Weekly Rewind: Week of April 17th


(Published by the Office of Research of the House of Representatives)

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 20, 2012

The House of Representatives approved and sent to the Senate H.5063, which provides ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD. This bill revises unemployment insurance fraud provisions for both employers and for those collecting jobless benefits by imposing a new range of criminal penalties for violations. More serious felony offenses are reserved for repeat violations and fraud that involves larger dollar amounts. Offenders are also required to make full restitution to the Department of Employment and Workforce for any economic advantages or benefits fraudulently obtained. In addition to these criminal penalties, the legislation includes enhanced civil penalties for unemployment insurance fraud that makes a violator subject to a fine of up to five thousand dollars for a first offense, a five thousand to ten thousand dollar fine for a second offense, and a ten thousand to fifteen thousand dollar fine for a third or subsequent offense. Revenue from these civil penalties must be used to provide funds for the costs of enforcing and administering unemployment insurance fraud provisions and the Omnibus Insurance Fraud and Reporting Immunity Act.

The House amended, approved and sent to the Senate H.3757, a bill that expands and enhances penalties for HUMAN TRAFFICKING and implements other measures to combat the practice of trafficking in persons where victims are subjected to involuntary servitude, sex trafficking, forced labor or services, or debt bondage by means of physical restraint, extortion, control of immigration documents, drug dependency, or other forms of coercion. The legislation provides expanded and enhanced felony offenses that apply to someone who knowingly attempts or actually recruits, entices, solicits, isolates, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains a victim for human trafficking purposes. These criminal offenses also apply to those who benefit financially from human trafficking ventures. Repeat offenses carry longer terms of imprisonment with a third or subsequent offense subjecting the offender to imprisonment for up to forty five years. Additional penalties are provided if a victim is under the age of eighteen. A person who aids, abets, or conspires with another person to commit human trafficking violations is considered a trafficker under the legislation and must be punished accordingly. The legislation provides for criminal liability and loss of business licenses for business owners that use their businesses to participate in or aid in human trafficking. The legislation provides for prosecution by the State Grand Jury when a trafficking in persons offense involves more than one county. The legislation provides mandatory restitution for victims of human trafficking and includes these crime victims under the provisions of the Victims’ Bill of Rights so that they are entitled to compensation through the State Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund. Confidentiality provisions are included for such victims. Victims of human trafficking are afforded an affirmative defense in certain criminal prosecutions and are authorized to bring civil actions. The legislation establishes provisions to safeguard a trafficking shelter, or domestic violence shelter by prohibiting the presence of human traffickers at shelters and creating a criminal offense for publishing or otherwise disclosing the location of a shelter or the whereabouts of a trafficking victim. The legislation establishes an interagency task force to develop and implement a State Plan for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and provides for the creation of public awareness programs on human trafficking issues.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H.4945, a bill authorizing ONLINE ELECTRONIC VOTER REGISTRATION. This legislation authorizes a person who is qualified to register to vote and who has a valid South Carolina driver’s license or state identification card issued by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to submit an application for voter registration electronically on the website of the State Election Commission. An application is effective upon receipt by the commission if it is received 30 days before an election to be held in the precinct of the person submitting the application. The applicant shall attest to the truth of the information provided and assent to the use of his signature from his driver’s license or state identification card issued by the DMV. A person who submits an application electronically must include his: driver’s license or state identification card number; date of birth; last four digits of his social security number; name and address; and any other information the commission considers necessary to establish the identity of the applicant. Upon submission of an application, the electronic voter registration system must provide immediate verification of the data with information on file with the DMV. Should there be a failure to match any of the required information with the DMV, the commission shall immediately notify the applicant of the failure and inform the applicant that his application for registration was not accepted. The legislation further provides that the commission shall establish and maintain a voter registration database that shall be made continuously available to each board of elections and to other agencies. State agencies shall provide any information and data to the commission that it considers necessary in order to maintain the database, except where prohibited by federal law or regulation. The commission shall ensure the confidentiality of database information. The name or address of a registered elector shall only be updated upon the elector’s filing of a notice of change of name and/or address. A county board of registration shall contact a registered elector by mail at the address on file to verify the accuracy of the database information when there is a discrepancy with information on the elector maintained by a state agency. The commission may enter into agreements to share the information or data with other states or groups of states.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H.4200, a bill creating the SOUTH CAROLINA FRESH ON THE CAMPUS PROGRAM within the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for the purpose of fostering direct relationships among South Carolina farms, schools, and other institutions that facilitate student consumption of fresh and minimally processed foods. The program must: identify and promote local farms to school programs and advise agencies on needed statewide actions; establish a partnership with public and nonprofit resources to implement a public engagement campaign and establish a structure to facilitate communication among schools, school districts, similar institutions, farmers, and produce distributors; encourage school districts to develop and implement school nutrition plans which purchase and use locally grown farm fresh products; conduct workshops, training sessions, and provide technical assistance for school food service directors, farmers, produce distributors, and others regarding the availability of South Carolina farm products and the benefits of purchasing and consuming this state’s fresh food products; regularly consult with the staff of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, the State Department of Education, and Clemson University about program implementation; and seek appropriate grants and private funding. A program website must be established by the Department of Agriculture and the State Department of Education must maintain a direct link to it.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to S.710 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that, upon an individual’s request, proof of eligibility and payment of a one dollar fee, the Department of Motor Vehicles is authorized to include a VETERAN STATUS DESIGNATION ON THE FRONT OF A DRIVER’S LICENSE or special identification card. The legislation authorizes the department to include a HEARING IMPAIRED NOTATION ON A DRIVER’S LICENSE upon request and submission of medical documentation that the applicant has a permanent, uncorrectable hearing loss of forty decibels or more in one or both ears. The legislation also provides for the issuance of hearing impaired driver placards. A fee not to exceed five dollars may be charged to each applicant issued a placard.

