Statehouse Update Mar 5-7

Statehouse Update Mar 5-7

Update 3/8/24: Several adjustments were made to this summary to reflect developments that occurred during the week.

Heads up! The debate over judicial reform is officially underway, as the full Senate plans to take up a bill overhauling judicial selections today at noon. In addition to dismantling legislators’ monopoly over the state’s judicial nominating commission, the bill would reduce nepotism and conflicts of interest throughout the selection process, while increasing transparency and competition.

To get up to speed on the issue, visit our Judicial Reform Action Page and follow us on X (formerly Twitter)

Plus, a House utilities subcommittee this afternoon takes up an energy bill that has many observers raising their eyebrows. Among other things, the bill forces economic development responsibilities (i.e. corporate welfare) into the mission of the Public Service Commission. It also sets up a new public-private partnership between state-run Santee Cooper and Virginia-based Dominion Energy for power plant construction. The details are eerily similar to those behind the 2017 V.C. Summer nuclear plant fiasco.

Finally, a bill aimed at removing barriers to participate in the state’s Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program is scheduled for back-to-back hearings this week. Learn more here


  • Constitutional carry (H.3594)  This bill would allow adults (18+) who are lawfully permitted to own a handgun to carry that handgun, either openly or concealed, without the need for a concealed weapons permit. It would also impose stronger penalties for illegal gun use and possession. Update: The bill was successfully signed into law.

  • Senate proposal to revise judicial selections (S.1046) – This bill would make a number of changes to improve South Carolina’s judicial selection process, many centered around the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC). It would reduce the number of legislative appointments to JMSC, reduce its size, and terminate its existing membership. In addition, legislators would effectively be prohibited from serving on the commission. The commission would be required to livestream all of its public hearings, with exceptions for executive session. Read more about it hereUpdate: Debate will resume next Tuesday.

  • House proposal to revise judicial selections (H.5170) – This bill would change the makeup of the JMSC, expanding its membership to 13 and giving the governor five of those appointments. It would also address the magistrate holdover loophole, which allows magistrates to serve beyond the expiration of their statutory four-year terms. Under the bill, if a magistrate serves in holdover status for longer than 14 days, the governor can make a temporary appointment. StatusA House Judiciary subcommittee takes up the bill at 9am on Thursday.

  • Energy omnibus bill (H.5118) – This massive bill makes sweeping policy changes that would have serious negative consequences for consumers and the energy sector. Critically, it would authorize a public-private partnership between Santee Cooper and Dominion Energy to build new power generation plants, allowing them to charge ratepayers before construction is approved by the PSC. It also creates a new “Energy and Economic Development Fund” within Santee Cooper. Many groups have sounded the alarm on this proposal, including the S.C. League of Women Voters, which writes that it would limit what topics consumers can discuss during public hearings, among other issues. Status: The House LCI subcommittee took public testimony and will likely meet again next week.

  • ESA expansion (H.5164) – This bill would remove barriers to participate in South Carolina’s new Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program, laying the foundation for universal school choice access. Specifically, it removes the program’s household income restrictions starting in the 2026-27 school year, as well as the student enrollment cap the following year. Learn more hereUpdateThe House EPW Committee advanced the bill with an amendment that exempts homeschoolers from certain testing requirements.

  • Conditions for reducing mandatory liquor liability coverage(H.5066) – In South Carolina, restaurants and bars serving alcohol after 5pm are required to have at least a $1 million liquor liability insurance policy. This bill would reduce the required coverage amount for businesses that meet certain conditions, such as completing a state-approved alcohol server training course. A previous version of the bill sought to create a state-run liquor liability insurance program, backed with taxpayers’ money. After SCPC revealed the plan in a February report, the House Judiciary Committee voted to remove that section of the bill. The full House would need to adopt the committee’s report to solidify this change. Update: Still on the House floor, with several requests for debate. The bill will likely be debated next week.

  • Liquor liability exemption (S.1050) – This bill would amend a section of insurance law to exclude liquor liability insurance from the definition of “exempt commercial policies.” Status: A Senate Banking and Insurance subcommittee considers the bill Thursday at 9am.

  • Executive Office of Public Health(H.4927) – This bill would consolidate several state health departments under a new Executive Office of Health. The office would consist of five sub-departments: the Department of Health Financing, the Department of Public Health, the Department on Aging, the Department of Intellectual and Related Disabilities, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Services. Issues have been raised about the power of this office to direct and deploy law enforcement, which can’t be overlooked in the wake of the abuses of power witnessed during COVID-19. Moreover, bringing these agencies under one roof, managed by a single director, vests significant power in the hands of one individual. However, this consolidation could make it easier to hold the state accountable for health-related decisions. StatusThe House and Senate have passed differing versions of the same proposal, likely setting up conference committee negotiations.

  • Special district property acquisitions (H.4563) – This bill seeks to clarify that special purpose districts can own, acquire, purchase, hold, use, lease, convey, sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of property. The motive behind this proposal is not immediately clear. Update: The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill. It now moves to the floor.

  • Redevelopment projects to include affordable housing (H.4552) – This bill would expand the projects that can be undertaken in the redevelopment of federal military installations to include affordable housing projects. Update: The bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate LCI Committee.

  • Ambulance assessment fee (H.4113) – This bill would require DHHS to charge all ambulance services a new fee. The fee is based on a formula in the bill, though the exact amount is not specified. It would also establish a new state fund using the fee, which according to the bill, is to be used for Medicaid payments to ambulance services. Update: The bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.

  • Early voting hours (H.4590) – This bill would extend early voting hours, allowing precincts to remain open until 7pm. Currently, precincts are open until 6pm for statewide general elections and 5pm for other elections. Update: The bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Dependent care (H.4561) – This bill would allow for candidates or public officials to use campaign funds for personal expenses relating to dependent care or supervision. Update: The Judiciary Committee advanced the bill. It now moves to the House floor.

  • Healthcare market study committee(S.855) – This bill would establish a six-person healthcare market study committee, along with a 29-person advisory board made up of various medical professionals and community members. It’s tasked with studying a host of topics, such as price transparency, consumer-directed health plans, increasing the number of medical professionals, and expanding telemedicine. It must issue a report to the General Assembly by the end of the year with its findings. Status: The Senate Medical Affairs Committee takes up the bill at 10am on Wednesday and 9am on Thursday.  


As of Monday afternoon, 15 of the 18 House committee meetings are scheduled to be livestreamed, while only half of the 12 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.



The following budget subcommittees meet this week:

  • Health and Human Services subcommittee (Senate)3/6/24 at 10am  Hearing from The Department of Health and Human Services. 

  • Constitutional subcommittee (Senate) 3/7/24 upon adjournment of the Senate – Hearing from the Office of the Comptroller General and the Council of Governments.

  • K-12 subcommittee (Senate) 3/6/24 at 10am – Hearing from the Governor’s School for Agriculture, the SC School for Deaf and Blind, and ETV.