House Week in Review

The House of Representatives returned S.1258, a bill addressing ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation allows for an estimated total of up to $4.5 billion to be devoted to the state’s roads over the next ten years. This includes: $950 million to repair or replace all structurally-deficient bridges on Interstate and national highways; $2 billion in widenings and improvements to existing Interstates; and, over $1.4 billion in pavement resurfacing. The legislation transfers motor vehicle sales tax revenue and the revenue from various Department of Motor Vehicles fines and fees to the Department of Transportation’s State Highway Fund. Transferred funds may be used for the issuance of bonds through the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank projects that are financed utilizing these transferred funds do not require a local match. The legislation’s revenue revisions also allow for existing Department of Transportation funds to be redirected. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is charged with developing and implementing a needs-based weighting methodology to allocate funding within the state funded road resurfacing program, which must include consideration on a county-by-county basis, to ensure that each county in the state is guaranteed funding. The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation, but provides that legislators would no longer elect commissioners and that all commissioners would, instead, be appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the General Assembly. Commissioners are to serve at the pleasure of the Governor and their terms of service are limited to a maximum of twelve years. Under restructuring, the DOT Commission assumes the responsibility of appointing the Secretary of Transportation, upon the advice and consent of the General Assembly. In order to afford the chief internal auditor of the Department of Transportation greater independence, the legislation provides for the department’s chief internal auditor to be appointed and overseen by the State Auditor rather than the DOT Commission. The legislation also provides for revisions to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Before providing a loan or other financial assistance, the Board of Directors that oversees the Infrastructure Bank must, under the legislation, submit its decision to the Department of Transportation Commission for its consideration. The DOT Commission can, in turn, approve or reject the decision or request additional information from the bank’s board of directors. The Infrastructure Bank’s policy of following the SC Department of Transportation’s project priority criteria is established as a statutory requirement. The General Assembly may, however, enact a joint resolution specifically allowing the bank to fund a project without using DOT’s prioritization criteria. The minimum project amount set in Transportation Infrastructure Bank requirements is lowered from $100 million to $25 million. This threshold is lowered to allow more areas to be able to afford local match requirements and take advantage of the bank’s bonding capabilities for financing their transportation projects.

Additionally, the House granted free conference powers to include within H.3579, the same ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING provisions that the House sent the Senate in S.1258.

The House appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET.

The Senate and the House adopted S.1336, a concurrent resolution to provide for the GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ADJOURNMENT for the year. The resolution includes authorization for the General Assembly to return after this year’s June 2 deadline for final adjournment to meet during a period beginning June 15 and, if necessary, extending until June 22 during which time lawmakers may consider only a limited list of matters, such as budget legislation, conference and free conference committee reports, and the Governor’s vetoes.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.3186 and returned the bill to the Senate. The legislation provides for MORE EXPANSIVE STATEMENTS OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS for public officials and others who are required to make these filings under the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act. Disclosure requirements are revised so that they address not only public money, but also require a listing of the private source and type of any income received in the previous year by the filer or a member of his immediate family. Exceptions are included to apply to such sources of income as pensions, mutual funds, and interest from bank accounts. Under the legislation, a statement of economic interests must also include the source, type, and amount of any income received in the previous year by the filer or a member of his immediate family from a direct contractual or employment relationship with a lobbyist principal. This includes consulting, acting as an independent contractor, salary, or any other arrangement from which payment in return for services or goods is made by a lobbyist principal to a filer or a member of his immediate family. The legislation also establishes REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES AND ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS that are made to influence the outcome of an election or ballot measure question. The legislation requires reports to be made to the State Ethics Commission by those individuals and groups, not already subject to the campaign finance requirements imposed upon committees, who make an independent expenditure in excess of five hundred dollars during a year or who engage in electioneering communications. Electioneering communications are mass communications making use of broadcast television, cable, satellite communication, mass postal mailing, or telephone banks during set periods before elections and primaries that refer to a clearly identified candidate for elected office or ballot measure. Such matters as news coverage and candidate debates are not considered electioneering communications. The required reports must include such matters as detailed descriptions of expenditures, identifying and contact information for those filing the report, and identification of contributors who have made donations exceeding one hundred dollars.

