2022 End of Session Update
The Budget and Tax Cuts:
The House’s budget centered around 4 R’s: increasing reserves, improving our roads and infrastructure, securing raises for teachers and first responders, and over $1 billion in tax relief. Conferees will meet to address differences between the House and Senate’s budgets. A conference committee will also meet to address differences with S. 1087, the “Comprehensive Tax Cut Act of 2022”. Legislators will return on the 15th to pass a finalized version of the budget.
Raising our state general reserve fund was a priority for the House this year, which helps prepare South Carolina in the face of financial uncertainty. A bill that will gradually raise reserves from 5% to 7% and increase capital reserve funds from 2% to 3% was passed in the House this year, but will go to a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate.
No Room for Voter Fraud in South Carolina:
Safeguarding our elections has been the #1 priority of many lawmakers after questions were raised about the integrity of votes in 2020. It is of utmost importance that each vote cast in an election is COUNTED, and counted only once. The South Carolina House was proud to usher through legislation to ensure that will always be the case. Signed by the Governor on May 13th 2022, this bill fortifies our South Carolina election system. This law makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.
Here are a few of the protections in the legislation, many of which affect this year’s Statewide Primary on June 14th:
● Establishes early voting in South Carolina for the two weeks preceding any election
● A county’s size determines the number of early voting locations
● Standardizes and strengthens the absentee vote-by-mail system and requires a verifiable witness signature
● Limits candidates to only one party nomination and listing on any ballot
● Requires affidavits and the last four digits of their social security number to early vote or to vote absentee
● Enhances penalties for violating election laws
● …and more
WE THE PEOPLE - Convention of States:
A conference committee has been appointed to work out differences in the House and Senate versions of S. 133, which calls for the US Congress to hold a Convention of the States. A Convention of States’ purpose is to propose new amendments pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution. It would require balanced federal budgets each year, holding the Federal Government to the same standard as State Government. You and I have to balance our checkbooks and live within our means - why shouldn’t the Federal Government have to? South Carolina would be state number 28 of the 34 needed to call for a federal balanced budget amendment.
“Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act”:
This legislative session has been dedicated to supporting and bettering the lives of our veterans. One bill which allows all military retirement income to be deducted from an individual’s South Carolina income taxes, has been signed into law. I was proud to support this bill to eliminate the heavy burden of taxes for our veterans.
Veterans Burial Honor Guard Support Fund:
A conference committee was appointed for S. 968, a bill to establish the “Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund.” The fund offsets the costs to provide honor guard burial details at funerals of qualifying South Carolina veterans.
Patriotism in South Carolina Schools:
S. 969 was signed into law by the Governor. This allows the state Board of Education to require the display of patriotic emblems (such as flags or mottos) of the United States of America and the State of South Carolina in our schools. I look forward to bringing American patriotism back to our classrooms!
Minimum Age for Corrections Officers:
S. 1092 was ratified [R. 243], which goes to address the shortage of correctional officers in South Carolina. This ensures that detention and correctional officer candidates in South Carolina are at least eighteen years old, rather than the former minimum age of twenty-one years old.
Volunteer Firefighter Grants:
Keeping our firefighters prepped and ready with the resources and gear they need is crucial to upholding public safely. The Governor signed into law legislation which simplifies the authority of the State Fire Marshal and enhances the Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment (V-SAFE) Program - a program that awards grants to volunteer fire departments.
H. 3050 was ratified [R. 246], which limits non-certified law enforcement officers hired after July 1, 2022 from performing their duties unless they are accompanied by a certified law enforcement officer for one year in order to keep both the officer and our communities safe. It also limits the use of chokeholds, use-of-force continuum, no-knock warrants, and more.
‘Save Women’s Sports Act’:
The Governor signed the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’, a bill which originated in the House. This bill aims to maintain the competitive advantage for female athletes in sports. The new law is fairly straightforward: it requires, by proof of a birth certificate, that those who were designated ‘male’ at birth solely participate in men’s sports, rather than participate in sports designated for females.
Real School Choice for South Carolina:
Giving families in South Carolina real school choice and educational freedom is long overdue. A conference committee was formed to address differences between the Senate and the House’s school choice bill. The House bill establishes a three-year “Parental Choice in Education Program”, where five thousand public school students who are financially disadvantaged or part of an active duty military family can qualify for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to attend the school of their choice.
Unencumbered Time for Teachers:
S. 946 was signed by the Governor, which is a bill establishing at least thirty minutes of unencumbered time on each regular school day for full-time teachers between kindergarten and fifth grade. Additionally, there must be at least thirty minutes of unencumbered time on each regular school day for any K-12 teacher who instructs a student removed from the general education setting for more than 20% of the day.
