Statehouse Update Apr 2-4

Statehouse Update Apr 2-4

Important update! South Carolina’s “crossover” deadline is just around the corner. Bills that haven’t passed at least one chamber, House or Senate, by April 10 are effectively dead for the year. While the House is on break this week, you can expect a busy few days in the Senate as lawmakers work to pass bills and keep them in play.  

One important bill to watch is S.533. Set for priority on the Senate calendar, it would revise the state’s liability law so that fewer businesses have to pay excessive and disproportionate legal damages in civil cases. You can learn more about this critical issue in our 2023 report, “Bad for Business: South Carolina must reform its unfair civil liability system“. 

Below you will find other bills on the calendar this week. For real-time Statehouse updates, be sure to follow us on X (formerly Twitter).

CIVIL LIABILITY REFORM
  • Fairer liability system (S.533) – This bill would require juries or judges to consider nonparties in addition to defendants when determining fault in civil cases. An initial version of the bill would also strike a rule that, under certain circumstances, allows businesses or individuals to be held fully liable for legal damages even if they are just 1% at fault for an injury. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed an amendment to undo this change and leave the 1% rule intact. We strongly encourage senators to reject the committee’s amendment and pass S.533 as originally written. Update: After debate for several days, the Senate has decided to take no action on the bill meaning the bill is dead for the year.
  • Insurance premiums study committee (S.844) – This joint resolution would create a study committee to examine South Carolina’s civil liability and insurance laws, particularly as they relate to the issue of rising liability insurance premiums. While we welcome debate on this issue, creating a study committee could delay progress on needed reforms. Status: On the Senate floor.

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
  • Energy omnibus bill (H.5118) – This bill would insert economic development language into the missions of state utility regulators; grow government by creating a new “S.C. Energy Policy Research and Economic Development Institute”; create a new “Energy Investment and Economic Development Fund” housed within Santee Cooper; and transfer the Consumer Advocate’s authority to intervene in rate-hike proceedings to another agency. See more in our recent analysisStatus: A Senate Judiciary subcommittee considers the bill at 9:30am on Thursday.

EASE OF WORK
  • Exempting certain professions from licensure (S.1132) – This bill would exempt the following professional services from state licensing requirements: Hair braiding, blow-dry styling, and makeup artistry. Update: Passed the Senate, sent to the House. 

SECOND AMENDMENT
  • Restricting discharge of firearms (S.890) – This bill would make it a felony to knowingly fire a gun at or in the direction of one or more people. The offense would be punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent amendment. However, other than making exceptions for hunting, the bill does not define what is meant by “direction,” and does not speak to factors such as distance or setting. It is possible that well-intentioned people could inadvertently violate this law and face felony charges. Status: On the Senate floor. 

TAXES AND FEES
  • Increased fees for new residents (S.208) – This bill would allow counties to impose additional driver’s license and motor vehicle licensing and registration fees on new residents (subject to a local referendum). We oppose this proposal and believe the state should not enact policies that will penalize future residents and deter economic growth. Update: Failed second reading, dead for the year. 

ELECTION INTEGRITY
  • "Only" citizens can vote (S.1126) – This resolution presents an amendment to the S.C. Constitution to specify that only citizens may vote. Currently, the Constitution provides that "every" citizen who is at least 18 years old has the right to vote. However, some organizations, such as Americans for Citizen Voting, argue that the verbiage of "every" rather than "only" could leave the door open to court rulings that let non-citizens vote. For more information about this issue, click here. Update: Passed the Senate, sent to the House. 

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY 

As of Monday afternoon, only two of the nine Senate committee meetings are scheduled to be livestreamed. Unfortunately, just one of three budget subcommittee hearings are set to be livestreamed. To view the full committee calendar (showing which meetings are, and are not, being streamed), click here.

STATE BUDGET

The following budget subcommittees meet this week:

  • Constitutional subcommittee (Senate) 4/2/24 at 9am – Hearing from the Office of the Comptroller General and the Office of the State Treasurer. Note: This is not a standard budget hearing, but rather a meeting to hear from state financial officials about the recently discovered account of $1.8 billion, apparently the result of an accounting error (or errors).

  • K-12 subcommittee (Senate) 4/3/24 at 9am – Hearing on provisos. (provisos are effectively mini-laws in the budget that direct how dollars should be spent.)

  • Transportation & Regulatory subcommittee (Senate) 4/3/24 at 12 – Hearing from the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Employment & Workforce, the Office of Regulatory Staff, the Procurement Review Panel, and Provisos.