Weekly Update from the State House - February 7, 2014 -- In an historic election for the State's top judgeship, Chief Justice Jean Toal defeated Associate Justice Costa Pleicones...

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Details from Each Chamber

South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Election

In an historic election for the State's top judgeship, Chief Justice Jean Toal defeated Associate Justice Costa Pleicones by a vote of 95-74 in the General Assembly, where 85 votes were needed for a win. The House voted Toal - 68 and Pleicones - 55 with the Senate voting Toal - 27 and Pleicones - 19.  See how legislators voted here.

Chief Justice Toal will serve until December 2015 when she will be required to step down due to the mandatory retirement for judges when they turn 72. Toal has indicated her priorites for the rest of her term which include expanding business courts, completing the new case management system, and giving more access to Family Court litigants.

House

The House worked through the calendar this week, convening with the Senate for the purpose of electing judges. Thursday, Charleston area lawmakers introduced H. 4632, a bill to merge the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. If approved, the campuses would merge by July 1, 2016. Senator Grooms is expected to introduce a companion bill.

On Thursday, a State House panel heard testimony on H. 4223, a bill introduced by Representative Nanney that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The bill would also require physicians to report the age of the pregnant woman and the method used for abortion.

The House will furlough next week, while the House Ways and Means Committee will continue their budget discussions. The full House will reconvene on Tuesday, February 18th, at noon.   

Senate

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee and Judiciary Committee met for the first time this year. Senate Finance heard several tax bills and the Judiciary Committee took up S.115, a controversial bill relating to carrying a concealed weapon, among many other bills.

Following a Joint Assembly for judicial elections on Wednesday, the Senate continued debate on H. 3945, a bill relating to ethics reform. Senator Campsen advocated for a non-partisan commission, rather than two partisan groups. The bill remains in interrupted debate.

S.912, introduced by Senator Peeler, undoes the restrictions on how local governments spend their hospitality tax revenues, and allows local governments to spend more of their hospitality tax dollars to repair state roads and bridges. The bill recieved a favorable report from a Senate Finance Subcommittee.

Senator Courson announced that the Senate plans to furlough on April 17th and April 21-25th, the week following Easter.  

The Governor's Office 

Government Restructuring Act Of 2014

On Wednesday, Governor Nikki Haley held a ceremonial bill signing for S.22, the South Carolina Restructuring Act of 2014. The Governor was joined by former Governor Carroll Campbell's family and numerous members of the General Assembly. Governor Campbell has been recognized as the last Governor to successfully pursue government restructuring in the State up to this point.

The law abolishes the State Budget and Control Board and moves most of its functions to a new Department of Administration under the Governor's Office.

Senate Judicial Chairman Larry Martin was quoted during the ceremony saying that "Some said the day would never come when the Governor of South Carolina would be given the authority that every other governor in the country has to run the state as its chief executive. We should celebrate this monumental accomplishment and push for additional reforms to improve accountability and oversight."

According to a press release from the Governor's Office, the new law does the following:

  • Creates a Department of Administration that consists of the Division of State Information Technology, Division of General Services, Office of Human Resources, Nuclear Advisory Council, Office of Executive Policy and Programs, and the new Executive Budget Office (to include portions of the current Office of State Budget).
  • Replaces the Budget and Control Board with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA), to oversee the Insurance Reserve Fund and the Procurement Services Division.
  • Establishes the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, to consist of the Board of Economic Advisors, Office of Research and Statistics, and elements of the Office of State Budget.
  • Transfers the State Energy Office to the Office of Regulatory Staff.
  • Majority of reorganization takes effect July 1, 2015, but the Executive Budget Office and Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office will launch on July 1, 2014.
  • Requires that the SFAA begin a strategic sourcing initiative by December 31, 2015.
  • Directs the SFAA to produce a report to the governor and the General Assembly by June 30, 2016, with recommendations for making additional changes to procurement-related statutes and regulations that would reduce costs and improve services.
  • Obligates the Director of Administration to submit a report by December 31, 2015 that identifies the most appropriate organizational placement for each component of the Office of Executive Policy and Programs.
  • Establishes a new legislative oversight process through which the House and Senate will separately review the operations of state agencies on a rotating 7-year schedule.

Economic Development Announcements

On Thursday, the Governor announced that U.S. Engine Valve, a high-engineered valves supplier, will expand operations in Oconee County. The $29.5 million project is expected to add at least 125 new jobs to the company's existing facility.

