It’s been a busy year and hard to believe this year’s session is almost over. As we return to session, here’s some of what happened in the State House last week.
The House returned to session this week after taking a week off. With two weeks to go, the House will focus upon the State Budget, as well as legislation passed by the Senate, with the goal of getting as much as possible sent to the Governor’s desk before we adjourn for the rest of the year.
The State Budget
This week, the House will take up the amended budget sent back from the Senate. While it’s possible the House will vote to accept the budget as-is, usually the budget ends up being sent to conference committee composed of House and Senate members who will negotiate a single budget between the two version of the Budget – the House and Senate versions – and the General Assembly will then return later this month or next to adopt a final Budget.
The budget will likely end up close to $9.3 billion when finally passed. Unlike the federal government, the state is required to adopt a balanced budget so we are constrained to spend no more than estimated revenue.
Some of the changes made by the Senate to the House budget include:
- State Support to Public Schools: The House version of the budget would give $150 million, at no cost to local districts, for teacher pay raises. The Senate added $15 million to the Base Student Cost but requires the local district to match the funds.
- Taxpayer Rebate: The Senate changed the $50 tax rebate to per return and not per taxpayer with an income tax liability.
- State Employees Raises: The Senate added a $600 one-time bonus for state employees earning less than $70,000 per year on top of the 2 percent across the board pay increase for state employees the House had in the budget.
- Farm Aid — Hurricane Devastation: The Senate added $25 million to set-aside for a grant program to assist famers who suffered devastating crop losses as a result of the flooding associated with Hurricanes Michael and Florence in Fall 2018.
House Bills passed by the Senate last week
“Tucker Hipps Transparency Act” (H.3398): The Senate voted to pass the House bill, sending it to Governor McMaster’s desk for his approval. This legislation will require state colleges and universities to publicly report findings of misconduct by fraternities and sororities. The current law was set to expire after a three-year period but this law will make the provisions of the law permanent.
Karson Whitesell Memorial (H.3572): Many in the Fort Mill area were affected by the tragic murder of Karson Whitesell while working at the Peach Stand. This legislation that would name the intersection of US Highway 21 and SC Highway 160 in Fort Mill after her. While this doesn’t undo this tragedy, it does help honor the memory of this young life lost. I was the primary sponsor of this bill.
Rideshare Safety Update
The Senate has taken recommendations from popular rideshare companies and replaced the House version of the Samantha Josephson Rideshare Safety Act with their own proposal. Instead of light-up signs on Uber and Lyft vehicles, the bill now requires rideshare drivers to display license plate numbers on the front of their cars.
House members will look at the Senate bill and decide if we will accept their version or seek to work on getting the Senate to approve the House version, known as H. 4380, which passed in a bi-partisan 99-1 vote. The need to get on top of ride-sharing safety is urgent so we will work quickly on this issue.
Also Sent To The Senate
In addition to these bills which were sent to the Senate this week, these are some of the more important House bills which are awaiting action in the Senate:
- H. 3759: The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act
- H.3728: Expanding the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program to track the usage of opioid antidotes by hospitals and first responders.
- H.3730: Felony charges for trafficking in fentanyl.
- H.3807: Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Felder, Davis)
- H.3936: Expanded lottery college funding
- H. 3046: Provide for the Offense of Furthering Terrorism
The House will be working hard to wrap up the next two weeks, including some possible late evening sessions, as we work to get as much off our desks and to the Governor for his review and signature. I’ll have further updates coming to keep you posted about what we’re up to.
Questions or Concerns?
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov. You can look up these – and other – bills, as well as daily journals of the House and Senate and calendars of pending days of session by going online to www.SCStateHouse.gov.