COVID-19 Legislative Update

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Action Report

Page Updated: 3/19/2020

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). COVID-19 was originally thought to have spread from animal to person, but person-to-person spread is now occurring.


Outbreaks of novel virus infections are public health concerns. The risk of COVID-19 infections in South Carolina depends on multiple factors, including the likelihood of travelers from affected areas, how easily the virus may spread from person to person and the effectiveness of measures to prevent community spread.


On March 17, 2020, the South Carolina State Senate unanimously voted to authorize a $45 million supplemental funding package for SCDHEC to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. The package would provide flexibility for SCDHEC to move assets where needed most and provides oversight and reporting of expenditures to the State’s Executive Budget Office. The package was ordered for a third reading on March 18, 2020 and was sent  sent to the State House of Representatives for further consideration. On March 19, 2020, the South Carolina House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s funding package. Governor McMaster signed the bill into law on the same day permitting DHEC to draw funds from the account. DHEC requests included in the supplemental funding package include the following:


  • Staffing ($14,598,760): DHEC needs additional staffing to support COVID-19 disease surveillance and contact investigation, laboratory testing, and information phone lines.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ($14,806,800): PPE for DHEC’s healthcare workers to prevent spread of infection.
  • Staff Support ($5,282,420): Operating costs such as technology, lab supplies and reagents, travel, and facility cleaning.
  • Education Campaign ($2,500,000): Support for TV/Radio airtime and printed materials.
  • Quarantine ($1,703,580): Cost to quarantine and support indigent patients.
  • Transportation ($1,394,958): Cost to courier lab samples and distribution of items from the Strategic National Stockpile.
  • Contingency ($5,000,000): We have built in about 10% for unanticipated costs or changing assumptions based on disease spread.


RECENT TIMELINE:

  • MARCH 17, 2020 — Governor McMaster issues Executive Order 2020-11 to direct all non-essential employees and staff of the State of South Carolina – and employees of college, universities, and technical colleges – to not report to work until further notice, at the direction of the Agency Head or direct supervisor; to prohibit any county, municipality, or political subdivision of the State from closing any location or facility that may be necessary to perform mission-critical functions; to suspend requirement of unemployment payment by employers until June 1; to authorize DHEC to suspend regulations requiring Certificate of Need Review to permit healthcare facilities to make capital expenditures and acquire medical equipment to combat COVID-19.  
  • MARCH 19, 2020 — Twenty-One (21) additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina. This brings the total number, at this time, to 81 cases statewide in 17 counties.
  • MARCH 18, 2020 — Thirteen additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina. This brings the total number, at this time, to 60 cases statewide in 14 counties.
  • MARCH 17, 2020 — Fourteen additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina. This brings the total number, at this time, to 47 cases statewide in 13 counties.
  • MARCH 17, 2020 — South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) announces extension to file state returns and pay taxes due April 1, 2020, now due by June 1,2020. Penalty and interest will not be charged if payment is made by June 1. Online services are available by visiting MyDORWAY.dor.sc.gov.
  • MARCH 17, 2020 — Governor McMaster issues Executive Order 2020-10 to direct the DHEC to waive or suspend provisions of existing regulations that may prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with an emergency; to order that food-service establishments and bars may not permit on-premises dining or consumption, but to encourage delivery, carry-out or drive-through distribution for alternative means; the prohibition of any organized event or public gathering held at a location owned by South Carolina or a political subdivision if it would require convening fifty or more persons in a single area; to direct the Adjutant General to oversee efforts and utilize equipment for hospitals or other healthcare providers.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 — SCDHEC releases updated guidance on patient testing and travel of cruise ships.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 — Five additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 — SCDHEC announces SC’s first COVID-19 related death.
  • MARCH 15, 2020 — Governor McMaster issues Executive Order 2020-09 to direct the closure of all public schools in South Carolina for students and non-essential employees from March 16, 2020 to March 31, 2020 unless otherwise directed by executive order. The order additionally directs elections held on or before May 1, 2020 to be postponed; and to urge indoor or outdoor public gatherings be limited to less than one-hundred (100) people.
  • MARCH 15, 2020 — Nine additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina.
  • MARCH 14, 2020 — Six additional cases of COVID-19 announced in South Carolina.
  • MARCH 13, 2020 — SCDHEC provides updated guidance on testing and reporting for COVID-19 in South Carolina.
  • MARCH 13, 2020 — Governor McMaster issues Executive Order 2020-08 declaring State of Emergency for South Carolina due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The order DHEC be vested with powers set forth in the Emergency Health Powers Act; the closure of public schools located in Kershaw and Lancaster Counties; suspension of visitations to state corrections institutions and local detention facilities; activation of the SC National Guard; limited licensing to security companies in protecting property; and prohibition of price gouging.
  • MARCH 11, 2020 — Governor McMaster issues Executive Order 2020-07 to suspend certain rules and regulations for commercial vehicles and operators responding directly to assist in COVID-19 efforts.
  • MARCH 6, 2020 — State of South Carolina’s first two cases of COVID-19 announced in media briefing; one patient is elderly female from Kershaw County who has been hospitalized and in isolation; the second patient is an adult female from Charleston County who recently traveled to France and Italy. The patient did not require hospitalization and is self-isolated at home.
  • MARCH 2, 2020 — Governor Henry McMaster convenes Public Health Emergency Plan Committee to discuss potential impact of COVID-19 to South Carolina.
  • FEBRUARY 28, 2020 — SCDHEC issues interim guidance on the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • JANUARY 31, 2020 — Governor McMaster convened a meeting of the Public Health Emergency Plan Committee to discuss update on COVID-19.


