Weekly Update from the State House - The General Assembly convened on Tuesday, January 14th...

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What's New   

During the Legislative Session, the Nexsen Pruet Public Policy and Governmental Affairs Team will produce an email summary of the week's pertinent political news, actions taken in the General Assembly and Governor's Office, bill introductions, and upcoming events and meetings that may be relevant to attorneys and clients in our firm. 

Details from Each Chamber 

The General Assembly convened on Tuesday, January 14th for the 2nd year of the 120th Legislative Session. Below is a summary of actions in both the Senate and the House.

Judicial Elections

This week, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission gave legislators a Report of Qualified Candidates for judicial races. A copy of the report can be found here. Judicial elections will be held on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at noon.

Government Restructuring

The Conference Committee on  S.22, the Government Restructuring bill, met Thursday morning to finalize their conference report. The bill abolishes the State Budget and Control Board and moves most of its functions to a new Department of Administration under the Governor's Office.

The new Department of Administration would oversee human resources, information technology, the State's fleet of vehicles and state-owned buildings. However, procurement and the issuance of State bonds would be overseen by a new State Fiscal Accountability Authority which would consist of the Governor, State Treasurer, Comptroller General, and the Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill is expected to be adopted and sent to the Governor for her signature soon.

SENATE

Senator Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston) was sworn in and made brief introductory remarks. Senator Kimpson will serve on Corrections, Invitations, General, Judiciary and Rules Committees.

There were some committee changes in Minority Caucus slots, while none were made in Majority Caucus slots. Committee changes include:

  • Senator Brad Hutto (D- Orangeburg) is now on General Committee
  • Senator Creighton Coleman (D - Fairfield) is now on Corrections Committee
  • Senator Floyd Nicholson (D-Greenwood) is now on Finance Committee
  • Senator Karl Allen (D- Greenville) is now on LCI Committee
  • Senator Thomas McElveen (D-Sumter) is now on Transportation Committee
  • Senator Kevin Johnson (D-Clarendon) is now on Medical Affairs Committee

The Senate spent most of the week discussing S.308, a bill that would allow individuals with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns into restaurants and bars. Under the law, restaurants could opt out by posting a sign in their window indicating that guns are not allowed in the establishment. Additionally, patrons who choose to bring a concealed weapon into an establishment would be prohibited from drinking alcohol.

The House is expected to adopt the bill next week and then it will go to the Governor's desk for her signature.

The Senate will reconvene next Tuesday at Noon.

HOUSE 

Representative Russell Ott (D-Calhoun) was sworn in to replace his father, former Representative Harry Ott. Representative Ott will serve on the Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs Committee.

The Speaker announced that he had named Representative Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) to replace former Representative  Harry Ott, as a conferee on the conference committee on S.22, the Government Restructuring bill.

The House passed the following bills this week.

  • H.3147- Removes the standard of extraordinary and unusual employment conditions for purposes of proving a mental illness workers compensation claim that is not accompanied by a physical injury.
  • H.3174 - Authorizes a county to exempt certain historic properties from building codes enforcement.
  • H.3365 - Requires that public schools hire licensed Psycho-educational specialists to help school personnel identify students in need of mental health counseling.
  • H.3514 - Regulates drones in the State and require a search warrant and prior approval for the use of drones to collect information.
  • H.4259 - Enacts the Military Service Integrity and Preservation Act.

All of these bills will now go to the Senate.

The House will reconvene next Tuesday at Noon.

The Governor's Office 

On Monday, Governor Nikki Haley unveiled her FY 2014-2015 Executive Budget proposal. At the Governor's press conference, she said "This year's budget builds upon the themes that have been at the core of our priorities from the very beginning - creating jobs and improving the business climate, providing a better education for our children, making our state a safer place to live and work, strengthening our infrastructure without raising taxes, and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society."

The Budget included a $29 state income tax, more state troopers and SLED agents, an increase in the Department of Mental Health budget, and funding for her K-12 Education Reform Initiative. You can access the Governor's Executive Budget here.

