SC Legislative Update
By Ben Homeyer
Seventh week of Legislative Session
Hearings on numerous subjects over the past two weeks have taken place on subjects from Santee Cooper reform which could affect the output of fly ash from their coal plants to mandatory wage increases to the potential bonding authority of the state port were taken up. All of these have some potential impact on the industry as the Port would be looking at major expansion, the cost to do business could rise and the ability to find workers which is already difficult could become more difficult
Bills and Legislation
PORT BOND BILL
Port Bond Bill (S.491), which provides for the issuance of $550 million in general obligation bonds to improve railroad and barge capabilities at the Port of Charleston. It was a very difficult debate which had several filibusters ran parallel to the covid liability debate. In the end the Port will be able to borrow $400 million to greatly expand Rail, barge and access roads at the Leatherman terminal. As Part of the deal the Jasper Port will be allowed to work the Port of Savannah on expansion which could also lead to work for the industry.
LEFT LANE DRIVING
The Full Education & Public Works Transportation Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Rita Allison met this week on the left lane bill (H.3011). The subcommittee amended the bill to remove the two-point driver’s license penalty which had been an issue of contention with the lawyer members of the committee. The bill aims to deter drivers from lagging in the left lane by establishing a $200 fine for drivers. In addition, the SCDOT would be required to place signs every 35 miles notifying drivers that slower traffic must move right. The bill goes to the full House the week of March 1.
After two weeks of extremely contentious debate the Senate on 2/25 gave third reading to the covid liability protection bill. Multiple amendments were put forth to try and make the bill weaker and allow for more suits and an easier burden of proof for the defendants. Majority Leader Shane Massey was able to work with those of us in the business community to keep the bill moving and get a strong protection for business bill passed. It will go to the House next week where it will begin the process. We will need the help of all of our members on this issue as it will be difficult in the House negotiating with the trial lawyers in the House.
As of February 25th SCDHEC has vaccinated over 800K South Carolinians. While the Senate passed moving teachers in to 1A the House has been slow to act on doing so. Over the course of two days they heard from over 50 groups including CRMCA about who should be moved up in priority. Right now there is discussion as to whether CRMCA members would be in 1B or 1C. 1B will have manufacturing as part of it and and 1C has transportation. With Johnson and Johnson on the verge of receiving approval from the Federal Government it could increase dosses by the end of March to over 300K which would cover almost all of 1B and 1C at the same time so regardless our members under 65 are getting closer to be vaccinated.