The House amended S.913 and gave the bill second reading approval. The legislation provides for ENHANCEMENTS TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT provisions which guarantee citizens’ access to government proceedings and public documents. The legislation adjusts time frames for responding to FOIA requests to require more prompt compliance from public bodies, but additional time is allowed for compiling older documents. The fees that government bodies may charge for complying with FOIA requests are revised to better ensure that they do not become prohibitive. Under the revisions, fees may not exceed the actual cost of the search, retrieval, and redaction of records and fee calculations must utilize the hourly salary of the lowest paid employee qualified to perform the request. Public bodies must develop fee schedules to be posted online. Copying fees may not exceed prevailing commercial rates and public bodies may require a deposit, not to exceed twentyfive percent of the total cost for reproduction of the records, before beginning work on the request. The legislation accommodates the electronic transmission of requested records. Enforcement provisions for the Freedom of Information Act are revised in an effort to make them more effective. The rarely-utilized misdemeanor penalty for FOIA violations is eliminated and unfulfilled FOIA requests may instead be pursued through civil actions. The Office of Freedom of Information Act Review is created within the Administrative Law Court under the supervision of the Chief Administrative Law Judge to decide disputes regarding FOIA requests. The review office is offered as a new resource that citizens may use to obtain the access to public documents promised by the Freedom of Information Act without bearing the legal costs involved in compelling a government body to fulfill its FOIA responsibilities through a court challenge.

The House appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3184, a bill establishing enhancements to ethics laws by providing for MORE INDEPENDENT MEANS OF INVESTIGATING ALLEGED MISCONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS in the legislative and executive branches of government.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4939, a bill to provide for EDUCATION REFORM INITIATIVES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Through this legislation, the General Assembly directs the State Superintendent of Education, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee, the chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to each appoint one representative to a committee to be chaired by the appointee of the State Superintendent of Education to review the state’s education laws found in Title 59 of the South Carolina Code and report to the General Assembly on all statutes that are found to be obsolete or no longer applicable. The report must also identify all the federal education statutes and regulations with which the state of South Carolina is required to comply and include the total cost to the state for compliance. This report must be submitted by December 31, 2016, and updated at least every five years thereafter. The State Department of Education is required to develop a system for providing services and technical assistance to school districts that must include academic assistance and assistance with finances. The State Superintendent of Education must report the initial design of the system to the General Assembly by December 31, 2016, and then provide an annual progress report on the system that includes data documenting the impact of the assistance to the local school districts on student academic achievement and on high school graduation rates. Additionally, the State Department of Education is charged with monitoring the professional development of teachers, staff, and administrators in districts it determines are underperforming to ascertain what improvements and changes are necessary in accordance with the provisions of the Education Accountability Act. The department also shall monitor the operations of school boards in underperforming districts in order to determine if they are operating efficiently and effectively. These improvements and changes must be communicated to the school districts and other involved parties.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4938, a joint resolution providing for a SURVEY OF THE STATE’S COLLEGE STUDENTS ON TEACHING IN RURAL AND ECONOMICALLY CHALLENGED SCHOOL DISTRICTS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation directs the State Department of Education (SDE) and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to collaborate with the Commission of Higher Education in surveying students enrolled in the state’s colleges of education. This survey is to be administered to those college students who have been fully admitted into their institution’s teacher education program, and similar survey information may be obtained from students in other programs at the state’s institutions of higher learning through other means. The survey must include such questions as whether students have considered teaching in a rural and economically challenged districts and what incentives, if any, would cause them to move to, and work in, such a district. Survey results must be reported to the General Assembly by December 1, 2016.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3560, a bill revising TEACHER DISMISSAL provisions. Notably, the legislation affords school districts the option of making use of new authority to delegate the conduct of evidentiary hearings to qualified hearing officers. The legislation provides that the superintendent or his designee may meet with the teacher before issuing a notice of dismissal to discuss alternative resolutions. The parties attending this meeting must have the option of having a representative present.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4413 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises SAFE HAVENS FOR ABANDONED BABIES provisions that designate locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty. The legislation requires all such locations to post a notice on the premises that prominently displays to the public that the facility, agency, or other location is a designated safe haven at which a person may leave an infant. The legislation also provides that the safe haven provisions apply to infants who are no more than sixty days old rather than the current standard of no more than thirty days old.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4546, a bill ENHANCING REQUIREMENTS AND REVIEWS REGARDING CHILDREN PLACED IN FOSTER CARE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation includes provisions for the Department of Social Services to normalize the lives of children in foster care by allowing a caregiver, without the department’s prior approval, to make decisions similar to those a parent would be entitled to make regarding a child’s participation in age or developmentally appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities such as sports, field trips, social activities, vacations, employment opportunities, and after school programs. In determining whether to allow a child in foster care to participate in an activity, a caregiver must exercise the reasonable and prudent parent standard. DSS must provide to a foster child a document describing the rights of the child regarding education, health, visitation, court participation, and the right to stay safe and avoid exploitation, and obtain a signed acknowledgement from the child upon receipt.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3653 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the “Law Enforcement Assistance and Support Act” to include provisions for LAW ENFORCEMENT MUTUAL AID AGREEMENTS that allow for the sharing of officers and other law enforcement resources among state, county, municipal, or other agencies.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4548, a bill addressing CLOSING FEES CHARGED BY MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Responding to a 2015 ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court, the legislation revises provisions authorizing motor vehicle dealers to charge closing fees in motor vehicle sales for all administrative and financial work needed to transfer the motor vehicle such as compliance with all state, federal, and lender requirements, preparation and retrieval of documents, protection of the private personal information of the consumer, records retention, and storage costs. The legislation establishes a process for the Department of Consumer Affairs to review proposed closing fees to determine whether they are reasonable in amount. A motor vehicle dealer is, however, authorized to charge a closing fee of no more than two hundred twenty-five dollars per vehicle which is considered to be automatically approved as reasonable under these provisions without having to be submitted to the department for review.

