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​From the Dome to Your Home


The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The House begins debate on the House Ways and Means Committee's version of the state budget Monday at 1 p.m.

Plastic bag ban bill stopped in the House
H3529, the bill that bans local governments from passing ordinances that regulate plastic bags, failed to receive second reading in the House of Representatives. Debate has stopped for now because of a procedural vote. This bill would have banned municipalities from adopting ordinances prohibiting the use of plastic bags. A bipartisan effort in the House stopped this bill from passing. For questions on the bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Pension reform bill passed by the Senate
H3726, the House version of the bill that reforms the S.C. Retirement System, passed the House on Wednesday, March 1. The Senate Finance Committee amended and polled it out on Wednesday, March 8. The amendment replaces the House version of the bill with the language from the Senate version of the bill. The Senate passed the amended House bill, and sent it back to the House for concurrence on Friday, March 10.

On March 2, the Senate passed its version of the bill, S394, and it was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee where it remains. Both bills propose to pay down the unfunded liability of the state retirement system and reduce the assumed annual rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent.

These bills increase the employer contribution rate for the S.C. Retirement System and Police Officers Retirement System by 2 percent effective July 1, 2017. The employer contribution rate increases 1 percent each year from 2018 through 2023 ultimately producing an employer rate of 18.56 for SCRS and 21.24 for PORS. The bill places a cap of 9 percent on the employee contribution rate effective July 1. There is no reduction in cost of living adjustments for retirees.

If the House Ways and Means Committee version of the budget bill that includes the pension funding passes, it will decrease the employer contribution rate from 2 percent to 1 percent effective July 1, 2017.

The bills also make a number of administrative changes to the S.C. Public Employment Benefits Authority and the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission. For questions on these bills, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.
 
Gas tax bill amended and passed by special Senate Finance subcommittee
The House passed H3516, the bill that increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repair, and sent it to the Senate. The House version 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 the sales tax on cars. New revenue generated by the fee, 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.

A special Senate Finance Transportation subcommittee amended the bill on Wednesday. The amendment increases the gas tax 2 cents every year for six years to raise $800 million for roads. The amendment also caps the gas tax below Georgia and North Carolina's current taxes, and strikes the S.C. DOT governance changes included in the House bill. The amendment also raises car sales taxes and other fees. The bill now goes to the full Senate Finance Committee for debate and possible further amendments.

For questions about the gas tax, 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 back to the committee for further work last week, 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.

Get details on H3650 and H3651

What can you do?
Continue to call your House members and urge them to vote NO on these bills as they are currently written. Encourage them to support continued work to return to the original purpose of streamlining the business license process without exemptions and without control shifted to a state agency. Here are several points to emphasize about these bills:

Removes local authority: Takes authority from locally elected city councils and gives it to a state agency resulting in growing state government and bureaucracy.

Hands out exemptions to special interests: Picks winners and losers by handing out tax exemptions to some businesses which guarantees tax increases for others.

Creates ambiguities and inconsistencies: Generates confusion with ambiguous language that complicates the business licensing process for cities and businesses instead of streamlining it.

Reduces revenue to cities: Contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251 for assistance on estimating the financial impact this bill would have on your city or town.

As you talk to your legislators about this bill, please share any feedback with Casey Fields (cfields@masc.sc) at 803.933.1256. 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.

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