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​From the Dome to Your Home

The House of Representatives met in regular session this week. The Senate met on Tuesday and Wednesday in regular session, but did not meet on Thursday so that the Senate Finance Committee could complete work on its version of the budget. The crossover deadline for bills to pass the originating chamber is Wednesday, April 10, and the House of Representatives plans to take a furlough week beginning Monday, April 15.

The tobacco preemption bill remains on the Senate contested calendar, and the bill that prohibits the Municipal Association from collecting business licenses on behalf of cities remains in a House committee. The bill that makes changes to the SC Tort Claims Act is also still on the Senate calendar for third reading after it was amended last week. Both the zero millage bill and the annexation bill are on the House uncontested calendar for debate.

Advocacy Initiatives update

  • Flexibility with hospitality and accommodations tax revenue
    H3132 and S217 were introduced in the House and Senate to give cities the ability to use state and local accommodations and hospitality tax revenue to control and repair flooding and drainage in tourist-related areas. The Senate passed S217 and sent it to the House of Representatives, where it was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. Please encourage your House members to support S217. For more information on this advocacy initiative, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.

    Local Government Fund predictability
    H3137, sponsored by a bipartisan group of House members, was introduced to change the LGF formula to a more predictable funding level from year to year. The House of Representatives passed H3137 and sent it to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Contact your senators and encourage them to support H3137. For more information on this advocacy initiative, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.
     
    Reducing wait times for new hires at the Criminal Justice Academy
    The House of Representatives allocated more than $3 million in funding to the Criminal Justice Academy to increase training for officers in its version of the state budget. With this additional funding, the academy can increase capacity and decrease wait times for admitting new officers. The Senate Finance Committee allocated $2 million in recurring funding to the Criminal Justice Academy. For more information on this advocacy initiative, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.

Senate Finance Committee approves its version of the state budget
On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee gave final approval to its version of the state budget. Included in the Senate Finance Committee version of the budget are the following items: 

  • $9.5 million is added to the Local Government Fund base amount of $222.6 million, establishing a new base amount of $232.1million.
  • The 1-percent credit for employers' retirement system contributions, which was funded in the FY 2019 budget, is again funded in the FY 2020 budget.
  • $22 million in nonrecurring funds are provided as a match for FEMA funds for Hurricane Florence.
  • Nonrecurring PTSD funding is included in the Senate Finance Committee's version of the budget at $500,000.
  • $2 million in recurring funding is provided to the Criminal Justice Academy to reduce its funding dependence on fees and fines.

Sen. Ronnie Cromer (R-Newberry) introduced a proviso that prohibits private, third party entities from assessing, collecting, administering collection of, or processing payments of business license taxes on behalf of counties or municipalities. The proviso, as adopted, would interfere with the Association's efforts to help the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office rollout a business license portal for the benefit of cities and businesses that operate in multiple jurisdictions. Next, the full Senate will debate the budget during the week of April 15. For information on the budget bill, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.

Plastic bag ban passed by subcommittee
The Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Regulatory and Local Government subcommittee gave S394, the plastic bag ban bill, a favorable report by a vote of 4 to 3. This bill would prevent local governments from adopting ordinances that ban the use of plastic bags. Please thank Sens. Ronnie Sabb (D-Williamsburg), Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) for voting against this bill. Next, the bill goes to the full Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee for debate. For information on this bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Small cell wireless bill amended and passed by House
H4262, the SC Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, was amended by the House and given final approval on Thursday. In its original form, the bill completely preempted local control over the deployment of small wireless facilities in the municipal rights of way and allowed telecommunications companies the right to deploy small wireless facilities with only limited aesthetic review in historic and underground districts. The amendment returns much of the aesthetic control back to cities and towns, among other changes. The following points in the bill were included in the amendment:

  • Local aesthetic standards. The current bill allows a local government to set "aesthetic, design, concealment, and stealth requirements" throughout its area — subject to FCC restrictions — and also allows separate rules for decorative poles, historic districts and underground districts. 
  • Preemption and invalidation. The current bill provides that preexisting agreements will remain in effect for facilities installed prior to December 31, 2019. The current bill also provides that aesthetic, design, concealment, stealth, decorative pole, historic district and underground district requirements in preexisting ordinances will remain in effect, subject to the FCC restrictions. 
  • Alternative site locations. The current bill allows a local government to select an alternative location within 100 feet of the wireless provider's preferred location for deployment. Unless the alternative location is not technically feasible, the wireless provider will be required to use it. 
  • Response time. In addition to allowing a local government to require significantly more information to be included in small cell applications, the current bill also extends the time local governments have to respond to applications. The bill extends the response time to 90 days for applications to install new poles. The response time for collocations and replacement poles remains 60 days. The current bill also provides that, when the limitations period expires, the wireless provider must notify the local government. The local government then has 20 additional days to respond. 
  • Application fees. The original bill limited application fees to $100 for collocations and $250 for new and replacement poles, and exempted telecommunications and cable companies from paying the fee. The current bill limits application fees to $100 for collocations, $250 for replacement poles, and $1,000 for new poles. It also removes the exemption for telecommunications and cable companies. The application fees are charged on a per-unit basis, except that the application fee for collocations drops from $100 to $50 for each unit above five. 
  • Occupancy rates. The original bill limited the rate to occupy the right of way to $20 a year per collocation, and exempted telecommunications and cable companies from paying the rate. The current bill raises the occupancy rate to $100 a year for collocations on existing or replacement poles and $200 a year for collocations on new poles. The current bill also removes the exemption for telecommunications and cable companies. 
  • Attachment Rates. The original bill limited the rate for a wireless provider to attach to a pole owned by the local government to $20 a year. The current bill allows an attachment rate of $50 a year.

 Next, the bill goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. For information on this bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.

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.

Stay in touch
The Municipal Association legislative team is on Twitter bringing you updates from the State House when legislators are in Columbia for session. Follow Melissa Carter (@MelissaMuniSC), Scott Slatton (@ScottMuniSC) and Tiger Wells (@TigerMuniSC) on Twitter for updates. Also follow the Association at @MuniAssnSC

You can also listen to podcast versions of the legislative reports from the Association's City Quick Connect podcast.