The Governor also announced that BOMAG Americas will be establishing its North America headquarters in Fairfield County. The $18.2 million investment is expected to bring 121 new jobs to the region.

Newly Introduced Legislation     

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/TAX:

S. 985 Cleary: TO ENACT THE "FAIRNESS IN LODGING ACT"  - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S. 992 Malloy: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT IF A SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS IN ITS UNASSIGNED FUND BALANCE MORE THAN TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF ITS OPERATING BUDGET - Referred to the Committee on Education.

H. 4619 Loftis: SO AS TO PROVIDE A TAX CREDIT FOR THE IN-STATE PURCHASE OR LEASE OF A NEW QUALIFIED HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLE - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means. 

EDUCATION:

S. 984 Hembree: RELATING TO PARALLEL PROGRAMS - Referred to the Committee on Education.

S. 914 Peeler: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION TO FIX WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 2014, AT NOON, AS THE DATE AND TIME FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE SENATE TO MEET IN JOINT SESSION IN THE HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FOR THE PURPOSE OF ELECTING MEMBERS OF THE BOARDS OF TRUSTEES. - Introduced, adopted, returned with concurrence. 

H. 4609 Williams: TO PROVIDE ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS MUST BE CLOSED ON VETERANS DAY - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works .

H. 4632 Stavrinakis: SO AS TO ENACT THE "CHARLESTON UNIVERSITY ACT"  - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

EMPLOYMENT:

H. 4627 Goldfinch: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT WHEN IMPLEMENTING THE WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT, SC WORKS ANNUALLY SHALL REVIEW THE PERFORMANCE OF EACH PAID PROVIDER OF TRAINING TO CLIENTS OF SC WORKS BASED ON CERTAIN CRITERIA ESTABLISHED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND WORKFORCE - Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry

ENVIRONMENTAL:

H. 3644 Loftis: RELATING TO THE RENEWABLE ENERGY TAX CREDIT INCENTIVE PROGRAM - Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

H. 4574 Hardwick: RELATING TO DEFINITIONS CONCERNING THE ENVIRONMENTAL CERTIFICATION BOARD - Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.

S. 1011 Hembree: RELATING TO ENERGY SUPPLY AND EFFICIENCY - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

GOVERNMENT:

S. 988 Cromer: RELATING TO THE DUTIES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA GEODETIC SURVEY (SCGS) WITH RESPECT TO DETERMINING COUNTY BOUNDARIES - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S. 990 Bryant: RELATING TO THE COUNCIL ADMINISTRATOR FORM OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S. 991 Bennett: RELATING TO DEFINITIONS CONCERNING THE ENVIRONMENTAL CERTIFICATION BOARD - Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

INSURANCE:

H. 4559 McCoy: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION TO MEMORIALIZE THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES TO ENACT SENATE BILL S.1846, THE HOMEOWNER FLOOD INSURANCE AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2013 - Referred to the Committee on Banking and Insurance.

JUDICIAL:

H. 4593 Clemmons: RELATING TO THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR DEFAMATION ACTIONS - Referred to Committee on Judiciary .

S. 1008 Setzler: RELATING TO DEFINITIONS PERTAINING TO THE RETIREMENT SYSTEM FOR JUDGES AND SOLICITORS - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

H. 4607 Hiott: TO ESTABLISH THE "TRESPASSER RESPONSIBILITY ACT" WHICH PROVIDES A LIMITATION ON LIABILITY BY LAND POSSESSORS TO TRESPASSERS - Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H. 4629 Finlay: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT IT IS AN UNLAWFUL TRADE PRACTICE FOR A PERSON OR ENTITY TO MAKE A BAD FAITH ASSERTION OF PATENT INFRINGEMENT - Referred to Committee on Judiciary

LABOR & EMPLOYMENT:

S. 996 Campbell: RELATING TO EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LICENSURE REQUIREMENT TO PRACTICE ENGINEERING - Referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.

TRANSPORATION/INFRASTRUCTURE:

S. 994 Peeler: RELATING TO THE ANNUAL TRANSFER OF FUNDS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION TO THE TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE BANK - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

H. 4600 Simrill: TO ENACT THE "SOUTH CAROLINA ROADS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACT" - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4621 G. R. Smith: SO AS TO ENACT THE "SOUTH CAROLINA AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE ACT" - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works .

H. 4631 W. J. McLeod: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO USE AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE TO COMMUNICATE WHILE DRIVING A MOTOR VEHICLE UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

Top News Articles of the Week      

Democrat, Republican team up to create a third party in South Carolina
What happens when you put aside divisive issues, and work with others to find common ground? Read more.