The House approved S.1252 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes provisions that require the State Fire Marshal to issue a license for a COMMUNITY FIREWORKS DISPLAY in a county with a population of less than thirty thousand if certain safety conditions and other requirements are met.

The House approved S.685, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the provisions governing the licensure and regulation of ENGINEERS AND SURVEYORS, including: revisions to training requirements; requirements that certain members of the South Carolina State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors must be actively practicing their professions; provisions governing the operation of branch offices; and, authorization for the issuance of a waiver of licensing and credentialing requirements for up to ninety days to allow out-of-state engineers to respond to emergencies in South Carolina.

The House approved S.1177 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for the professional licensure of architects by replacing provisions for the “Intern Development Program” with provisions for the “ARCHITECTURAL EXPERIENCE PROGRAM”. The program allows students to receive academic credit for internship experience as a means of facilitating entry into the field of architecture.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to S.454 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the issuance of DEER HUNTING TAGS for in-state residents and non-residents. This new tagging system does not revise game zones or seasons, but it does include requirements for hunters to tag every deer taken in the state. The legislation provides for the Department of Natural Resources to issue eight doe day specific tags and three buck tags with the purchase of a South Carolina hunting license and big game permit for in-state residents. Hunters (including youth and gratis licensees) will have the option to purchase two additional buck (with four points on one side or a minimum 12-inch antler spread) tags at $5 each and/or four additional doe tags at $5 each. All funds collected from the two additional buck tags sales will go into a Coyote Management Program. With the purchase of a hunting license and big game permit, non-resident hunters will pay $50 for the first purchased antlered tag and $20 for each additional antlered tag (with a maximum purchase of four tags of which two must have size restriction). There is a $10 charge for each antlerless tag purchased. The legislation provides for antlerless and antlered deer limits to be two doe taken per day and two bucks taken per day. The Department of Natural Resources to provide a report of a fouryear study by July 1, 2022, to the Chairman of the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee and the Chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee on such issues as the status of state’s the whitetailed deer population and a review of the tagging program.

The House approved S.381, a bill addressing SERVICE CREDIT PURCHASES IN STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEMS FOR THOSE TERMINATED JUST BEFORE ATTAINING RETIREMENT ELIGIBILITY, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that an active member of the South Carolina Retirement System or South Carolina Police Officers Retirement System who is terminated within one year of retirement eligibility shall have five business days after the date of termination to purchase any service credit that the member is eligible to purchase as provided in order to attain retirement eligibility.

The House approved S.933, relating to PETITIONS FOR RECEIVING A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA THAT WAS DENIED SOLELY BECAUSE OF A FAILURE TO MEET FORMER EXIT EXAM REQUIREMENTS, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation eliminates the deadline for submitting a petition to receive a high school diploma by someone who is no longer enrolled in a public school and who previously failed to receive a high school diploma or was denied graduation solely for failing to pass the exit exam that was formerly required for high school graduation. A two-year extension is provided for the report that the South Carolina Department of Education must prepare on the number of high school diplomas granted under these provisions so that the report has a deadline of January 31, 2019.

The House returned S.689, relating MOTORCYCLES AND MOPEDS, to the Senate with amendments and the Senate subsequently concurred in those amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that no person shall ride upon a motorcycle as a passenger unless, when sitting astride the seat, the person can reach the footrests with both feet. This provision does not apply to someone riding in a motorcycle sidecar. The legislation revises provisions for motorcycle and moped beginner’s permits, to provide that a permittee may not operate a motorcycle at any unpermitted time unless supervised by a licensed motorcycle operator 21 years old and with one year of experience. The moped requirement notes a permittee may not operate a moped at any other time unless accompanied by a licensed driver twentyone years of age or older who has at least one year of driving experience. The legislation eliminates the requirement that a parent or guardian must provide the required supervision. The accompanying driver must be within a safe viewing distance of the permittee when the permittee is operating a motorcycle or a moped.

The House approved S.1111, relating to MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS’ LICENSE PLATES, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for the issuance of a standard license plate to a manufacturer for vehicles it has manufactured and which are used in a benefit program for the manufacturer’s employees or used by the manufacturer for testing, distribution, evaluation, and promotion. The legislation provides that the annual registration fee for this plate is derived by computing the average price of the vehicle manufacturer’s fleet times the property tax rates times the average millage for all purposes statewide for the preceding calendar year, and charges the Department of Revenue with determining the annual registration fee and then notifying the Department of Motor Vehicles of the adjusted fee amount, which is effective for the next two years. For 2017 and 2018, the legislation sets this license plate’s annual registration fee at seven hundred eightynine dollars.