Newly Introduced Legislation     

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/TAX:

S. 911 Peeler: RELATING TO THE EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S. 912 Peeler: RELATING TO THE USE OF HOSPITALITY TAX REVENUE - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

H. 4461 Rutherford: RELATING TO THE REQUIREMENT THAT A HUSBAND AND WIFE HAVE THE SAME STATE FILING STATUS AS FEDERAL STATUS - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4463 Sandifer: RELATING TO DEDUCTIONS ALLOWED FROM SOUTH CAROLINA TAXABLE INCOME OF INDIVIDUALS FOR PURPOSES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA INCOME TAX ACT - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4492 Sandifer: RELATING TO CLASSIFICATION OF PROPERTY AND ASSESSMENT RATIOS FOR PURPOSES OF AD VALOREM TAXATION - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4511 Stringer: SO AS TO REPLACE THE INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX WITH A FLAT TAX RATE EQUAL TO THREE AND ONE-HALF PERCENT ON THE TAXPAYER'S FEDERAL ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

H. 4512 J. R. Smith: RELATING TO THE EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX - Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

S. 940 Young: RELATING TO THE EDUCATION CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS SALES AND USE TAX - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

S. 941 Jackson: RELATING TO DEDUCTIONS FROM SOUTH CAROLINA TAXABLE INCOME OF INDIVIDUALS FOR PURPOSES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA INCOME TAX ACT - Referred to the Committee on Finance.

EDUCATION:

S. 914 Peeler: 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  - Referred to the Committee on Invitations.

H. 4470 Barfield: RELATING TO THE ELECTION OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY TRUSTEES - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

H. 4473 J. E. Smith: SO AS TO ENACT THE "HIGHLY QUALIFIED SUBJECT EDUCATOR CERTIFICATION ACT" - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

H. 4483 G. R. Smith: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT RECEIPT OF AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE FROM A PUBLIC COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY IN THIS STATE REQUIRES A DEMONSTRATED PROFICIENCY IN THE CONTENT AND PURPOSE OF CERTAIN DOCUMENTS THAT PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN THE FOUNDING OF THE UNITED STATES AND DEVELOPMENT OF ITS SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works.

ENVIRONMENTAL:

H. 4501 Hiott: RELATING TO THE SUPERB ACCOUNT AND THE SUPERB FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FUND ESTABLISHED TO ASSIST IN CARRYING OUT THE PURPOSES OF THE STATE UNDERGROUND PETROLEUM ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSE BANK ACT - Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs

H. 4505 Bowen: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION TO JOIN THE SOUTH CAROLINA AND GEORGIA JOINT WATER CAUCUS TO ENCOURAGE STATE AGENCIES, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, TO IMPLEMENT A WATER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM FOR THE SAVANNAH RIVER BASIN - Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.

HEALTHCARE:

S. 919 L. Martin: RELATING TO FALSE CLAIMS, STATEMENTS, AND REPRESENTATIONS FOR PURPOSES OF QUALIFYING FOR AND RECEIVING PAYMENT FOR AND REIMBURSEMENT OF MEDICAID CLAIMS AND BENEFITS - Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.

H. 4471 Barfield: RELATING TO INVESTIGATIONS BY THE BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS INTO ALLEGATIONS OF PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT - Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

S. 936 Peeler: SO AS TO ENACT THE "AIR AMBULANCE AFFORDABILITY ACT" - Referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.

JUDICIAL:

S. 916 L. Martin: TO ESTABLISH THE "TRESPASSER RESPONSIBILITY ACT" - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

S. 917 Bryant: RELATING TO THE RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT - Referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

H. 4460 Rutherford: PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1895, BY DELETING SECTION 15, ARTICLE XVII WHICH PROVIDES THAT THE ONLY LAWFUL DOMESTIC UNION RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE IS A MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN. - Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

H. 4474 J. E. Smith: SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT ANY COMPANY OR ENTITY DOING BUSINESS IN THIS STATE WHICH AWARDS CUSTOMERS OR MEMBERS WITH LOYALTY OR REWARD POINTS FOR TRANSACTING BUSINESS WITH IT MUST ALLOW ANY ACCUMULATED UNUSED POINTS TO BE TRANSFERRED BY A DECEDENT CUSTOMER OR MEMBER TO A SPECIFIED HEIR BY WILL OR OTHER WRITTEN DOCUMENT OR REDEEMED BY THE DESIGNATED HEIR AT DEATH. - Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

TRANSPORATION/INFRASTRUCTURE:

S. 920 Peeler: RELATING TO THE ISSUANCE OF DEALER AND WHOLESALER LICENSE PLATES BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES - Referred to the Committee on Transportation.

