Search Results for: funding roads

The Weekly Rewind – January 11th

rewind-t3951k

This is the first of a weekly series in the Irmo News and Lake Murray News to keep everyone in our community informed. Each week, Representative Huggins and I will rotate our columns and are always happen to answer any questions or hear any advice from you.

I am honored to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee alongside my desk mate, Representative Chip Huggins. This is my 14th year in office and Chip’s 20th year. That’s a lot of experience and relationships working for the Irmo, Chapin community. Thank you for always staying in touch to help us serve you better!

Again this year, I’m serving as a Republican Party Whip as well as Co-Chair of the bi-partisan South Carolina Energy Caucus. Representative Huggins was also again unanimously elected by our peers as Chairman of the House Regulations Committee. You can reach my office at 734-2969 and Rep. Huggins office at 212-6812.

Throughout each week, you can read updates from me at www.nathansnews.com. I took a break during the fall to focus on family and my paying job, but I will begin writing more often while we’re in session through May. I ask that you please email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov to ask to be added to my monthly Community Update. Each update provides information to not only news at the State House; but also around our community and school. I know Representative Huggins also has a weekly email that many of you receive, too.

The beginning of 2019-2020 legislative session kicked off in a big way with inaugural festivities for Governor Henry McMaster, Lt. Governor Pamela Evette and our seven other Constitutional officers. Gov. McMaster’s inauguration address focused heavily on tax reform, education reform, infrastructure and making sure South Carolina has a bright future ahead of us.

When the House gaveled into our first session of the year, we saw 500 pre-filed bills cross the desk. Each of these bills was assigned to a Committee. Those bills will be deliberated, developed and made ready for full debate on the floor of the House. (You can read about the bills I pre-filed by going to my website www.nathansnews.com).

It’s my hope that Republicans, Democrats, Senators and House Members (as well as the Governor) are united in our desire to increase the quality of life for every South Carolinian. My fellow House Republicans have an aggressive legislative agenda, and we’ve worked hard with Gov. McMaster to sync our priorities with his to ensure an excellent opportunity to make much needed comprehensive reforms for our state.

This week focused on comprehensive education reform:

Paying our teachers more. We will fight to increase teacher pay so our students have access to the best teachers possible.

Letting teachers do their job. We will fight to eliminate paperwork and excessive testing in schools, so teachers have more time to teach.

Workforce Development. There are 64,249 jobs available in South Carolina, yet our unemployment rate is at 3.3%. This is because we do not have a labor force to fill these jobs. We must increase our investment in developing a skilled workforce.

Our top priority will be to fundamentally change the way we educate our children, so they get the best education possible and become the future generation of the South Carolina workforce. As a conservative, I’ve rated by many as a good steward of your tax dollars. While it’s time to invest more into the teachers and classroom, it should be noted that SC ranks 24th in education funding but last in test scores and college readiness. Ensuring quality teachers stay employed – as well as freeing them up to teach (ie less paperwork, mandated/outdated testings) – should be our focus – along with being sure money is getting to the classroom and following our children.

This week, I was excited to see more than 30 of my colleagues join me for a press conference to continue our fight to save jobs, provide more energy options, and most importantly provide cheaper energy prices for our state. You may recall last year, the utilities once again blocked efforts to expand solar and it’s long past time we send the message that the utility companies do not dictate our energy policy in our state. I feel the next 100 days are very important to making the changes we need and the changes you deserve.

While work has begun inside the State House, there’s much work going on outside the State House – particularly on the roads of South Carolina. Now, you can directly have an impact! After recent heavy rainfalls wreaked havoc on our roadways, SCDOT is launching a statewide “pothole blitz” …and they’re asking for our help! You can report potholes directly by calling their Hotline at 1-855-467-2368 or by visiting the website http://dbw.scdot.org/workrequest/. And remember, SCDOT employees will be working extended hours to fix these potholes, so please use caution and watch for SCDOT maintenance crews making repairs.

Thank you again for the honor and privilege to serve you in Columbia! Please contact me using any method above – phone, email, or website www.nathansnews.com.

2017 Legislative Overview

Written by the House Research Office as a summary of major legislation enacted this year. The overview does not refer to the budget provisions that have been vetoed by the Governor

During the first year of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly, lawmakers approved comprehensive infrastructure funding and governance legislation (H.3516) that includes reform measures for the operation of the Department of Transportation and provides, along with $105 million in ongoing yearly tax relief, new, recurring revenue sources to allow an additional $625 million each year for addressing South Carolina’s deteriorating roads and supporting the infrastructure system needed for public safety, quality of life, and economic development. In order to increase infrastructure funding by an estimated $177 million in the first year and an estimated $625 million a year upon full implementation, the legislation increases existing fees and establishes new fees to allow for more effective collection of revenue from all those who make use of South Carolina’s roads, including out-of-state residents and businesses. The legislation provides for an increase in the state’s motor fuel user fee of 12 cents a gallon that is phased in gradually with an increase of 2 cents each year over the course of six years. The increase is expected to generate $69 million in the first year and ultimately allow for an additional $480 million each year for the state’s roads. An increase is phased in for the C-Funds that are distributed to counties which ultimately allows for an additional $53 million a year for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the state secondary highway system. Provisions are included for a $50 million DOT Rural Road Safety Program. A $16 dollar increase is provided for the state’s biennial motor vehicle registration fees to generate an estimated $25 million a year. New fees are established for vehicles that make little or no use of the gasoline and other motor fuels that have been the traditional revenue source for infrastructures needs. Biennial fees of $60 for hybrid vehicles and $120 for electric vehicles are established to generate an estimated $1.35 million a year. The state’s motor vehicle sales tax is replaced with an infrastructure maintenance fee. For a vehicle purchased in South Carolina, the one-time infrastructure maintenance fee is set at 5% with a cap of $500 and is collected by dealers at the point of sale. The fee is expected to generate $74 million each year. For a vehicle purchased in another state and registered in South Carolina, the one-time fee is set at 5% with a $250 cap. Collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles upon initial registration, the fee is expected to produce $20 million a year in previously uncaptured revenue. Active duty military, spouses, and dependents are exempt from this fee for transferring vehicles into the state. In order to collect revenue from out-of-state truckers, a motor carrier road use fee is imposed on large commercial vehicles that is expected to generate $9 million a year in new revenue. Almost all of the new revenue generated by the legislation is to be deposited in a newly-created Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to be used by the Department of Transportation only for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the existing transportation system. The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation and adds an additional at-large position, with all nine DOT commissioners appointed by the Governor, subject to a legislative approval process. All nine DOT commissioners serve at the Governor’s pleasure and may be removed without legislative approval. Provisions are included to remove the Commission from decisions involving the day-to-day operations of the Department of Transportation. To prevent conflicts of interest, Commissioners are prohibited from participating in such matters as awarding contracts and selecting consultants. As the state’s fees on gasoline and other motor fuels are gradually increased, a Motor Fuel User Fee Rebate program is established that allows a refundable income tax credit that covers the amount of the increased motor fuel user fee or the amount spent on preventative maintenance, whichever is less. Phased in over several years, the rebate program is capped at $114 million in the sixth year and is scheduled to expire in 2023, unless it is reauthorized. A non-refundable tax credit is provided for lower income workers. Phased in over the course of six years, the credit is expected to provide $43 million a year in tax relief when fully implemented. The state’s dual wage earner cap is gradually increased over the course of six years from $30,000 to $50,000. When fully implemented, the increase is expected to provide $19 million in tax relief each year. The refundable tuition tax credit is increased from 25% to 50%, capped at $1,500, for both four-year and two-year higher education institutions. The increase is ultimately expected to provide $7 million in tax relief each year. The legislation provides for a manufacturing property tax adjustment from 10.5% to 9% over a six-year period. Ultimately expected to provide $35.8 million in tax relief each year, the state is responsible for reimbursing up to $85 million in lost local revenue.

