Weekly Legislative Update. March 5 – 7, 2019

What they did

This week, the House amended and passed the education omnibus bill (H.3759) after six hours of debate. The bill’s primary takeaways remain the same: the “Zero to Twenty committee” was renamed, but would still “monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by state employers.” Among many other things, the bill would also require a “career pathways system” to align K-12 and college education with state and local workforce needs. It should be noted here that funnelling students into the proper workforce sectors should never be the purpose of an educational system.

The House also debated H.3145, which places transparency requirements on electric cooperatives and regulates their elections to be more open and accessible, as well as giving the Office of Regulatory staff power to inspect and audit the co-ops to ensure compliance. The Public Service Authority would also have power to resolve disputed issues arising from any ORS audit. The bill was amended on the floor, but has not yet passed.

Finally, the House filed and passed a joint resolution (H.4157) amending the procurement process for the purchase of new voting machines. The resolution would extend the deadline for bid submission by a month, have the Election Commission screen the bids, and allow the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to award the contract. The resolution would impose ethics requirements to guard against conflicts of interest, and would suspend parts of the procurement code for this particular situation. The resolution did not receive a committee hearing.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee amended and passed S.259. This bill would create a new fund to finance the creation of floodplains and open spaces. It was amended in committee, but was not significantly changed. The most significant changes include a financial incentive for local governments to move residents into “opportunity zones” – a recently created federal economic development program. Language was added to prohibit the funds from being used to seize lands through economic development, but local governments would easily be able to outmaneuver this provision by seizing the land prior to applying for a loan from this fund. The bill is now on the Senate floor calendar.

Finally, the full Senate debated and passed a bill (S.18) to require more DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices and to create new fees for the devices’ certification.

What they said

In a video explanation of a bill to require donor disclosure, Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell said:

“We have a right to free speech in this country, but we don’t necessarily have a right to anonymous speech.”

The First Amendment protects political speech from government regulation, and the courts have ruled that the only regulable speech is direct campaigning – which does not include issue discussion and advocacy. Forcing individuals who donate to issue advocacy can expose them to intimidation and retaliation by powerful politicians who don’t like being criticized. This, incidentally, is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to prevent.

What they filed

This week, lawmakers filed 46 new bills (not including resolutions).

Two notable bills (S.594 & S.611) would allow counties to use tax revenue, county general obligation bonds, and tolls to fund transportation related services, pending a local referendum. According to the bills, such services could include, but are not limited to, “mass transit systems” – which could allow for spending on anything deemed transportation related.

At least three bills filed this week would further regulate citizens’ right to purchase and own firearms. Two of those bills (H.4212 & S.605) would require licensed gun dealers to receive the results of a background check before completing a sale. The House version would also mandate stricter reporting requirements to SLED by state courts and other law enforcement agencies. The most concerning bill, S.606, would essentially outlaw private gun sales for non-licensed individuals, with few exceptions.

One bill that could help curb South Carolina’s revolving door problem is S.619, which would prohibit lawmakers or members of their immediate family from taking state government jobs within a year of leaving office. As reported by The Nerve, South Carolina lawmakers have a long history of using the legislature as a springboard to for higher paying government jobs.

Finally, the House filed its own version of the securitization bill, which would authorize a new charge for SCANA customers for the purpose of refinancing V.C. Summer debt. The charge would be backed by a legislative guarantee – much like the Base Load Review Act that authorized the debt to begin with.

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

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