QUICK INFORMATION:

  • How it is spread:
    • COVID-19 is commonly spread through air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; or touching an object with the virus and making contact with mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19:
    • Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild to severe illness, fever, coughing or shortness of breath.
  • Travelers:
    • Those who have traveled from an affected area in the past two weeks should seek medical advice if any symptoms develop during that period. Health officials are prepared with instructions on how to prevent the spread and proper procedures to avoid the spread.
  • COVID-19 Prevention:
    • Health officials recommend constant washing of hands with warm water and soap for more than twenty seconds; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; avoid contact with sick individuals; stay home when not feeling well; and practicing social-distancing of keeping distance from others, greater than six feet.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Get Screened:
    • Individuals experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath should contact their personal doctor or healthcare provider. MUSC Health is providing a free telehealth screening to all South Carolinians experiencing symptoms without leaving their home using this link: https://campaigns.muschealth.org/virtual-care/index.html.
  • More Information:
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and South Carolina Department of Environmental Control have additional helpful information online at cdc.gov/covid19 and schec.gov/covid19.
    • The SCDHEC Care Line is available to provide general information from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week by calling 855-472-3432.
    • The SCEMD, in collaboration with SCDHEC, has created an online portal to monitor testing and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina. You can view this portal HERE.


EMPLOYMENT & WORKFORCE INFORMATION:

  • Unemployment Benefits:
    • Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Layoff Insurance Benefits:
    • Unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits. This also applies to those employees’ whose hours may be reduced due to no fault of their own.
  • Paid Leave:
    • Employees receiving paid leave would not be considered unemployed and therefore ineligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • COVID-19 Related Shutdown:
    • South Carolina law allows for the removal of charges from contributory employers when unemployment benefits are paid as a result of a natural disaster, either declared by the President of the United States or the declaration of emergency by the Governor. 
  • Unemployment Insurance Claims (Employees):
    • To submit an initial claim for unemployment insurance claims, individuals must follow three steps: (1) Apply for benefits through SCDEW, (2) Register for work, and (3) Search for work.
    • Individuals may submit an initial claim through MyBenefitsPortal (https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/manage-your-benefits/weekly-claims), once the application is submitted, DEW will review the claim and determine if you qualify.
    • Through the portal, individuals must register for work on SC Works Online Services within two weeks to avoid nonpayment. Additionally, individuals must update their resume every 90 days to continue payment.
    • To remain eligible, individuals must actively search for work each week and conduct at least two (2) job searches each week. Individuals may request a waiver for the requirement to perform two searches if for good cause.
  • Filing Claims for Workers (Employers):
    • Employers experiencing a temporary shutdown, slow or smaller workload than normal may request permission to file claims on their workers’ behalf. Employers are able to file up to six weeks for affected employees who are exempt from work searches during that time.
    • To file, employers must contact DEW’s Unemployment Insurance department at 866-831-1725 and sign an agreement letter to become authorized to file employees’ claims.
    • Employers are required to report earnings that the employee may have received during the particular week filed. The claim must be submitted after the week of layoff is over but within 14 days of the claim week ending date.
    • Additionally information is available online at: https://dew.sc.gov/employers/ui-benefits/filing-claims-for-your-workers
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans:
    • The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans, through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19. This program is designed to help the business community address financing and cash flow issues, which may exceed the underwriting requirements for local financial institutions. On March 17, Governor McMaster submitted the required request for assistance to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make loans available in the form of SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for eligible small businesses located in all 46 counties of the state. After approval of our state-certification by the SBA, the South Carolina Department of Commerce and South Carolina Emergency Management Division websites will have explicit instructions on how to fill out the SBA loan application. Please note this is a loan—not a grant—and will still carry underwriting requirements. If a small business is interested in obtaining an SBA loan, please contact Chuck Bundy at the South Carolina Department of Commerce at cbundy@sccommerce.com or 803-737-0440.


INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES:

  • Health Insurance:
    • The S.C. Department of Insurance has provided information as to health insurance companies doing business in South Carolina and coverage. To learn more, go here.
  • Scam Alert:
    • South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has warned citizens to be alert to possible disaster-related scams such as fraudulent phone calls or price gouging, and report any suspected scams to the Attorney General’s office using this link: http://www.scag.gov/archives/40426.
  • Veterans and COVID-19:
    • The Veterans Administration has created this website with resources for veterans.
  • Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations:
    • The CDC issued this guidance on cleaning and disinfecting homes.
  • Children and COVID-19:
  • Pregnant/Breastfeeding and COVID-19:
    • The CDC issued this information for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Local Grocery Stores:
    • Several stores have been out of staples including toilet paper. Stores are stocking as quickly as they can and several stores are hiring more workers to help with stocking and cleaning.
  • State Tax Filing Deadlines:
    • Various tax filing and payment deadlines starting on April 1, 2020 were extended. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until June 1, 2020 to file and pay taxes for returns that are due between April 1, 2020 and June 1, 2020. To learn more, go here.
  • Federal Tax Information:
    • The Internal Revenue Service announced payment deadline of April 15, 2020 extended to July 15, 2020. To learn more, go here.