Legislators approved (H.3352) enhancements to the Freedom of Information Act provisions which guarantee citizens’ access to government proceedings and public documents. The legislation adjusts time frames for responding to FOIA requests to require more prompt compliance from public bodies and revises fees that government bodies may charge for copying documents and other compliance costs to better ensure that they do not become prohibitively expensive. Enforcement provisions are revised in an effort to make them more effective. The rarely-utilized misdemeanor criminal penalty for FOIA violations is eliminated and unfulfilled FOIA requests may instead be pursued through civil actions. The legislation makes provisions for expedited hearings in the circuit court for FOIA lawsuits brought to compel a government body to provide access to public documents.

The General Assembly approved legislation (H.3221) that establishes a statewide program for addressing unsound school district finances which affords the State Department of Education authority that extends beyond academic matters to include fiscal affairs. Provisions are made for three escalating levels of budgetary concern so that the State Superintendent of Education can declare a ‘fiscal watch’, a ‘fiscal caution’, and a ‘fiscal emergency’ with regard to school district finances. The succeeding levels of budgetary concern carry increasingly stringent requirements for school district recovery plans, audits, and inspections as well as more intensive technical support from the state department. Should a school district’s finances warrant the most severe level of concern, prompting the State Superintendent of Education to declare a ‘fiscal emergency’, the State Department of Education is authorized to take intensive steps including assuming control over the district’s financial operations to preclude a default on any type of debt and prevent further decline in the district’s finances.

Lawmakers approved legislation (H.3220) reestablishing the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council to review the progress, results, and compliance with the Education and Economic Development Act and to make recommendations for better achieving the act’s goals of implementing career pathways in the state’s public schools and fostering a better prepared workforce and student success in postsecondary education.

School performance ratings were revised in legislation (H.3969) establishing a single public education accountability system that meets both state and federal requirements. Under the uniform provisions, a school’s report card measures the combined academic performance of its student body using the ratings Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory. [Read more…]

Update from State House – May 11

Roads Bill becomes law – just in time

Sine Die (Latin meaning “without a fixed day”) Adjournment occurred this past Thursday, May 11, 2017, at 5:00 pm and marked the end of this year’s general legislative session. For a bill to have become law this year, it would have needed to pass both legislative chambers by Sine Die. This always adds increased pressure in the final week of legislative session.

While my House colleagues and I passed many significant pieces of legislation this week, the most anticipated action was the passage of a bill to fix our roads and bridges. The House and Senate hammered out an agreement that had enough support to pass both legislative bodies. In its final form, the roads bill:

* Reforms the Department of Transportation

* Provides real accountability and transparency at the department of Transportation (public records, mandated meetings, ethical requirements for commissioners)

* Gives Governor complete control of the Commission with a clear line of authority and at-will removal

* Provides Sustainable Long-Term Funding

* Creates a long-term and sustainable funding stream by increasing the motor fuel user fee by 2 cents/gallon over the next 6 years, not exceeding 12 cents/gallon

* Safeguards taxpayers from future automatic tax increases by not indexing for inflation

* Protects SC taxpayers from continuing to solely foot the bill for infrastructure repair by not using General Fund dollars and captures 30% of the motor fuel user fee revenue from out-of-state motorists

* Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure all new revenue collected from the motor fuel user fee is used only for existing infrastructure needs

* Does not increase or change fees for South Carolina driver’s license applications or renewals

* Delivers Responsible Offsetting Tax Relief

* Includes responsible tax relief to offset the user fee increase for South Carolina motorists
Offers a refundable income tax credit equal to the motor fuel user fee increase that must be reauthorized prior to 2023

* Enhances already existing College Tuition Tax Credit for every South Carolina tuition-payer to enhance workforce development

For years, I have heard from many of you about the need to fix our roads. While the Senate FINALLY passed something this year (after the House had sent them something for the past 3 years that was killed by filibuster), Governor McMaster vetoed the bill. The very next day, the House and Senate overwhelmingly overrode that veto when 127 Representative and Senators from all across our state, chose people over politics, and supported the compromise legislation. For the record, only 30 officials voted against the bill. Many inside and outside the chamber feel those votes may have been more political than anything else.

The House will come back in a few weeks for a specialized session to vote on the remaining conference reports, including a final budget once the House and Senate have reached a final agreement. After that, we should be back to our full-time jobs and families until December or January 2018. I hope to see you around town and will certainly keep you posted on community and other events during the summer and fall. If you do not receive my regular COMMUNITY UDPATE emails, please email me at the address below and ask to be added to the distribution list.

