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​From the Dome to Your Home

The House of Representatives and the Senate met in regular session this week and adjourned the 2017 regular session of the General Assembly on Thursday at 5 p.m.  

House and Senate members plan to return to Columbia in session for up to three days – May 23, 24 and 25 – to take up the budget and other conference reports. Members also plan to return in June to debate the gubernatorial vetoes to the budget.

Roads bill becomes law
It was a busy week for H3516, the roads bill, beginning with the adoption of the free conference report and ending in votes in the House and Senate to override the governor's veto to make the bill permanent law. Free conference powers were necessary to allow legislators to include items in the final bill that were not included in the versions passed by the House and Senate.

The final version of the new law includes the following:

  • increases the gas tax 2 cents every year for six years beginning on July 1, 2017.
  • increases sales taxes on cars, fees for hybrid cars and vehicle registration fees beginning on July 1, 2017.
  • increases the C-Fund allocation by $40 million from the current annual amount of approximately $75 million. The law also increases from $9.5 million to $17 million the amount donor counties receive to close the gap between what they contribute to the C-Fund and what they receive from it. The law adds another $3 million for donor counties that still aren't made whole by their portion of the $17 million fund. These are funds cities and towns may seek from their CTC for road projects within their jurisdictions.
  • grants the governor authority to appoint nine members of the S.C. DOT commission with the advice and consent of the Senate and  House of Representatives. This replaces the current approval by local legislative delegations. The new law allows the governor to remove S.C. DOT commissioners for any reason without approval of the House and Senate. 
  • reduces the manufacturing property tax effective assessment ratio from 10.5 percent to 9 percent, phased in over six years. The law includes a reimbursement to counties, cities and school districts from the state's general fund of up to $85 million per year to cover the losses. The reimbursement will be distributed to local governments using the same method as the Trust Fund for Tax Relief for the homestead property tax exemption. This is not part of the annual state budget debate. Once the $85 million reimbursement cap is reached, the manufacturing property tax exemption will be reduced proportionately. This exemption will not impact the local government bonded indebtedness cap.

For questions about the roads bill, contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251 or Scott Slatton (sslatton@masc.sc) at 803.933.1203

Budget in conference committee
The budget bill conferees met twice this week to discuss the two different versions of the budget and plan to continue meeting on Tuesday to finish up debate. Senators Leatherman, Setzler and Bennett and Representatives White, Pitts and Stavrinakis are the conferees. Conferees plan to present the conference report to the full House and Senate when they return on May 23.

In most cases, the House version of the budget includes more money than the Senate version for cities and towns that participate in SCRS and PORS. Get the FY2018 Senate and House LGF distributions by city.

Included in the House version of the budget is:

  • $212.6 million in the Local Government Fund for FY2018. This is a decrease of $10.6 million from FY2017. This is a decrease of $1.7 million in the LGF for cities and towns.
  • One percent of the 2 percent increase in the SCRS and PORS employer contribution rates funded with recurring revenue. The funding reduces the employer contribution rate for SCRS from 13.56 percent to 12.56 percent and PORS from 16.24 percent to 15.24 percent.
  • Hurricane Matthew FEMA match fully funded.
  • Pinnacle Mountain fire FEMA match fully funded.
  • Beach renourishment funded at $5 million of $15 million requested.
  • $700,000 appropriation to the Town of Nichols for Hurricane Matthew recovery.
  • A ten cent increase in the motor fuel user fee (not included in the original House version of the budget)

Included in the Senate version of the budget is:

  • $246.3 million in the Local Government Fund for FY2018. This is an increase of $23.1 million from FY2017. This is an increase of $3.9 million in the LGF for cities and towns. The additional funding is to assist cities, towns and counties with paying the increased state pension contributions.
  • 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)

Contact Melissa Carter (mcarter@masc.sc) at 803.933.1251 for specific information on the budget.
 
FOIA bill adopted and enrolled for ratification
H3352, the bill that creates the Office of FOIA Review in the Administrative Law Court, was amended and given third reading by the Senate. The House of Representatives later concurred with the Senate amendments and enrolled the bill for ratification. It now goes to the governor for his signature or veto. If the bill becomes law, these new rules are effective July 1, 2017.

Originally, the bill created an Office of FOIA Review in the Administrative Law Court, but this provision was taken out through a Senate amendment. The final version of the bill includes the benefits to public bodies that were in the original legislation.

The final bill

  • specifies that a 25 percent deposit of the anticipated cost of producing the records can be required before the public body searches for or copies records to fulfill a request. It also requires the balance of the total cost to be paid at the time the request is fulfilled.
  • specifies that any outstanding balance of the fee charged for a FOIA request is due at the time of production.
  • creates the opportunity for a public body or individual requesting public records to request an expedited initial hearing through the circuit court. The court will rule on whether the public records request must be fulfilled.
  • allows public bodies to reject public records requests that are "unduly burdensome,  overly broad, vague, repetitive or otherwise improper."
  • keeps public bodies from paying the requesting party's legal fees and costs related to litigation on appeal when the circuit court finds in the initial hearing that the public body properly rejected a FOIA request.
  • reduces the amount of time a public body has to respond to Freedom of Information requests from 15 days to ten business days for records that are less than two years old.
  • increases the response time from 15 days to 20 business days for records that are older than two years.
  • specifies records must be produced within 30 calendar days of receiving a required deposit if the records are less than two years old and 35 calendar days if the records are more than two years old.

For more information on the bill, contact Tiger Wells (twells@masc.sc) at 803.933.1270.
 
Moped bill conference report adopted and enrolled for ratification
H3247, the bill that defines mopeds and regulates operating hours and license requirements, was placed in a conference committee where members ironed out differences between the House and Senate versions. The conference committee came to a consensus and both the House and Senate adopted the conference report. Senators Hembree, Campbell and Johnson and Representatives Daning, Crosby and Kirby were members of the committee.

The final bill

  • requires a moped operator to be at least 15 years old and restricts the time of day operators younger than 16 years old may operate a moped without supervision;
  • requires a moped to be registered with the S.C. Division of Motor Vehicles and carry a state-issued license tag; and
  • excludes mopeds from the state's ignition interlock requirement for those who have been convicted of DUI.

For questions about the moped bill, contact Scott Slatton (sslatton@masc.sc) at 803.933.1203.
 
Business license bills remain in committee
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 on March 1 for further work. 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.

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