MEDICAL RESOURCES AND SUPPLIES:

  • Procedure for Requesting Resources:
    • Ensure suppliers routinely used cannot meet the request.
    • Utilize any mutual aid agreements that are in place.
    • Request assistance through their local healthcare coalition.
    • Contact County Emergency Management (EM) Division to submit a resource request.  If the County EM cannot fulfill the request, they must submit the request to the SCEMD Supply Unit.  Afterwards, the SCEMD Supply unit will then task to the appropriate ESF (or other sources), or provide vendor information to the requestor.
  • S.C. Emergency Medical Licensing:
    • The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners and the South Carolina Board of Nursing have procedures in place to temporarily license individuals in times of an emergency. This is an available tool to combat the virus in our state. Here are the specifics:
    • The Medical Board can expedite temporary licensure for out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, and respiratory care practitioners within 24 hours. There is no fee for these 90-day temporary licenses. You can apply for licensure by clicking here.
    • For nurses, South Carolina is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), which means registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) from these 32 other states who have multi-state licenses can work in South Carolina at any time. All states in the Southeast are part of the Nursing Compact. Additionally, the Board of Nursing can expedite licensure of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), as well as RNs and LPNs from non-compact states. The expedited licensure only requires information from the hospital or other health provider or organization that is requesting the additional nursing staff from another state. The license is good for 15 days, but may be renewed. There is no fee associated with this expedited, temporary license. You can apply for licensure by clicking here.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Week of March 10th at the State House

Calendar for March 10 – March 12, 2020

House lawmakers this week will deliberate and vote on the largest budget in state history, exceeding $30 billion in total funds. Spending highlights include a $100 million appropriation for rural road paving, increased funding for state employee pay raises, pension plans and health benefits, and a plethora of targeted earmarks such as $19 million for a downtown Greenville convention center and $7.5 million to renovate the Sumter Opera House (read more).

 
The budget also contains more than $9 billion in federal dollars, giving lawmakers the chance to address excessive federal spending at home instead doing so through a dangerous and unprecedented constitutional convention.


Meanwhile, two election bills discussed last week are back in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. S.389 would transition South Carolina to a closed primary system, meaning only those who are registered with a party may vote in that party’s primary elections. S.1083 states that if an individual casts a vote in a party primary, he/she may only vote in that party’s primary through 2024  – a proposal with serious constitutional concerns, as reportedly acknowledged by lawmakers before voting to advance the bill.


On Wednesday, a Senate bill to “reform” Santee Cooper is in subcommittee. The bill would impose new qualifications and term limits on board members, and require the utility to submit its integrated resource plan to the Public Service Commission (without actually requiring its approval) and to hold public hearings before changing rates. It would not, however, change how rates could be set. The bill would also require Santee Cooper to obtain PSC approval before constructing new generation facilities.


Other important bills in committee include a slew of proposals to amend or eliminate the burdensome medical license known as the “certificate of need”. Generally speaking, it requires that various types of healthcare facilities must prove to the government that there is a need for their services in a given area before building a new facility or expanding an existing one.


It’s also worth noting that the Senate will have more time to take up and vote on legislation now that the education omnibus bill was passed last week. The bill closest to passing (S.994) would pay Lee County transportation officials using gas-tax dollars – which are used to fund county road projects

For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

Week of March 3rd at the State House

Calendar for March 3 – March 5, 2020

This week is shaping up to be one of the busiest thus far of the 2020 legislative session.


First, a number of important-to-watch bills are moving through the committee process. The most concerning is H.3125, which calls for a convention to amend the US Constitution to impose term limits on Congress, reduce its power, and cut federal spending. While this might sound good in theory, this process would leave the entire US Constitution vulnerable to being amended – including the Bill of Rights. It would also put state lawmakers – who have a history of violating the state constitution – in charge of selecting delegates to represent South Carolina (and there is every chance lawmakers would select themselves).


Two bills aimed at limiting primary voting are also picking up steam. S.389 would transition South Carolina to a closed primary system, meaning only those who are registered with a party may vote in that party’s primary elections. S.1083 states that if an individual casts a vote in a party primary, he/she may only vote in that party’s primary through 2024.  


Another committee bill, H.5273, would extend the prohibition on petroleum pipeline companies using eminent domain by one year (the current policy expires this November). Conversely, two bills filed earlier this year would actually give eminent domain powers to pipeline companies. Read our recent analysis of the issue here.


Meanwhile, debate on the Senate education bill is rapidly coming to an end, and could be voted on as early as Tuesday. Several amendments to the bill have passed, including: giving qualifying students who major in education extra scholarship awards, giving kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers 30 minutes of “duty-free” time per day, giving districts more flexibility with school start dates, and more. It should be noted, however, that no significant changes were made to the bill’s troubling workforce sections. If passed, Senators could move on to other calendar bills, including legislation (S.994) to pay local transportation officials using gas-tax dollars (analysis here).


Finally, both chambers will continue holding meetings on Santee Cooper, with the Senate expected to hear public testimony from the state’s electric cooperatives for the first time Thursday.

