February 26, 2016

The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate H.4936, a bill designating EDUCATIONAL GOALS FOR ALL SOUTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES and the standards and areas of learning by which these goals are measured. Through this legislation, the General Assembly declares that the principles outlined in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate, published by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and approved by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, the Education Oversight Committee, the State Board of Education and Transform SC schools and districts, are the standards by which our state’s high school graduates should be measured and are this state’s achievement goals for all high school students. The state shall ensure that graduates have world class knowledge based on rigorous standards in language arts and math for college and career readiness. Students should have the opportunity to learn one of a number of foreign languages, and have offerings in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts, and social sciences that afford them the knowledge needed to be successful. Students also must be offered the ability to obtain world class skills such as: (1) creativity and innovation; (2) critical thinking and problem solving; (3) collaboration and teamwork; (4) communication, information, media, and technology; and (5) knowing how to learn. Students finally also must be offered the ability to learn life and career characteristics such as: (1) integrity; (2) self direction; (3) global perspective; (4) perseverance; (5) work ethic; and (6) interpersonal skills.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4937, a bill reestablishing the SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL to review the progress, results, and compliance with the Education and Economic Development Act and to make recommendations for better achieving the act’s goals of implementing career pathways in the state’s public schools and fostering a better prepared workforce and student success in postsecondary education. The council is comprised of the following members representing the geographic regions of the state and must be representative of the ethnic, gender, rural, and urban diversity of the state: (1) State Superintendent of Education or his designee; (2) Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce or his designee; (3) Executive Director of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education or his designee; (4) Secretary of the Department of Commerce or his designee; (5) Executive Director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce or his designee; (6) Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance or his designee; (7) Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education or his designee; (8) the following members who must be appointed by the State Superintendent of Education: (a) a school district superintendent; (b) a principal; (c) a school guidance counselor; (d) a teacher; and (e) the director of a career and technology center; (9) the following members who must be appointed by the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education: (a) the president or provost of a research university; (b) the president or provost of a four year college or university; and (c) the president of a technical college; (10) ten representatives of business appointed by the Governor, at least one of which must represent small business. Of the representatives appointed by the Governor, five must be recommended by state wide organizations representing business and industry. The chair is to be selected by the Governor from one of his appointees; (11) Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee or his designee; (12) a member from the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; and (13) a member from the Senate appointed by the President Pro Tempore.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4938, a joint resolution providing for a SURVEY OF THE STATE’S COLLEGE STUDENTS ON TEACHING IN RURAL AND ECONOMICALLY CHALLENGED SCHOOL DISTRICTS. The legislation directs the State Department of Education (SDE) and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to collaborate with the Commission of Higher Education in surveying students enrolled in the South Carolina colleges and universities. At a minimum, the survey must include the following questions: whether students have considered teaching in a rural and economically challenged districts; what incentives, if any, would cause them to move to, and work in, such a district and any additional questions SDE and CERRA consider useful. The survey results must be reported to the General Assembly by December 1, 2016.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4939, a bill to provide for EDUCATION REFORM INITIATIVES. Through this legislation, the General Assembly directs the State Superintendent of Education, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee, the chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to each appoint one representative to a committee to be chaired by the appointee of the State Superintendent of Education to review the state’s education laws found in Title 59 of the South Carolina Code and report to the General Assembly on all statutes that are found to be obsolete or no longer applicable. This report must be submitted by December 31, 2016, and updated at least every five years thereafter. The State Department of Education is required to develop a system for providing services and technical assistance to school districts that must include academic assistance and assistance with finances. The State Superintendent of Education must report the initial design of the system to the General Assembly by December 31, 2016, and then provide an annual progress report on the system that includes data documenting the impact of the assistance to the local school districts on student academic achievement and on high school graduation rates. Additionally, the State Department of Education is charged with monitoring the professional development of teachers, staff, and administrators in districts it determines are underperforming to ascertain what improvements and changes are necessary in accordance with the provisions of the Education Accountability Act. The department also shall monitor the operations of school boards in underperforming districts in order to determine if they are operating efficiently and effectively. These improvements and changes must be communicated to the school districts and other involved parties.

