South Carolina House of Representatives
Robert W. Harrell, Jr., Speaker of the House
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND CONSTITUENT SERVICES
Room 212, Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211, (803) 734-3230
NOTE: THESE SUMMARIES ARE PREPARED BY THE STAFF OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT THE EXPRESSION OF THE LEGISLATION'S SPONSOR(S) OR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. THEY ARE STRICTLY FOR THE INTERNAL USE AND BENEFIT OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND ARE NOT TO BE CONSTRUED BY A COURT OF LAW AS AN EXPRESSION OF LEGISLATIVE INTENT.
The full Education and Public Works Committee met on Tuesday, March 6, and reported out three bills. H.4582 received a favorable report. This legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue DEALER LICENSE PLATES FOR THE UNITED SERVICE ORGANIZATION SOUTH CAROLINA AND THE AMERICAN RED CROSS. The full committee gave a favorable with amendment recommendation to S.710, which allows for VETERAN STATUS DESIGNATION ON THE FRONT OF DRIVERíS LICENSES AND SPECIAL IDENTIFICATION CARDS. Upon an individualís request, proof of eligibility and payment of a one dollar fee, this legislation allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to include a veteran status designation on the front of a driver's license or special identification card. H.4517 received a favorable recommendation. This legislation requires the WORLD WAR II SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES to include the international symbol of access for persons who qualify to be issued this license plate and a handicapped parking placard.
The full Judiciary Committee met on Tuesday, March 6, and gave consideration to several bills. H.4675, relating to PROHIBITED GAMBLING DEVICES, received a favorable report. This legislation clarifies that certain gambling devices prohibited by Section 12-21-2710 are still prohibited even if a person holds a bingo license. Also, the legislation clarifies that these gambling devices are still prohibited in game promotions allowed by holders of permits authorizing the sale of beer or wine. The full committee gave a favorable with amendment recommendation to H.4672, a PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE STATE CONSTITUTION RELATING TO THE ELIGIBILITY TO HOLD A POPULARLY ELECTED OFFICE IN THIS STATE. This legislation proposes to amend the State Constitution relating to the eligibility to hold a popularly elected office in this state, specifically so as to eliminate the exception that allows a person to hold elective office if it has been fifteen or more years after the completion date of the person's sentence, including probation and parole time. The proposed amendment must be submitted to the qualified electors at the next general election for representatives. H.4008, pertaining to HOSPITALS, received a favorable with amendment report. This legislation provides that there is no monetary liability, and no cause of action for damages arising against, a hospital and certain entities and individuals linked to the hospital for undertaking or performing certain acts without malice. In addition, the act must have taken place after a reasonable effort to obtain the facts and a belief that the act was warranted by the facts. The act or proceeding must relate to: sentinel event investigations or root cause analyses prescribed by the Joint Commission or an appropriately accredited organization; investigation of medical staff member competence or conduct, disciplinary actions/proceedings or fair hearings; quality assurance reviews; medical staff credentialing process; reports to insurance carrier; quality of care reviews/investigations, or certain quality of care reports/statements. The legislation also includes provisions about the confidentiality of various proceedings, data, documents and records and information. The Judiciary Committee gave a favorable with amendment report to H.4680. Relating to REDUCTION OF A SENTENCE WHEN A DEFENDANT PROVIDES SUBSTANTIAL ASSISTANCE TO THE STATE, this legislation deletes the requirement that the assistance be provided after sentencing and clarifies that a defendant's sentence may be reduced below the minimum term of imprisonment provided by law under certain circumstances. Reduction of the sentence below the minimum term of imprisonment provided by law is in the courtís discretion. A motion made pursuant to these provisions must be filed by the Attorney General or the circuit solicitor in the county where the defendantís case arose. H.3130, legislation PROHIBITING MINORS FROM SEXTING, received a favorable with amendment recommendation. This legislation provides that it is unlawful for a child who is less than seventeen years of age to use a telecommunications device to knowingly transmit or distribute to another person a photograph or text message with a photograph attachment depicting a person who is less than eighteen years of age in a state of sexual activity or a state of sexually explicit nudity. A child adjudicated delinquent for this offense may only be sentenced to a maximum $100 fine. A child who violates these provisions shall not be taken into custody, arrested, placed in jail or in any other secure facility, committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, or found to be in contempt of court for a violation or for failure to pay a fine. A child less than seventeen years of age who violates these provisions, or who receives or possesses a photograph transmitted by a telecommunications device or text message with a photograph attachment depicting a person who is less than eighteen years of age in a state of sexual activity or sexually explicit nudity shall not be prosecuted under certain criminal provisions unless, upon motion by the solicitor, the