Thank you again for the honor of serving you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, please don’t hesitate to contact me at www.nathansnews.com, calling my State House Office at 734-2969, or emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov.

Update from the State House – April 6th

At the start of this year’s session, my fellow House Republicans and I set out with a “Business Plan” addressing these key areas of importance in our state:

1.) Improving Education in Rural Communities
2.) Instituting Workforce Development through K-12 Computer Science Training
3.) Providing a Long-Term Solution to the Infrastructure Crisis
4.) Securing the Future of the Public Employee Retirement System

I’m pleased to report on Thursday, April 6th, the House adjourned for the Easter furlough period having completed each of those objectives.

Improving Education in Rural Communities
For too long, we did not adequately address the needs of our poor rural school districts. In a 2014 decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled we must do more to address the inadequacies that exist from county to county. This year, the House budget appropriated $100 million for poor school districts to maintain and improve the environments in which children learn. We also increased per-student payments by $38 million, a $50 per student increase, placing the total base student cost at $2,400. These per-student dollars go to each school district to cover the state portion of public education funding.

Instituting Workforce Development through K-12 Computer Science Training
It’s no secret that South Carolina has the best pro-business climate in the Southeast. We’ve worked hard to recruit high-paying employers to our state, employers who expect us to ensure the next generation of workers is adequately prepared to fill these jobs. As part of that preparation, and in preparation for an increasingly competitive international marketplace, my colleagues and I passed legislation instituting computer science training beginning in the K-12 system. The earlier we introduce advanced technology to our students, the less we have to do on the back-end to prepare them for a high-paying job.

Providing a Long-Term Solution to the Infrastructure Crisis
Just under 1,000 people died on our roads last year. Due to the current state of our roads, it costs the average SC motorist an additional $1,300 – $1,800 annually to operate a vehicle. Each day, the average Palmetto State driver wastes an average of 34 minutes stuck in traffic. These facts and figures are unacceptable and saddening. In the House, we passed a pay-as-you-go road funding solution with DOT reforms and increased accountability. This week, the governor suggested we “borrow a billion” to fix our infrastructure woes (that would only fund one year and be paid by each of us for more than a decade). The Senate still has not passed any plan. Actually, they haven’t even taken up debate on ANY plan this year after filibustering our plan last year and doing nothing. I remain committed to addressing our infrastructure needs this year and will keep you updated on the matter.

Securing the Future of the Public Employee Retirement System
It was no surprise the state retirement system suffered during the Great Recession. The market decline coupled with poor management decisions resulted in unprecedented losses to the retirement system which had to be addressed. I am pleased to report that this week the House and Senate passed a conference report, now on the governor’s desk, bringing solvency to the system nearly every public employee depends upon. Our public employees are the backbone of everything we do in South Carolina, and the promises made to them concerning their retirement will be kept.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, please don’t hesitate to contact me at www.nathansnews.com or by call me at my State House office, 734-2969.

Update from the State House – February 16

Finding a permanent funding stream to repair and upgrade South Carolina’s road system is the top priority of the legislature (as it has been for the last several years). But it’s not the only thing being debated in Columbia. Here’s a brief recap to keep you in the loop!


Gas Tax Hike a “Last Resort”

Gov. Henry McMaster met privately with House Republican legislators and told us he views any hike in the gas tax as a “last resort”. McMaster’s opinion is important because if he were to veto legislation raising the gas tax, it would take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override the veto. Some viewed his remarks as not ruling out a gas tax hike, but merely labeling it a “last resort”. In a letter to President Donald Trump, Gov. McMaster requested that the President include two South Carolina projects in his national infrastructure plan. Emphasizing SC’s unique position as an economic driver in the region, the governor requested an appropriation of $5 billion from the plan to address state-specific infrastructure needs. Additionally, he asked for a $180 million allotment to fulfill the federal share for the deepening of the Charleston port to 52 feet.


Gas Tax / Roads Bill heads to House Floor

A bill raising SC’s gas tax and some other fees to put an additional $600 million a year in the state’s roads is on its way to the House floor. The proposal (H.3516) was unanimously approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would boost the state’s 16.75-cents-per-gallon gas tax 10-cents over five years and increase the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500. Other fees are also included. It also would create a $250 one-time fee registration fee for people moving into the state. The bill creates the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure 100% of revenues go directly (and only) toward fixing our roads and bridges and will not be used for new roads. If this legislation makes it through the House, it will face an uncertain fate in the Senate. You may recall last year, the Senate killed our “Roads Plan”.

Painful Pension Solutions

State government, as well as counties, cities and school districts around the state will likely have to pay more into the state retirement system over the next six years, under a bipartisan proposal recommended by a joint House-Senate study committee. The Joint Committee on Pension Systems Review unanimously recommended the state and its employees should contribute more to the beleaguered pension system, which faces a $20+ billion gap between what it has on hand and what is promised to future retirees. The recommendations will now be introduced in the House and Senate as separate bills. Obviously, we have many state employees in our area and I will be closely watching the bills as they move to the floor for full debate.

Concealed Weapon Permit Expansion

A House sub-committee advanced legislation (H.3240) that would allow concealed weapons permit (CWP) holders in all other states to also carry in SC. Our state currently recognizes concealed weapons permits from 23 other states that have similar requirements to get a permit.

Real ID Legislation Starts Moving

A House committee unanimously approved legislation (H.3358) that would bring SC in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. If our state doesn’t comply with the federal requirements, SC’s driver’s licenses and ID cards won’t be accepted to board airplanes or enter federal installations and military bases. SC has had a waiver for more than a decade, but that will likely run out unless legislation is approved. Stay tuned.

Enhanced Government Transparency

Legislation that would significantly enhance the cost and ease to use the SC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cleared a final committee vote and heads to the House floor for a vote. This bill (H.3352) enhances those laws and makes compliance easier and cheaper for both government entities and those seeking government documents alike. The pro-transparency measure would streamline the current process used by citizens and the news media seeking access to government documents. After all, government at all levels belongs to you and the FOIA process is intended to ensure the business of the public remains public.


