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South Carolina Legislative Update - May 5, 2015

May 5, 2015

The House and Senate worked diligently last week on several pieces of legislation in order to beat the May 1 crossover date.  Legislation passing the originating chamber after May 1 will require the approval of two-thirds of the receiving chamber to discuss the legislation.  A few highlights of legislation making crossover last week: mandatory requirement for body-worn cameras for state and local law enforcement, creation of a Capital Police Force, Certificate of Need reform, authorizing reciprocity for concealed weapons permits, Pollution Control Act revisions, and bad faith assertion regarding patent infringement.  In addition, the South Carolina Senate convened on Monday to begin their deliberations of the annual appropriation bill.

Introductions

To view this week’s introductions in the Senate, please click here, and here for the House.

In The News

SC Senators to debate state budget
The S.C. Senate will begin debating the nearly $7 billion state general fund budget when senators meet at 1:30 p.m. at the State House. SC colleges and technical schools will be among those watching this week the fate of a borrowing proposal that was sponsored by state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. The proposal emerged after a borrowing plan was defeated in the S.C. House during its budget week. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley pressured House members to defeat it.

Senators will decide this week spending state taxpayer dollars for:

  • K-12 education: Senators on the Finance Committee approved increasing the amount schools receive per student by $100 to $2,220. While far less than state law says schools should get, it is the same amount the S.C. House approved and would add $94 million to the state budget. 
  • State employees’ pay raise? All state employees would not get a pay raise in the Finance Committee-approved budget. However, like the House, senators approved paying the full cost of higher health insurance premiums for state workers. That cost, roughly $35 million, is the roughly the same as including a 2 percent pay raise in the budget. 
  • Police body cameras: Senators approved spending $3.4 million for 2,000 body cameras for police officers and the equipment needed to store videos digitally.  Read more here.

Road plan crumbling in SC State
Republican state senators refused Thursday to guarantee a proposal to repair the state’s crumbling roads will be debated this year.  The move sets the stage for the session to run out without any action on the Legislature’s No. 1 issue.  “This is an indictment on this entire Senate and on this legislative process that we don’t take this problem seriously,” state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, scolded afterward.  Senators voted 26 for and 19 against making the road-repair proposal a priority, falling short of the 30 votes necessary. The proposal would raise roughly $800 million a year to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges by increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon and also hiking other road-related fees.  Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, urged senators to set the bill on special order, a move that guaranteed it would be debated but not ensuring a vote.  Nineteen Republicans refused to set the bill for debate.  Read more here.

SC Senate votes to expand state mental health courts
The Senate gave key approval last week to a bill to expand the state’s mental health courts.  The 40-0 vote came after no debate.  Mental health courts divert mentally ill offenders away from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs, much as drug courts do for drug offenders.  Currently, three mental health courts operate in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston. Grants for their operation ran out years ago but they have continued to operate. Two other courts have closed in recent years due to lack of funding.  “I’m overwhelmed,” said Paton Blough, a Greenville mental health advocate who proposed the bill last year. “It’s a bill that I believe will save lives, make the community safer and save taxpayers money.”  Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, asked the Senate afterward to thank Blough for his work on the bill.  Sheheen’s bill doesn’t include funding but he has said he hopes to eventually find money in the budget to assist the courts.  Read more here.

May 1 Crossover Deadline      
Friday is the deadline for bills to pass either the House or Senate and stand a good chance of passing this year.  After the May 1 crossover deadline, it requires a two-thirds vote by the opposite chamber to take up a proposal.  Bills that do not make the crossover deadline do not die completely because this is the first year of a two-year session, but the chances of those bills passing this year are slim.  Read more here.