family court determines in its discretion to be in the interest of justice for the child to be prosecuted. A child less than seventeen years of age does not knowingly transmit or distribute the material by reporting the matter to a law enforcement agency, teacher, principal, or parent or by affording a law enforcement agency, teacher, principal, or parent access to the image. H.4603 received a favorable with amendment report from the Judiciary Committee. Current law prohibits an offender from participating more than once in a SOLICITORíS PRETRIAL INTERVENTION PROGRAM. This legislation provides that a solicitor, in his discretion, may consent to allow an offender to participate in a pretrial intervention program more than once. However, a person may not be considered for intervention if he has previously been accepted into a pretrial intervention program for a criminal domestic violence offense. The Judiciary Committee gave a favorable recommendation to H.4726. This legislation relates to the powers of public service district and special purpose district commissions, including, among other things, the power to assess the cost of the ESTABLISHMENT AND CONSTRUCTION OF A SEWER LATERAL COLLECTION LINE. This legislation provides that if a residential subdivision received conceptual approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control for septic tank use and subsequently five or more lots in the subdivision were denied permits by the department, an assessment may be levied on the abutting parcels in the subdivision for the actual costs of the sewer lateral collection lines, transmission lines, and associated infrastructure. It further provides that a letter or certificate of the department establishes these conditions authorizing the assessment.
The Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee met on March 7 and reported out several bills. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4786, legislation offered as a means of COMBATING UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION FRAUD more effectively. The legislation creates a Special Investigations Unit within the Department of Employment and Workforce that is charged with the responsibility of enforcing all laws relating to unemployment insurance fraud in conjunction with the Attorney Generalís Office. The unit is afforded statewide police powers and is authorized to execute and serve search warrants, arrest warrants, administrative inspection warrants, subpoenas, and summonses in the course of its investigations. The legislation revises unemployment insurance fraud provisions for both employers and for those collecting jobless benefits by imposing a new range of criminal penalties for violations. More serious felony offenses are reserved for repeat violations and fraud that involves larger dollar amounts. Offenders are also required to make full restitution to the Department of Employment and Workforce for any economic advantages or benefits fraudulently obtained. In addition to these criminal penalties, the legislation includes enhanced civil penalties for unemployment insurance fraud that makes a violator subject to a fine of up to five thousand dollars for a first offense, a five thousand to ten thousand dollar fine for a second offense, and a ten thousand to fifteen thousand dollar fine for a third or subsequent offense. Revenue from these civil penalties must be used to provide funds for the costs of enforcing and administering unemployment insurance fraud provisions and the Omnibus Insurance Fraud and Reporting Immunity Act.
The legislation also extends provisions governing payment of unemployment benefits to employees in certain educational settings so that they also apply to teachers employed by a private temporary employment agency that has a contractual relationship with an educational institution. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4787, the "PORTABLE ELECTRONICS INSURANCE ACT". The legislation provides for the licensure and regulation of vendors of insurance covering the repair or replacement of portable electronic devices. The legislation provides requirements relating to the sale of portable electronics insurance, establishes disclosure requirements for vendors of such insurance to prospective consumers, provides licensure fees and surcharges, and establishes penalties for violations. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4269. This bill revises provisions relating to additional CHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH CONSUMER LOANS, so as to include a five dollar charge for the cost incurred by a licensee for processing automated clearing house payments and for processing payments that consumers make through credit or debit cards. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4763, a bill revising PRENEED FUNERAL CONTRACT provisions. This bill establishes a biennial term for preneed funeral contract licensure and provides for a $250 initial licensure fee and a $200 fee for each license renewal application. The Department of Consumer Affairs is directed to use half of the renewal fee for administration and deposit $100 dollars of each license renewal fee into the Preneed Loss Reimbursement Fund. The legislation eliminates the provision that sets the maximum amount of the Preneed Loss Reimbursement Fund at five hundred thousand dollars with a five percent adjustment compounded annually. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4801. This bill revises the qualifications of persons who may be appointed to the governing board of the PIONEER RURAL WATER DISTRICT of Oconee and Anderson Counties and the manner of their appointment. The legislation also provides that the district must not contract for or undertake the construction of any new freshwater treatment facilities until January 31, 2016.