Business License Reform

Current state law allows counties and cities to levy business licensing fees if they operate within those jurisdictions. They collect more than $300 million annually. For years the business community has sought reforms to this structure to reduce the burdens placed on them. This pro-business reform legislation (H.3650) that would allow for a central online registry for business licenses across the state cleared a key House committee and heads to the House floor for a full vote. This is another highly contested bill and Rep Huggins and I have heard from every Irmo Town Council Member as well as the Mayors of both Irmo and Chapin as to the impact locally. Hopefully some sort of “fix” can be found that helps businesses while not impacting our local governments tremendously.


Vet’s Tuition Bill

For the past three legislative sessions the House has passed bills that waive the one-year waiting period for a veteran to attend a SC public college or university so they can pay in-state tuition rates and avoid the costly out-of-state tuition. Each time the bill has died in the Senate. The House is persistent. This week, for a fourth time we passed the bill (H.3035) on a vote of 109-4 and sent it to the Senate.


Clean Energy

A bill aimed at attracting investment to SC’s clean energy industry passed the Senate. The Senate voted 38-4 to green light the Renewable Energy Economic Development Bill (S.44) and send it to the House. The bill would allow land that’s currently unused or being used for agriculture to be used as a solar farm, creating tax revenue to counties. If bill becomes law, SC would be on similar footing with neighboring North Carolina and 28 other states that have enacted similar legislation.

These are just some of the topics in Columbia this week. I encourage you to stay informed by visiting my website www.nathansnews.com and letting me know your thoughts or questions about topics important to you and your family!

If I can ever be of service, please let me know.

Update from the State House – January 20

For more than a year, I’ve heard from so many of you about the importance of fixing our roads and bridges and we made the initial step in that process this week. As you know, last year the House overwhelmingly passed a plan to provide sustainable funding for our roads. That plan stalled in the Senate due to a filibuster. A long-term solution must be found this year.

The most sobering reality in our state today is that people are dying on our roadways and we can prevent much of it. Our state is once again on the wrong end of a national 50-state listing. We lead the nation in traffic fatalities, a sad fact attributed in part to the dilapidated state of our road systems. South Carolina has seen an increase in traffic fatalities of 27% in just the past 3 years alone.

After much input, a new infrastructure bill (H. 3516) was put into motion this week that would take an incremental approach to an increased user fee. Motorists who drive on our roads would see a 2 cents/gallon increase each year over the next 5 years. It is important to note that 100% of the additional funding would go solely toward our vast infrastructure needs. The last time South Carolina increased the per gallon user fee was in 1987 under the leadership of Governor Carroll Campbell. It remains one of the lowest in the country. Since the last increase the cost to pave roads has multiplied without a new source of funding.

The oldest taxpayer watchdog group in South Carolina, The South Carolina Taxpayers Association (SCTA), announced its support for the House measure. SCTA President Don Weaver said, “Well naturally, our membership doesn’t like any tax increase if that were perfect, but we also realize that the roads do need an increase in funding, and so unfortunately the gas tax really is the best way to get that.”

By utilizing a user fee increase (sustained long-term funding paid by anyone buying fuel to drive on SC roads), instead of General Fund money (one-time monies, most of which is collected only from SC citizens via sales/income tax), the new bill would shift the burden from being solely on the backs of SC taxpayers to anyone who uses our roadways – 1/3 of whom are out of state individuals. It’s called a “user fee,” not to try and hide the fact that it’s an increase of revenues, but to highlight the fact it’s a tax only paid by people who buy fuel to drive on our state’s roads. Those who drive tens of thousands of miles on our roads will pay more because they use them more, and those who drive much less, would pay much less under this plan. The measure is an effort to create a fair user fee for motorists who cause wear and tear on our roads.

In a creative effort to even further shift the burden from SC citizens to out-of-state funding sources, the new legislation places a transfer fee on any out-of-state individuals seeking to register a vehicle for use on our roadways. The concept being those who use our roads should pay to do so. Currently Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all have similar measures.

While this proposal makes its way through the legislative process, there will be many opportunities for discussion and debate. I’m asking for your input on the matter. I will also update you as additional details become available in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for your comments (eitherbelow or thru the website , to NathanBallentine@schouse.gov, or on my my Public Servant Facebook page .

On Point with WACH FOX: Out with the old, in with the new


Always good to join constituent, Cynthia Hardy, and discuss what’s going on in Columbia. On this episode, I was joined by colleagues Representative Kirkman Finlay (R-Richland) and Representative Beth Bernstein (D-Richland)

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) – On this week’s edition of OnPoint on WACH Fox the state is about to deal with a case of out with the old, in with the new.

Governor Nikki Haley is poised to be confirmed as the next ambassador to the United Nations. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expects Haley to be confirmed to the post in the near future. If that happens, and most people believe it will, Lt. Governor Henry McMaster will become South Carolina’s next governor.

So how will he work with lawmakers in the General Assembly? The 2017 legislative session is underway with a plate full of recurring issues. There still isn’t a permanent funding fix for the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. Poverty, education, and healthcare are also issues that have plagued the state for years.

South Carolina never expanded Medicaid and with Obamacare on the chopping block, what happens to healthcare for the poor?

We invite a panel of state lawmakers to the WACH Fox Studios to talk about the plans to make those issues a priority.

To watch click here.

Update from the State House – January 13


This week was the first week back in session for the General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and a shorter period of time in which to accomplish the work of the people. A shorter legislative session (ends May 11th) means savings for taxpayers and forces more efficiency in government. I am thankful for the trust you have placed in me to represent your interests again in Columbia.

Most work this week was done at the committee level as bills begin the vetting process. Soon, legislation will find its way to the floor for full debate. Representative Huggins and I will keep you updated each week by sharing our thoughts on a rotating basis.

As a newly appointed Whip for the House Republican Caucus, I wanted to share our Business Plan for 2017 which focuses on job retention and growth for our citizens. Each item contained in our business plan directly affects an existing job or a future job. It’s a smaller agenda than we have had in previous years because these are all serious items that will need serious debate.

· Education Reform: Legislation is being written to correct our state’s education system which does not currently afford every child the same equally proficient education. We will fix the law so every child in South Carolina receives a 21st Century education no matter what zip code they live in. By doing so, we ensure each child is prepared for life in the workforce.

