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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 and House sent both the budget and the roads bill to conference committees. The Senate plans to reconvene on Monday at 1 p.m. The House will reconvene at noon on Tuesday.

There is only one week left in the session until adjournment on May 11. The adjournment resolution 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 in conference committee
Senators and House members placed the budget in a conference committee to resolve the differences between their two versions of the budget. Senators Leatherman, Setzler and Bennett and Representatives White, Pitts and Stavrinakis are the conferees. The conference committee has not met yet.

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:

  • $212.6 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.
 
Election bill approved by House and Senate
H3150, the municipal election bill, was given third reading on Wednesday by the Senate, and later in the day the House voted to concur with the Senate amendments. The bill is now enrolled for ratification. The Senate amended the bill to remove the requirement that all municipal elections occur in November of even years. Senators amended the bill further to allow a ranked ballot to be sent to overseas voters immediately following the 5th District Congressional primary. An additional amendment strikes the language allowing a governmental entity to opt out of conducting a special election when only one person registers.

The bill 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. For more information on the election bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
FOIA bill on the Senate contested calendar
H3352, the bill that creates the Office of FOIA Review in the Administrative Law Court, was given a favorable report by the Senate Judiciary Committee and placed on the Senate contested calendar.  The Office of FOIA Review would be tasked with holding hearings to review FOIA disputes between public bodies and individuals seeking public records. A public body that prevails at the hearing level would be insulated from paying attorneys' fees in the event that the requesting party ultimately prevailed in a subsequent legal action.

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 Freedom of Information 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. For more information on the bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Senate Judiciary subcommittee approves open carry bill
Members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee gave approval to S449, the S.C. Constitutional Carry Act of 2017. This bill allows anyone who is eligible to purchase a firearm to openly carry that firearm anywhere except where firearms are prohibited. Next, the bill will go to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for debate if the full committee meets again before adjournment on May 11. For questions on this bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Roads bill in conference committee
House members refused to accept the Senate amendments to H3516, the roads bill, and the Senate insisted on its amendments, moving the bill to a conference committee. Conferees are Senators Campbell, Turner and Sheheen and Representatives Simrill, White and Rutherford. The bill increases the gas tax to raise revenue for road maintenance and repairs. The conference committee began meeting on Wednesday afternoon and continued through Thursday morning. The committee began meeting again today at 10 a.m.

The House version of the roads bill

  • raises the motor vehicle user fee by 2 cents per year over the next five years.
  • generates new revenue from increases in driver's license fees and sales taxes on cars,
  • places new revenue generated, estimated at $600 million per year, in a trust fund for road maintenance and repair only, and

The Senate version of the roads bill

  • raises car sales taxes and other fees,
  • gives the governor authority to appoint members of the S.C. DOT commission with the advice and consent of the Senate and allows the governor to unilaterally remove commissioners,
  • caps the gas tax below Georgia and North Carolina's current tax rates,
  • increases the gas tax 2 cents every year for six years to raise $800 million for roads,
  • 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, and
  • reduces the manufacturing property tax assessment ratio from 10.5 percent to 8.5 percent, phased in over two years, and 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.

For questions about the roads 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. 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.

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Weekly legislative action