For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

SC House Passes H.4431- Business License Tax Reform Act

February 27, 2020

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO


The SC House of Representatives gave H.4431, the Business License Tax (BLT) Reform Act a crucial second reading. The Act, sponsored by Rep. Jay Jordan, passed unanimously (104-0) and will move to the Senate after an anticipated third reading tomorrow.


Earlier this session, a special House Labor, Commerce and Industry (LCI) subcommittee gave a favorable report to the bill after receiving testimony from a long list of business owners and groups of varied specialties and sizes. H.4431 was then passed unanimously by the full House LCI Committee last Tuesday.


For nearly a decade, the SC Chamber’s Small Business Council has been advocating for a bill that standardizes the business license tax system across all cities, and creates a state-run central portal for businesses to apply and pay for their licenses. The current system is complex, costly, and lacks transparency.


H.4431 brings much-needed reform to the system. This comprehensive reform bill makes major changes to the system, including requiring a standard application form, renewal date, appeals procedure, and class schedules, along with creating a central online payment portal administered by a governmental agency, ensuring taxpayer data remains protected.


“We commend and thank the South Carolina House of Representatives, Speaker Lucas, Chairman Sandifer, and sponsor Representative Jay Jordan for making H.4431 a priority and putting in the work to get this bill passed,” said Ted Pitts, President and CEO of the Chamber. “This bill will help our state’s small businesses by reforming the state’s burdensome and complex business license tax system. We now call on the Senate to take up and pass this important piece of legislation.”

Beaufort County SC GOP Republican Party, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie, sc state house

Week of Feb. 25th at the State House

Week of February 25, 2020

Calendar for Feb 25 – Feb 27, 2020
This week, a bill that could have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected political speech is one step away from the House floor. H.4203 would revise the definition of “committee” struck by the state Supreme Court in 2010 for being overly broad. Since committees are subject to a plethora of regulations in the Ethics Act, corresponding definitions should be narrowly defined in order to regulate only campaign speech, not issue advocacy. Conversely, this bill is broadly written with key terms left undefined.  The bill is scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.


Other important bills in committee include a slew of proposals to amend or eliminate the burdensome medical license known as the “certificate of need”.  Another bill (S.125) calls for a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution (read why a constitutional convention is a bad idea here). H.4696 would suspend a driver’s license for illegally passing a school bus, and H.4712 would require every hospital in the state providing prenatal care to undergo training to identify and correct implicit bias – which is broadly defined to include prejudices and stereotypes that are unintentional, of which the individual is unaware, and which can be based on past experience.


Meanwhile, the process of reviewing proposals for state-owned utility Santee Cooper is in full swing. The House and Senate are holding separate meetings all week to hear from Santee Cooper and the two companies seeking to purchase or manage it: NextEra Energy and Dominion Energy. Unfortunately for ratepayers/taxpayers, the process leading up to this point has been conducted entirely behind closed doors.


The legislative panel responsible for screening university board members is meeting Monday and Tuesday. Lawmakers will look at prospective board members for the Medical University of South Carolina, Lander University, College of Charleston, and more. 
Finally, the Senate is only scheduled to meet once this week (Tuesday). It’s uncertain if lawmakers will resume debate on the education omnibus bill, which has already consumed a significant portion of floor time this year, leaving the Senate calendar severely backlogged.

For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

Beaufort County SC GOP Republican Party, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie, sc state house

Beaufort County SC GOP Republican Party, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie, sc state house

Week of Feb. 18th at the State House

Week of February 18, 2020

The Senate is shifting focus toward Santee Cooper this week after three formal proposals for the utility were released, including 1) selling the utility to Florida-based NextEra, 2) outsourcing its management to Dominion Energy, or 3) keeping it under state control (with several internal reforms). The Senate Finance Committee is meeting Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to begin reviewing those options with the Department of Administration. It should be noted that the full Senate is only scheduled to meet Wednesday. 


There are a number of important bills to watch on the Senate Calendar, despite floor time having mostly been dedicated to the education omnibus bill (see below). A bill paying Lee County transportation officials using gas-tax dollars is one step away from passing and being sent to the House. Another bill would dictate how drivers can use the left lane, creating steep penalties for those who fail to comply. A House version of the driving bill is in committee Wednesday. 


Also on Wednesday, a bill legalizing the sale and consumption of medical cannabis (the “Compassionate Care Act”) is slated for committee. Another committee bill borrows policies from the larger education bills, such as revising early reading testing and intervention requirements and capping kindergarten through third grade reading/math tests at 1-3/year.


Finally, both chambers are continuing to work on the FY 20-21 state budget, with the full House Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday. It is important to note that lawmakers have failed to hold joint, open hearings on the governor’s budget (as the law requires) and opted to begin from scratch, conducting business in an array of concurrent meetings that are neither streamed nor recorded.


For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

Week of Feb. 3rd at the State House

Week of February 3, 2020

This week, the data warehouse bill (H.3757) is scheduled for subcommittee consideration in the Senate. The bill would centralize a wealth of data collected by state agencies for the purpose of tracking children from preschool to the workforce. Interestingly, the bill was not assigned to the Senate Education Committee, but rather to the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, where a special panel will look at the bill Wednesday. The meeting is not scheduled to be streamed or recorded. Location/time here


Also in committee/subcommittee: two bills that would reduce the number of University of South Carolina board members; two bills calling for a constitutional convention to restrain federal power, impose term limits and require a balanced budget; and two bills regulating when drivers can use the left lane. 


