributed as COVID-19-related expense reimbursements, eligible entities (state agencies, local governments, colleges/universities, hospitals, etc.) must apply to the Executive Budget Office (EBO) to receive funding. The EBO and Guidehouse, an independent grant management company hired at the direction of lawmakers in last month’s H.3411, are overseeing the distribution of funding and working to ensure compliance with federal funding guidelines. 

This week, lawmakers also confirmed several significant appointments:

  • Six magistrates (five in Orangeburg County and one in Colleton County, all reappointments)
  • Two members of the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) board (one reappointment and one initial appointment)
  • Two members of the State Board of Nursing (both initial appointments)
  • One Department of Transportation Commissioner (5th Congressional District, reappointment)

They also scheduled a legislative election for four Public Service Commission members, a number of college and university trustees, and three members of the Department of Employment and Workforce Appellate Panel for September 23, 2020. 

Only a handful of bills passed aside from the CARES Act spending legislation, but among them were four road-naming bills (H.5040, H.5300, H.5301, and H.5431). The House also adopted Senate amendments and gave final passage to H.5034, which reconstitutes the Charleston County School District into single-member election districts corresponding with the county council districts.

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What they filed:

Finally, despite limitations on which bills can be discussed in the September session (and the fact that 2020 is the second half of the two-year legislative session, preventing any bills filed this year from carrying over into 2021), lawmakers filed several new bills, four of which could be considered to relate to the public health emergency and therefore eligible for September consideration. 

These bills include S.1235, which creates an Office of Broadband Development to service “as the central broadband planning body for the State”; S.1234, which alters the governor’s ability to call a state of emergency (although the criteria is currently left blank); H.5526, a statewide mask mandate; and H.5527, which provides COVID-19-related liability immunity for businesses and healthcare providers, as well as government entities.

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

Previous weekly updates: