From the Dome to Your Home
The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The Senate Finance Committee adopted its version of the budget, while the House spent long hours on the floor working through bills on the calendar.
Senate Finance Committee adopts its version of the budget
The Senate Finance Committee adopted its version of the state budget on Tuesday afternoon.
Included in the Senate Finance Committee version of the budget is:
- No additional recurring funds in the Local Government Fund leaving the fund at the 2017 budgeted level of $212.6 million. The FY 2017 $12.6 million non-recurring money was not included in the FY 2018 budget. (same as House version)
- Hurricane Matthew FEMA match fully funded. (same as 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)
- 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. (same as the House version)
- First responder PTSD treatment funded at $500,000. (addition from the House version)
- 2014 winter storm local matching money funded at $3.8 million. (addition from the House version)
- $700,000 loan to the Town of Nichols for disaster recovery. (same as the House version)
The full Senate plans to debate the budget beginning on Tuesday, April 4, at 10 a.m. Contact Melissa Carter (email@example.com) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.
Pension bill referred to conference committee
The House of Representatives refused to agree to the Senate amendments on H3726, the House pension reform bill that was amended by the Senate. This moves the bill to a conference committee with three members of the House and three members of the Senate to work out the differences in the bill. Senators Sheheen, Bennett and Gambrell are the senate conferees. The House appointed Representatives Herbkersman, Stringer and Cobb-Hunter.
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.
For questions about the pension bill, contact Melissa Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1251
Amended municipal election bill passes the House
H3150 removes a municipality's authority to declare a winner without conducting a general election where only one candidate registers and no write-in candidates declare candidacy within 14 days of the close of the filing period.
An amendment, introduced on the floor by Rep. Chip Huggins (R – Chapin, Columbia, Irmo), changes the election dates for all municipalities to November of even years. Rep. Huggins stated on the House floor, while explaining the amendment, that the Municipal Association did not have a problem with the amendment. However, the Municipal Association was not given prior notice of the amendment and had not expressed support for changing election dates for municipalities to November of even years.
H3150 as amended now moves to the Senate for consideration.
For questions about the election bill, contact Tiger Wells (email@example.com) at 803.933.1270.
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. Senator Hugh Leatherman (R – Florence) made a motion to place the bill on special order on the Senate calendar which would force the Senate to debate the bill. That motion failed by a vote of 23 to 18.
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.
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 (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 803.933.1256. For questions on these bills, contact Miriam Hair (email@example.com) at 803.933.1204 or Melissa Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.