Lawmakers in both chambers passed a flurry of bills this week in advance of the Wednesday crossover deadline. According to legislative rules, any bill that passes one chamber after April 10 cannot be heard in the opposite chamber without a two-thirds majority vote. Accordingly, bills that did not make the crossover deadline stand a relatively low chance of passage this year.
The House passed H.3210, which extends an income tax credit for angel investors; H.4017, which amends the mission of the SC Film Commission to focus on stimulating the motion picture industry, and which also authorizes the commission to enter into contracts for services and “cooperative endeavors;” H.3174, which regulates electric bicycles; H.4004, which creates a new form for end-of-life instructions for patients (this bill was amended to provide protections for both patients and doctors); H.4412, which allows local taxation above the current legal limits for certain counties if used for education capital improvements; H.4380, which requires ridesharing drivers to display illuminated signs; and H.3998, which creates a state tax credit for low-income housing projects – to name just a few.
The Senate passed S.203, a bill that has been under debate for several weeks. This bill provides funding for consolidation of small school districts. The Senate also passed S.712, which would ratify a 2001 transfer of service territory between two Anderson County water districts. Under state law, special purpose districts must be enlarged or altered by the local county council, but as this has not been done, S.712 is an attempt to ratify the territory transfer by special legislative act. This is a flagrant – and unnecessary – violation of the constitutional prohibition of special laws.
Other bills passed by the Senate include S.293, which allows concealed weapons permit holders to carry (with the church’s permission) during church services held in a school facility; S.342, which creates a new occupational license for alcohol servers; S.276, which would allow the courts to require mental health examinations and counseling as a condition of bond, for individuals accused of threatening violence with a gun; and S.480, which would allow state law enforcement to submit fingerprints collected by state agencies to the FBI.
On Thursday, the Senate LCI committee passed S.394, which would prohibit local plastic bag bans, stating that such bans may only ben enacted by the General Assembly. The bill would allow local governments to prohibit the use of plastic bags on public property and parks.
Also on Thursday, a House Judiciary subcommittee passed two bills with concerning free speech implications. H.3045would define “independent expenditure committee” as any group that spends over $500 on election communications, and would require the disclosure of the group’s major donors. As “election communications” would include communications that support or attack a candidate within 45 days of an election, this could regulate political speech that is not campaign speech, particularly given that the primary season in South Carolina overlaps the legislative session.
H.4203 would revise the definition of “committee” struck by the state Supreme Court in 2010 for being overly broad. Committees are subject to a plethora of regulations in the Ethics Act, and accordingly should be narrowly defined in order to regulate only campaign speech, not issue advocacy. Both of these bills are broadly written with key terms left undefined, and the regulations would be triggered by expenditures too small to carry a major public concern of quid pro quo. As such, this legislation could have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected political speech. We will be closely watching them.
During a discussion of the proposed Panthers incentives bill, Sen. Chip Campsen remarked:
“We need to consider really where are we as a state? Are we really in the 1960s and still have to bribe people to move here?…Are we providing incentives for someone who’s going to do it anyway?”
The reality is that taxpayer-funded incentives for companies (or sports teams, as the case may be) are, in fact, essentially a bribe made necessary by burdensome tax laws and a business-unfriendly regulatory environment. Removing these barriers to economic prosperity would not only be a tremendous incentive for companies to relocate here, but would benefit all South Carolina businesses – not just the big ones.
This week, a particularly concerning bill was filed – S.747, which would allow the use of red light cameras for law enforcement purposes. This would essentially institute policing by camera.
Lawmakers filed a bill (S.756), which would force special purpose districts providing sewage treatment services to consolidate with the local municipality providing water services – but only if the latter’s governing board (the commissioners of public works) also serve on the special purpose district’s board.
S.759 would create a new government agency – the Department of Alcohol Licensing and Enforcement, charged with administering the plethora of licensing laws and regulations pertaining to alcohol – a telling indicator of overregulation of the alcohol industry. H.4452would create a study committee to study the lifespan of one bridge. H.4429 would require homeowners’ associations to send quarterly budget reports to their members and to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
H.4453 is another bill creating mini-governments within universities, which would be called “auxiliary divisions” and would have special privileges and oversight exemptions similar to the enterprise divisions legislation.
Finally, S.758 would allow auctioneers over the age of 65 and with 25 years of experience to be exempted from continuing education requirements in order to keep their licenses – an excellent example of how legislation is frequently introduced to benefit specific situations or individuals.
To view the full list of new bills, click here.
Starting Wednesday, the full Senate will debate the state appropriations bill, while the House is out for the week. Accordingly, discussion on other bills will likely resume next week.
The Senate version of budget includes raising the base salary for teachers, providing a cost-of-living raise for all state employees, and increasing judges’ salaries. It would also utilize roughly $70 million for taxpayer rebate checks, totaling $50 per person.
The Senate Finance Committee’s version of the budget includes a proviso that instructs the Department of Administration to conduct a bidding process for Santee Cooper. Upon receiving such bids, the department would present its recommendation for a sale to legislative leaders, and the General Assembly would take up any necessary legislation to approve the sale. Proceeds from the sale would be deposited into the state’s retirement system trust fund, ostensibly to pay off pension debt.
On Thursday, the Department of Transportation commission is holding its monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 9am, and can be viewed here.
Highest item of interest is the adoption of Town Council Priorities, Goals and Strategies.
Council Vision: The Town will focus on revitalization and modernization of its economy and infrastructure, while building an inclusive and diverse community.
Protect and enhance our Island quality of life
Create, or cause to be created, a social, political, and economic environment that stimulates the right kind of private investment
Effectively and efficiently provide the appropriate level of community services and facilities
Council Strategic Initiatives:
Construct Celebration / Coligny Park
Introduce US 278 Gateway Corridor Project to Community and Solicit Input
Facilitate Mitchelville / Gullah-Geechee Cultural Preservation
Review and Update Comprehensive Plan
Determine the Most Effective and Appropriate Role in Workforce Development
There are tactics to achieving all goals found here.