· Retirement Solvency: It’s no secret our state’s retirement system needs a major course correction, and quickly, as it must continue to meet the needs of our public employees. Our state’s greatest assets are the people who serve the public each and every day; from law enforcement to our teachers. We owe them an adequate retirement, and the promises made to public employees will be kept.

· Fixing our Roads & Bridges: Last year the House was the only legislative body to pass a comprehensive DOT restructuring/sustainable funding bill. While the Senate came up a few votes shy of passing comprehensive legislation, we have heard the demands from constituents and will re-double our efforts this year to once again pass a meaningful DOT reform/funding bill to address our crumbling infrastructure.

· Workforce Development: For a period of months, employers have been telling us there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill job openings. We will engage our k-12 education system to give parents the option for students to receive the specialized training necessary for a career in technology, manufacturing, or another field requiring analytical thinking skills.

· Real Tax Reform: House Speaker Jay Lucas appointed a special committee tasked with updating our existing tax code. The committee is currently designing a proposal that will move us further from an income based tax code while simultaneously moving toward a consumption based tax code. The result is a flatter and fairer tax code for all taxpayers.

These won’t be the only issues addressed this session. There are many more that may be of interest to you. Please let me know your thoughts on the issues above as well as other issues important to you and your family. Hearing from you helps me to better represent your family, our community and state.

I hope you’ll stay informed and visit my website (www.nathansnews.com) often this year. I will write regular posts as well as continue to send my COMMUNITY UPDATE emails each month. If you are not receiving these updates, please email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov and let me know to add you to the list!

Thanks again for the honor and privilege to serve as your representative in Columbia!

The Weekly Rewind: Week of May 30th

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NOTE: THESE SUMMARIES ARE PREPARED BY THE STAFF OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT THE EXPRESSION OF THE LEGISLATION’S SPONSOR(S) OR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. THEY ARE STRICTLY FOR THE INTERNAL USE AND BENEFIT OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT TO BE CONSTRUED BY A COURT OF LAW AS AN EXPRESSION OF LEGISLATIVE INTENT.

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
June 2, 2016

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to S.1258, legislation addressing ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation allows for an estimated total of up to $4.5 billion to be devoted to the state’s roads over the next ten years. This includes: $950 million to repair or replace all structurally-deficient bridges on Interstate and national highways; $2 billion in widenings and improvements to existing Interstates; and, over $1.4 billion in pavement resurfacing. The legislation transfers motor vehicle sales tax revenue and the revenue from various Department of Motor Vehicles fines and fees to the Department of Transportation’s State Highway Fund. Transferred funds may be used for the issuance of bonds through the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank projects that are financed utilizing these transferred funds do not require a local match. The legislation’s revenue revisions also allow for existing Department of Transportation funds to be redirected. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is charged with developing and implementing a needs-based weighting methodology to allocate funding within the state funded road resurfacing program, which must include consideration on a county-by-county basis, to ensure that each county in the state is guaranteed funding. The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation, but provides that legislators would no longer elect commissioners and that all commissioners would, instead, be appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The Governor’s transportation district appointees are submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for approval by the appropriate delegation of legislators residing in the corresponding congressional district. If approved, appointees are referred to the Joint Transportation Review Committee to ensure that they meet the qualifications for the office. The Governor’s at-large appointee is submitted directly to the Joint Transportation Review Committee for screening. Commission members may be removed from office at the discretion of the Governor subject to the prior approval of the appropriate legislative delegation. Terms of service are limited to a maximum of twelve years. Under restructuring, the DOT Commission assumes the responsibility of appointing the Secretary of Transportation, upon the advice and consent of the Senate. In order to afford the chief internal auditor of the Department of Transportation greater independence, the legislation provides for the department’s chief internal auditor to be appointed and overseen by the State Auditor rather than the DOT Commission. The legislation also provides for revisions to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Before providing a loan or other financial assistance, the Board of Directors that oversees the Infrastructure Bank must, under the legislation, submit its decision to the Department of Transportation Commission for its consideration. The DOT Commission can, in turn, approve or reject the decision or request additional information from the bank’s board of directors. The Infrastructure Bank’s policy of following the SC Department of Transportation’s project priority criteria is established as a statutory requirement. The General Assembly may, however, enact a joint resolution specifically allowing the bank to fund a project without using DOT’s prioritization criteria. The minimum project amount set in Transportation Infrastructure Bank requirements is lowered from $100 million to $25 million. This threshold is lowered to allow more areas to be able to afford local match requirements and take advantage of the bank’s bonding capabilities for financing their transportation projects.

The House and Senate adopted conference committee reports and enrolled for ratification H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the $7.5 billion FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. $84 million in Department of Motor Vehicles fees and fines and $131 million in motor vehicle sales tax revenue is transferred to the State Highway Fund. $50 million in nonrecurring funds is distributed among the County Transportation Committees to use for resurfacing, reconstructing, and repairing roads and bridges in the state-owned secondary road system. $49 million is allocated to the Department of Transportation to address road repair costs from the October 2015 flood damage. $72 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated to the Adjutant General’s Emergency Management Division as the full state and local match for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds for the 2015 catastrophic flood response. The budget legislation accommodates the $40 million appropriation from the 2014-2015 Contingency Reserve Fund for the “South Carolina Farm Aid Fund” that is created to assist farmers who suffered extensive damage in the October 2015 floods. $30 million is provided for coastal beach renourishment. For K-12 public education, $218 million is used to increase the base student cost by $130 to arrive at an estimated $2,350 per pupil. The budget legislation makes provisions for a 2% teacher salary increase and a one year step increase for teacher salaries and an increase in the state salary schedule to 23 years. The K-12 technology initiative is afforded $29.3 million in Education Lottery proceeds. The State Department of Education is provided $18 million in Education Lottery proceeds for instructional materials. $23 million, including $2 million in nonrecurring funds, is provided for new school buses. The budget includes $28 million in recurring increases for the state’s colleges and universities, a 5.5% increase on average. $10 million is provide for the Children’s Hospital at MUSC. $13.5 million in nonrecurring funds is devoted to worker training through the Ready SC Program at the state’s technical colleges. A 3.25% state employee pay increase is provided with $54.3 million in recurring funds. $26 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health and dental insurance plans with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and no reductions in coverage. The Local Government Fund receives $12.5 million in recurring dollars and $10.6 million in nonrecurring dollars for total funding of $233.1 million. $5 million is provided for a Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to enhance the recruitment of physicians to practice in underserved areas and to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures. Telemedicine is afforded $10 million through the Healthy Outcomes provisions and $2 million in recurring funds. $2.8 million is allocated to the Rural Infrastructure Fund that is used to provide grants for water and sewer projects that facilitate economic development in rural areas. $8 million is included for a new Statewide Water and Sewer Fund that allows areas that do not meet the criteria for being considered rural to obtain grants for sewer and water projects that are needed to support economic development. $17 million is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state. The Department of Commerce is afforded $6 million for the Locate SC Site Inventory for potential business relocation prospects and $2 million for the Office of Innovation to support high-tech and high-growth industries. [Read more…]