The House returned S.1166, a joint resolution ADDRESSING DEBT AND ACADEMIC ACCREDITATION ISSUES AT SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation makes provisions for the forgiveness of $12 million in state loans disbursed to South Carolina State University over the course of three years if the university meets specified benchmarks such as maintaining academic accreditation, achieving progress towards a balanced budget and positive net financial position, and meeting student enrollment growth goals. The authority for institution cost-saving mandatory employee furlough programs at the university is extended through Fiscal Year 20212022.

The House voted not to concur in Senate amendments to H.4492, a bill revising NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES CHILD PLACEMENT HEARINGS.

The House gave second reading approval to S.932, a bill providing a DEADLINE EXTENSION FOR RECEIVING CERTAIN ARMED FORCES PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATIOS. This bill revises provisions relating to property tax assessment ratios, so as to revise an application deadline for certain property owned by certain members of the armed forces. The legislation includes provisions for taxpayers who were qualified to receive the special assessment rate for tax year 2014 or 2015, but who missed the application deadline, to receive refunds.

The House returned S.973, a bill extending and revising provisions for DEVOTING A PORTION OF INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX REVENUES TO THE FUNDING OF FIREFIGHTING NEEDS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES TRAINING, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation extends until June 30, 2030, the requirement for using two and onequarter percent of each year’s insurance premium tax revenues to fund emergency response needs and redistributes the revenue so that: one percent is transferred to the South Carolina Forestry Commission to be used for firefighting and firefighting equipment replacement; one percent is transferred to the aid to fire districts account within the State Treasury to be distributed to local fire departments for firefighting equipment replacement, with half of annually allocated funds to be distributed equally among the state’s fire departments and the remaining balance used to fund the VSAFE grant program for local volunteer fire departments; and, one quarter of one percent is transferred to the aid to emergency medical services regional councils within the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be used for grants to fund emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The House returned S.280 to the Senate with amendments. This bill revises provisions relating to financial statements and net worth requirements for GENERAL CONTRACTORS AND MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS, so as to adjust and update the net worth requirements for licensure and license renewal. The legislation includes a provision to specify that a contractor’s license is not required for certain installation, repair, or maintenance of a sign or billboard.

Speaker Lucas’ Press Release on Roads Bill

House Passes Partial Road Funding Bill

Amends legislation to include DOT reform

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House amended S. 1258, a bill that allocates through bonding and other means over $4 billion for interstate needs, road resurfacing, and bridge repair over the next ten years. Today’s House passage of S. 1258 provides another opportunity for a road funding bill (although partial) to be signed into law by Governor Haley before the end of the legislative session.

“Members of the House understand that the people of South Carolina expect their Legislature to pass a roads bill this year. Although more effort must be made next session to find a long-term funding stream, this bill is a starting point that allows for adequate repair of deficient roads and bridges without raiding our state’s General Fund,” Speaker Lucas stated.

The Senate version of S. 1258 only provided for bonding/funding and did not address DOT reform. The Ways and Means Committee successfully amended the bill prior to debate on the House floor to include DOT reform, which gives (1) the Governor the ability to appoint all Highway Commissioners, and (2) the Highway Commission the authority to appoint a Department of Transportation Secretary with the advice and consent of the General Assembly.

“DOT reform is a crucial piece to the road funding puzzle. The General Assembly should not give another penny to the Department of Transportation without certain accountability requirements in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. I am very pleased the House successfully amended the Senate version to include governance restructuring as an effort to promote efficiency within DOT,” Speaker Lucas concluded.

Caroline Delleney
Communications Director to the Speaker
South Carolina House of Representatives
Phone: (803) 734-3125
Fax: (803) 734-9488

Farm Aid, Veto Override, Ethics Reform, Protecting Life & New Roads Bill

There are two weeks left in the 2015 legislative session and the House worked diligently on getting some Senate legislation through for a vote and tying up loose ends.

The first issue we dealt with was overriding Governor Haley’s veto of the Farm Aid Bill. Her veto was overridden with a near-unanimous and bipartisan vote. When the governor requested federal disaster resources as a result of the 2015 floods she requested funds for homeowners and small businesses but did not include resources for our farmers. By overriding the veto we make certain our state’s farmers and the jobs they provide stay right here in South Carolina and we don’t lose market share to China and Mexico.

My House colleagues and I have continued our commitment to passing strong ethics reform legislation. This week we strengthened and improved legislation providing for independent ethics oversight of all public officials. Unfortunately it was the only bill in our ethics reform package that passed the Senate and was returned to the House for second consideration.

I’m pleased to report final passage was granted this week for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Currently in our state, approximately 28 babies are aborted each year after 20 weeks (5 months). Governor Haley has indicated she will sign the new law which prohibits most abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization, the point when an unborn child can feel excruciating pain when aborted. We now join 17 other states that have also passed similar measures.

