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​From the Dome to Your Home

The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week. The House Ways and Means Committee adopted its version of the budget.

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 Ways and Means Committee allocated over $3 million in funding to the Criminal Justice Academy to increase training for officers. With this additional funding, the Academy can increase capacity and decrease wait times for admitting new officers. For more information on this advocacy initiative, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.

House Ways and Means Committee adopts budget
On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee gave final approval to its version of the state budget. Included in the budget are the following items: 

  • $11.1 million is added to the Local Government Fund base amount of $222.6 million for a new base amount of $233.7 million.
  • The 1-percent credit for employer's 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 not included in the Ways and Means Committee's version of the budget.
  • $2 million in recurring funding is provided to the Criminal Justice Academy to reduce its funding dependence on fees and fines.
  • An additional $1.47 million is provided to the Criminal Justice Academy for mobile training.

 Next, the bill goes to the full House of Representatives for debate during the week of March 11. For more information on the state budget, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251.

Senate Tort Claims Act bill passes full committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S386, a bill that makes changes to the SC Tort Claims Act. As amended by a subcommittee, the bill makes a number of changes to the provisions controlling the circumstances under which the state, its political subdivisions and charitable hospitals may be liable for monetary damages as a result of injury caused by the entity or its employees. Specifically, S386 changes the following current law:

  • The bill allows a court to multiply the per-occurrence cap every time the governmental entity was found to have had actual or constructive notice of the defect that lead to the injury. The per-occurrence cap is currently $600,000, but another bill, S7, would increase the cap to $2 million.
  • The bill allows an injured party to bring a bad faith claim and receive a potential one million recovery against an insurer who is deemed not to have handled a claim in good faith.
  • The bill creates a Catastrophic Fund and allows the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to collect assessments from the state, its political subdivisions and charitable hospitals to finance the fund, which would then be used to pay certain judgments that exceed the Tort Claims Act per-occurrence caps.

The bill is now on the Senate contested calendar for debate by the full Senate. S7, which increases the $300,000 limit on what a single person may recover from the state or a local government to $1 million, is also on the Senate contested calendar. S7 also increases the $600,000 limit for recoveries from a single occurrence of negligence to $2 million. For more information on these bills, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Pre-emption bill remains on House calendar
H3274, a bill that prohibits municipalities from enacting laws related to the ingredients, flavors or licensing of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products or nicotine products, remains on the House calendar for third reading. This bill takes away the authority of cities and towns to protect local youth from harmful nicotine products. Keep contacting your House members to urge them to ask for a roll call vote on third reading and vote no on the bill.

A companion bill to H3274 was introduced in the Senate, S492, and referred to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. Please call your senator and urge them to vote no on pre-emption and no on S492. For more 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