This House bill would provide that public school districts may hire non-certified teachers if a certified teacher is not available (given certain requirements are met). The Senate amendments to the House bill largely make the program a pilot and only certain districts are eligible. The bill was sent to conference to work out the differences.
H. 3144, a bill which establishes the South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SCWINS), was signed into law by the Governor. The South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SCWINS) can be awarded to eligible South Carolinians pursuing degrees or certificates from public South Carolina technical colleges. The scholarship is equal to the cost of tuition, fees, or other course-related materials.
Transparency & Integrity in Education:
S. 945 seeks to promote public access to school board meetings by requiring school boards to live stream meetings. S. 945 was read a third time and returned to the Senate with amendments. The committee added language from H. 5183, the Transparency and Integrity in Education Act earlier sent to the Senate, which was not sent back. This language calls for closer scrutiny and say in the curriculum taught to our children.
Evaluating New Teachers:
The Governor has signed a bill to improve the means for evaluating educator preparation programs by developing and publishing an online report card known as the “South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card”. This evaluates the ability of educator preparation programs to train new teachers so as to guide and improve future educator training programs.
Bringing Eye Health to Underprivileged Public Schools:
A bill which authorizes not-for-profit programs to operate mobile optometry units to provide services to students in Title I public schools was signed into law by the Governor. This goes to increase and prioritize eye health for students who might otherwise not have access to optometry services.
Medical Ethics & Diversity:
Also being discussed in conference committee is H. 4776 the ‘Medical Ethics and Diversity Act’. This bill protects the rights of health care professionals, medical students, and health care insurance payers so they can choose NOT to participate in health care services, or pay for them, when the procedure violates their ethics or conscience. Additionally, it protects them from civil, criminal, or administrative actions that could be taken against them.
“South Carolina Opioid Recovery Act”:
The “South Carolina Opioid Recovery Act” has been ratified. It helps to combat the major opioid crisis facing the United States by establishing the South Carolina Opioid Recovery Fund (and other related entities) which qualify South Carolina to receive resources to combat the opioid crisis.
Parkinson’s Disease Research Collection:
The General Assembly enrolled a bill for ratification which enacts the “South Carolina Parkinson’s Disease Research Collection Act”. This establishes a database for information on Parkinson’s disease to help further advance research to save and better the lives of those who battle the disease.
Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry:
A bill was enrolled for ratification called the, “Rena Nicole Grant Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry Act.” The bill directs DHEC to develop and maintain the Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry for individuals who have been diagnosed with sickle cell disease to study the nature of sickle cell disease in order to improve patient care and access to services to those suffering.
Birth Certificates for Adopted Individuals:
H. 5000 allows adopted individuals to access their original birth certificate at the age of 18, provided they have the consent of their biological parent or proof that their biological parent is deceased. This has been ratified as R. 226 by the General Assembly and the Governor signed it into law on May 16.
The ‘Carolina Squat’:
S. 908, a bill banning the “Carolina Squat” or the “California Lean”, has landed in conference committee. Upon passage, driving a car or truck on SC highways that has been altered or ‘squatted’ exceeding specific height requirements will be penalized.
Disabled Employees - Minimum Wage:
The General Assembly enrolled a bill for ratification which prohibits the payment of subminimum wages to individuals with disabilities, to ensure those with disabilities are treated and compensated fairly for their contributions in the workplace.
Cutting Property Taxes:
In the South Carolina House, we are dedicated to reducing the heavy tax burden on South Carolinian families. The House made appointments to a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on S. 233, a bill allowing a real property tax exemption extension. Among other things, the legislation proposes that when a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse could receive a property tax exemption if the surviving spouse owns the house and meets certain qualifications. The legislation also helps support one of our state’s largest industries: the agriculture industry, by establishing a property tax exemption for all farm buildings and agricultural structures owned by a producer in this state.
Tax Credits for Infrastructure Projects:
A bill was signed into law by the Governor that increases utilities infrastructure project license tax credits for working on infrastructure and economic development projects. This increases the maximum tax credit that may be claimed by a company from $400k to $600k a year for contributing to these developments, especially in disadvantaged counties of our state.
Is South Carolina ready for wind energy?
A conference committee was appointed to finalize a bill that directs the Department of Commerce to conduct an ‘Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain Industries Economic Development Study’. This study’s goal is to evaluate our state’s economic climate and readiness for attracting offshore wind energy supply chain industries to the state and ensure that if we do recruit offshore wind energy, our taxpayers or other industries will not be negatively impacted.