Weekly Legislative Update. February 26 – 28, 2019

What they did

This week, a couple of significant bills passed out of committee and were added to the House floor calendar, one of which was H.3759, the education omnibus bill. This bill was revised in committee, but still includes the creation of a “Zero to Twenty Committee” to “monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by state employers” (which is similar to the mission of the Coordinating Council on Workforce Development).

H.3145 also passed out of committee. This bill would impose more transparency regulations on electric cooperatives, regulate their elections to make participation easier, and allow the Office of Regulatory Staff to audit them.

Finally, the House recalled S.326 from committee. This bill would move funds from SLED to reimburse costs of PTSD in firefighters and EMTs (read more here). This bill will now be debated in the House without having had a House committee vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.362, which creates a tax credit for solar energy farms; S.318, which allows state agencies to enter pay-for-success contracts (where the state pays only when the desired outcomes are achieved); and S.329, which extends a tax credit for geothermal machinery. The Senate also overrode the Governor’s veto of S.335, which amends the terms of several special purpose district commissioners in Aiken County. The Governor’s veto message states that the bill was an unconstitutional special law. The Senate, however, overrode the veto unanimously.

What they said

During a committee meeting considering S.259, which would fund eminent domain for floodplain acquisition and creation, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch (the bill sponsor) said the following:

“We think, at least Senator Scott and Senator Graham thinks that there is a benefit to the people of South Carolina and to local governments to establishing these opportunity zones and to growing these opportunity zones for economic development purposes and beyond.

So we, I personally agree with that, the stake holders personally agreed with that, and the thought was there is a vested interest everybody has in creating those opportunity zones and moving people, encouraging people, incentivizing people to move into those opportunity zones to create transition zones.”

This is a curious statement, given that the bill under consideration would fund the creation of floodplains, ostensibly in response to natural disasters, not the economic development program of “opportunity zones.”

What they filed

This week, lawmakers filed 82 new bills (not including all the honorary resolutions).

One of the most noteworthy examples is H.4142. This joint resolution would “urge” the SC Lottery Commission to attempt to retroactively amend the state’s contract with the national lottery game – so that the state will be able to collect the $60 million that would have gone to state income tax if the winner of the October 23, 2018 jackpot claimed the prize by the April deadline.

The bill also “strongly encourages” the commissioners to “to discuss with [their] counterparts in other states the benefits of such a provision to all states.” Of course, as the entire amount of prize money will be distributed to all 44 states that participated if it remains unclaimed, there would be very little benefit to the other states to allow the South Carolina government to collect its income tax cut anyway.

Among the other bills that were filed was H.4087, which would prohibit individuals from owning or transporting guns or ammunition once convicted of a crime carrying a maximum prison sentence of over one year – a direct attack on 2nd Amendment rights. Conversely, S.590 would reform South Carolina’s asset forfeiture laws.

H.4077 would create a study committee comprised of lawmakers to study how to make local governments’ financial reports more accurate. H.4133 would create a tax credit for donating to a “community development fund” – a type of tax favor. And S.558 would make smoking with children in a car illegal – a bill with concerning implications for parental rights.

To view the full list of bills and their summaries, click here.

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