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​From the Dome to Your Home


The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. House members approved an increase in the gas tax to fund road improvements. The House and Senate both passed versions of the pension reform bill.

On Wednesday, Rep. Bill Sandifer requested that both business license bills be recommitted to the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee for further discussion and work.

Business license bills recommitted to 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. On Wednesday, Rep. Sandifer requested that these two bills be recommitted back to the committee for further work and discussion. 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.

Newspapers and television stations have continued to talk with local officials about these bills. Several stories were published this week in papers including the Anderson Independent, Beaufort Today, Jasper Times and on Fox28 TV.

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.

Pension reform bills passed by the House and Senate
H3726, the House version of the bill that reforms the S.C. Retirement System, passed the House on Wednesday, while the Senate approved its bill, S394, on Thursday. 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.
 
Municipal Tax Relief Act introduced in the Senate
Senator Greg Hembree (R- Horry) introduced S426, the Municipal Tax Relief Act, in the Senate last week. This bill would allow a municipality to impose a sales tax, through a referendum, not to exceed one percent, for municipal tax relief and for certain authorized capital projects. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. For more information on S426, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.
 
Gas tax passed by the House
H3516, the bill that increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repair, passed out of the House this week by a vote of 97-18. The bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. The bill 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. For questions about the gas tax, 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