By Ben Homeyer
There has been a lot of activity in both the House and Senate with about half of the session gone.
S 248 the “South Carolina Hands-Free Act” which would make holding a cell phone while driving illegal. It would also ban drivers from watching a video, game, or video call while they’re operating a vehicle, even if they aren’t physically holding the phone or device. Drivers in violation would be fined $100 on the first offense, and for each subsequent offense, the penalty increases to $200, plus two points against the driver’s license.
S 3126 passed out of Senate Finance last week and is awaiting debate on the floor. If the bill were to pass in its current form, if a business were to fire an employee based on their covid status the business would be see its UI rating go from whatever category they are into rate class twenty. Non-vaccinated employees would become a protected class of citizens. Rate class twenty charges a business roughly $746 per employee. The bill also contains a 10X penalty that would be in place for four years. So, a business would owe roughly $30,000 per employee if someone is let it go. CRMCA has gone on record in opposition of the legislation.
S2 the restructuring of DHEC is moving thru the process. Things such as water quality and other items which effect the association would be moved to a new agency of environmental services. The bill is still a long way from becoming law.
In a 110-0 vote this week, the House passed H4880 the income tax cut bill that would lower taxes for about 1.4 million filers, reducing the state’s top rate to 6.5% from 7% (eventually down to 6% in future years as long as state revenues continue to grow), collapsing the middle tax brackets into one 3% tax bracket, and exempting from tax all military retirement income. The tax cut would cost the state $600 million in the upcoming budget year and about $1 billion a year once fully implemented.
The proposal still needs to be formally sent over to the Senate for its consideration where the Senate is pushing to combine the two top tax brackets of 6% and 7% into one 5.7% tax bracket, while keeping other tax rates in place. It would cost about $1 billion in the first year. It also includes refunding $1 billion back to taxpayers in the state.
The Full Ways & Means Committee adopted the subcommittee’s spending plan, which allocates over $500 million to the SCDOT – along with ARPA allocations totaling $453 million – the SCDOT could see over $1 billion investment this year.
Of the budget allocations adopted Wednesday, the committee approved $120 million in recurring funds to serve as the match for the federal dollars. The Department made it clear that recurring dollars are vital to the continued success of the state’s 10-year plan.
In addition to these recurring dollars, one-time boosts are provided for rural interstates ($176.5 million), resiliency studies ($5 million), and CTCs ($250 million).
The Be Pro Be Proud had $642,000 approved again in non-recurring dollars to continue the program. Matching dollars are still coming in from the private sector.
Dollars are also being put into programs to ramp up CDL training programs and job development.