Finally, a Senate bill bonding $2.2 billion to repair our dangerous roads and bridges was given final approval by the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill was amended to add in strong Department of Transportation (DOT) restructuring and accountability measures which were not included in the Senate version. We must have DOT reform before any additional taxpayer dollars are given to the dysfunctional agency. It is important to note this bill does not allow for any new roads to be built, but requires the additional funds be used to fix our existing dilapidated roads and bridges. The bill heads to the House floor next week where it will be debated and a vote taken.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia or 963-0337 at home.

DOT Reform, A Time For Review & Farm Aid

The House wrapped up the week with House negotiators continuing to push for DOT reform in the Senate version of the plan to fix our ailing roads and bridges. I hear from constituents like you on a regular basis concerning our state’s infrastructure issues, and providing a conservative solution remains my top priority. The Senate plan which has minimal reforms to the mismanaged Department of Transportation is still under discussion by the House Ways and Means Committee and I am confident they will produce a bill that doesn’t raise taxes, truly reforms the DOT, and gives you and your family safer roads on which to drive. As I have said before, I will continue to monitor this process and keep you up to date as a final plan is reached.

Over the past two weeks and after heavily amending them, the Senate sent back the few ethics bills they have been able to pass of the dozen we sent them. Ethics is easy when you believe in good government, and I am proud my House colleagues and I have led the way on strong reform measures. The House Judiciary Committee must now review and adjust the watered-down Senate ethics legislation on income disclosure and search for ways to accomplish more, not less true reforms within the bill language. I can assure you we will not let up in our endeavors to bring sunlight to the process.

The House Ways and Means Committee is also in the process of reviewing the state budget as amended by the Senate. I treat the allocation of your tax dollars as a very serious matter. I along with House budget staff and others will take the next week of furlough period to not only continue reviewing the Senate’s plans for our state tax dollars, but will make necessary adjustments based on the needs of our state.

In closing, you surely recall the devastating flooding our state experienced in 2015, causing tragic loss of life and property and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to farmers who saw their crops destroyed. Agriculture is a thriving industry in our state and we are blessed to have dedicated family-owned farms operated by generational farmers who have worked our lands for hundreds of years. We simply cannot afford to let affected farmers go out of business as a result of the massive flooding. In our global economy, China and Mexico have already taken more than enough farming jobs from our state. Each time a farm closes in South Carolina, we cede more market share to bad actors like China. This week I am proud to report my House colleagues and I were able to concur with the Senate sending a final Farm Aid bill to Governor Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at home at my office in Columbia at 803 734-3045 or at my home at 963-0337.

Roads Bill Conference Committee

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

April 22, 2016

The House of Representatives appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3579, legislation that includes DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING AND ROAD FUNDING INITIATIVES.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4763, legislation designated as “ALICIA’S LAW” to acknowledge the advocacy efforts of Alicia Kozakiewicz of Pennsylvania who, in 2002 at the age of thirteen, survived abduction by an Internet predator. The legislation provides for a 6.1% assessment on criminal court fines to be deposited in a newly-created INTERNET CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN FUND that is to be used to investigate, prosecute, and prevent Internet crimes against children, such as cyberenticement and child pornography, including the necessary staffing, training, and equipment. Of the revenue credited to the fund each year, sixty percent must be allocated to the Attorney General to operate the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the remaining forty percent must be transferred to the Department of Public Safety to provide grants to local law enforcement agencies.

The House approved S.1090 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation names Chapter 19, Title 24 of the South Carolina Code of Laws the “JUDGE WILLIAM R. BYARS YOUTHFUL OFFENDER ACT” in recognition of the many contributions that Judge Byars has made to the juvenile justice system in such capacities as family court judge, Director of the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Director of the Department of Corrections.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3768 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the “SOUTH CAROLINA ABLE SAVINGS PROGRAM” that allows for the establishment of savings accounts as a means of empowering individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support the individual with a disability. The legislation establishes the Savings Program Trust Fund and Savings Expense Trust Fund and provides guidelines to the State Treasurer for the maintenance of these accounts. The legislation allows for state implementation that coordinates with the federal Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014.

The House approved S.849 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR INSURANCE PLAN PHARMACY BENEFITS MANAGERS TO COMPILE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE DRUG COST LISTS that show the maximum amount for the cost of a particular generic drug that will be reimbursed to a pharmacist or pharmacy who provides covered health care services or supplies as a participating network plan provider. The legislation includes requirements for pharmacy benefit managers to make these maximum allowable cost lists available to network pharmacy providers and to review and update maximum allowable cost price information. Provisions are included that allow a pharmacy to appeal the provider’s reimbursement for a drug subject to maximum allowable cost pricing.