A handful of state agencies – including the SC Department of Transportation –  are seeking salary increases for their directors. The Agency Head Salary Commission will review the requests Tuesday.


On Wednesday, lawmakers will gather in a joint assembly to elect a long list of South Carolina judges, including members to the supreme court, circuit court, court of appeals, and more.


Finally, debate on the Senate education bill will likely resume. This bill makes various adjustments to public education and lets state economic planners shape student coursework. Also on the Senate calendar, S.988 and S.994 would pay county transportation officials in Kershaw and Lee counties using gas-tax dollars – which are used to fund county road projects.


For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

Week of Jan. 27th at the State House

Week of January 27, 2020

This week, legislation (S.996. & H.4827) to extend the screening process for Public Service Commission (PSC) candidates is on the House calendar. Earlier this month, the legislatively-dominated board which controls the process didn’t make any nominations to the PSC’s four open seats, despite finding six candidates qualified. 


Meanwhile in the Senate, two bills on the floor calendar (S.988 & S.994) would pay county transportation officials in Kershaw and Lee counties using gas-tax dollars – which are used to fund county road projects. The House passed a similar bill last week to pay Union County transportation officials, and this bill will be up for a Senate vote as well if the Union County Senate Delegation (the “committee” for local Union County bills) approves it.


Senators will likely continue debate over their version of the education omnibus bill, which makes a plethora of adjustments to public education, such as deleting and adding various tests, codifying the minimum teacher salary at $35,000, requiring certain teachers to pass a new “rigorous test”, and creating a protocol for failing schools. Perhaps most concerning, the bill approaches education as a “workforce development system”, giving state economic planners direct input into available student coursework. 


A House bill establishing a teacher bill of rights, mandating a 30-minute planning period for teachers, and creating a tax credit for teachers living in low-income counties is set for committee starting Tuesday. Unlike the Senate’s bill of rights amendments that were debated last week, teachers under H.4753 would not be able to sue if such rights were violated.  


A bill making it illegal to use a cell phone while driving is scheduled for committee on Wednesday. Drivers could earn a ticket for simply holding their cell phone – which start at $100 for the first violation, and increase to $300 for subsequent offenses.


Finally, the Joint Bond Review Committee is meeting Wednesday at 9am to hear from several state agencies including the University of South Carolina regarding the construction of a new indoor tennis facility. Stream here.


For our full calendar of scheduled bills and the special interests who are feeding lawmakers this week, click here.

New Approaches to Healthcare for the Palmetto State

January 20, 2020: Healthcare Freedom Agenda

Most South Carolina families and employers find themselves in a healthcare No Man’s Land: They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but struggle to pay healthcare premiums that seem to rise every year.


What can be done? Some politicians tell us—with a straight face—that the time has come for the government to increase its role, promising that Washington or Columbia can do healthcare more efficiently and more effectively than the private sector.


But we know better.


This report explores the free market alternatives better positioned to lower our healthcare costs, while improving health outcomes.

  • Up with Direct Primary Care. DPC eliminates the middleman, allowing individuals to deal directly with a doctor for a simple, affordable and manageable experience, rather than with complicated insurance forms and rules. Read our Fast Facts on Direct Primary Care.


South Carolina Legislation: S.445


  • Down with Certificate of Need. CON laws do not achieve their intended charitable outcomes, but rather decrease the supply and availability of healthcare services for everyone, especially our citizens in poverty. By lifting these restrictions, we can allow new providers to begin operating and increase healthcare access for South Carolinians across our state. Read our Fast Facts on Certificate of Need.


South Carolina Legislation: S.990, H.3823


  • Yes to a host of other cost-savings reforms. Christian healthcare sharing, Right to Shop, charity care, and healthcare brokerage reform—all free market-based—also offer great promise in protecting the “smalls” (families and family businesses) from the “bigs,” (big government and big healthcare). Read our Fast Facts on Right to Shop.


South Carolina Legislation: Right to Shop S.991, Healthcare Sharing S.1006


Click here for additional information.

Beaufort County SC GOP Republican Party, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie, healthcare, SC

2019 Legislation

2019 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

H.4431: Business License Fee Reform Legislation

The committee voted to continue to support the bill which provides for uniformity in filing dates, application, class schedules and payment processing.


S.757: Housing Attainability Framework Legislation

The committee voted to continue to support the bill which provides for a municipality being required to prepare a housing impact analysis when considering an ordinance that may increase of decrease certain housing costs.


Act 156 of 2018: Petroleum Pipeline Eminent Domain Moratorium Extension

The committee voted to continue support the extension. It is a moratorium that has been placed on private for-profit companies preventing them from using imminent domain to take property. The end goal is to have this Act be in perpetuity.


S.690/H.4210: Flood Mapping Update Legislation

The committee voted to continue to support both. The legislation requires a unit at DNR conduct topographic mapping using LiDAR technology for data collection. The data collected would be provided to DNR's flood mitigation program and require that the maps be made available to the public.


