SC Legislative Update

By Ben Homeyer

This week wrapped up a very busy second month of the 2023-2024 legislative session. We have been covering everything from the House Ways & Means budget committee process, to tort, worker safety, SC DHEC’s upcoming division, elections and much more. Here are some of the most important takeaways.

The House Ways & Means Committee wrapped up their work for the 2024-2025 budget last week during the Houses furlough. Way & Means allocated $200 million in non recurring dollars to SCDOT, to aid in repair and replacements of the aging and critically failing network of bridges across South Carolina. With over 2,700 bridges that are 60 years old or older, and an additional 1,200 expected to be added to that total in the next ten years, these dollars are a paramount priority. In more SCDOT news, the Senate Transportation Committee on February 7th, chaired by Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), unanimously approved the appointment of SCDOT’s Chief Operating Officer, Justin Powell, to serve as the Secretary of Transportation. His nomination now moves to the full Senate for approval. Current Secretary of Transportation, Christy Hall, will retire on March 31st

Speaking of the budget, the House floor will begin deliberations March 11-14. This year’s total budget of state dollars is $13.2 billion. Some highlights: the above mentioned $200 million for bridges, $95 million for SC technical college scholarships for critical-needs jobs through the SC Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship Program (SCWINS), and $55 million to SC Ports Authority for land acquisition across from the North Charleston Terminal for future economic development projects.  Starting April 9-11, the Senate Finance Committee starts their budget deliberations. 

Act 60 of 2023 was the restructuring of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and created two standalone agencies, one environmental and one public health. DHEC officially splits on July 1, 2024. Myra Reece who currently is set to run the newly created Department of Environmental Services, has reached out to us to help put together various businesses and environmental stakeholders and interested parties to form a group that will meet monthly beginning in April and run at least to July. The goal is to provide input and open dialogue on their respective businesses and the impacts regs and permitting have on their operations and ability for growth. Myra hopes this can alleviate future issues and delays by having her office get feedback from those directly impacted. She even said it was he goal to “serve, not control.” We would like to have CRMCA be a part of that group and have a seat at the table.

On the tort front while S 533 received another hearing this week the bill did not get voted on.  The Senate subcommittee passed out S844 which is a study of the tort system as well as insurance system in the state.  This bill is meant to just kick the can down the road on passage of a comprehensive bill.  We will continue to work with Senate leaders on trying to pull the bill from committee and take it up right on the floor.  Any Senators which you have a personal relationship we would encourage you to continue to advocate for passage of S533 as it is the best bill currently to fix the broken lawsuit system in the state. 

Senator Ross Turner (R-Greenville) has introduced S1076, a bill that would create a work zone safety program under SCDMV. The bill seeks to educate drivers about the risks associated with committing moving violations within highway construction work zones. The bill would mandate that all drivers undergo this specialized work zone safety training as a prerequisite for obtaining an initial driver’s license. The bill was assigned to Senate Transportation but there is not a meeting date for that subcommittee as of now. 

Elections continues to be a big topic of conversation in Columbia. Candidate filing opens for all House and Senate seats at 12pm on March 16th and closes at 12pm on April 1st. It is imperative to support and continue supporting those candidates that understand the needs of the aggregate industry and are advocating on your businesses behalf at the state level.