The Weekly Rewind: Week of May 23rd

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NOTE: THESE SUMMARIES ARE PREPARED BY THE STAFF OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT THE EXPRESSION OF THE LEGISLATION’S SPONSOR(S) OR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. THEY ARE STRICTLY FOR THE INTERNAL USE AND BENEFIT OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT TO BE CONSTRUED BY A COURT OF LAW AS AN EXPRESSION OF LEGISLATIVE INTENT.

WEEK IN REVIEW
May 27, 2016

The House of Representatives returned S.1258, a bill addressing ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation allows for an estimated total of up to $4.5 billion to be devoted to the state’s roads over the next ten years. This includes: $950 million to repair or replace all structurally-deficient bridges on Interstate and national highways; $2 billion in widenings and improvements to existing Interstates; and, over $1.4 billion in pavement resurfacing. The legislation transfers motor vehicle sales tax revenue and the revenue from various Department of Motor Vehicles fines and fees to the Department of Transportation’s State Highway Fund. Transferred funds may be used for the issuance of bonds through the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank projects that are financed utilizing these transferred funds do not require a local match. The legislation’s revenue revisions also allow for existing Department of Transportation funds to be redirected. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is charged with developing and implementing a needs-based weighting methodology to allocate funding within the state funded road resurfacing program, which must include consideration on a county-by-county basis, to ensure that each county in the state is guaranteed funding. The legislation includes a restructuring of the Commission overseeing the South Carolina Department of Transportation that retains the commission’s geographical representation, but provides that legislators would no longer elect commissioners and that all commissioners would, instead, be appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the General Assembly. Commissioners are to serve at the pleasure of the Governor and their terms of service are limited to a maximum of twelve years. Under restructuring, the DOT Commission assumes the responsibility of appointing the Secretary of Transportation, upon the advice and consent of the General Assembly. In order to afford the chief internal auditor of the Department of Transportation greater independence, the legislation provides for the department’s chief internal auditor to be appointed and overseen by the State Auditor rather than the DOT Commission. The legislation also provides for revisions to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Before providing a loan or other financial assistance, the Board of Directors that oversees the Infrastructure Bank must, under the legislation, submit its decision to the Department of Transportation Commission for its consideration. The DOT Commission can, in turn, approve or reject the decision or request additional information from the bank’s board of directors. The Infrastructure Bank’s policy of following the SC Department of Transportation’s project priority criteria is established as a statutory requirement. The General Assembly may, however, enact a joint resolution specifically allowing the bank to fund a project without using DOT’s prioritization criteria. The minimum project amount set in Transportation Infrastructure Bank requirements is lowered from $100 million to $25 million. This threshold is lowered to allow more areas to be able to afford local match requirements and take advantage of the bank’s bonding capabilities for financing their transportation projects.

Additionally, the House granted free conference powers to include within H.3579, the same ROAD FUNDING AND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING provisions that the House sent the Senate in S.1258.

The House appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET.

The Senate and the House adopted S.1336, a concurrent resolution to provide for the GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ADJOURNMENT for the year. The resolution includes authorization for the General Assembly to return after this year’s June 2 deadline for final adjournment to meet during a period beginning June 15 and, if necessary, extending until June 22 during which time lawmakers may consider only a limited list of matters, such as budget legislation, conference and free conference committee reports, and the Governor’s vetoes.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.3186 and returned the bill to the Senate. The legislation provides for MORE EXPANSIVE STATEMENTS OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS for public officials and others who are required to make these filings under the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act. Disclosure requirements are revised so that they address not only public money, but also require a listing of the private source and type of any income received in the previous year by the filer or a member of his immediate family. Exceptions are included to apply to such sources of income as pensions, mutual funds, and interest from bank accounts. Under the legislation, a statement of economic interests must also include the source, type, and amount of any income received in the previous year by the filer or a member of his immediate family from a direct contractual or employment relationship with a lobbyist principal. This includes consulting, acting as an independent contractor, salary, or any other arrangement from which payment in return for services or goods is made by a lobbyist principal to a filer or a member of his immediate family. The legislation also establishes REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES AND ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS that are made to influence the outcome of an election or ballot measure question. The legislation requires reports to be made to the State Ethics Commission by those individuals and groups, not already subject to the campaign finance requirements imposed upon committees, who make an independent expenditure in excess of five hundred dollars during a year or who engage in electioneering communications. Electioneering communications are mass communications making use of broadcast television, cable, satellite communication, mass postal mailing, or telephone banks during set periods before elections and primaries that refer to a clearly identified candidate for elected office or ballot measure. Such matters as news coverage and candidate debates are not considered electioneering communications. The required reports must include such matters as detailed descriptions of expenditures, identifying and contact information for those filing the report, and identification of contributors who have made donations exceeding one hundred dollars.