H.4516: Short Term Rental Legislation

The committee voted to continue to support the bill. It provides a section to the SC Code of Laws which states that a municipality  may not enact or enforce a regulation that prohibits the rental of a residential dwelling to a short-term guest.


S.486: Remote/Electronic Notarization Act Legislation

The legislation is to provide notaries public commissioned in the state may register as remote online notaries public upon satisfying certain requirements.

2019 Legislation

2019 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Nearly 2,500 bills and resolutions were filed during the 2019 legislative session. While many of the most concerning bills did not pass, this year was the first half of the two-year session and anything that did not pass this year could become law next year.


Below is an overview of the most consequential bills that did and did not pass during this session.


BILLS THAT DIDN'T PASS


S.780: Instituting tolls to pay for new roads

This bill would allow the Department of Transportation (DOT) to impose tolls in order to finance nearly any type of road project – including new road construction, interstate widening, non-interstate road reconstruction, bridge replacement, etc.


Moreover, the DOT would no longer be required to remove the toll after the project was paid for. The bill would also strike current law tying toll revenue only to the project on which it was imposed, and revenue from a toll road could be used to finance “improvements to the highway corridor.”


S.780 bypassed committee and was placed directly on the Senate floor calendar the same day it was filed.

Status: Senate floor calendar


H.3757: Data warehouse

This bill would create a massive data collecting system to track children from preschool through the workforce (and possibly beyond). Data would be pulled from a number of agencies, including the Department of Education, Department of Social Services, Department of Commerce, institutions of higher education, and more. The bill would allow any other state agency to be brought into the database as deemed necessary by lawmakers.


The database is part of a large project that would pose numerous privacy threats. Even aside from its problematic goal – to help meet the needs of the state’s economy and to improve the workforce delivery system – the potential for abuse creates a massive risk for citizens’ privacy.

Status: Passed the House


S.679 & H.4332: Authorizing more state debt for economic development

Two bills would expand the possible use of economic development bonds, which are backed by the taxpayers’ personal property. Currently, these bonds can be issued for anything from land acquisition to employee training. This bill would add “freight transportation” to that list.


More importantly, the legislation would also create a subcategory of economic development projects – “strategic infrastructure projects” – which are not subject to the job creation and capital investment requirements that companies must usually meet for bonds to be issued.

Status: H.4332 passed the House. S.679 is in Senate Finance Committee.


H.3045 & H.4203: Mandating donor disclosure for non-electioneering communications, regulating political speech

H.3045 would 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.

Status: House Judiciary Committee


S.139: Constitutional carry

Four bills would allow individuals to carry a handgun, whether concealed or not, without a permit. It would still be against the law to carry into law enforcement buildings, courtrooms, public schools, hospitals, etc.  Currently, South Carolina residents must obtain a permit in order to carry a handgun, which must be concealed in public.


These bills are known commonly as “Constitutional Carry” legislation. At least 16 other states have passed similar laws.


One of the bills (S.139) was recalled from committee and placed on the Senate Calendar during the final days of session. It could be taken up next year.

Status: S.139 – Senate floor calendar. S.400, H.3456 & H.3999 – Senate/House Judiciary Committee.


H.3275: Seizure of weapons without due process

Known as “red flag” legislation, H.3275 would allow a judge to order the seizure of an individual’s firearms and ammunition, even if no crime is committed. If a solicitor, assistant solicitor, or two police officers bring a complaint to the judge that an individual is a risk to himself or others, the judge could issue the warrant to confiscate the firearms. Only after the weapons and ammunition were taken would the owner would get a hearing in probate court. If at the hearing the judge decides the gun owner poses a risk of imminent injury to himself or others, the state could hold the guns for up to a year, and the court would notify the Department of Mental Health.


At least five other bills filed this year threaten the Second Amendment, which can be viewed here. None of these bills made it out of committee.

Status: House Judiciary Committee


H.3759 & S.419: Reshaping public education

These massive education omnibus bills approach the education system as a “workforce delivery system,” (a term used in last year’s proposed data warehouse) in which schools are less about educating students, and more about supplying businesses with qualified workers.


For instance, they would create a new unaccountable state board to monitor the “education and workforce pipeline.” The board would collect data on reading and math scores, high school graduation rates, college enrollment, and job attainment. It even goes so far as to track the percentage of South Carolina residents, up to age 65, who have college degrees or received certain work certification.


The bills would also create a “career pathways” system that could begin as early as kindergarten. Under this system, a number of state agencies, such the Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and Department of Employment and Workforce would align the k-12 education system with state and regional “workforce needs,” among other things.


The bills would make several other changes including, but not limited to: (1) raising the base teacher salary to $35,000 (2) adding new literacy tests in elementary school and (3) requiring elementary school teachers to pass a new “rigorous test.”


It should be noted that the Senate version was amended in some form during subcommittee. However, the amended language has not been published or adopted by the full committee.

Status: H.3759 passed the House. S.419 is in Senate Education Committee.


S.1: Stripping some of the governors’ interim appointment power

S.1 would undercut the governor’s power to make interim appointments when the legislature is not in session. If this bill becomes law, the governor will not be able to make any interim appointments if a) the office became vacant before the previous legislative session, or b) if the Senate rejected his previous appointee. This creates an unreasonably narrow window for when interim appointments can be made.


