The regular session of the General Assembly ended on Thursday, June 5, 2014.
Here are the highlights from the last week –
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING – The House and Senate passed S. 459 last week. The new law is a ban on texting while driving for all drivers. There are exceptions if you are lawfully stopped or parked, using a hands-free device, or using a GPS device. Law enforcement will issue warning tickets for the first 6 months; thereafter, violators will be subject to a $25 fine. The bill now goes to Governor Haley.
ETHICS REFORM – A House and Senate conference committee agreed on changes to H.3945 last week. The agreement removes any independent investigation of complaints against legislators but includes requirements for legislators to disclose sources of private income. The agreement would also require certain disclosures from private groups that run ads in campaigns so the public can see who is behind the ads.
The House adopted the agreement on Thursday. Although I am disappointed in the final product, the agreement is a small step in the right direction on disclosure. Therefore, reluctantly, I will probably vote for the agreement when the Senate returns for the special session.
A PENNY FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS IN AIKEN?– The bill that would offer Aiken County residents the option of a 1% sales tax to fund school capital projects and reduce property taxes did not receive a vote last week. The bill is not dead, though. The Senate will likely take up the bill during the special session set for the week of June 17.
STATE BUDGET – The House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on the state budget last week. The final deal provides for a General Fund budget of approximately $7.1 billion (income taxes, sales taxes, and corporate taxes). The total state budget is just over $24 billion when the General Fund is combined with the federal tax dollars returned to the state and “other” funds. That is the largest budget in state history.
HECTIC LAST WEEK – As usual, the last week of the legislative session is the definition of chaos. Legislators rush to beat the clock and a flurry of bills receive final approval. That was the case last week, as well. In addition to the bills I’ve talked about above, here is a short summary of other bills that received attention last week.
• S. 176 – a bill to update the times for appeals and motions for new trial in magistrates court. Passed.
• S. 437 – allows for 4% tax rate for certain rental property. Passed.
• S. 474 – exempts state museum from collecting admissions tax. Passed.
• S. 516 – “Read to Succeed Act” to bolster reading skills for 3rd graders. Passed.
• S. 535 – originally introduced as the Clemson University Enterprise Act, this bill would allow the University of Charleston to become the state’s 4th research university. This bill became contentious late in the session. It is now in a conference committee.
• S. 809 – requires referendum for Capital Projects Sales Taxes to be held at general elections. Passed.
• S. 813 – prohibits entering or remaining in a public library after being ordered to leave. The bill is designed to prevent disruptions in libraries across the state. Passed.
• S. 840 – updates to State Prescription Drug Monitoring program. Passed.
• S. 876 – deals with hunting deer within 300 feet of a residence. Passed.
• S. 897 – allows for certain employees of Solicitors’ offices to have access to the State Health and Dental plans. Passed.
• S. 909 – deals with rules and requirements for licensure of captive insurance companies. Passed.
• S. 985 – gives local governments assistance in collecting accomodations tax revenue on vacation home rentals. Passed.
• S. 986– updates rules for hunters who trespass on others’ property. Passed.
• S. 988– allows for survey update of county boundary lines. Passed.
• S. 999– extends renewal period for military personnel whose driver’s license expires while they are serving outside the state. Passed.
• S. 1070 – a bill to update turkey hunting season and impose a bag limit of 3 male turkeys per season with the option of a 4th turkey for bow hunters. The bill died after failing to receive a vote.
• H. 3014 – allows for creation of Veterans Treatment Court Programs in each judicial circuit. Passed.
• H. 3102 – updates procedures for DSS’ handling of abuse and neglect cases. Passed.
• H. 3124– provides job protections for persons who report child abuse or neglect and sets out procedures for DSS to disclose information about abuse and neglect cases. Passed.
• H. 3149 – rules for pawnbrokers buying metal. This is an attempt to combat copper thieves. This bill is in a conference committee.
• H. 3361 – allows Family Courts to award custody and visitation of pets during domestic actions and updates penalties for cruelty to animals. Passed.
• H. 3428– reauthorizes First Steps to School Readiness. Passed.
• H. 3459 – update to licensing for Board of Accountancy. Passed.