Bills that made the deadline

  • Abortion: A ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy passed the House earlier this year. A Senate committee also has OK'd the proposal, sending it to the full Senate.
  • Domestic violence: A Senate bill, which would classify offenses into degrees and prohibit abusers from owning guns for up to 10 years, has been sitting in the House Judiciary Committee since March. Speaker Jay Lucas said Thursday the House will be willing to use the Senate bill as the vehicle to reform the state’s domestic violence laws.
  • Ethics: Ethics reform has passed the House but is tied up — again — in the Senate. Senators do not want to stop having lawmakers investigate themselves, saying the Senate Ethics Committee works just fine. Senators also say the public doesn’t care about the issue – even after half-dozen scandals involving governors, lieutenant governors, and House and Senate members.
  • Roads: The House has passed a road-repair bill, but the Senate Finance Committee prefers its own roads plan. However, senators rejected a proposal Thursday to guarantee that plan would be debated, leaving the issue in limbo.

Bills that must wait until next year

  • Medical marijuana: State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has introduced a bill to make legal the medical use of marijuana, including for glaucoma and cancer. That bill likely will be debated next year.
  • Including sexual orientation in anti-discrimination law: A proposal by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The GOP-controlled House voted Thursday to vote on the proposal next week. The proposal likely won’t be debated in the Senate until next year. Still, Rutherford said the House action is a “historically significant step,” adding it said “once and for all that discrimination is wrong and will not be tolerated in the state of South Carolina.”
  • $10.10 minimum wage: A proposal by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, would increase the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, but it is buried in committee. Since it is a Democratic idea, it’s unlikely the GOP-controlled House will bite. The proposal may never see the Senate.
  • S.C. Jobs, Education and Tax Act: Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, unveiled a plan early in the session to streamline education funding and distribute money to S.C. schools based on their student population. Her plan would raise roughly $1 billion for schools by removing sales tax exemptions. About $600 million would go to property tax relief, leaving less than $400 million in new money for schools. The plan, or a similar one, could be debated next year when a House panel, formed to address a Supreme Court ruling, will submit its findings. 

US Rep Mark Sanford opposes offshore drilling
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford went on record last week against seismic testing and drilling for oil and natural gas off the South Carolina coast.  Sanford, a staunch conservationist, issued a statement saying he opposes testing because the results won't be shared with the state and local residents to make informed decisions about the benefits and disadvantages of drilling.  Sanford released a letter he wrote to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management asking the agency not to allow offshore testing.  Federal officials are considering what topics to study in an environmental impact statement on offshore drilling, and the agency last month wrapped up a public comment period on the question.  At the time Sanford told The Associated Press he saw no problem with exploring to at least see how much oil and natural gas might be offshore. But he said Monday that under the current system, state officials would not have access to the results of seismic tests, which will be conducted for oil companies, before the federal government approves drilling leases.  "In my view, it makes little sense to even conduct tests when the states and regions affected will have no say in the process," Sanford said.  "I had initially been intrigued by a new round of seismic testing," Sanford wrote in his a letter to Geoffrey Wikel of Ocean and Energy Management's Office of Environmental Programs.  "My feeling was that with these results South Carolina would be able to do a cost-benefit analysis of whether drilling was worthwhile," he wrote. But without access to the seismic data, he wrote, "South Carolina would be on the outside looking in."  Sanford, one of South Carolina two coastal congressmen, represents the state's south coast. Tom Rice, whose district on the north coast includes Myrtle Beach, favors oil exploration. 

SC agency using new (and nicer) name for Malfunction Junction
It’s all about branding on South Carolina roads these days.  Some state senators call a proposed state gas-tax hike to help pay to fix highways a “fee increase.”   And now the S.C. Department of Transportation has adopted a new moniker for Columbia’s most notorious rush-hour bottleneck: the intersection of I-26, I-20 and I-126.  So, Malfunction Junction is not the most positive, hopeful name (and it’s likely many readers have called the area other words that can’t be mentioned in a family publication).  So DOT is now calling the corridor “Carolina Crossroads.”  Read more here.

