Statehouse Update May 7-9

Statehouse Update May 7-9

Update 5/10/24: Adjustments were made to this summary to reflect developments that occurred during the week.

This marks the final week South Carolina’s regular legislative session. With the exception of matters allowed by this year’s sine die resolution, such as the budget or legislation sent to conference committee, bills that do not pass this week are dead for the year. 

Many eyes are on two top issues: the budget and judicial reform.  The Senate has already passed its version of the budget, which includes a plan to double this year’s personal income tax cut (taking the top rate from 6.4% to 6.2%), while the House wants to provide homeowners with a one-time property tax credit. We support a final budget that incorporates both tax-relief measures.

Meanwhile, a bill (S.1046) to enhance South Carolina’s judicial selection process has passed in the House with amendments and was returned to the Senate. It is all but certain that the Senate will reject the House version of the bill, setting up a conference committee process where three lawmakers from each chamber will work to reach a final compromise bill. 

There are notable differences between the House and Senate versions of S.1046. Only the House bill, for example, includes a provision to address the magistrate holdover loophole, which allows magistrates to serve for years beyond the expiration of their statutory terms. Resolving this issue is one of several recommendations made by SCPC to improve our judicial system. 

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  • Improving the judicial selection process (S.1046) – This bill would raise the integrity of South Carolina’s judicial system by making various changes to the judicial selection process. These include: giving the governor several appointments to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC); facilitating the livestreaming of JMSC meetings; allowing more candidates who are found qualified to seek election; and closing the loophole that lets magistrates serve for years beyond the expiration of their terms (House version only). Update: The House and Senate insisted on their respective versions of the bill (learn more here). It now heads to conference committee, where a joint group of lawmakers will work to reach a compromise bill.

  • Energy omnibus bill (H.5118) – This bill would make sweeping changes to state energy policy and presents many unknowns. Proposed changes include: putting economic development at the center of the missions of state utility regulators; growing government by creating a new “S.C. Energy Policy Research and Economic Development Institute''; creating a new “Energy Investment and Economic Development Fund” housed within Santee Cooper; and transferring the Consumer Advocate’s authority to intervene in rate-hike proceedings to another agency. It could also see ratepayers charged for certain projects, even if they are abandoned. Update: The bill is heading to conference committee. The House bill reflects the summary above (more details here), while the Senate version was turned into a non-binding resolution.

  • Academic transparency and integrity (H.3728) – This bill would prohibit any curriculum that says individuals are inherently privileged, racist, sexist or contributive to oppression in a K-12 public school setting. It would also require school districts to make details about their curriculum and instruction materials available for parents to review online. Update: Heard in conference committee on May 7. The next conference meeting is scheduled for June 5.

  • Livestreaming school board meetings (S.134) – This bill would require all local S.C. school boards to livestream their public meetings. In addition to making school board meetings more open and accessible, the bill would create a legislative precedent for livestreaming that could result in similar requirements for other government bodies. Update: Did not pass.

  • Teacher work experience for better pay (S.305) – This bill would allow prior relevant work experience to be counted when educators are seeking a teaching certification, entitling them to better pay. Update: Did not pass.

  • Non-certified teacher pilot program (S.124) – This bill would establish a pilot program allowing certain schools to hire non-certified educators to make up a portion of their teaching staff. Hired teachers would still need a suitable bachelor’s or graduate degree and at least five years of relevant work experience. The bill is a sensible option to help districts address teacher shortages, while ensuring that hired individuals possess the necessary qualifications. Update: Did not pass.

  • Scholarship stipend recipients (S.125) – This bill would extend the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship and LIFE scholarship stipends to education majors. It would direct the Commission on Higher Education to define what constitutes an education major for such purposes. Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signature.

  • Executive Office of Health and Policy (S.915) – This bill would consolidate several state health departments under a new Executive Office of Health and Policy. 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, yet it could also improve accountability. Update: The bill was defeated at the last minute on procedural grounds.

  • Counting remote workers to qualify for incentives (H.4087) – This bill would allow businesses to count jobs filled by remote workers to meet the requirements for job development credits, among making other changes. It would also let businesses sell, exchange or transfer job tax credits “to any taxpayer,” so long as the credit was earned after 2022 and before tax year 2029, subject to Joint Bond Review Committee approval (House version only). Update: The House and Senate insisted on their respective versions of the bill. It now heads to conference committee.

  • South Carolina-Ireland Trade Commission (S.621) – This bill would create the South Carolina-Ireland Trade Commission with a mission to advance trade and encourage investment among the two partners. A majority of commission appointments would be controlled by legislative leadership. When it comes to economic development, South Carolina would be better off prioritizing tax and business policies that encourage natural growth and investment, not trade deals facilitated by government bodies. Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signature.

  • Anesthesiologists' assistants (H.3877) – This bill would increase the number of anesthesiologists' assistants (AA) than an anesthesiologist can supervise from two to four. It would also streamline the AA licensing process. Removing barriers for individuals to enter this critical procession will increase access to anesthesiologist services and could reduce costs because of increased supply. Status: Did not pass.
  • Exempting acute care programs from CON (S.858)This bill would exempt acute hospital care at home programs from state Certificate of Need (CON) requirements, removing a barrier that would help to improve patient care and reduce costs. Update: Sent to the governor’s desk for signature.

  • Only citizens can vote (S.1126) – This resolution proposes 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. Many have correctly argued that the use of "every" instead of "only" could leave the door open to court rulings that let non-citizens vote. For more information about this issue, click hereUpdate: Heads to the ballot in November.

  • Dismissal of pending handgun charges (S.1166) – This bill would require the state to dismiss all pending charges against individuals for unlawful possession of a handgun that were nullified by the enactment of South Carolina’s Constitutional Carry law. Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signature.

  • Prohibiting gender reassignment procedures for minors (H.4624) – This bill would prohibit physicians, mental health providers, or other health care professionals from knowingly providing gender-transition procedures to a person under 18 years of age. Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signature.

  • Name, image and likeness (NIL) (H.4957) – This bill would substantially revise the NIL standards for collegiate athletes across the state, allowing state universities to facilitate NIL deals for student athletes. For more information about the proposal, click here. Status: Heading to the governor's desk for signature.

  • Golf club dues tax exemption (H.3880) – This bill would prevent admissions tax from being charged or collected on annual or monthly dues paid for a golf club membership.Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signing.

  • Feminine hygiene products tax exemption (H.3563) – This bill would exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. Update: Sent to the governor's desk for signature. 

  • FY25 state budget (H.5100 & H.5101)After passing once more in the House this week, the FY25 state budget is heading to conference committee. Learn more about the competing House and Senate tax relief proposals here. Please stay tuned for more information on the spending details of the budget plans.