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Two-year legislative session ended June 2

The second half of the 2015-2016 regular session of the 121st General Assembly was gaveled to a close on Thursday, June 2, at 5 p.m. However, legislators returned to Columbia later in June to handle conference reports and the budget vetoes.

The 2016 session ended with no action on any business license reform legislation. Several legislators introduced bills during the course of the 2015-2016 session that did everything from eliminating the tax, to changing the definition of income, to reforming the process of paying the tax. A special subcommittee of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee heard testimony from stakeholders on one of the bills but took no action.

The Municipal Association and the SC Chamber of Commerce plan to work through the summer and fall to draft a bill to introduce in the 2017 session. The goal is to draft legislation that reforms and streamlines the process of paying business license taxes.

House and Senate versions of the Dilapidated Buildings Act made progress, but neither passed both bodies. The DBA would give cities another tool for dealing with dilapidated and unsafe buildings after all other options for remedying the situation have been exhausted. S194 stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was eventually sent back to the subcommittee in April. H3039 made it out of the House Judiciary Committee but failed to receive second reading on the floor.

Rep. Mary Tinkler (D-Charleston) introduced The Local Government Efficiency Act that would allow cities and towns to annex, by ordinance, property that is 25 acres or less that has been completely surrounded by the municipality for at least five years. That bill was passed by the House Judiciary Special Laws subcommittee but stalled in the full House Judiciary Committee.

The House and Senate came to an agreement in the final days of the session on restructuring the SC Department of Transportation and the State Infrastructure Bank to fix the state’s roads and bridges. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S429 modifying the requirements of workers’ compensation claims to include mental illness. A minority report placed the bill directly on the Senate contested calendar. It then stalled.

The House and Senate passed the budget bill the last week of the session. Included in the budget is funding for beach renourishment, flood recovery and $10.6 million additional dollars for the Local Government Fund. The General Assembly returned to Columbia on June 15 after the primary elections to address Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes and other conference reports.

Attempts to create an Office of Freedom of Information Act Review failed in the last days of the session. This would hear concerns from people who believed their FOIA requests weren’t being handled in a timely manner. Governments would have also appealed to the Office of Freedom of Information Act Review with concerns about harassing FOIA requests. The House passed this legislation, however, the bill became stuck in the Senate at the end of the session.

The Municipal Association tracked more than 548 bills during the 2015-2016 legislative session.

The Association’s year-end legislative report recapping the 2016 session activities will be available at the Annual Meeting.