Last week was crossover week in SC, bills that did not pass one body or the other by the end of this week cannot be considered this session without a 3/5ths vote of both bodies. Therefore, the House and Senate spent most of their time in their respective chambers working through their respective calendars. When not in session, Senate Finance subcommittees were meeting. Below are the highlights of last week’s legislative session.
Additional $1.7B in Revenue, Says the BEA
Late last week the Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) told legislators they could add $1.7 billion in tax revenues to their spending plan. That figure does not include the estimated $2 billion coming to SC from the latest federal aid package or the Savannah River Site settlement with the federal government of $525 million. Legislators were encouraged to continue to plan for negative impacts from the pandemic as there are still many unknowns. The BEA will meet again in May.
Senate Budget Finance Subcommittee Talks Electric Vehicles
The Senate Finance Transportation & Regulatory subcommittee met late last Thursday to hear from SCDOT. The Department pitched the same provisos that the House has already passed. During the brief meeting, there was some discussion about the impact electric vehicles will have on the agency in the future. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall confirmed they are monitoring this and acknowledged the number of gallons of gas sold continues to decrease, despite the growing numbers of cars on the road. Sen. Ross Turner noted that Sen. Hugh Leatherman has put together a subcommittee to investigate long-term issues such as this.
SCPA State of the Port Presentation
Last week the SC Ports Authority (SCPA) presented their state of the Port presentation to the Senate Transportation Committee. Among many stats and figures, the biggest take away was that The Port of Charleston handled 248,796 twenty-foot equivalent units across the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals — a 34% year-over-year increase. The previous cargo handling record was 233,110 TEUs, set in August 2019. Year to date, the SCPA has handled 1.86 million TEUs since July.
Building Codes Legislation Passes House
H. 4060, which would change the adoption cycle of the Building Codes for residential and commercial contractors passed the House last week. Last session Carolinas AGC joined nine other groups (Mechanical Contractors, Architects, Engineers, Firefighters, Insurance industry, Building Officials, Municipal Association, Forestry Association, and reps from ICC) in reaching a compromise with the SC Homebuilders on changes to the Building Codes. The Homebuilders asked to have H. 4060 filed this year but did not include the changes that all the parties agreed to last session. Carolinas AGC, along with members of our Building Codes coalition, quickly rallied to offer amendments to H. 4060 that would more closely reflect the compromise we had originally agreed to. The bill was passed out of the House by a vote of 105-0. As approved, the bill will allow Homebuilders to adopt changes to the Residential Building Code no sooner than five years and not later than six years. It allows the adoption of the Commercial Building Code not sooner than two years and not later than three years. After receiving a perfunctory third reading, the bill was sent to the Senate and referred to the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee.
Capital Use Tax Bill Passes House
Last week the House passed a Capital Use Tax bill, H. 3948. This bill will allow counties to pass a referendum, in a general election, to implement and collect a capital sales tax for water, infrastructure, sewer, and public works projects. The original bill allowed for the implementation of the capital sales tax, in addition to the penny sales tax programs that already exist in the state’s six largest counties. An amendment was offered to the bill that expanded the capital sales tax option to all counties and not just the counties that currently have the penny sales tax programs. The bill passed the House by a vote of 75-29, was given a third reading, and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Senate Transportation Committee Passes IMF Legislation
The Full Senate Transportation Committee met last week and unanimously approved H. 3505. This bill, which has already passed the House, clarifies that the Infrastructure Maintenance Fee is collected when a vehicle is titled or registered. Current law limits the IMF to be collected only at registration. The bill was reported favorably to the full Senate and placed on the Senate calendar.
Intrastate Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Changes
H.3689 was taken up by the full Senate Transportation Committee last week. This bill exempts large (26,000 lbs. or greater) intrastate commercial motor vehicles from county road and bridge fees. Every county in the state currently has the option to charge these fees, but most do not. The bill also creates a payment plan option for these CMV’s to pay their South Carolina-levied registration fees and road use fees (RUF). The SC Department of Revenue allowed installment payments in the Motor Carrier Act prior to the passage of the motor user tax bill in 2017, which changed that practice. This legislation would allow the Revenue Department to reinstate this partial-pay option. The bill was reported to the full Senate for consideration.
Left Lane Laggers Headed to Conference Committee
The full House voted 107-1 to non-concur in the Senate amendment to the left lane laggers bill, H.3011. The bill includes a fine of $25 for driving too slow in the left lane of a three- lane highway. It also adds language that clarifies when it is appropriate to drive in the left lane and allows for drivers going too slow in the left lane to be stopped and ticketed. There would be no points against a driver’s license if stopped for this violation. The House bill had the fine set at $250 and the Senate changed it to $25. The final details will be worked out in a conference committee made up of members from the House and Senate. The Senate conferees are Sens. Sean Bennett, Ross Turner, and Thomas McElveen. The House conferees are Reps. Adam Morgan, Jay West, and Rosalyn Henderson-Meyers.
SALT Bill Referred to Ways and Means
Last week S.627, also known as the SALT bill, was introduced in the House and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration. This bill addresses income tax rates for pass-through trade and business income. Specifically, it will grant an election to tax partnerships and “S” Corps and will allow a credit for pass-through business. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) imposed a $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local taxes (SALT) South Carolina taxpayers can deduct on their federal returns. This cap hurts employers organized as “pass through” entities that pay taxes on business profits at the individual (owner/partner) level. CAGC is supporting this legislation.
Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccinations
Last week the Senate, by a vote of 43-0, passed S.177 a Joint Resolution that would mandate that employers cannot fire or take adverse actions against an employee who chooses not to receive a COVID-19 Vaccination. Due to concerns that the bill would violate SC’s Right to Work laws, the bill was amended in committee to incentivize employees who receive the vaccine, instead of acting against employees who do not. The bill also allows employers to publish rules and actions that must be taken if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, including requiring them to quarantine. The resolution was sent to the House for further consideration.
SCDEW Requests BPBP Funding in Senate Subcommittee
Last week the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW), during their Senate budget presentation, requested $642,000.00 in state funding for the Be Pro Be Proud truck. A request Carolinas AGC is supporting and pushing for as well. SCDEW Director Dan Ellzey did a great job of sharing information about the truck and its success thus far with members of the Subcommittee, sharing that it is booked solid for the rest of the year. Ellzey went on to share that SCDEW is in complete support of the truck and is requesting the funding because the program has such value and SCDEW thinks public money should be invested to keep it running a second year.
Cox Reappointment to SCDOT Commission
Gov. Henry McMaster submitted statewide appointments and reappointments to members of the legislature last week. Tony K. Cox of Myrtle Beach was reappointed to serve another term on the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Commission. The term is to commence February 15, 2021, and to expire February 15, 2025. This 7th Congressional District reappointment was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee and the House Education and Public Works Committee.