The House amended S.913 and gave the bill second reading approval. The legislation provides for ENHANCEMENTS TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT provisions which guarantee citizens’ access to government proceedings and public documents. The legislation adjusts time frames for responding to FOIA requests to require more prompt compliance from public bodies, but additional time is allowed for compiling older documents. The fees that government bodies may charge for complying with FOIA requests are revised to better ensure that they do not become prohibitive. Under the revisions, fees may not exceed the actual cost of the search, retrieval, and redaction of records and fee calculations must utilize the hourly salary of the lowest paid employee qualified to perform the request. Public bodies must develop fee schedules to be posted online. Copying fees may not exceed prevailing commercial rates and public bodies may require a deposit, not to exceed twenty five percent of the total cost for reproduction of the records, before beginning work on the request. The legislation accommodates the electronic transmission of requested records. Enforcement provisions for the Freedom of Information Act are revised in an effort to make them more effective. The rarely-utilized misdemeanor penalty for FOIA violations is eliminated and unfulfilled FOIA requests may instead be pursued through civil actions. The Office of Freedom of Information Act Review is created within the Administrative Law Court under the supervision of the Chief Administrative Law Judge to decide disputes regarding FOIA requests. The review office is offered as a new resource that citizens may use to obtain the access to public documents promised by the Freedom of Information Act without bearing the legal costs involved in compelling a government body to fulfill its FOIA responsibilities through a court challenge.

The House appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3184, a bill establishing enhancements to ethics laws by providing for MORE INDEPENDENT MEANS OF INVESTIGATING ALLEGED MISCONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS in the legislative and executive branches of government.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4939, a bill to provide for EDUCATION REFORM INITIATIVES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Through this legislation, the General Assembly directs the State Superintendent of Education, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee, the chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to each appoint one representative to a committee to be chaired by the appointee of the State Superintendent of Education to review the state’s education laws found in Title 59 of the South Carolina Code and report to the General Assembly on all statutes that are found to be obsolete or no longer applicable. The report must also identify all the federal education statutes and regulations with which the state of South Carolina is required to comply and include the total cost to the state for compliance. This report must be submitted by December 31, 2016, and updated at least every five years thereafter. The State Department of Education is required to develop a system for providing services and technical assistance to school districts that must include academic assistance and assistance with finances. The State Superintendent of Education must report the initial design of the system to the General Assembly by December 31, 2016, and then provide an annual progress report on the system that includes data documenting the impact of the assistance to the local school districts on student academic achievement and on high school graduation rates. Additionally, the State Department of Education is charged with monitoring the professional development of teachers, staff, and administrators in districts it determines are underperforming to ascertain what improvements and changes are necessary in accordance with the provisions of the Education Accountability Act. The department also shall monitor the operations of school boards in underperforming districts in order to determine if they are operating efficiently and effectively. These improvements and changes must be communicated to the school districts and other involved parties.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4938, a joint resolution providing for a SURVEY OF THE STATE’S COLLEGE STUDENTS ON TEACHING IN RURAL AND ECONOMICALLY CHALLENGED SCHOOL DISTRICTS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation directs the State Department of Education (SDE) and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to collaborate with the Commission of Higher Education in surveying students enrolled in the state’s colleges of education. This survey is to be administered to those college students who have been fully admitted into their institution’s teacher education program, and similar survey information may be obtained from students in other programs at the state’s institutions of higher learning through other means. The survey must include such questions as whether students have considered teaching in a rural and economically challenged districts and what incentives, if any, would cause them to move to, and work in, such a district. Survey results must be reported to the General Assembly by December 1, 2016.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3560, a bill revising TEACHER DISMISSAL provisions. Notably, the legislation affords school districts the option of making use of new authority to delegate the conduct of evidentiary hearings to qualified hearing officers. The legislation provides that the superintendent or his designee may meet with the teacher before issuing a notice of dismissal to discuss alternative resolutions. The parties attending this meeting must have the option of having a representative present.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4413 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises SAFE HAVENS FOR ABANDONED BABIES provisions that designate locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty. The legislation requires all such locations to post a notice on the premises that prominently displays to the public that the facility, agency, or other location is a designated safe haven at which a person may leave an infant. The legislation also provides that the safe haven provisions apply to infants who are no more than sixty days old rather than the current standard of no more than thirty days old.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4546, a bill ENHANCING REQUIREMENTS AND REVIEWS REGARDING CHILDREN PLACED IN FOSTER CARE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation includes provisions for the Department of Social Services to normalize the lives of children in foster care by allowing a caregiver, without the department’s prior approval, to make decisions similar to those a parent would be entitled to make regarding a child’s participation in age or developmentally appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities such as sports, field trips, social activities, vacations, employment opportunities, and after school programs. In determining whether to allow a child in foster care to participate in an activity, a caregiver must exercise the reasonable and prudent parent standard. DSS must provide to a foster child a document describing the rights of the child regarding education, health, visitation, court participation, and the right to stay safe and avoid exploitation, and obtain a signed acknowledgement from the child upon receipt.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3653 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the “Law Enforcement Assistance and Support Act” to include provisions for LAW ENFORCEMENT MUTUAL AID AGREEMENTS that allow for the sharing of officers and other law enforcement resources among state, county, municipal, or other agencies.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4548, a bill addressing CLOSING FEES CHARGED BY MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Responding to a 2015 ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court, the legislation revises provisions authorizing motor vehicle dealers to charge closing fees in motor vehicle sales for all administrative and financial work needed to transfer the motor vehicle such as compliance with all state, federal, and lender requirements, preparation and retrieval of documents, protection of the private personal information of the consumer, records retention, and storage costs. The legislation establishes a process for the Department of Consumer Affairs to review proposed closing fees to determine whether they are reasonable in amount. A motor vehicle dealer is, however, authorized to charge a closing fee of no more than two hundred twenty-five dollars per vehicle which is considered to be automatically approved as reasonable under these provisions without having to be submitted to the department for review.

The House approved S.1252 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes provisions that require the State Fire Marshal to issue a license for a COMMUNITY FIREWORKS DISPLAY in a county with a population of less than thirty thousand if certain safety conditions and other requirements are met.

The House approved S.685, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the provisions governing the licensure and regulation of ENGINEERS AND SURVEYORS, including: revisions to training requirements; requirements that certain members of the South Carolina State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors must be actively practicing their professions; provisions governing the operation of branch offices; and, authorization for the issuance of a waiver of licensing and credentialing requirements for up to ninety days to allow out-of-state engineers to respond to emergencies in South Carolina.