The House approved S.872, regarding the RETIREMENT OF SOUTH CAROLINA NATIONAL GUARD OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation extends the retirement honorary promotion provisions to honorably discharged service members who are removed from the National Guard due to medical conditions.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4595 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises a 2011 2012 General Appropriations Act proviso that directs the Department of Education to transfer certain funds to meet federal MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT REQUIREMENTS FOR THE INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA). The legislation also addresses RETIRED TEACHER SALARIES by providing that school districts uniformly may negotiate salaries below the school district salary schedule for the 2012 2013 school year for retired teachers.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4664, relating to the GOVERNANCE OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE AUTHORITY, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the membership of the board of directors of the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority by providing that the members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee may be members of the General Assembly. Such members must reside in or represent all or some portion of the counties designated as distressed or least developed, and if appointed, must serve on the board in an ex officio capacity. The legislation also provides that the authority, by a majority vote of the board of directors, may hire a director so long as at least one of the gubernatorial appointees and at least three of the legislative appointees vote in favor of the hiring.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H.4705, a bill REQUIRING HOSPITALS TO PROVIDE EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION ON PERTUSSIS DISEASE TO PARENTS OF NEWBORNS. Responding to the recent comeback of pertussis, the highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, also known as whooping cough, the legislation requires a hospital to provide parents of newborns information on pertussis and the availability of a protective vaccine, including the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation that parents receive the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine during the post partum period to protect their newborns from the transmission of pertussis. Hospitals are not required to provide or pay for a vaccination against pertussis.

The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate H.4717, legislation allowing for the EXPEDITED PLACEMENT OF A CHILD WITH GRANDPARENTS AND CERTAIN OTHER RELATIVES WHEN A CHILD REMAINS IN THE LEGAL CUSTODY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES. If the family court makes a finding that continuing the child in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child and a child remains in the legal custody of the Department of Social Services following the probable cause hearing in a child abuse or neglect case, this legislation provides that the family court may order expedited placement with a relative of the first or second degree, which includes a grandparent. The legislation further provides that the court shall consider the totality of the circumstances and certain characteristics of the relative and how these would impact the child. If the court places a child with a relative of the first or second degree, the relative must be named as a party for the duration of the case or upon further order by the court.

The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate H.4738, a bill relating to the COURT’S CONSIDERATION OF THE RETIREMENT OF SUPPORTING SPOUSE WHEN DETERMINING ALIMONY. The legislation includes among the factors that the court must consider in making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support the likelihood of retirement, whether that retirement would be voluntary or mandatory, and whether the retirement would result in a decrease in the supporting spouse’s income. The legislation provides that retirement by the supporting spouse is sufficient grounds to warrant a hearing, if so moved by a party, to evaluate whether there has been a change of circumstances for alimony. In its evaluation of alimony, the court shall consider such factors as: whether the retirement was contemplated when the alimony was awarded; the age of the supporting spouse; the health of the supporting spouse; whether the retirement was mandatory or voluntary; whether retirement would result in a decrease in the supporting spouse’s income.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H.4043, a bill that provides for the DISQUALIFICATION FROM UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION FOR FAILING TO PASS A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER’S DRUG SCREENING.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H.4092, which relates to SMOKING PROHIBITIONS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING. This legislation amends the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act to provide that smoking is prohibited in buildings, or portions of buildings, and the outside areas immediately contiguous to these buildings owned, leased, operated, or maintained by a public institution of higher learning that the governing board of the institution has designated as nonsmoking.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.5025, a bill revising the membership and election of the SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES.

The House gave second reading approval to H.4054, a bill providing that it is UNLAWFUL TO HUNT MIGRATORY WATERFOWL ON LAKE KEOWEE WITHIN TWO HUNDRED YARDS OF A DWELLING.

The House amended and rejected H.4269. This bill revises provisions relating to additional CHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH CONSUMER LOANS, so as to include a five dollar charge for the cost incurred by a licensee for processing automated clearing house payments and for processing payments that consumers make through credit or debit cards.

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