Update 5/12/23: Several adjustments were made to this summary to reflect developments that occurred during the week.
It may be the final week of the regular legislative session, but legislative business is far from over for the year. For starters, the House still needs to take up and pass (for the second time) its version of the state budget, after which a final version will need to be ironed out in conference committee. As we noted last month, the House and Senate budget proposals spend the bulk of next year’s surplus revenue, which could be better used to accelerate tax relief.
At the same time, the House is expected to continue debate on abortion. Back to back committee hearings are scheduled for S.474 on Tuesday, which would effectively ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with certain exceptions. However, if the House insists on a stricter policy, debate on the bill could drag out over the next several weeks and potentially longer.
It’s also worth noting that an end-of-year (sine die) resolution has not been passed. This is what normally governs what the Legislature can take up and when it can do so after the regular session ends. If one is not passed, it will be at the governor’s discretion when to call back the Legislature for special session to finalize the budget and to address other lingering legislation like the abortion bill.
In other news, the Legislature last week passed a historic bill that will largely repeal South Carolina’s Certificate of Need program. The governor is expected to sign it into law any day now (read our analysis of the bill to learn more).
- S.284 – This bill would allow local accommodations and hospitality tax revenue to be spent on the development of “workforce housing”. Such revenue is currently restricted to things more closely associated with tourism, such as improving beach access or paying for tourism-related advertisements. Expanding how these funds can be spent will increase demand for tax revenue and could inspire tax-hike proposals. The bill will be on the House floor this week. Update: The Senate passed the bill with a final vote of 41-2. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
- 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. The bill is on the Senate floor, though it is contested.
- S.260 – This bill would require anyone who serves alcohol to take a minimum four-hour class with a test and receive a certificate. It would also create a new state alcohol server training fund. While more education and training may be necessary for some, creating a new regulatory regime for all alcohol servers is not the correct approach to this issue. The bill is on the Senate floor, though it is contested.
- S.343 – This bill would exempt all crisis stabilization unit facilities from Certificate of Need (CON) requirements. Currently, only these facilities which are operated by or in partnership with the Department of Mental Health, and offer services to adults, are exempt from CON. The bill is on the House floor this week. Update: The House passed the bill unanimously. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
- H.3690 – This bill requires the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission to cast shareholder proxy votes based on pecuniary factors, which means those having a material effect on the financial risk or return of an investment, and excluding those promoting ESG objectives. The RSIC may only delegate shareholder proxy-voting rights to investment managers if they invest based on pecuniary factors, if the commission believes there would be a “superior” economic benefit in doing so, or if the commission wants to avoid a concentration of assets with one or more investment managers. The bill is on the Senate floor this week.
- S.634 – This non-binding resolution expresses the view of the Senate that public funds should not be dedicated to economic development projects that benefit a corporation that promotes ESG. The resolution is on the Senate floor.
- S.399 – This bill would split the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) into two separate agencies: The Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Public Health. The House Ways and Means Committee considers the bill Tuesday at 10 AM. Update: The House passed the bill unanimously. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
- S.95 – This resolution would amend the S.C. Constitution so that the state comptroller general is appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation rather than being elected by voters. The proposed change comes after it was revealed the comptroller’s office is responsible for a $3.5 billion accounting error spanning at least a decade. The resolution is on the Senate floor and needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
As of Tuesday morning, two of the Senate’s four scheduled committee meetings are scheduled to be livestreamed this week, while all four House meetings are scheduled to be livestreamed. Under a February House bill inspired by SCPC’s research, all legislative committee meetings would have to be livestreamed.