The Senate Republican Caucus had a very productive year this year – protecting your tax dollars, the business climate, and our natural resources. Below is a summary of our many accomplishments for the year.
Department of Administration
In most states, the governor oversees agencies like the Department of Administration. In South Carolina, rather than the governor, a five-member Budget and Control Board presides. Tasked with overseeing basic, everyday government functions of government, the board’s responsibilities ranged from human resources to information technology to grounds keeping. The Senate’s bill completely eliminated the Budget and Control Board, putting the vast majority of those functions under a new Department of Administration, directly accountable to the governor.
What we have created is not unlike a private sector CEO and Board of Directors relationship and we firmly believe our state’s government will function better for it. First there is the importance of efficiency, many of the Board’s functions had to do with simple day-to-day management of the state’s administrative functions. Second is accountability, with five members on a board, no single person can be held accountable for its action or inaction. Now, the governor is directly in charge.
Equally important, the Senate left intact board-like structures for functions where it didn’t make sense to have a single person in charge, like procurement. Among the bill’s key provisions is an oversight system that allows the Senate to keep tabs on the agency’s functioning. This provision will enhance transparency and help ensure that no misstep goes uncorrected. It is currently with the Conference Committee.
The Retirement Bill, now under Conference Committee review, makes changes for employees hired after its implementation. New employees will work for 30 and 27 years respectively, Average Final Compensation (AFC) will become a 5-year equation and leave will not count. New employees in SCRS must attain the Rule of 90 (age plus years of service) for full retirement. New employees in PORS must work until age 57 for full retirement. As for current employees, their eligibility will not be affected. 28 and 25 years (SCRS and PORS) remains as does 3-year AFC and the use of annual and sick leave for final compensation. Any current employee that retires after implementation may return to work with a $10k earnings limit on their retirement annuity without salary limits.
Employee contributions will be set in law until the Systems are 90% funded; that, of course, ensures that they become 90% funded. The bill phases out TERI over the next five years.
Governor and Lt. Governor Running On The Same Ballot H.3152
Voters will decide this November on whether or not they would like the Governor and Lt. Governor run on the same ballot starting in 2018. The bill, H.3152, does not require the Governor’s signature.
Medal of Valor S.1213
The Medal of Valor bill creates the South Carolina Medal of Valor to be awarded to a South Carolinian, or an individual with certain ties to South Carolina, who was killed either while serving in or deploying to a combat zone. The governor has signed this bill giving us the privilege to further honor our country’s war veterans.
Camping on Statehouse Grounds S.1227
The statehouse is a beautiful piece of property that is owned by all South Carolina citizens. We cannot allow a few people to deny everyone else the ability to enjoy the statehouse. Signed by the governor, S. 1227 prohibits someone from camping on the statehouse grounds and reinforces the regulations recently passed by the Budget and Control Board.
Pollution Control Act H.4654
The Pollution Control Act reestablishes the balance of interest between property owners and the environment, offering equal protection to both. The line was blurred last year after the SC Supreme Court ruled against a developer, deciding they needed a permit because the US Pollution Control Act required one. The court also ruled that any SC citizen has the right to sue another person or entity on the grounds of discharging pollutants into the environment. Prior to that, the law was interpreted to mean that a plaintiff had to be directly impacted by another in order to sue. Included in the bill, now signed by the governor, is the establishment of a study committee to determine how best to permit and protect Carolina Bays.
The Prescribed Fire Act, related to forestry management, certifies more South Carolinians in controlled burn practices. The act, signed by the governor, protects our state’s citizens from frivolous lawsuit and protects an important source of jobs and economic activity. Our state’s forests are beautiful and highly valuable. The forestry industry currently has a $17 billion annual impact on South Carolina’s economy.
Conservation Bank Reauthorization H.3083
Conversation Bank Reauthorization Act has been signed by the governor. The legislation reauthorizes the S.C. Conservation Bank for another 5 years through June 30, 2018.
DHEC Port Resolution H.4627
Last year, DHEC voted to give approval to the state of Georgia for a port project opposed by the business community and environmentalists alike. When the legislature stepped in to rein in DHEC, Governor Haley vetoed the legislature’s action. Following the disastrous veto, the Senate took a key vote to override her decision, prevent the contravention of state law and protect our state’s interests.
It’s an important issue, because our port infrastructure is something that touches literally every part of South Carolina. Not only do our ports provide direct jobs on the coast, they provide a window for shipping our goods across the world. What’s more, DHEC’s decision would have imperiled a planned port in Jasper, something that will eventually create even more jobs and opportunity across South Carolina.
Night hunting for Coyotes, Feral Hogs, and Armadillo S.741
The Senate hopes to ratify a bill allowing the year round night hunting of coyotes, feral hogs, and armadillo. These animals are invasive species that are killing and harming our native animal species as well as damaging thousands of dollars of property each year.
Unemployment Benefits S.1125
Now awaiting the governor’s signature, the Unemployment Benefits bill prohibits someone from receiving unemployment benefits if they were fired for misconduct. Last year DEW gave $50 million in unemployment benefits for people fired for misconduct.
Telecommunications Freedom Act H.3508
The Telecommunications Freedom Act prohibits local governments from entering the telecommunications business to compete against private industry. The act, which will require a new Sine Die resolution to become law, does not apply to areas designated “unserved” by the Public Service Commission.