H. 4500 Gilliard: RELATING TO THE WEARING OF A HELMET BY CERTAIN PERSONS WHO OPERATE OR RIDE UPON A TWO-WHEELED MOTORIZED VEHICLE - Referred to Committee on Education and Public Works. 

In the Media    

BUSINESS

S.C. Consumer Affairs Department launches online complaint system
The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs has launched a new online consumer complaint system. Read more.

S.C. online job ads slip in December
The number of online help wanted ads in South Carolina declined by 900 in December compared with the previous month's total, according to the Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine Data Series. Read more.

Redevelopment to invigorate Columbia retail real estate market
The overall vacancy rate for retail space in the Columbia market held steady during 2013, finishing the year at 8.7%, Colliers International reported today. Read more.

JEDA bonds play role in 8,371 S.C. jobs
The S.C. Jobs-Economic Development Authority issued 11 bonds from July 1, 2012 through June 30, providing $436.3 million to seven counties and helping to retain or create 8,371 jobs, according to its annual report. Read more.

Donald Trump Jr. part of SC naval hospital deal
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - North Charleston has approved a plan to sell a former naval hospital to developers including Donald Trump Jr. Read more.

Something for everyone at AgriBiz and Farm Expo in Florence
FLORENCE, S.C. - If it's new and innovating in the world of agriculture, it likely can be found at the Florence Civic Center as the second annual S.C. AgriBiz and Farm Expo gets underway Thursday. Read more.

State tries new methods to deal with doctor shortage
In parts of South Carolina, a doctor can be as elusive as a Bluetick Coonhound with insomnia. Read more.

Economic development tops Richland council chief's list 
The new chairman of the Richland County Council ranks economic development as the top challenge for the new year. Read more.

EDUCATION

Education high priority for Pee Dee lawmakers
FLORENCE, S.C. - Education will be in the spotlight this session, even if it's because Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Democratic challenger state Sen. Vincent Sheheen have made it top priority for their year, with both unveiling plans to advance public education. Read more.

ENVIRONMENTAL

Congress debates allowing seismic tests off Atlantic Coast
The Obama Administration is studying a decision on whether to allow natural gas exploration of the coasts of both Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. But, before that can happen, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would need to allow seismic tests in the mid- and south-Atlantic region. Read more.

Tesla Motors opens SC electric charging near I-95
Tesla Motors has opened an electric vehicle charging station in South Carolina off Interstate 95 in Santee that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Read more.

FEDERAL DELEGATION

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott shares 2014 legislative agenda in West Columbia
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott spoke Monday at the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center in West Columbia while business, church and advocacy group leaders ate lunch. Read more.  

Sen. Tim Scott wants to change work hours to qualify for health care
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, said he filed an amendment to the unemployment insurance extension bill to define full-time employment under the Affordable Care Act as 40 hours per week. Read more.

Sen. Lindsey Graham vows 'new chapter' in SC-Germany relations
Spartanburg County - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made a stop in Spartanburg County on Monday, promoting a "new chapter" in economic relations between South Carolina and Germany. Read more.

Rep. Jeff Duncan's bright idea to keep traditional bulbs lit
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan wants to make sure the lights are not turned out on traditional bulbs. Read more.

Trey Gowdy rips State Dept. over slow response in naming Benghazi terrorist groups
South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy slammed the State Department Friday night over its slow response in finally naming the suspected terrorist groups responsible for the attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. Read more.  

Duncan pushes for seismic tests
It's no secret Republican Third District U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan is in favor of exploring the possibility of drilling off the coast of South Carolina. Read more.

A congressional trio wants voting laws in four states back under federal watch
Four states would have to run voting law changes by the federal government under a new bipartisan bill. Read more.   

HEALTHCARE

Medicaid expansion remains a topic for SC General Assembly
Last year, the General Assembly chose not to extend Medicaid to 340,000 uninsured South Carolinians under Obamacare. Read more.