The House returned S.339, legislation designated as “HOPE’S LAW”, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR MAMMOGRAPHY REPORTS TO BE PROVIDED TO PATIENTS THAT INCLUDE INFORMATION ABOUT BREAST DENSITY. When a mammogram shows that breast tissue is dense, the required report must include notice to the patient explaining that dense tissue is common and not abnormal, but can, however, make it harder to evaluate mammogram results and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5140, a bill that makes revisions relating to a school district’s ANNUAL SCHOOL CALENDAR for teachers, staff, and students. The legislation provides that, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the school start date for students must not be before August fifteenth, rather than the opening date limit of the third Monday in August that is set in current law, except for schools operating on a yearround modified school calendar. The legislation revises the deadline for notification of teaching assignments and makes provisions for the types and timing of student assessments. Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, the legislation requires, with certain exceptions, that school districts administer the statewide summative assessment for grades three through eight during the last twenty days of school and that such testing may not exceed seven days each school year.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4774, a bill to provide for a two-year REAUTHORIZATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA FIRST STEPS TO SCHOOL READINESS so that the program is extended until July 1, 2018.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4391, a bill REVISING THE UNIFORM ANATOMICAL GIFT ACT TO ALLOW FOR THE DONATION OF BRAIN TISSUE to be used only for research or education.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4574, legislation enacting the “ELECTROLOGY PRACTICE ACT” to provide for the licensure and regulation of electrologists and electrology instructors by an Electrology Licensure Committee established under the Board of Medical Examiners. The legislation is offered as a means of ensuring minimum standards of competency for those who practice or offer instruction in electrology, which involves the permanent removal of hair from the skin through the application of an electric current.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4492, a bill revising NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES CHILD PLACEMENT HEARINGS that inform foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or relatives providing care to abused or neglected children so that, with certain exceptions, notification must be given at least ten days in advance. The legislation includes provisions that allow these parties to file reports with the family court.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4525, a bill extending and revising provisions for DEVOTING A PORTION OF INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX REVENUES TO THE FUNDING OF FIREFIGHTING NEEDS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES TRAINING. The legislation extends until June 30, 2030, the requirement for using two and one quarter percent of each year’s insurance premium tax revenues to fund emergency response needs and redistributes the revenue so that one percent is transferred to the South Carolina Forestry Commission to be used for firefighting and firefighting equipment replacement, one percent is transferred to the aid to fire districts account within the State Treasury to be distributed to local fire departments for firefighting equipment replacement, and one quarter of one percent is transferred to the aid to emergency medical services regional councils within the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be used for grants to fund emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4556, a bill providing a PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR PERMANENTLY AND TOTALLY DISABLED EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS. The legislation extends to permanently and totally disabled former emergency medical technicians the homeowner property tax exemption that is currently allowed for military veterans, former law enforcement officers, and former firefighters who are permanently and totally disabled.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4712, a bill making clarifications regarding the CLASSIFICATION OF OFFPREMISES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING SIGNS AS PERSONAL PROPERTY FOR TAX PURPOSES. The legislation establishes conditions under which an off premises outdoor advertising sign is classified as tangible personal property for tax purposes, and establishes provisions under which the value of a lease or lease income on such billboards may not be used in the assessment of the tax value of the real property on which the advertising sign is erected. The legislation includes provisions for any sign permit required by local, state, or federal law to be considered as intangible personal property for ad valorem property tax purposes.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4398, a bill establishing a FIREARMS EXEMPTION IN BANKRUPTCY CLAIMS. The legislation revises provisions for the real and personal property of a debtor that is exempt from attachment, levy, and sale in a bankruptcy proceeding by adding an exemption that covers any firearms not exceeding a total value of five thousand dollars owned by the debtor. The legislation revises the exemption for a debtor’s aggregate interest, not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value by providing that, except that a surviving spouse may exempt, in addition to their interest, the aggregate interest of a deceased spouse not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4795, a bill ALLOWING A STUDENT WHO HAS BEEN AWARDED A PALMETTO FELLOWS SCHOLARSHIP THE OPTION OF DEFERRING ENROLLMENT IN A HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION FOR ONE YEAR following high school graduation without declining the award.

The House returned S.1013, a bill overhauling and updating the licensure and regulation of REAL ESTATE BROKERS, SALESPERSONS, AND PROPERTY MANAGERS, to the Senate with amendments. Notably, the bill includes provisions for the operation of real estate teams supervised by a broker-in-charge and increases continuing education requirements for real estate license renewals from eight hours to ten hours.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5023, a bill making various revisions to the SOUTH CAROLINA REAL ESTATE APPRAISER LICENSE AND CERTIFICATION ACT. Notably, the legislation makes provisions for one of the members of the Real Estate Appraisers Board to be a certified residential appraiser and includes alignment provisions for federal and state chartered banks.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3969, a bill making provisions that allow for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF INSURANCE NOTICES AND DOCUMENTS should the insured choose to receive notices and documents electronically.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.5040, a bill updating and revising various provisions relating to the application and enforcement of the CONSUMER PROTECTION CODE.