For instance, say an office becomes vacant during the summer (after session has ended) and the governor makes an interim appointment shortly thereafter. If the Senate rejects his appointee (or simply doesn’t take a vote) when they return the following year, the governor cannot appoint anyone else to that position on an interim basis. This could leave central government positions vacant for an extended period of time. S.1 is a direct attack by the legislative branch on the governor’s constitutional duty to administer state government.

Status: Passed the Senate


S.259: A fund to acquire private property to turn into floodplains

This bill would create the “South Carolina Resilience Revolving Fund” for the purpose of acquiring properties to turn into floodplains (an undefined term) or open spaces. The fund would provide grants and low interest loans to local governments, state agencies, and environmentalist constructs called land trusts.


These entities could use such funds for home buyouts and floodplain restoration – defined as “any activity” toward returning the land to its “natural state.” To be eligible for buyout, the home must have suffered flooding-related damage of over $1,000 twice in ten years – a remarkably low bar. The property would not have to be turned into a floodplain, however; it could also be converted to open space with an easement to prohibit any future development.

Status: Passed the Senate


S.227: Allowing certain counties to impose a property tax

S.227 (and identical bills S.113, H.3168 and H.3457) would allow the 60 municipalities in South Carolina that do not currently have a property tax to impose one. State law currently limits how much the local property tax rate (called “millage”) can be increased by using rates from the previous year. Therefore, if a municipality doesn’t already have a millage rate, it can’t impose one.


Under this bill, any municipality without a property tax (or any new municipalities created after January 1 of this year) could now do so. The initial tax would be capped at a rate sufficient to generate one-third of the previous year’s general fund expenses. After its imposition, the tax would be subject to the increase limits in current law.

Status: S.227 passed the Senate. H.3457 passed the House. Neither bill has passed both chambers.


H.3968: Eliminating civil asset forfeiture

This bill would ban civil asset forfeiture, which occurs when government confiscates property that is suspected of being connected to a crime, with or without a criminal conviction (or even charge). Under this bill, property could only be forfeited (1) after a conviction and (2) when asset forfeiture is an explicit penalty for the crime committed. The bill also places parameters on the types of property that could be forfeited, stating that proceeds and property must be “derived directly” from or used in the commission of a crime.


A few exceptions would allow the state to temporarily seize someone’s property during the criminal process, such as during an arrest or if the state believes the property is in danger of being destroyed.

Status: House Judiciary Committee


H.3307: Creating a searchable database for property seized through asset forfeiture

This bill would require the Prosecution Coordination Commission to maintain a list of all property seized by a law enforcement agency, including when the property was taken, the crime prompting the seizure, the property’s market value, and the category of forfeiture (criminal or civil).


An amendment outright banning civil asset forfeiture was inserted in the bill during debate but later removed. The bill as passed by the House only includes the searchable database.

Status: Passed the House


S.110:  Creating another legislative guarantee to refinance utility debt

S.110 would authorize a new ratepayer charge to back a refinancing of SCANA’s debt. Under this bill, the Public Service Commission (PSC – the utility regulatory body accountable to lawmakers) could authorize SCANA to refinance its remaining debt from the failed nuclear project through a process called “securitization.”


Essentially, SCANA would issue new bonds through a “special purpose entity” (such as an LLC), and charge a new ratepayer fee to pay those bonds. Once the PSC issued the securitization order, it could not amend or terminate that order or the new ratepayer charge (except to ensure the necessary amount is collected) – much like the Base Load Review Act, which tied regulators’ hands in favor of the utilities.


The bill would also create a legislative covenant with the bondholders that protects the ratepayer charge from (1) future legislative action, (2) action by the PSC, and (3) any reduction until the refinanced debt is paid.

Status: Senate Judiciary Committee


S.366 & H.3660:  Legalizing medical cannabis

Two bills would legalize the sale and consumption of medical cannabis, while heavily regulating the process. Cannabis treatment would only be available for patients suffering from a “debilitating medical condition,” which includes things like terminal illness or severe chronic pain. Patients would also need to obtain an identification card from the state and permission from their physician. Once qualified, a patient may purchase cannabis from any licensed dispensary – limited to a fourteen-day supply.


The number of distribution licenses is also capped under the bill. For instance, the state may only issue 15 cultivation licenses, 30 processing facility licenses, and one dispensary license for every twenty pharmacies operating in the state. Each would require the applicant to pay an unspecified fee.


Lastly, it creates the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board that would seat doctors, a cannabis expert, a cannabis card holder, and several others. Its biggest responsibility would be adding new conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions.

Status: S.366 is in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, and H.3660 is in the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee.

H.4258: State retirement plan for private employees

This bill would create a state retirement plan for private employees. The 401(K)-style plan, called the “Palmetto Work and Save Plan”, would be available for employees of private businesses, nonprofits, and even those who are self-employed. However, individuals who work for private businesses would be automatically enrolled unless they opted out, and the default employee contribution would be 6% of the individual’s paycheck.


It is unclear why lawmakers would propose a state-administered retirement plan when such programs already exist in the private sector. Moreover, the automatic enrollment of individuals – and assigning them a contribution rate – is a highly troubling policy, as is the potential for using tax dollars to initially fund components of the plan, particularly given the $81.9 billion deficit in the state employee pension plan.

