SC Legislative Update

By Ben Homeyer

The 2021 year at the General Assembly was dominated by Covid and legislation and expenditures related to Covid. But in addition, several pieces of legislation that effect business owners were also put forth.  Session is currently still on-going with redistricting taking center stage and ARPA dollars being discussed. Included in the bills of interest were:

  • Immunity protection for those businesses that followed proper covid guidelines to protect their employees and customers,
  • expanding numerous road projects with CARES and ARPA dollars,
  • removing the extra $300 in unemployment benefits from the feds helped put people back to work
  • Open carry of weapons
  • Allowing palmetto fellows scholarship money to now be spent at tech schools to get folks in the workforce quicker
  • Under ARPA Dollars the Governor has put forth a plan of $124 million to place more folks in technical colleges with the hope of expansion of filling jobs in need such as CDL drivers, construction and manufacturing.

Legislative Overview Of 2021

H.3707 (Act 2) makes appropriations for the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 virus, including vaccinations. Under the legislation, a total of $208 million was appropriated from the Contingency Reserve Fund.

S.421 (Act 47) relates to the authorization for the payment of federally funded extended unemployment security benefits. In a related action, S.468 (Act 103) is a joint resolution that temporarily waives a state waiting period provision in order to allow for an extended unemployment security benefit period, if needed.

The “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act,” S.147 (Act 99)provides liability protections for a limited time to governmental entities, health care providers, and nonprofit businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the coronavirus public health emergency. 

“Open Carry with Training Act,” H.3094 (Act 66) allows concealed weapon permit (CWP) holders to carry concealable weapons openly on them, so long as new permit applicants receive instruction on properly securing a firearm, firearms carrying, methods for responding to anyone who attempts to take CWP holders’ firearms from their holsters, and hostile situation de-escalation techniques.

Pertaining to higher education, H.3017 (Act 36) allows students to use the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship at in-state technical colleges and two-year branch institutions and carry the remaining award to a four-year college or university for completion of a Bachelor’s Degree

S.241 (Act 29) covers veterans for the purpose of receiving in-state tuition, removing the requirement that veterans or their dependents must use their education benefits (commonly known as the “GI Bill”) within three years of the veteran’s discharge, debilitating injury, or, in the case of the Frye Scholarship, the veteran’s death in the line of duty. 

H.4100 (Act 94), the General Appropriation Bill, and H.4101 (Act 95), the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, together comprise the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 State Government Budget. The budget totals $31.3 billion ($9.2 billion Federal funds, $12.2 billion Other funds and $9.9 billion in recurring state general fund revenue). The budget’s nonrecurring funds total $1.26 billion (and include $176 million in Capital Reserve Funds, $397 million in Fiscal Year 2019-2020 undesignated/unreserved funds, $44 million in Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Contingency Reserve Funds, and $647 million in general surplus funds estimated for Fiscal Year 2020-2021).

The budget funds the constitutional reserve accounts that the state uses to cope with revenue shortfalls. Additional funding of $18.7 million for the General Reserve Fund and $7.5 million for the Capital Reserve Fund brings South Carolina’s total reserves to $643 million.

The budget includes $17.6 million for full funding of the Local Government Fund that is consistent with the revised approach for sending revenue to political subdivisions established in Act 84 of 2019. The rural stabilization fund receives $10 million to aid those local governments that will be negatively impacted, due to the 2020 Census, under the funding formula for the Local Government Fund. South Carolina’s FEMA match is $18 million for various natural disasters across the state over the last two years.

The Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education is afforded $51 million in lottery funds for SC Workforce Industry Needs scholarships that help provide full tuition at technical colleges for SC WINS recipients seeking degrees in industry sectors with critical workforce needs, high demand job skill training equipment and workforce scholarships. A $170 million allocation of nonrecurring funds is allocated for capital needs at the state’s technical colleges.

Economic development and commercial concerns garnered $3.7 million in nonrecurring funds for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state. Four million dollars is provided for Locate SC which allows the state to be proactive in preparing sites so that there will be sufficient inventory available for potential investment prospects. The State Ports Authority is provided $200 million for an intermodal container transfer facility and waterborne cargo infrastructure.

Nonrecurring funds of $10 million is devoted to expanding broadband access statewide. Three million dollars is used to establish an Office of Broadband Coordinator within the Office of Regulatory Staff to serve as the central planning body to coordinate with all levels of government and the private sector to expand access to the high-speed Internet connections. The Rural Infrastructure Authority is afforded $3.5 million for the Water and Sewer Regionalization Fund to address challenges faced by small and rural systems and encourage regionalization of these systems to improve service delivery and increase efficiency.

The Department of Transportation is allocated $50 million for County Transportation Committee funds; $40 million for rest area renovations. 

In other legislation: H.3689 (Act 37) treats intrastate and interstate commercial vehicles the same and clarifies that SC DMV is the one-stop-shop for commercial vehicle customers. SC DMV must assume all registration and fee administration and frees county governments from these responsibilities.  H.3505 (Act 70) expands the application of Infrastructure Maintenance Fees to include vehicle titling. 

Traffic laws in South Carolina were updated in H. 3011 (Act 64), the “Slower Traffic Move Right Bill.” It provides that a vehicle may not be driven in the farthest left-hand lane on a controlled access highway except when overtaking or passing another vehicle. 

S.675 (Act 86) relates to the State Aviation Fund. The legislation revises the distribution of revenue from aircraft property taxes so that all this revenue is credited to the State Aviation Fund. This will make local airports ripe for expansion and projects which will benefit association members.  

H.3194 (Act 90) provides Santee Cooper reform measures. The legislation provides for revised governance of the South Carolina Public Service Authority and imposes new requirements for the operation and oversight of this state-owned electric utility.  This is important is it will continue the flow of fly ash for use by concrete producers