The House amended, adopted, and sent the Senate H.5108, a concurrent resolution establishing a temporary STUDY COMMITTEE TO ASSESS THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FLEETS IN HIRING ENTRY-LEVEL COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSED DRIVERS.

Thank you for the honor to represent you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at garrysmith@schouse.gov or call me at my office in Columbia at 803 734-3045 or at home at 864 963-0337.

Garry R. Smith
SC House of Representatives
District 27 – Greenville County

Summary and Comparison of SC DOT Reform bills

The following is a summary and comparison of the bill passed yesterday by the SC House with the bill passed by the SC Senate.

H-3579 Amendment #1 – Strike All and Insert

Section 1
All Highway Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, 7 district and 1 state-wide
Keeps the qualifications for Commissioners removed in senate version
Requires that “other demographic factors such as residence in rural or urban areas” be considered
Advice and consent of General Assembly by a roll call vote of both bodies
Commissioners serve four year terms, no more than two consecutive terms, and may not serve more than 12 years, regardless of when the term is/was served (retroactive)

Section 2
Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with Advice/Consent of General Assembly by a roll call vote of both bodies
Secretary serves at the pleasure of the Commission

Sections 3
Places the SCDOT Chief Internal Auditor under the State Auditor

Sections 4
Repeals the JTRC code sections and eliminates the Committee

Section 5
Sections 1-4 take effect on July 1, 2016
Members serving on the Commission on June 30, 2016 shall continue to serve until their current term expires, and until their successor is appointed and confirmed
Vacancies are filled by appointment of the Governor, and serve until the end of that unexpired term
Any eligible commissioner may be reappointed by Governor on or after June 30, 2016

Section 6
Before any loan or financial assistance can be provided by the SIB, the board must submit the decision to the DOT Commission for approval, rejection, or a request for additional information from the SIB Board
Does not relate to any payment or contractual obligations that the DOT has to the bank that are pledged to any bonds issued by the bank

Section 7
SIB cannot provide financial assistance for any project below $25 M

Section 8
SIB must follow the Act 114 prioritization criteria
A Joint Resolution for a single, specific project can override this provision

Section 9
Transfers remaining $65 M of auto sales tax revenues from the general fund to the State Highway Fund at the Department of Transportation

Section 10
Except where otherwise provided, this act takes effect on July 1, 2016

Senate Passed version of H-3579

Section 1
Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, 7 district and 1 state-wide, with Advice and Consent of the Senate
State-wide appointment serves as Chairman
Requires that “other demographic factors such as residence in rural or urban areas” be considered
Commissioners serve four year terms which expire December 31 of the appropriate year
Commissioners may serve in a hold-over capacity for a maximum of 5 months
Commissioners serve out remainder of current terms

Section 2
Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with consultation and approval of the Governor, must have Advice/Consent of the Senate

Section 3
Before any loan or financial assistance can be provided by the SIB, the board must submit the decision to the DOT Commission for approval, rejection, or a request for additional information from the SIB Board
Does not relate to any payment or contractual obligations that the DOT has to the bank that are pledged to any bonds issued by the bank

Section 4
General Assembly must appropriate $400 M to the State Highway Fund
Does not specify recurring/non-recurring
Funds must be contained in W&Ms, House, SFC, Senate and Conference Report of the Appropriations Bill

Roads Update, Budget Debate & Gun Rights

In our 10th week of legislative session in the South Carolina House, we made headway on committee work, pouring over the Senate’s amendments to our roads plan, and taking the first steps to amend our bankruptcy laws, making them friendlier to gun owners.

My colleagues and I also worked diligently this week to clear the House calendar as we enter into the annual budget debate next week. Unlike Washington, we take time to balance our budget each year. I take a conservative approach to allocating state funds, and I value your input. Last week I sent a link to the budget proposal for fiscal years 2016/2017 as proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee. I have provided it here again in case you missed it. http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/appropriations2016/wm16ndx.php

The House Judiciary Committee’s General and Family Law Subcommittee approved a measure amending our state’s bankruptcy laws to ensure they are friendly to gun owners. You may ask, “What does bankruptcy have to do with the right to keep and bear arms?” Good question. During bankruptcy proceedings those who have fallen on hard times are many times required to sell off certain assets to satisfy their debts – in some cases including firearms. The provision approved this week would allow gun owners to keep up to three firearms and up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition per firearm in any bankruptcy proceeding. This ensures those who must undergo the unfortunate scenario of filing for bankruptcy do not also lose their ability to exercise one of the most important constitutional amendments.

Finally, if you were able to read my update from last week and as you may have seen in various news reports, the Senate finally sent back their amendments to our roads and infrastructure funding bill. My House colleagues and I have continued to look closely at the Senate changes. The issue of fixing our roads while creating a long-term solution to our immediate problem remains complex.