The Ways and Means Committee met on March 6 and reported out two bills. The committee approved H.4898 with amendments and voted to make the legislation a committee bill, H.4967. The legislation provides for comprehensive RETIREMENT SYSTEMS REVISIONS as a means of securing long term financial health for South Carolinaís employee pension plans. The legislation revises eligibility criteria for the South Carolina Retirement System, which serves public school teachers and most state government employees, by requiring new employees to have at least thirty years of service in order to be eligible to retire at any age with full benefits. Current employees invested in the South Carolina Retirement System retain their twenty-eight year eligibility. The legislation increases the employee contribution rate by one percent for both the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System, corresponding to a one percent increase in the employer contribution rate recently approved by the Budget and Control Board. The employee contribution rate increase is to be phased in over the course of two years. The legislation eliminates the current provisions for awarding cost of living adjustments to retirees that tie COLAs to inflation, and, instead establishes benefit adjustment provisions that award an increase in retiree benefits, of up to 2.5%, in a year when criteria are met that show a satisfactory rate of return on pension system investments. The legislation revises the method of calculating average final compensation for determining pension benefits by requiring a computation that uses the employeeís five highest years of compensation, rather than the current three highest years. The legislation eliminates the addition of unused sick leave in the calculation of creditable service and provides that unused annual leave may not be added to the average final compensation. The legislation revises South Carolina Retirement System provisions so that overtime not mandated by the employer will no longer be considered earnable compensation, but these overtime revisions do not apply to the Police Officers Retirement System. The legislation discontinues the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) Program by closing the program to new employees. The legislation revises the General Assembly Retirement System by eliminating provisions that allow legislators to draw retirement benefits while continuing to serve in the General Assembly. The legislation provides that interest will not accrue on inactive pension accounts. The legislation provides for revisions that make the purchase of service credit actuarially neutral. The committee gave a report of favorable with amendments on H.4894, a bill providing TAX DEDUCTIONS AND TAX CREDITS FOR K-12 EDUCATION OPTIONS. The legislation authorizes a yearly income tax deduction for parents or legal guardians who teach their children or wards at home in an amount of up to two thousand dollars per home school student for instruction-related expenditures. The legislation authorizes a yearly income tax deduction for parents or legal guardians of up to one thousand dollars paid on behalf of their child or ward to attend a public school outside the studentís resident school district. The legislation authorizes a yearly income tax deduction for parents or legal guardians of up to four thousand dollars for tuition they pay for a child or ward to attend an independent school within this state. H.4894 also provides tax credits for contributions to a nonprofit scholarship funding organization that awards grants to expand K-12 educational opportunities for children of families that have limited financial resources or exceptional needs. Grants may be awarded by the nonprofit scholarship funding organization in an amount not exceeding five thousand dollars per year or seventy-five percent of the cost of tuition, whichever is less, for children who are eligible for the federal free or reduced school lunch program or whose families meet the requirements for federal Medicaid benefits to attend an independent school in this state. Additionally, grants may be awarded by a scholarship funding organization in an amount not exceeding ten thousand dollars or seventy-five percent of the cost of tuition, whichever is less, for students with significant cognitive, mental, physical, or emotional disabilities to attend an independent school in this state. Maximum limits are placed upon yearly totals of scholarship contribution tax credits. The tax credit allowed for contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations may be used against income taxes, insurance premium taxes, or bank license fees so long as the tax credit does not offset more than sixty percent of the taxpayerís liability for a particular year. In order to participate in the scholarship grant program, an independent school in the state, including those religious in nature, must meet eligibility criteria, such as: complying with the stateís compulsory attendance requirements; not discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin; being a member in good standing of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools or the South Carolina Independent Schools Association; and, having an educational curriculum that includes courses set forth in the stateís diploma requirements and where the students attending are administered national achievement and/or state standardized tests at progressive grade levels to determine student progress. The Education Oversight Committee is charged with determining independent school eligibility. Each year the EOC must post on its website a list with addresses and telephone numbers of nonprofit scholarship funding organizations in good standing which provide grants, and a list of approved independent schools which it has determined to be in compliance that accept grants for eligible students. Each year the EOC must also publish on its website student test scores, by category, on national achievement and/or state standardized tests for all grades tested administered by an eligible independent school receiving or entitled to receive scholarship grants. The legislation also provides that the stateís public schools may offer the same tests as those the independent schools use for scholarship grant program eligibility purposes.
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