Weekly Legislative Update. March 11- 14, 2019

What they did

This week, the House passed a $30 billion budget – the largest in state history. Spending highlights include increased revenue to colleges and universities in exchange for a partial one-year in-state tuition freeze; funding for a 2% employee and judicial pay hike; increased revenue for classrooms and teacher salaries; a new economic development fund to recruit jobs to rural districts; and a handful of earmarks for lawmakers’ pet projects (read more here).

Meanwhile, the Senate Education Committee passed S.283, a bill that would authorize colleges and universities to create powerful – and unaccountable mini-governments called “enterprise divisions”. The bill was revised in committee, but remains essentially the same – less oversight and accountability for big projects, none for small, and complete exemption from state law governing employees and procurement. University debt and building projects are already unaccountable to citizens, and would be even more so under this bill.

The Senate Education Committee also amended and passed H.3576, which creates a new technical college scholarship. The scholarship would be funded through the budget, and would be available to technical college students who a) receive a lottery scholarship, and b) are majoring in a “critical workforce area program.” Low-income students would qualify regardless of major, as long as they also receive a lottery scholarship as well. This bill is simply another example of lawmakers’ “train-and-deliver” approach to education and the workforce.

The full Senate amended and passed H.3595, which would increase funding for the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA). This version of the bill increases the Industry Partnership Fund cap from $6 million to $9 million, and the available dollar-for-dollar tax credit (which funds it) would be decreased from $2 million per taxpayer to $250,000 per taxpayer. The bill already passed the House, and will now go back to the House for a vote on the Senate amendments.

What they said

Commenting on the possibility of the Carolina Panthers’ relocation to South Carolina, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said:

“[The Panthers] are givers. Not takers.”

That same day, Rep. Simrill filed an incentive bill that would give the NFL team a number of pricey perks and favors – all paid for by the taxpayers. These favors include qualification for an annual job tax credit – and a redefinition of “new job” so that the team would qualify whether they hire any new South Carolinians or not.

What they filed

This week, lawmakers filed 73 new bills, 26 of which were honorary/sympathy resolutions.

One bill – S.638 – would prohibit local internet monopolies by allowing all internet providers to have equal access to rights-of-way beside roads. Another bill – S.660 – would impose additional regulations on wind energy facilities to ensure they do not interfere with the Department of Defense and military bases. S.657 is a joint resolution that would extend the current net metering (customer-based solar) program till June 2019 or action by General Assembly.

S.641 would creates a taxpayer-funded “Office of Public Policy Events” on every college campus to organize debates and forums. S.642 would require the Workers Comp Commission to give a dollar-for-dollar credit to employers for each employee claim, and S.636 would allow workers’ compensation to be based on medical records, instead of medical advice, and allow to be admissible in the appeals process. One bill –  H.4215 – would allows absentee voting in person or by mail, and require the Election Commission to send both political parties weekly updates throughout the absentee voting period of who has voted and which primary they voted in.

Finally, S.666 would allow DMV to issue golf cart permits, and allow municipalities to regulate their use at night. S.653 would require electronic reporting of turkey hunting kills before processing, and H.4245 would make it illegal to call lab cultivated protein “meat.” And H.4242 would create a study committee to study all forms of racing, and the licensing and other revenue that could result from it.

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

 

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