May 6, 2016

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.4717 and enrolled the bill for ratification. 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 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 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 House returned S.277, the “STATE TELECOM EQUITY IN FUNDING ACT”, to the Senate with amendments. Responding to innovations in such areas as wireless communications and Internet-based services that have transformed the telecommunications marketplace over the course of recent years, the legislation revises statutory requirements for telecommunications service providers to make contributions to the Universal Service Fund as well as to the program that provides specialized telecommunications services to those who are deaf or have other hearing or speech impairments. Act 488 of 1990 authorized the Public Service Commission to establish a statewide program to provide telephone access to individuals with hearing or speech impairments through a dual party relay system that allows those who are deaf, hearing, and speech impaired to communicate through an intermediary party, and authorized that the program be funded through monthly surcharges imposed on all of a local exchange telephone company’s residential and business lines. This legislation revises the funding mechanism for the dual party relay program so that surcharges are collected not only on traditional land line telephones, but also on the full array of telecommunications services offered in the contemporary market, including commercial mobile radio service (CMRS), prepaid wireless service, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The legislation revises statutory provisions for the state’s Universal Service Fund, which is used for initiatives to guarantee access to affordable telecommunications services in sparsely-populated rural areas and other places that may be underserved by the marketplace, to accommodate the collection of surcharges not only on traditional land lines, but also on wireless telecommunications services. The legislation revises provisions that govern the maximum size of the state’s Universal Service Fund to establish a new, lower, cap on USF funds. A carrier of last resort authorized to receive funds from the USF is subject to random compliance audits and other investigations by the Public Service Commission Office of Regulatory Staff. The Office of Regulatory Staff is also charged with new responsibilities for making regular reports to the to the Public Utilities Review Committee on the status of the Universal Service Fund detailing funding needs and appropriate levels of USF distributions.

The House returned S.1035, the “SOUTH CAROLINA TELEMEDICINE ACT”, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises statutes governing the practice of medicine to incorporate provisions for telemedicine which involves the use of such means as electronic communications and information technology to allow a physician to practice medicine in one location while the patient is in another location. The legislation establishes requirements that address such issues as record keeping and the proper conduct of an evaluation and diagnosis when the physician is at a distance from the patient rather than in a more traditional in person medical care setting. The legislation makes provisions for how a physician patient relationship is established through telemedicine.

The House returned S.338, a bill establishing NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ESTABLISHING RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES FOR RECENTLY PAROLED PRISON INMATES, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation requires any public, private, or nonprofit entity helping to rehabilitate and reintroduce paroled prison inmates into communities that also provide residential housing to these parolees to publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation all addresses for these residential housing facilities at least sixty days prior to opening them. They also must conduct a public hearing at least thirty days before the first residential facility opens in the community where all residents of the community must be given an opportunity to comment on the program and on the location of any or all of the proposed facilities. These requirements only apply to a county, incorporated municipality, or town where there are no zoning requirements.

The House returned S.916, a bill INCREASING AGES WHEN INDIVIDUALS ARE CONSIDERED CHILDREN AND JUVENILES IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS, to the Senate. These adjustments of ages provided in various statutes impact such issues as when a case may be transferred to Family Court and when the Department of Juvenile Justice exercises its responsibilities.

The House returned S.788, the “MANAGED TIDAL IMPOUNDMENT PRESERVATION ACT”, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation exempts property that is deemed eligible under a general permit issued by the United States Army Corp of Engineers from state Department of Health and Environmental Control permitting requirements for routine, normal, or emergency maintenance or repair activities of tidal impoundment fields and adjacent nontidal fields. These coastal properties are commonly former rice fields that are now being used as duck hunting preserves.

The House approved S.1272, a joint resolution affording the Department of Education access to certain funding relating to the federal INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA), and enrolled the legislation for ratification.

The House approved S.780 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions dealing with importing, possessing or selling imported fish, to clarify language in current law that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will continue to issue permits for the importation, breeding, and possession of GRASS CARP or grass carp hybrids. The legislation revises statutes to incorporate references to the more familiar designation of grass carp alongside the more technical and less recognizable name for the fish, white amur.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.5299, a bill establishing authority for TRANSPORTING NECESSARY GOODS AND SERVICES TO DISASTER AREAS DURING CURFEWS. The legislation revises the Governor’s authority in times of emergency to make provisions for a certification process to authorize someone to enter a disaster area and operate during times when a curfew has been imposed in order to transport necessary commercial goods to the curfew area, assist in ensuring the availability of these needed goods, or to assist in restoring utility services.

The House amended and gave second reading approval to 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.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.5245, which provides authorization for a manufacturer, brewer, importer, or retailer to offer consumers COUPONS AND REBATES FOR THE PURCHASE OF BEER, including retailer instant redeemable coupons, mail in rebates, and coupons and rebates offered or redeemed through any electronic means.

The House voted to continue H.4544, a bill to establish requirements and conditions that must be met in order for ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION DRUGS to be prescribed, so that the legislation may not be considered this session.

The House voted to continue H.3229, a bill revising provisions for TASTINGS AND RETAIL SALES OF ALCOHOLIC LIQUORS AT LICENSED PREMISES OF A MICRO DISTILLERY OR MANUFACTURER, so that the legislation may not be considered this session.