May 20, 2016

The House of Representatives and the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto on H.4717 to allow the bill to become law. The legislation 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, 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 the catastrophic flooding of October 2015. Grant awards must be used for agricultural production expenses and losses due to the flood 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. Criminal penalties are provided to address fraud. The legislation makes provisions for each grant to equal up to twenty percent of an individual’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 program is to be administered by the Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Department of Revenue and a Farm Aid Advisory Board composed of: the Commissioner of Agriculture, or his designee, who serves as chairman; the Director of the Department of Revenue, or his designee; the Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture of Clemson Public Service Activities, or his designee, the Vice President for Land Grant Services of South Carolina State Public Service Activities, or his designee; one member representing South Carolina Farm Bureau appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; one member representing a farm credit association appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; one member representing the crop insurance industry appointed by the Director of the Department of Revenue; and, one member who is an agricultural commodities producer appointed by the Director of the Department of Revenue. Sunset provisions are included so that the Farm Aid Fund and the Advisory Board are dissolved no later than June 30, 2017.

The Senate and the House voted to override the Governor’s veto on S.1016, the “EYE CARE CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW” to allow the bill to become law. The legislation provides that a person in this state may not dispense spectacles or contact lenses to a patient without a valid prescription from an individual licensed by the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Optometry or the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. To be valid, a prescription must meet the legislation’s requirements for including an expiration date on spectacles or contact lenses of no more than one year from the date of examination and must take into consideration medical findings from the eye examination. A prescription for spectacles or contact lenses may not be based solely on the refractive eye error of the human eye or be generated by an automated kiosk. Violations are subject to penalties established for misconduct by optometrists and physicians.

The House adopted the free conference report on H.3114, the ”SOUTH CAROLINA PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT”, and, the Senate having already adopted the free conference report, the bill was enrolled for ratification. The legislation establishes a prohibition on the performance of abortions beginning at twenty weeks following fertilization. Exceptions are provided to permit these late term abortions in order to prevent the death or serious physical impairment of the mother as well as in instances where a fetal anomaly is present that is likely to prevent a child’s life from being sustained after birth. The bill includes legislative findings regarding substantial medical evidence indicating that an unborn child has developed sufficiently to be capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization and the state’s interest in protecting the lives of unborn children beginning at the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain. This legislation provides that, except in the case of a medical emergency or fetal anomaly, no abortion must be performed, induced, or attempted unless a physician has first made a determination of the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child or relied upon such a determination made by another physician. The legislation prohibits abortions from being performed, induced, or attempted when the determination has been made that the probable post-fertilization age is twenty or more weeks except for when there is a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal fetal anomaly or when the mother has a condition that so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions. When an abortion must be performed where the probable age of the fetus is twenty or more weeks, the legislation requires the physician to proceed in a manner which provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless terminating the pregnancy in this manner would pose a greater risk of either death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions, of the woman than would other available methods.
Any physician who intentionally or knowingly fails to conform to these requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a fine of not less than two thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than three years. No part of the minimum fine may be suspended. For conviction of a third or subsequent offense, the sentence must be imprisonment for not less than sixty days nor more than three years, no part of which may be suspended. Reporting requirements are established for medical facilities that perform abortions at twenty or more weeks under the legislation’s medical emergency and fetal anomaly exceptions that require the facilities to report certain information about these abortions, such as the post-fertilization age, method of abortion, and the age of the patient, to the state registrar, Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC is charged with producing an annual public report on the statistics compiled. These required reports are subject to confidentiality provisions and restrictions on the use of information identifying individual patients. Late fees and other penalties are included for facilities that fail to submit reports within required timeframes. The intentional or reckless falsification of a required report is a misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.3184, a bill establishing enhancements to ethics laws by providing for MORE INDEPENDENT MEANS OF INVESTIGATING ALLEGED MISCONDUCT OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS in the legislative and executive branches of government, and returned the bill to the Senate. The legislation discontinues current practices of the legislative and executive branches of state government each exclusively investigating the alleged ethics violations of their own members, and instead provides for allegations of public misconduct to be investigated by a reconstituted State Ethics Commission made up of members selected by both of these branches of government. To that end, the State Ethics Commission is reconstituted from a nine-member body, composed exclusively of gubernatorial appointees, to an eight-member body made up of four selections by the Governor, two selections by the Senate, and two selections by the House of Representatives, with all eight members to be appointed with the advice and consent of the General Assembly. Provisions are included to structure the legislative and gubernatorial selections in a bi-partisan fashion and to exclude from service on the commission certain individuals that could present conflicts of interest such as legislators, recent lobbyists, and family members of legislators and statewide elected officials. A commission member who serves a full term of five years is not eligible for reappointment. Under the legislation, the State Ethics Commission is set up to conduct investigations of alleged ethics violations of those in the executive and legislative branches. The legislation includes provisions that require the agreement of at least six of the eight commission members in order for matters to proceed. If a State Ethics Commission investigation determines that there is probable cause that a legislator has committed an ethics violation, the commission’s report is relayed to the appropriate legislative ethics committee to pursue the matter and decide if it is appropriate to take such actions as imposing penalties, issuing reprimands, or recommending that the legislative body expel a member. Complaints involving alleged ethical misconduct by candidates for the General Assembly and staff of the General Assembly and legislative caucuses are also investigated by the State Ethics Commission and, when appropriate, relayed to legislative ethics committees for further action. When the commission finds evidence of a criminal violation in the course of its investigations, the matter may be relayed to the Attorney General or circuit solicitor. The reconstituted Ethics Commission continues to exercise its responsibilities over those in the executive branch of state government and others who are subject to the state’s Ethics Act provisions. The investigations of the State Ethics Commission are to be conducted in strict confidentiality, but when, the commission makes a finding of probable cause regarding alleged violations, the complaint and certain other documents and materials become public. Penalties are included for intentionally making groundless complaints.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.5001, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.5002, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget legislation was returned to the Senate with amendments that, for the most part, reinstate the version of the budget approved by the House earlier in the year with certain exceptions, such as an adjustment of Department of Transportation funding that coordinates with S.1258, the road funding legislation that was recently reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and revisions to the terms of loan forgiveness and debt service at South Carolina State University.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to 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 make a reasonable and concerted effort to 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 reasonable exposure, examples, and information on the state’s vision of 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 concurred in Senate amendments to H.3848, the “SOUTH CAROLINA FOUNDING PRINCIPLES ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation requires the State Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee to incorporate instruction on the founding principles that shaped the United States into the required study of the United States Constitution and the South Carolina Social Studies Standards upon the next cyclical review. This required instruction must at least include the Federalist Papers, the structure of government and the role of the separation of powers and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. A biennial report on implementation must be submitted to the Senate Education Committee and the House Education and Public Works Committee. The State Department of Education must make professional development opportunities on this required instruction available to teachers by physical or electronic means.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4510, a bill establishing LIMITATIONS ON THE NUMBER OF FOSTER CHILDREN WHO MAY BE PLACED IN A FOSTER HOME, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation allows a foster home to provide full-time care for up to eight children, with up to five of them being foster children. The exceptions to this maximum number include keeping a sibling group together, allowing children to remain in their home community, returning a child to a home that was a previous placement for them, complying with a court order, and any placement in the best interest of the child. Unless one of the exceptions applies, no more than two of the five foster children may be classified as therapeutic foster care placements. If one of the exceptions apply, no more than three of the five foster children may be classified as therapeutic foster care placements.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3193, a bill REVISING CAMPAIGN FINANCE REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO PRIMARY ELECTIONS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises the manner in which campaign contributions are attributed to a primary election and to a primary election runoff by providing that, if there is a primary runoff, all contributions made after the day of the primary and continuing through the seventh day after the primary runoff are attributed to the primary runoff for the purposes of applying contribution limits.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3685 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF TRAFFIC TICKETS to bring South Carolina into compliance with federal electronic ticketing provisions.