Status: House Ways and Means Committee


S.283: Exempting universities from state oversight

This bill would allow public universities to establish entities called “auxiliary divisions” or “enterprise divisions.” These divisions’ capital projects (and their financing) would enjoy significant exemptions from state oversight.


While universities’ acquisitions and projects are subject to supervision by the Commission on Higher Education (CHE), the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA), the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) and/or the Department of Administration, enterprise/auxiliary divisions would dodge much of this oversight.


The Senate Finance Committee, moreover, added language exempting public universities themselves from general state government personnel policies and laws, and from oversight by the CHE over capital improvement projects. It should be noted that the CHE has given significant pushback on higher education spending and debt proposals, and that lawmakers have been attempting to remove the CHE’s oversight for the last several years.

Status: Senate floor calendar


S.298: Increasing higher education spending

This bill would increase higher education spending, tweak financial aid policy, and crack down on student loan defaults.


First, it establishes a higher education funding formula that ties university and college appropriations to General Fund revenues. For example, if the General Fund revenues are projected to increase, lawmakers would have to increase funding to colleges and universities by that same percentage (not to exceed 5%). If revenue were to decrease, however, lawmakers could only cut higher education funding by that same percentage – although they would not be required to.


Second, the bill makes notable changes to the distribution of financial aid funding, favoring needs-based scholarships at the expense of merit-based scholarships. Tuition assistance for students attending for private colleges would be eliminated.


Finally, it requires the SFAA to find a vendor to administer a “Student Loan Default Aversion and Financial Literacy Program.” For context, at least two South Carolina colleges are at risk of losing their eligibility to participate in federal student loan/grant programs due to high student loan default rates (read more).


It should be noted that this bill also contains the enterprise division language found in S.283.

Status: Senate floor calendar


BILLS  THAT PASSED


H.4243: Tax incentives for the Carolina Panthers

Now state law, H.4243 extends a number of incentives to the Carolina Panthers football team.


First, it amends the jobs tax credit law to make the Panthers eligible to receive the credit and exempts the team from new job creation requirements. The jobs tax credit can be anywhere from $750-$25,000 per new job created (depending on where the team locates), and can be claimed against 50% of the owner’s personal or corporate income tax or insurance premium tax liability. Eligibility for the jobs tax credit automatically triggers another incentive – the jobs development credit, which eligible companies can claim for up to fifteen years and which can be as much as the company’s entire withholding tax amount paid to the state.


Second, the bill exempts professional sports teams from county and municipal business license fees and taxes, and lastly, it protects their property from municipal annexation without prior written consent of the team.


It’s worth noting that this legislation also drastically increases the available tax credits for lower income counties from $8,000 to $25,000 per job in “Tier IV” counties, and $4,000 to $20,250 per job in “Tier III” counties (click here to view the county tier map).

For a full overview of the Panthers incentive deal, click here.


H.4287: Process for selling Santee Cooper

H.4287 creates a process for exploring the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The Department of Administration will oversee the process of collecting binding offers and will evaluate the bids. At the end of the process, the department will present lawmakers with three offers: one to purchase Santee Cooper, one to manage Santee Cooper, and a proposal from Santee Cooper itself outlining future reforms should lawmakers decide not to sell. Professional experts hired by the department to analyze the bids will select which sale and management offers should be presented to lawmakers.


Before the final bids are presented, the entire bidding and negotiating process is to remain strictly confidential – not even the Governor is allowed access to any of the information. (This conflicts with the state Constitution, which allows the Governor to require information from any state agency at any time.)


If sold, funds from the sale would be deposited in to a new fund separate and distinct from the General Fund. Lawmakers would need to pass separate legislation to spend the funds.  Suffice it to say that this is very far from a transparent, accountable process that serves the taxpayers instead of legislators.


H.3145: State oversight for electric cooperatives

This law subjects electric cooperatives to state oversight, increases transparency requirements, and imposes basic ethics guidelines for board members.


This represents a major change in utility policy, as cooperatives have not been subject subject to state oversight. Under this legislation, the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) will audit electric cooperatives in order to ensure compliance with the law, and the Public Service Commission will have jurisdiction to resolve compliance disputes between the ORS and the cooperatives. In the past, individuals with complaints could appeal to the courts, but there was no mechanism in place otherwise to make sure the laws were followed (other than by ratepayers, who elect the boards).


This legislation also requires a number of transparency measures. For example, each cooperative must post on its website a breakdown of board member compensation, including daily per diem amount, compensation for all meetings attended, and food, travel and entertainment reimbursements.


Finally, H.3145 imposes basic ethics rules on board members, similar to those for lawmakers and public officials. This prohibits board members from using their position to secure an economic gain (other than authorized compensation) or from getting a family member a job with the cooperative.


H.3137 – Altering the Local Government Fund

This law lifts the requirement that the Local Government Fund (LGF) receive 4.5% of last year’s general fund revenues. Instead, LGF funding will be increased or decreased by the same percentage the general fund is projected to increase, but capped at 5%. Note that any increase here is not tied to a budget surplus per se, but rather to growth in recurring dollars.


Whether this is the right amount of funding for local governments is unclear. A proper approach to revising the LGF funding formula would be to survey the state mandates for local governments and determine how much state money is necessary to cover them.