We have worked for years in the House to address the failed governance model of the Department of Transportation (DOT) tasked with paving and maintaining our roads. While the Senate roads plan does call for additional road and infrastructure funding, that money can actually only be spent as part of the budget process. We will be proactive in making sure these extra funds are part of next week’s budget debate. Also, the Senate version may not reform the DOT enough, likely requiring us to consider amending their changes for more significant reform to the DOT making the agency more accountable and efficient. After the annual budget debate which begins March 21st, we will take up the Senate’s amendments to the road funding bill, and I welcome your input.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

Roads Update, Pro-Life Action & Budget Movement

We finished up the week of legislative session in the South Carolina House clearing the way for South Carolina institutions of higher learning to be more competitive in addition to making significant headway on important pro-life reform.

After a year of pressure from South Carolinians who continue to suffer on our hazardous roadways, the Senate has finally amended and returned the road/DOT reform bill we sent them last year. We will be discussing and debating their revisions this week.

Citizens should expect and receive certain basic services from their government, safe roads and bridges being chief among them. I continue to hear from voters in our district that fixing our roads remains their top priority. My House colleagues and I do not intend to delay the passage of this important road funding legislation and will address it as quickly as we are able to do so.

I’m pleased to report we have but one final hurdle to clear in getting the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to a conference committee. In conference, minute details can be cleared up between both the House and Senate allowing a final passage in both legislative bodies placing the bill on Governor Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature. As House conservatives, we have been working for many months to move this important legislation, and I am hopeful that in the coming weeks I will be able to report our efforts have been successful. Protecting the unborn from violent pain while in the womb is not a political issue, but a moral imperative that I am proud to support.

Finally, after many months of deliberation in subcommittee and full committee the House Ways and Means Committee introduced the state’s annual budget for fiscal year 2016/2017. The bill is currently in the process of being printed and preparations are underway for initial debate on the House floor. Funding our necessities in South Carolina with your precious tax dollars is a responsibility I take seriously.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 803 734-3045 in Columbia or 963-0337 at home.

Senate Plan is not Reform or Common Sense

“This week, the Senate will be debating the gas tax bill. They have changed the House version (that I voted against) and have somehow managed to make it even worse. The governor asked for reform, but what they did instead was shuffle pool chairs and add a few more. The “reform” aspect turns the commission from Congressional Districts to Councils of Government (COGs). COGs are regional unelected groups that would still be influenced by the General Assembly. The governor would pick the 10 commissioners, but he/she would only get a choice of three candidates that were screened by legislative review boards. The senate amendment also adds an $800 million gas tax hike with little to no income tax reform. It’s time for my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives to stand up against this bad bill. Let me be clear. I will not vote for the Senate plan or any other plan that includes a gas tax should it get back to the House. In fact, I took my name off of H. 3580, which was Governor Haley’s plan because after further review, I knew it was a bad plan and would ultimately be a tax hike on my constituents and other South Carolinians. What the SCDOT needs most is common sense reform, which includes putting the department completely under control of the governor with advice and consent only from the senate and eliminating the State Infrastructure Bank.”

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/03/reform-system-dont-raise-gas-taxes/77839084/ (Here’s the common sense reform)

Protecting Gun Rights, Increased Accountability & Juvenile Justice

This week in Columbia we hit the ground running strengthening our gun laws, streamlining government, and continuing our work in legislative subcommittees.

Due to a recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision, we had to go back and apply a fix to an existing statute pertaining to the Stand Your Ground law. The fix sets forth the judicial procedure to assert the Castle Doctrine defense. It also strengthens the existing Castle Doctrine which includes provisions that prohibit criminals from using a Stand Your Ground defense while committing a crime. The measure is strongly backed by the pro-second amendment National Rifle Association and it passed the House unanimously.

We also gave more clarification to a 2014 measure passed by a statewide constitutional amendment that allows the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket. The bill allows the governor to assign duties to the lieutenant governor, very similar to the functional relationship between the president and vice president. This “good government” measure increases accountability in the executive branch and creates important safeguards.

This week a House Judiciary Subcommittee passed a bill that would cause the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor instead of elected by popular vote. This would increase the amount of accountability surrounding the office of the Superintendent of Education by allowing the Governor to directly oversee the delivery of public education to South Carolina’s children. Reforms like this one deliver a better return on the taxpayer investment and real results for parents and students.

Finally, the legislative oversight committee continued its inquiry into the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The inquiry surrounds new requests for additional resources from the DJJ to address growing concerns at facilities in our state. It is important the DJJ recognize signs of peril in young offenders and provide them proper rehabilitative structures, thus helping the offender regain control of their life while saving taxpayers from footing the bill for repeat offenders. The committee is engaged in a thorough examination of the DJJ and its operations and will make their findings public when complete.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia, or 963-0337 at home.