The House approved S.693 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises the INSURERS’ REHABILITATION AND LIQUIDATION ACT to make provisions that are specific to federal home loan banks and insurer members of those banks in delinquency proceedings.

The House approved S.978, a bill addressing RISK RETENTION GROUPS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for risk based capital plans, so as to increase the multiplier for a company action level event for a life and health insurer from 2.5 to 3.0. The legislation revises provisions relating to the chartering of a risk retention group, so as to define terms, to provide that a majority of a risk retention groups’ directors must be independent directors, to establish the maximum term of any material service provider contract, to require the board of directors to adopt a written policy, to require the board of directors to adopt and disclose its governance standards, to require the board to adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics, to require a risk retention group to comply with applicable regulations, to establish procedures for noncompliance, and to set established dates for compliance. The legislation revises provisions relating to out of state risk retention groups, so as to allow an out of state risk retention group to submit revisions to its plan of operation within thirty days of approval by the State Insurance Commission or within thirty days if no approval is required. The legislation extends certain provisions to a risk retention group licensed as a captive insurance company.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3927, a bill relating to SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides authority for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue special personalized organizational license plates and special organizational souvenir license plates. The legislation provides that there is no fee for the issuance of “Korean War Veterans” special license plates. Provisions are made for “Silver Star” and “Bronze Star” special license plates to be issued for motorcycles. The legislation provides authority for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “Chase Away Childhood Cancer Special License Plates” with proceeds to be distributed to Chase After a Cure.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4932, a bill making revisions to SPECIFICATIONS AND LIMITATIONS FOR VEHICLES AND TRAILERS operated along the state’s highways, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for maximum trailer lengths to provide for a greater maximum length that applies only to trailers or semitrailers used exclusively or primarily to transport vehicles used in connection with motorsports competition events. The legislation makes revisions relating to axle and weight limits for motorhomes and intrastate public agency transit passenger buses. The legislation makes provisions for increased weights associated with idle reduction systems. New provisions are included to allow motor vehicles fueled primarily by natural gas to exceed weight limitations by specified amounts. An exemption from restrictions is included to apply the large dirt-hauling trucks and other vehicles used in connection with the construction, repair, and maintenance of the shipping container terminals of the South Carolina State Ports Authority.

The House returned S.652 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation provides authority for financial institutions that do business in South Carolina to conduct SAVINGS PROMOTION CONTESTS for members and customers which encourage people to save money by adding a feature to personal savings accounts that include a chance to win prizes.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3133, a bill that establishes a protocol allowing SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN PLACED IN THE JUVENILE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY TO PETITION THE FAMILY COURT TO REMOVE THE PERSON’S REQUIREMENT TO REGISTER AS A SEX OFFENDER once the individual has reached twenty one years of age and has been released from the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, South Carolina Department of Corrections, or South Carolina Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.