Health Exchange Enrollment Picked Up in December
Nearly 2.2 million people picked a health insurance plan through the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act through Dec. 28. Read more.

About 24,000 in S.C. signed up for new insurance policies on federal marketplace
About 24,000 South Carolinians signed up for plans on the new Health Insurance Marketplace in the first three months, and they were older, poorer and more likely to be female than the national average of applicants. Read more.

USC anti-smoking effort earns spot at White House ceremony
When health officials gather Friday at the White House to tout 50 years of progress against cigarette smoking, the higher education representative on the dais will be from the University of South Carolina. Read more.

Action needed now for SC's mentally ill inmates, advocates say
South Carolina mental health advocates are urging the state prison system to follow a judge's order and draw up a detailed plan within 180 days to reform the S.C. Department of Corrections mental illness programs - even if Corrections appeals the judge's decision. Read more.

OPINION

Collecting fines for ethics offenses
Ethics Commission needs to set reasonable punishments for candidates who file paperwork late and then enforce them. Read more.

Scoppe: A half-full take on the upcoming legislative session
Columbia, SC - IF YOU THINK of the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions as separate events, there's no reason to be optimistic about what could happen in the coming six months. Our Legislature has been disappointing us for years, and if last year seemed any different, it was only because it was worse. Read more.

Fix state governance now
The Legislature's repeated failure to finish a meaningful restructuring agenda year after year is a clear indication that many lawmakers really aren't all that unhappy with a dysfunctional system that shortchanges their constituents on accountability, frugality and oversight. Early action to create a Department of Administration would signal that this session is going to be different. Read more.

Editorial: Lawmakers should provide tax option
It's perhaps the most direct way to hear the voice of the people, but the Aiken County School Board lacks the authority to initiate it. Issuing a referendum - a current objective of local school officials - shouldn't be the right of only a handful of counties in the state. Read more.

Scoppe: Is Nikki Haley school-funding equity's new champion?
Columbia, SC - SOME PARTISAN critics immediately wrote off Gov. Nikki Haley's proposal to spend more money on poor students as a too-tardy election-year ploy, designed to undercut support for her likely Democratic challenger, Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Read more.

Editorial: Governor needs to be leader in conservation
The governor can be a leading voice for protecting our state's natural resources. Unfortunately, that's not the case at the moment, according to a leading conservation group in South Carolina. Read more.

Numbers show why teachers need support
Gov. Nikki Haley recently became the latest to spotlight the lack of motivation there is for those who teach the state's children. The governor warned that the constant drumbeat of criticism of education - and she has been among the critics - has the effect of demoralizing teachers. By extension, demoralized people seek other job opportunities. Read more.

Many still need jobless benefits  
Those in Congress seeking an argument to extend emergency unemployment benefits to some 1 million Americans who lost them on Dec. 28 need look only as far as the latest jobs report from the federal Department of Labor. Read more.

SC POLITICS

State grand jury to investigate ethics allegations against SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell
A state grand jury will investigate allegations that House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, misused campaign money and his legislative position for personal gain. Read more.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell matter referred to grand jury
As the annual Statehouse session gets underway, the ethics questions hanging over House Speaker Bobby Harrell are taking center stage. Read more.

Haley budget: Election year politics or meeting needs?
Gov. Nikki Haley's re-election year budget plan builds on some of the promises she made when she first ran four years ago, with tax cuts and public safety in the mix. Read more.

ELECTION 2014: Vincent Sheheen talks about the true power of the governor's office
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen has spoken to Michael Burgess' Lexington high school American history class five times before. But on Monday, Sheheen attracted two new guests - reporters covering the presumed Democratic nominee for governor this year. Read more.

S.C. House speaker: Politics behind timing of case
Shortly before the opening session of the General Assembly this morning, House Speaker Bobby Harrell accused his detractors of slinging mud and again called on the S.C. attorney general to release a S.C. Law Enforcement Division report investigating him. Read more.

Rep. Patrick running for state superintendent
COLUMBIA, S.C. - State Rep. Andy Patrick announced Wednesday he's running to be South Carolina's next superintendent of public schools. Read more.