State to pay doctors, dietitians to treat poor, obese South Carolinians
The state's Medicaid program will begin paying doctors and dietitians to treat poor obese South Carolinians as part of its continuing effort to tame its out-of-control health-care costs.  Read more.

Bill would merge CofC, MUSC into Charleston University
Two Lowcountry lawmakers want to create comprehensive research university in Charleston by merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. Read more.

S.C. lawmakers take up ban on abortions at 20 weeks or pregnancy  A state House panel heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later, providing an exception only to save the mother's life.  Read more.

Toal's well-earned victory
Jean Toal won re-election as chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of the General Assembly. That outcome reflects her admirable practice of moving beyond party lines both in her work as a jurist and in her dealings with the Legislature.  Read more.

SC Medicaid may cover dental, weight-loss services
South Carolina's Medicaid director asked legislators Wednesday to support providing dental care to adults, weight-loss help for obese adults, and health screenings. Read more.

Haley recognizes Campbells in signing bill
Gov. Nikki Haley has ceremoniously signed a bill being called the largest overhaul of state government in two decades. Read more.

S.C. House could pay for review of college spending
The chairman of the House budget-writing committee wants to hire a national consultant to evaluate spending by South Carolina's public colleges and find savings that could reduce tuition. Read more.

Bill would let cities, counties use more hospitality taxes to repair roads
South Carolina's local governments could spend more of their hospitality tax dollars to repair roads and bridges under a bill that passed a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. Read more.

Toal wins historic duel for SC chief justice post
Incumbent Jean Toal won re-election Wednesday as chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court. Read more.

SC senate plan would stop solar tax credits for homeowners
South Carolina's skepticism about solar power emerged again Tuesday, when lawmakers agreed to phase out solar tax credits for homeowners at the same time utility regulators were offering little support for a large solar farm in the Upstate.  Read more.

SC House budget chief wants private review of public colleges
The leader of the S.C. House's budget committee wants to hire a national private consultant to see how the state's public colleges can do a better job of spending tax and tuition dollars. Read more.

Fuel-efficient cars cut into money for SC road repairs
Actors Rob Riggle and James Franco told 111 million Super Bowl viewers Sunday that the 2014 Ford Fusion hybrid has twice the fuel economy of the average car. Read more.

S.C. parties should have to go extra step to nominate candidates by convention, Senate panel says
Sometimes, political parties need a little bit of protection from themselves. Read more.

Many Columbia bars, restaurants say 'no' to concealed weapons
Many Columbia bar and restaurant owners say guns and alcohol do not mix. Read more.

Slight growth in percentage of union workers, but S.C. remains third lowest
Union membership in South Carolina increased to 69,000 in 2013 from 58,000 the previous year, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows. Only 3.7% of workers in South Carolina belong to unions, and that percentage is the third-lowest nationwide. Read more.

Proposed bill would give tax credit for hiring ex-convict
Newly elected State Senator Marlon Kimpson has proposed a bill that would earn an employer a tax credit for hiring an ex-convict. Kimpson is the sole legislator on the bill, which he filed in December. Read more.

SC biz leaders welcome new immigration discussion
Leaders of three key South Carolina industries - tourism, agriculture and homebuilding - are calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration policy this year. Read more.

SC emergency officials say early decisions helped prevent winter storm problems
South Carolina emergency officials say the state escaped this week's winter storm relatively pain-free in part because they follow one mantra: Make decisions early so you can manage the situation before the situation manages you.  Read more.

Toal, Pleicones release financial information in SC Supreme Court race
Days before a historic race for chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, the two candidates - incumbent Chief Justice Jean Toal and challenger Associate Justice Costa Pleicones - have voluntarily made public more information about their personal financial situations, including details about their assets and income sources. Read more.

SC politicians are firing on all guns this election season
Voters would be hard-pressed to find a South Carolina politician who does not support guns, but the candidates are showing just how much they love them this election year. Read more.

Scott: Diversity of ideas good for GOP
The variety of opinions in the Republican Party are a good thing, Sen. Tim Scott emphasized on Sunday.  Read more.

Meetings and Events

Tuesday, February 11th

5:30       Senate Democratic Caucus Reception

            Palmetto Club

Wednesday, February 12th

5:30       Senate Republican Caucus 2014 Winter Reception 

            Palmetto Club

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