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​From the Dome to Your Home


The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The Senate debated and passed its version of the gas tax bill, while the House worked through bills on the calendar. Governor Henry McMaster signed the pension reform bill, H3726, on Tuesday.

There are only two weeks left in the session until adjournment on May 11. The adjournment resolution was introduced in the Senate and includes three days – May 23, 24 and 25 – for members of the House and Senate to return to Columbia to handle the budget, conference committee reports and other legislative vetoes.

Budget headed to conference committee
This week, House members amended the Senate version of the budget bill back to the original House version. The Senate received those changes and insisted on its version, sending the bill to a conference committee. Next, the House and Senate will appoint three conferees per chamber to iron out the differences in the two versions of the budget.

In most cases, the House version of the budget includes more money than the Senate version for cities and towns that participate in SCRS and PORS. Get the FY2018 Senate and House LGF distribution by city.

Included in the House version of the budget is:

  • $212.million in the Local Government Fund for FY2018. This is a decrease of $10.6 million from FY2017. This is a decrease of $1.7 million in the LGF for cities and towns.
  • One percent of the 2 percent increase in the SCRS and PORS employer contribution rates funded with recurring revenue. The funding reduces the employer contribution rate for SCRS from 13.56 percent to 12.56 percent and PORS from 16.24 percent to 15.24 percent.
  • Hurricane Matthew FEMA match fully funded.
  • Pinnacle Mountain fire FEMA match fully funded.
  • Beach renourishment funded at $5 million of $15 million requested.
  • $700,000 appropriation to the Town of Nichols for Hurricane Matthew recovery.
  • A ten cent increase in the motor fuel user fee (not included in the original House version of the budget)

Included in the Senate version of the budget is:

  • $246.3 million in the Local Government Fund for FY2018. This is an increase of $23.1 million from FY2017. This is an increase of $3.9 million in the LGF for cities and towns. The additional funding is to assist cities, towns and counties with paying the increased state pension contributions.
  • Hurricane Matthew FEMA match 90 percent funded. (less than the House version)
  • Pinnacle Mountain fire FEMA match fully funded. (same as House version)
  • Beach renourishment funded at $7.5 million. (more than the House version)
  • First responder PTSD treatment funded at $500,000. (addition from the House version)
  • 2014 winter storm local match funded at $7.3 million. (addition from the House version)
  • $700,000 loan to the Town of Nichols for disaster recovery. (the House version was a grant instead of a loan)

Contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.
 
Senators amend and approve gas tax bill
Senators continued debate on H3516 this week giving the bill third and final reading on Thursday morning. The bill increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repairs.

H3516, as it was voted out of the House, raises the motor vehicle user fee by 2 cents per year over the next five years. It also generates new revenue from increases in driver's license fees and sales taxes on cars. The new revenue generated, estimated at $600 million per year, will be placed in a trust fund for road maintenance and repair only. The bill also makes governance changes to the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission by allowing the governor to appoint commissioners with the consent of the General Assembly.

The Senate Finance Committee amended H3516 to increase the gas tax 2 cents every year for six years to raise $800 million for roads. The amendment caps the gas tax below Georgia and North Carolina's current tax rates, and strikes the S.C. DOT governance changes included in the House bill. The amendment also raises car sales taxes and other fees.

The full Senate adopted several amendments to the bill during the floor debate this week. The amendments include tax relief to partially offset the increase in the gas tax. One amendment

  • reduces the manufacturing property tax assessment ratio from 10.5 percent to 8.5 percent phased in over two years.
  • reduces the business personal property tax assessment ratio from 10.5 percent to 9.5 percent effective immediately. The Senate estimates these changes would cause a $77 million statewide impact on cities, towns, counties and schools. The bill includes a reimbursement from the state of up to $85 million per year to cover the losses to local governments.
  • increases from $9.5 million to $17 million the amount that donor counties receive from the C-Fund to close the gap between what they contribute to the C-Fund and what they receive from it. 

    Association staff is analyzing the amendment to the gas tax bill and its fiscal impact on cities and towns. For questions about the amendments or to share the financial impact on your city, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.

    Next, the bill will go back to the House for it to either approve the Senate's changes or make further changes and send it back to the Senate. If the two chambers can't agree, a conference committee will be appointed to iron out the differences.

For questions about the gas tax bill, contact Scott Slatton (sslatton@masc.sc) at 803.933.1203.

Business license bills remain in committee

Rep. Bill Sandifer (R – Seneca) and 13 other sponsors introduced two bills, H3650 and H3651, on February 2 that drastically cut city revenues and create tax inequities for small businesses due to special tax exemptions. These bills were recommitted to the committee on March 1 for further work, and the Municipal Association staff continues to work with business interests and legislative staff to return the bills to the initial intent of standardizing the business license process. These bills remain in the committee and have not received any action since they were recommitted, missing the crossover deadline for this legislative session.

For questions on these bills, contact Miriam Hair (mhair@masc.sc) at 803.933.1204 or Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.

House moped bill advances in the Senate
H3247, the moped bill passed by the House of Representatives, was recalled from the Senate Transportation Committee this week by Senator Larry Grooms (R – Berkeley, Charleston) and placed on the calendar. Senators then amended H3247 with the senate version of the moped bill, S197, and gave second reading to the amended version of H3247. The bill defines mopeds and regulates operating hours, and license requirements. For questions about the moped bill, contact Scott Slatton (sslatton@masc.sc) at 803.933.1203.

Weekly Bill Introductions

Access bills that were introduced this week and bills that received action from a subcommittee or committee through our legislative tracking system complete with short summaries. Visit the legislative tracking system to see and comment on all bills pending in the House and Senate.

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Weekly legislative action