Last week was the 10th week of the 2019 legislative session. There are 8 weeks left before the General Assembly adjourns on May 10. Here are the highlights from Senate floor action from last week.
ENSURING ONLINE RETAILERS COLLECT SALES TAXES – The Senate passed S. 214, a bill that would close a potential loophole to ensure online retailers are required to collect state sales taxes. The change is necessary following a U.S. Supreme Court decision and a lawsuit filed by the Department of Revenue to require Amazon to collect taxes on sales from third-party retailers who use Amazon’s website.
This change would ensure that online retailers are held to the same standard as brick-and-mortar retailers. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
FINFISH – The Senate passed S. 475, a bill that would set catch and size limits on finfish. The bill will now go to the House.
HEMP FARMING – The Senate passed H.3449, a bill that would bring South Carolina law into line with federal law regarding the permitting of hemp farms. The Senate amended the House version of the bill, so the House will now have to consider those changes.
PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO REGISTER A VEHICLE – In 2017, the General Assembly passed legislation to increase the gas tax and several fees to fund road and bridge improvements across the state. One of the fees that increased is the annual fee we pay to register our cars and trucks. The law imposed a larger fee for people who register a vehicle after moving into the state, but some people have avoided registering vehicles because the penalty was only $100.
Last week, the Senate passed S.162, a bill that would increase the penalty to $500 for failure to timely register a vehicle. The House will now consider the bill.
TEXTILE COMMUNITIES REVITALIZATION – The Senate passed S. 440, a bill that would update the Textile Communities Revitalization Act. This law has encouraged the redevelopment and repurposing of many abandoned textile mill properties across the state. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
TAX CONFORMITY – The Senate passed H. 3985, a bill that would conform South Carolina’s tax code to the federal code through December 31, 2018. This is an annual exercise to make it easier for South Carolina income taxpayers to complete their tax returns. The legislature made similar changes last October through February 2018, but this bill conforms through the end of 2018. The bill will now go to Governor McMaster.
TORT CLAIMS ACT – South Carolina, like other states and federal government, has a tort claims act that waives its immunity from lawsuits in certain situations. That law also sets a maximum limit that the state or local governments would have to pay as a result of a tortious act. In South Carolina, that limit is $300,000 per person and $600,000 per occurrence (regardless of the number of persons injured).
Last week, the Senate began debate S. 7, a bill that would raise that cap on damage payouts. This will be a contentious debate because raising the caps will affect the insurance premiums paid by the state, counties, municipalities, school districts, special purpose districts, most hospitals, and charitable organizations. The Senate did not vote on the bill last week, so I expect the conversation to continue this week.
CONFIRMATIONS – The Senate confirmed the following nominations by Governor McMaster:
Llewellyn Gregory Pearce – Mental Health Commission, 2nd Congressional District
Theresa Mills–Floyd – Director of the State Baord of Medical Examiners
Richard V. Lee, Jr. – DHEC Board, 5th Congressional District
Mark D. Buyck – State Ports Authority, at-large
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Here are few noteworthy issues that I expect to receive attention in the Senate this week:
SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION – The Senate Education Committee approved S. 203, a bill that would require school districts with fewer than 1,500 students to consolidate with larger districts by August 1, 2020. Districts that make up the entire county would be exempt.
This would affect the following districts: Bamberg 1, Bamberg 2, Barnwell 19, Barnwell 29, Clarendon 1, Clarendon 3, and Hampton 2. The full Senate could consider the legislation this week.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME – The Senate will likely consider S. 11, a bill that would have South Carolina observe Daylight Savings Time year-around if Congress passes legislation authorizing states to do that.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS – The Senate will likely consider H.3438, a bill that would create a new, cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs.
CHARLIE CONDON AS CHAIRMAN OF SANTEE COOPER BOARD – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Governor McMaster’s nominee to lead Santee Cooper’s Board of Directors, Charlie Condon. Mr. Condon is a former Attorney General and currently serves as the interim chairman. I expect this hearing will last at least the full two hours of the scheduled committee time and may require an additional meeting.
K-12 EDUCATION REFORM – There has been a good bit of conversation this year about reforming our K-12 education system to provide better working conditions for teachers and more and better opportunities for students. Last week, the House of Representatives passed H. 3759, a bill designed to address those issues. However, the bill has met with opposition for many teachers.
The Senate subcommittee focused on this issue has scheduled at least 9 hearings to work on the legislation, including 4 night hearings across the state to allow teachers, parents, and students to provide input.
Here are the remaining subcommittee hearings that have been scheduled:
Monday, March 18
Gaffney High School Auditorium
Wednesday, March 20
Senate Gressette Office Building
Thursday, March 21
Georgetown High School Auditorium
I expect the Senate version of the bill to be different in many respects from the version passed by the House. The full Senate Education Committee will likely consider an amended version of H. 3759 the first week in April, and I hope the full Senate will debate the bill later in April.
LAST WEEK’S MEETINGS
On Monday afternoon, I did a call-in interview with Kev Cohen on 100.7 in Columbia to talk about issues the Senate has tackled this session and what will likely come up during the second half of the session.
Tuesday was 4-H Day at the State House. I was able to spend a couple minutes with some 4-H students from McCormick.
On Wednesday morning, I joined other legislative members and Governor McMaster at the Governor’s Mansion to meet with the owner of the Carolina Panthers and discuss plans to move the Panthers’ headquarters and practice facility to York County.
SCDOT ROAD PROJECTS – SCDOT now has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here.
HOW IS THE GAS TAX BEING USED? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here.
DO YOU NEED A REAL ID? – SCDMV is now issuing Real ID licenses and identification cards. If you intend to get a Real ID, DMV encourages you to avoid long lines and get the new ID before the September 30, 2020 deadline. See below for frequent questions with answers:
WHY WOULD YOU NEED A REAL ID? – To board any commercial airline flight, enter a secure federal building, or visit a military installation on and after October 1, 2020, you must have a REAL ID or another federally approved identification such as a valid US Passport or military ID.
DO YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR CURRENT ID SOON? – There is no need to rush to DMV now. In fact, unless your driver’s license or ID card is expiring, there is really no reason to wait in line to change your card right now. If you do decide to get a Real ID, make sure you take the correct documentation to change your current license or ID card to a Real ID.
To see the documentation you will need for a Real ID or get more information, please see SCDMV’s Real ID page here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 2:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
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 me to come and speak with your group, please let me know.
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P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Cell Phone: (803) 480-0419