The House approved S.1177 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for the professional licensure of architects by replacing provisions for the “Intern Development Program” with provisions for the “ARCHITECTURAL EXPERIENCE PROGRAM”. The program allows students to receive academic credit for internship experience as a means of facilitating entry into the field of architecture.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to S.454 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the issuance of DEER HUNTING TAGS for in-state residents and non-residents. This new tagging system does not revise game zones or seasons, but it does include requirements for hunters to tag every deer taken in the state. The legislation provides for the Department of Natural Resources to issue eight doe day specific tags and three buck tags with the purchase of a South Carolina hunting license and big game permit for in-state residents. Hunters (including youth and gratis licensees) will have the option to purchase two additional buck (with four points on one side or a minimum 12-inch antler spread) tags at $5 each and/or four additional doe tags at $5 each. All funds collected from the two additional buck tags sales will go into a Coyote Management Program. With the purchase of a hunting license and big game permit, non-resident hunters will pay $50 for the first purchased antlered tag and $20 for each additional antlered tag (with a maximum purchase of four tags of which two must have size restriction). There is a $10 charge for each antlerless tag purchased. The legislation provides for antlerless and antlered deer limits to be two doe taken per day and two bucks taken per day. The Department of Natural Resources to provide a report of a four year study by July 1, 2022, to the Chairman of the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee and the Chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee on such issues as the status of state’s the white tailed deer population and a review of the tagging program.

The House approved S.381, a bill addressing SERVICE CREDIT PURCHASES IN STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEMS FOR THOSE TERMINATED JUST BEFORE ATTAINING RETIREMENT ELIGIBILITY, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that an active member of the South Carolina Retirement System or South Carolina Police Officers Retirement System who is terminated within one year of retirement eligibility shall have five business days after the date of termination to purchase any service credit that the member is eligible to purchase as provided in order to attain retirement eligibility.

The House approved S.933, relating to PETITIONS FOR RECEIVING A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA THAT WAS DENIED SOLELY BECAUSE OF A FAILURE TO MEET FORMER EXIT EXAM REQUIREMENTS, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation eliminates the deadline for submitting a petition to receive a high school diploma by someone who is no longer enrolled in a public school and who previously failed to receive a high school diploma or was denied graduation solely for failing to pass the exit exam that was formerly required for high school graduation. A two-year extension is provided for the report that the South Carolina Department of Education must prepare on the number of high school diplomas granted under these provisions so that the report has a deadline of January 31, 2019.

The House returned S.689, relating MOTORCYCLES AND MOPEDS, to the Senate with amendments and the Senate subsequently concurred in those amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that no person shall ride upon a motorcycle as a passenger unless, when sitting astride the seat, the person can reach the footrests with both feet. This provision does not apply to someone riding in a motorcycle sidecar. The legislation revises provisions for motorcycle and moped beginner’s permits, to provide that a permittee may not operate a motorcycle at any unpermitted time unless supervised by a licensed motorcycle operator 21 years old and with one year of experience. The moped requirement notes a permittee may not operate a moped at any other time unless accompanied by a licensed driver twenty one years of age or older who has at least one year of driving experience. The legislation eliminates the requirement that a parent or guardian must provide the required supervision. The accompanying driver must be within a safe viewing distance of the permittee when the permittee is operating a motorcycle or a moped.

The House approved S.1111, relating to MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS’ LICENSE PLATES, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for the issuance of a standard license plate to a manufacturer for vehicles it has manufactured and which are used in a benefit program for the manufacturer’s employees or used by the manufacturer for testing, distribution, evaluation, and promotion. The legislation provides that the annual registration fee for this plate is derived by computing the average price of the vehicle manufacturer’s fleet times the property tax rates times the average millage for all purposes statewide for the preceding calendar year, and charges the Department of Revenue with determining the annual registration fee and then notifying the Department of Motor Vehicles of the adjusted fee amount, which is effective for the next two years. For 2017 and 2018, the legislation sets this license plate’s annual registration fee at seven hundred eighty nine dollars.

The House returned S.1166, a joint resolution ADDRESSING DEBT AND ACADEMIC ACCREDITATION ISSUES AT SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation makes provisions for the forgiveness of $12 million in state loans disbursed to South Carolina State University over the course of three years if the university meets specified benchmarks such as maintaining academic accreditation, achieving progress towards a balanced budget and positive net financial position, and meeting student enrollment growth goals. The authority for institution cost-saving mandatory employee furlough programs at the university is extended through Fiscal Year 2021 2022.

The House voted not to concur in Senate amendments to H.4492, a bill revising NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES CHILD PLACEMENT HEARINGS.

The House gave second reading approval to S.932, a bill providing a DEADLINE EXTENSION FOR RECEIVING CERTAIN ARMED FORCES PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATIOS. This bill revises provisions relating to property tax assessment ratios, so as to revise an application deadline for certain property owned by certain members of the armed forces. The legislation includes provisions for taxpayers who were qualified to receive the special assessment rate for tax year 2014 or 2015, but who missed the application deadline, to receive refunds.

The House returned S.973, a bill extending and revising provisions for DEVOTING A PORTION OF INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX REVENUES TO THE FUNDING OF FIREFIGHTING NEEDS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES TRAINING, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation extends until June 30, 2030, the requirement for using two and one quarter percent of each year’s insurance premium tax revenues to fund emergency response needs and redistributes the revenue so that: one percent is transferred to the South Carolina Forestry Commission to be used for firefighting and firefighting equipment replacement; one percent is transferred to the aid to fire districts account within the State Treasury to be distributed to local fire departments for firefighting equipment replacement, with half of annually allocated funds to be distributed equally among the state’s fire departments and the remaining balance used to fund the V SAFE grant program for local volunteer fire departments; and, one quarter of one percent is transferred to the aid to emergency medical services regional councils within the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be used for grants to fund emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The House returned S.280 to the Senate with amendments. This bill revises provisions relating to financial statements and net worth requirements for GENERAL CONTRACTORS AND MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS, so as to adjust and update the net worth requirements for licensure and license renewal. The legislation includes a provision to specify that a contractor’s license is not required for certain installation, repair, or maintenance of a sign or billboard.