From the Dome to Your Home
The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The Senate Finance Committee started its work on the state budget, while the House worked on bills on the calendar.
Senate Finance Committee begins budget debate
The Senate Finance Committee began its deliberations on the House version of the budget on Tuesday morning. Committee members worked through provisos and plan to continue work next week. The full Senate plans to debate the budget during the week of April 3. Contact Melissa Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.
House adjourned debate on pension bill until March 29
The House of Representatives adjourned debate on H3726, the House pension reform bill that was amended by the Senate. The motion to adjourn debate delays debate on the bill until Wednesday, March 29. This bill proposes 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. Read this blog post to get more information about the impact of the pension systems unfunded liability on cities.
The bill also increases 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 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.
For questions about the pension bill, contact Melissa Carter (email@example.com) at 803.933.1251.
Gas tax bill stalled in the Senate
H3516, the bill that increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repair, remains on the Senate calendar with ten senators objecting to the bill.
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.
On March 8, a special Senate Finance Transportation subcommittee 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.
For questions about the gas tax, contact Scott Slatton (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1203.
FOIA bill passes the House
H3352, the bill that creates the Office of FOIA Review in the Administrative Law Court, passed the House of Representatives. This bill contains similar language that the House passed during the 2016 session. This includes a reduction in the amount of time a public body has to respond to requests from 15 days to ten days for documents that are less than two years old. The bill increases the response time from 15 days to 20 days for documents that are older than two years. The bill also protects a municipality from paying attorneys' fees if it prevails at the initial FOIA review hearing.
For information on the FOIA bill, contact Tiger Wells (email@example.com) at 803.933.1270.
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 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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) at 803.933.1256. For questions on these bills, contact Miriam Hair (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1204 or Melissa Carter (email@example.com) 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.