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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 adopted its version of the budget, while the House spent long hours on the floor working through bills on the calendar.

The crossover deadline was Thursday. Bills that pass out of the originating body after this date, require a 2/3 vote of present and voting members of the other chamber to be placed on its calendar for consideration.

Both the House and Senate are on furlough next week and will not meet in regular session or hold subcommittee or committee meetings. They will resume regular session on Tuesday, April 18.

Senate adopts its version of the budget
The Senate passed its version of the budget on Thursday.

Included in the Senate version of the budget is:

  • Recurring funds in the Local Government Fund increased by $33.7 million. Specifically, the FY 2018 LGF distribution to cities is $41.2 million, an increase of $5.6 million. The additional funding is to assist cities with paying the increased state pension contributions. Get the FY 2018 LGF distribution by city.
  • 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)

Next, the budget will go back to the House to accept the Senate changes or amend the Senate version. Contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.

Pension bill conference report approved by the House and Senate
The conference committee met on Tuesday and finished its work on H3726, the House pension reform bill that was amended by the Senate. Conferees presented the conference report to the full House and Senate on Wednesday, and it was adopted and enrolled for ratification.

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 another 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 (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251
 
Gas tax bill remains 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. Last week, 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 (sslatton@masc.sc) at 803.933.1203.

Business license bills remain in committee past crossover deadline
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. These bills remain in the committee and have not received any action since they were recommitted, missing the crossover deadline for this legislative session.

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