• H. 3644- updates to Clean Energy Tax Incentive Program. Passed.
• H. 3853 – creates alternative education campuses at charter schools and provides additional updates to charter school legislation. Passed.
• H. 3905 – requires schools to teach cursive writing and requires students to learn multiplication tables by 5th grade. Passed.
• H. 3959 – strengthens language for sexual exploitation of minors. Passed.
• H. 4061 – requires the Depar
tment of Education to adopt and implement instruction to raise awareness for sexual abuse and assault. Passed Senate, awaiting House approval.
• H. 4348– sets out criteria for Family Courts to award visitation to grandparents. Passed.
• H. 4399 – allows for on-premises alcohol licenses within close proximity of church and/or park if the church or park agree to the license being issued. Passed.
• H. 4543 – limits on taking blue catfish. Passed.
• H. 4550 – licensing criteria for nursing home and community residential home administrators. Passed.
• H. 4560 – deals with destruction of arrest records following expungement. Passed.
• H. 4673 – limitations on landowner liability when land used for recreational aviation activities. Passed.
• H. 4840 – creates High School Equivalency Diploma Accessibility Act. Passed.
DSS DIRECTOR RESIGNS – In last week’s update I mentioned that a few senators had introduced a resolution expressing no confidence in the leadership of the Director of the Department of Social Services, Lillian Koller. On Monday of last week, Director Koller announced her resignation. Governor Haley has begun the search for a new director.
SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE RESIGNS – Under South Carolina’s constitution, the Senate’s leader – the President Pro Tempore – is to become Lt. Governor when there is a vacancy in the Lt. Governor’s office. Former Senator Glenn McConnell became Lt. Governor under that constitutional provision in 2012 following Lt. Governor Ken Ard’s resignation. Senator John Courson (R-Richland County) was elected Senate President Pro Tempore when former Senator McConnell became Lt. Governor.
Lt. Governor McConnell was recently hired to become President of the College of Charleston and has said he would resign as Lt. Governor before assuming his presidential duties on July 1, 2014. Sen. Courson has said repeatedly he did not want to become Lt. Governor and, on Wednesday, resigned his position as President Pro Tempore. The Senate may elect a new President Pro Tempore when it returns for the special session; if not, the Speaker of the House of Representatives would be next in line should a vacancy occur in the Office of Governor.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY WORK SCHEDULE – The General Assembly will return for a special session the week of June 17 to consider any vetoes Governor Haley issues on the budget and legislation passed last week. There are also a few bills, some of which I’ve mentioned above, that the legislature can take up that week. Following that special session, the General Assembly should be adjourned for 2014.
ADDITIONAL EMAIL UPDATES – Since the General Assembly will not be in session next week, I will most likely not send an update. I will do an update for the special session. Following the special session, I will probably have limited updates since the General Assembly will be adjourned for the year. If you ever have questions or comments, though, please know I welcome and appreciate your input.
Last Week’s Meetings
I attended 4 graduations last week:
-Gilbert High School on Sunday afternoon
-Fox Creek High School on Thursday night
-Midland Valley High School on Friday afternoon
-Strom Thurmond High School on Friday night
Congratulations to all the 2014 graduates!
CREDIT MONITORING –The State has contracted with CSIdentify Corporation (CSID) for the purpose of continuing credit monitoring/ID protection services to South Carolinians and businesses affected by the October 2012 security breach at the Department of Revenue. CSID’s services provided under the contract are available to eligible individual taxpayers (including minors and adult dependents) and eligible business taxpayers through October 31, 2014 (although it will almost certainly be extended).
You can sign up with CSID for the offered service by doing one of the following:
1. Go to www.scidprotection.com and follow the steps to enroll
2. Call (855)-880-2743 to enroll.
The State will pay $8.5 Million for the first year of the CSID contract with the option to renew for four additional one year periods at the state’s sole discretion. You do not have to pay anything to sign up. The Experian contract for the past year was a $12 Million contract.
If you choose to purchase your own protection service, you can deduct a portion of that cost from your state income taxes. Talk with your accountant/tax preparer for more information.
OUR SENATE DISTRICT – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here
SPEAKING WITH GROUPS – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.