Vincent Sheheen targeting Nikki Haley on DSS now
COLUMBIA, SC - State Sen. Vincent Sheheen hit all of his talking points when speaking with reporters on Thursday, including criticizing the governor for the data breach at the Department of Revenue and her handling of a tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood County. Read more.

SC PUBLIC POLICY

Highlights from Gov. Nikki Haley's budget proposal
A $29 state income tax cut, 10 new state troopers, help with medical waiting lists and a 2 percent raise for firefighters at the state Forestry Commission are some of the highlights from Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's executive budget proposal. Read more.  

Roads key issue in Haley budget
Gov. Nikki Haley said she thinks the state can find more than $1 billion over the next decade to spend on roads just by dedicating the growth in revenue from the start of the year to the final estimate in May. Read more.

Haley: Revenue growth can fund road repairs
After unveiling her $6.6 billion budget proposal Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley spent a lot of time talking about what wasn't in her budget: $106 million for road repairs. Read more.

Our 2014 SC legislative preview
Time to learn the key issues and people of the 2014 S.C. legislative session that starts Tuesday. Read more.

House Speaker Harrell: Release SLED report
South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell again Tuesday called on the attorney general to immediately release a state police review of ethics allegations against Harrell, saying he believes it will exonerate him. Read more.

SC state senator to battle controversial potato farm
A Michigan potato farm corporation would face tighter controls on major water withdrawals from the Edisto River basin under legislation being developed to close loopholes in a 2010 state law. Read more.

SC Revenue Dept. wants annual funding for security
COLUMBIA, SC - The S.C. Department of Revenue says it is moving forward after the nation's largest data-security breach at a state agency. Read more.

Sheheen points to stances on Medicaid, education
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Sen. Vincent Sheheen took jabs Tuesday at Gov. Nikki Haley's election-year plans to improve education and called her refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility foolish ideology. Read more.

Exclusive: After decade of debate, lawmakers agree to restructure government
House and Senate lawmakers have reached a deal to abolish the state Budget and Control Board, transferring most of the state's administrative duties to the governor's office in a major restructuring of state government. Read more. 

S.C. home sales rose 17.9% in 2013   
S.C. Realtors reported Wednesday that 2013 was a good year for housing across the state. The number of homes sold in December rose 11% compared with December 2012, while for the full year, sales of homes jumped 17.9% from 2012. Read more.

Officials: Employee downloaded personal data
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's unemployment agency began notifying more than 4,600 people Wednesday that a former employee may have compromised their personal information. Read more.

DSS criticized for failing to protect children
Kelly Heidt said the S.C. Department of Social Services took her 5-year-old granddaughter into custody after the child's father, a Marine, was accused of molesting her, based on an anonymous tip.  Read more.

Zais seeks $34M for buses, close of bonus program
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's Superintendent of Education is requesting $34 million for new school buses and asking lawmakers to close a teacher bonus program to new entries. Read more.

South Carolina session preview: First up, dealing with a 'mega potato farm
South Carolina's 170 lawmakers reconvened Wednesday, and one issue they delved right into was figuring out what to about... a potato farm. Read more.

S.C. Senate passes guns in restaurants bill
COLUMBIA - Score one for gun rights, sign makers and quizzical glances from tourists.
South Carolina senators passed a bill Thursday that would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns into restaurants and bars. Senators made several technical changes, which are expected to be adopted by the House next week and sent to Gov. Nikki Haley soon after. A Haley spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read more.

SC House's top Democrat: Let same-sex married couples file joint tax returns
The S.C. House's top Democrat filed a proposal Thursday that would allow same-sex couples married in other states to file joint state tax returns in South Carolina. Read more.

Meetings and Events

Monday, January 20th

6:00      Reception for Representative Bill Crosby

              Wilson Ballroom, Holiday Inn at the Airport/Convention Center

              5264 International Blvd., N. Charleston

Tuesday, January 21st

6:00      Palmetto Leadership Council Reception

              Palmetto Club

Wednesday, January 22nd

5:30     Reception to Honor Representative Sellers for Lt. Governor

             Palmetto Club                    

TBA      Governor's State of the State Address