The House gave second reading approval to H.4717, a bill that responds to the unprecedented damage of the October 2015 floods by creating the “SOUTH CAROLINA FARM AID FUND” to assist farmers in order to prevent the economic collapse of many of the state’s farms which could cause a severe disruption in the state’s economy and food supply chain. Established with a $40 million appropriation from the 2014 2015 Contingency Reserve Fund and authorized to accept private funds, grants, and property, the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund is created for making financial awards to farmers who have experienced a verifiable loss of agricultural commodities of at least forty percent as a result of certain declared natural disasters, excluding drought. Grant awards must be used for agricultural production expenses and losses due to the declared disaster which demonstrate an intent to continue the agricultural operation, such as purchases of seed and fertilizer. Awards may not be used to purchase new equipment. Grant awards that are falsely obtained or misspent must be refunded. The legislation makes provisions for each grant to equal twenty percent of the person’s verifiable loss of agricultural commodities, and establishes limitations so that grants may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars and may not, when combined with losses covered by insurance, exceed one hundred percent of the actual loss. The grant application process and other duties relating to fund administration and oversight are to be conducted by a Farm Aid Board composed of: the Commissioner of Agriculture, ex officio, or his designee, who serves as chairman; one member representing the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; one member representing a Farm Credit Association appointed by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; one member of the crop insurance industry appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee; one agricultural commodities producer appointed by the Chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee; the Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture of Clemson Public Service Activities, or his designee; and the Vice President for Land Grant Services of South Carolina State Public Service Activities, or his designee.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4548, a bill addressing CLOSING FEES CHARGED BY MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS. Responding to a 2015 ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court, the legislation provides for clarification in the provisions authorizing motor vehicle dealers to charge closing fees in motor vehicle sales for all administrative and financial work needed to transfer a motor vehicle to the consumer.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4857, a bill establishing LANDFILL REQUIREMENTS FOR COAL ASH FROM ELECTRICAL POWER PLANTS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that coal combustion residuals that result from an electrical utility, an electric cooperative, a governmental entity, a corporation, or an individual producing electricity for sale or distribution by burning coal must be placed in a Class 3 solid waste management landfill, unless the coal combustion residuals are: (1) located contiguous with the electric generating unit; (2) intended to be beneficially reused; (3) placed into beneficial reuse; or (4) placed in an appropriate landfill meeting the standards of the Department of Health and Environmental Control that is owned or operated by the entity that produced the electricity which resulted in the coal combustion residuals. The legislation establishes a five-year sunset date for these requirements, unless they are reenacted or otherwise extended by the General Assembly.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4151, a bill providing for CIGARETTE TAX STAMPS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation establishes requirements for affixing stamps on cigarette packs as an indication of taxes paid. A distributor is afforded a tax credit of up to $175,000 against the tobacco tax for costs incurred in the purchase of a stamping machine and equipment. An agent who is charged with affixing and accounting for the taxes represented by the stamps retains a discount of 4.25% of the face value of the stamps as compensation.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4443 and adopted this concurrent resolution declaring June 17, 2016, as MOTHER EMANUEL NINE DAY and encouraging all state agencies to reflect on the progress made in improving race relations and economic equality for minorities as well as the efforts to help the homeless in South Carolina.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4092, a bill making provisions for a RETENTION OF THE OWNER-OCCUPIED SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATE FOR A DECEASED INDIVIDUAL’S ESTATE. The legislation provides that when a homeowner receiving the four percent property tax assessment ratio dies, the property shall continue to receive the special owner-occupied assessment rate until the deceased’s estate is closed, or upon recording of a deed or deed of distribution out of the estate, whichever occurs first. This extension of the special assessment rate only applies if the property is not rented.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4328, a bill SYNCHRONIZING CERTAIN FILING DEADLINES REGARDING INCOME TAX WITHHOLDINGS to eliminate a lag time that presents an opportunity for fraud. The legislation revises two requirements for filing income tax withholdings information with the Department of Revenue that relate to fourth quarter returns and final annual statements so that they both have due dates of the last day of January rather than the last day of February.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4712, a bill making clarifications regarding the CLASSIFICATION OF OFF PREMISES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING SIGNS AS PERSONAL PROPERTY FOR TAX PURPOSES. The legislation classifies off premises outdoor advertising signs as tangible personal property for tax purposes, and provides that the value of a lease or lease income on such billboards may not be used in the assessment of the tax value of the real property on which the advertising sign is erected.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4577, a bill that provides for AIRCRAFT PROPERTY TAX PROCEEDS TO BE CREDITED TO THE STATE AVIATION FUND to support the maintenance and upkeep of airports.