Meeting Schedule

Tuesday, May 5

  • 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 511 -- Legislative Ethics Committee
  • 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 318 -- Junior Leadership Pickens County
  • 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- Majority Caucus
  • 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 305 -- Minority Caucus
  • 12:00 pm -- State House, House Chamber -- House of Representatives
  • Upon adjournment of the House -- Blatt Room 112 -- Majority Caucus
  • 2:00 pm -- State House, 3rd Floor Conference Room -- Conference Committee on H.3663

     I.  H. 3663 – SCSU Board of Trustees

  • 2:30 pm or 1½ hours after the House adjourns -- Blatt Room 110 -- 3-M Subcommittee II, Occupational Regulation and Licensing Boards

    I.  H. 3078 – Nursing Profiles

     II.  H. 3508 – Medical Aspects of Advanced Practices of Registered Nursing

    III.  H. 3143 – Podiatric Surgery

  • 2:30 pm -- Blatt Room 410 -- Agriculture Environmental Affairs I Subcommittee

     I.  H. 4016 – Stormwater Management and Sediment Reduction Act

  • 1½ hours after the House adjourns -- Blatt Room 433 -- E.P.W. Transportation Subcommittee

     I.  S. 211 – Golf Cart Paths

    II.  S. 199 – Peanut’s Law

    III.  H. 3440 – Mopeds

     IV.  H. 3909 – Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act

  • 2:30 pm or 1½ hours after the House adjourns -- Blatt Room 516 -- Judiciary Committee
  • 2:30 pm or 1½ hours after the House adjourns -- Blatt Room 403 -- L.C.I. Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee on S.375 and S.441

     I.  S. 375 – Local Government

     II.  S. 441 – Guaranteed Asset Protection Act

Wednesday, May 6

  • 8:00 am - 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- Legislative Breakfast--South Carolina Association of Community Action Partnerships, Inc.
  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 433 -- Higher Education Subcommittee

     I.  H. 3373 – Manufacturing Career Pathway Act

     II.  H. 3774 – Construction Career Pathway Act

  • 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 308 -- Judiciary Subcommittee on H.3191

    I.  H. 3191 – Create the Office of Freedom Act Review

  • 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 207 -- L.C.I. Regulatory Subcommittee

    I.  S. 668 – SC Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy Act

  • 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 209 -- Select Subcommittee on Animal Welfare (Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee)

      I.  S. 687 – Animal Shelters

  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 403 -- L.C.I. Business and Commerce Subcommittee on S.301

      I.  S. 301 – SC Board of Accountancy

  • 9:30 am -- Blatt Room 516 -- Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee

      I.  H. 3745 – Statute of Limitations for Ethics Violations

  • 2:30 pm -- Blatt Room 427 -- 3-M Subcommittee I, Health and Environmental Affairs

    I.  H. 4004 – Medical Use of Cannabis

     II.  H. 4037 – Medical Marijuana Program Act

  • 2:30 pm -- Blatt Room 110 -- Agriculture Subcommittee

     I.  H. 3564 – Surface Water Withdrawal Registration

  • 3:00 pm -- Blatt Room 511 -- Legislative Ethics Committee

Thursday, May 7

  • 8:00 am - 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- Legislative Breakfast--South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance
  • 8:30 am -- Gressette Room 209 -- Medical Affairs Subcommittee on Regulations

    I.  Regulation 4542-DHEC Solid Waste Management: Waste Tires

  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 511 -- Executive Subcommittee of the Legislative Oversight Committee

     I.  Discussion of Scope of Comptroller General’s Office Study

    II.  Preliminary Meeting with the Treasurer’s Office

  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 110 -- Healthcare Subcommittee of the Legislative Oversight Committee

     I.  Discussion of Scope of Department of Social Services Study

     II.  Preliminary Meeting with the Commission for the Blind

  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 516 -- Judiciary Criminal Laws Subcommittee
  • 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 207 -- Judiciary Subcommittee on S. 220, S. 221 and H. 3545

     I.  S. 220 – Arson

    II.  S. 221 – Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee

     III.  H. 3545 – Arson

  • 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 403 -- LCI Public Utilities Subcommittee on S.304

     I.  S. 304 – Contracts to Buy Power

Friday, May 8

No Meetings Scheduled.

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