Multi-lot Discount H.3934
The Multi-lot Discount bill, now signed into law, extends the multi-lot property tax discount for unsold development property subdivided into lots.
Right to Work H.4652
The Right to Work bill strengthens our state’s right to work laws. The legislation authorizes the posting of notifications in workplaces in order to inform employees of South Carolina’s guarantee that a person’s right to work must not be denied because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or labor organization. State and local government contracts are prohibited from including project labor agreements that require unionized labor to comprise a percentage of the workforce on a project. The bill increases penalties for those in violation of our right to work laws.
Auto Glass Bill H.4042
The Auto Glass Bill makes it unlawful trade practice for a third party administrator of motor vehicle glass repair to steer an insured motor vehicle glass repair business to itself. Awaiting ratification, the bill also attempts to limit the abilities of “Harvesters” to operate in the state.
Shotgun and Rifle Purchase Out of State H.4494
The Shotgun and Rifle Purchase Out of State is a bill that removes the requirement of shotguns and rifles to be purchased either in state or in state contiguous to South Carolina. Shotguns and Rifles can now be purchased in any state. Though the bill passed the Senate, the House did not concur. The bill will have to be included in a new Sine Die resolution to become law.
Equal Access to Interscholastic Activities Act S.149
The Equal Access to Interscholastic Activities Act has been signed by the governor. The bill allows a home school student, charter school student, or Governor’s School student the opportunity to play high school sports. A child is only eligible to play for the school in the attendance zone in which they reside.
Charter schools are public schools that give educators the flexibility to create schools that best fit the needs of the local community.Unfortunately, local districts sometimes don’t want to compete for funding. As a result, these districts have tried to stop charter schools from forming. The Senate has a bill to streamline many aspects of charter school creation and the admissions process. Signed by the governor, this bill will stimulate the growth of charter schools in South Carolina and remove roadblocks for those already operating.
Abortion Coverage Under ObamaCare
S.102 is a bill to restrict abortion coverage under ObamaCare. ObamaCare mandates are a threat to South Carolina and the country at large, especially when it comes to protecting unborn life. This bill, signed by the governor, ensures that as new insurance plans are set up under ObamaCare, they may not be used to provide “abortion on demand.” We want to make sure ObamaCare mandates don’t expand abortion in South Carolina. With this bill, we can.
The Senate also acted to stop the dangerous sale of synthetic drugs in South Carolina. Bearing names “spice” and “bath salts” these unregulated drugs represent a real danger to public health. Governor Haley, in recognition of these facts, signed the bill.
Healthcare Compact S.836
The Healthcare Compact bill allows South Carolina to enter into a compact with other states to opt out of ObamaCare. It has been signed by Governor Haley, but needs approval from 15-20 states and the U.S. Congress before South Carolina is given this option.
Born Alive Act S.1149
The Born Alive Act extends legal protection to an infant born alive after a failed attempt at induced abortion. Signed by the governor, this bill conforms South Carolina law to mirror federal law and our belief that all life should be protected.
Peer Review H. 4008
The Peer Review Act encourages full, candid review of patient care while promoting the safety and quality of that care. The bill also protects hospital staff in the event of catastrophic injury occurring in the hospital. Currently, it is awaiting adoption of the conference report.
Data Centers Tax Credits H.3720
The Data Centers Tax Credits bill has been signed by the governor. The bill provides job tax credits for jobs at a technology intensive facility to include data processing, computer facilities management, other computer-related services, and multi-use facilities. The legislation exempts a corporation from paying state corporate income taxes for a period of 10 years when establishing a national corporate headquarters, expanding or adding to an existing national corporate headquarters in South Carolina. This translates into at least 50 new full-time jobs.
Also included in the bill are revisions to the utility tax credits for providing infrastructure. These revisions increase the maximum aggregate credit to $400,000 annually. Additional revisions in the legislation alter the provisions for fee in lieu of tax arrangement. This enables a county auditor or assessor to request and obtain any financial books and records from a sponsor that support the sponsor’s tax form or return to verify the calculations of the fee in lieu of taxes tax form or return. The legislation establishes a new sales tax exemption for computers, computer equipment, computer hardware and software purchases for a datacenter and electricity used by a datacenter.
Port Bond Bill S.1431
The Port Bond Bill allows for the issuance of $120 million in bonds to be used for the dredging of the Charleston Harbor should they be needed. The projected cost to take the Charleston Harbor to 50ft is $300 million with $120 million expected to come from federal government funding. The Senate passed the bill, appropriating $180 million in the state budget for dredging. They noted that bonds only be issued if the federal government did not provide funding. This bill died in the House, but money may still be allocated in the budget.
Tax Incentives for Tire Manufacturers H.3506
Amendments to the current investment tax credit (SC Code 12-14-80) are awaiting ratification. South Carolina is now the tire capital of the United States, and this is about growing this sector even further. Relating specifically to tire manufacturers, the tax credit amendments expand the availability of credit to all tire manufacturers making substantial investments (as defined in the bill) in capital and jobs in SC. This bill reduces the capital investment criteria (for new investment) to $400 Million and increases the amount of time the investment may take place, from 5 years to approximately 10 years. In addition, 1,200 new jobs must be created during the same time period in order to qualify.