April 27, 2018

The House of Representatives approved S.805 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation creates the DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY to ensure that children under the care of a state agency, particularly children served by the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, receive timely, safe, and effective services and to receive and investigate complaints related to the provision of services to children by a state agency. The Department of Children’s Advocacy is established to perform oversight duties to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of all children receiving services or programs offered by the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, the John de la Howe School, the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School, and the School for the Deaf and Blind. The new department is headed by the State Child Advocate, who is appointed by the Governor from three candidates recommended by the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children and upon the advice and consent of the Senate for a term of six years. An individual may be reappointed to additional terms. The legislation establishes qualifications for the State Child Advocate, disqualifies someone who has served as the director or deputy director of a state agency during the previous four years, and provides grounds for the removal of the Advocate by the Governor upon recommendation of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children. The legislation includes requirements for a state agency to inform the Department of Children’s Advocacy within twenty-four hours of a child fatality, serious injury, or other critical incident. The State Child Advocate is authorized to perform an independent investigation of a critical incident. The department is afforded access to government records, reports, and documents and is charged with making an annual report on its activities. The statewide Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program, the Division for Review of the Foster Care of Children, and the Continuum of Care for Emotionally Disturbed Children Division are transferred to be administered by the new Department of Children’s Advocacy.

The House approved S.1041, a bill establishing criminal and civil PENALTIES FOR DEFRAUDING THE ELDERLY AND OTHER VULNERABLE ADULTS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for someone knowingly or willfully to solicit or obtain by deception, intimidation, undue influence, or false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices the money or property of a vulnerable adult or the personal identifying information of a vulnerable adult for the purposes of committing financial identity fraud or identity fraud. Criminal penalties are established that subject a violator to a misdemeanor, when the total value of the money or property is no more than two thousand dollars, and felony offenses for larger sums. Provisions are made for civil actions that may be filed by vulnerable adults, or filed on their behalf, that allow for the recovery of three times the amount of actual damages or three thousand dollars for each violation, whichever is greater, along with reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. Additionally, a civil action may be pursued to enjoin and restrain future violations. The legislation makes provisions for administrative orders to cease and desist, to return property or money received, and to impose penalties of up to ten thousand dollars per violation. Violations may be considered grounds for revocation, suspension, or non renewal of a professional license or registration issued by an agency of this state. A violation of these provisions is also designated an Unfair Trade Practice.

The House refused to concur in Senate amendments to S.954. As approved by the House, S.954 is legislation ELIMINATING ALL CHARGES ON THE ELECTRIC BILLS OF SCE&G CUSTOMERS THAT SUPPORT THE FAILED V.C. SUMMER NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT. This joint resolution affords the Public Service Commission additional time to make a decision on whether the Base Load Review Act has been properly used to finance the failed nuclear power project in Fairfield County. The House amended the legislation to provide that, while the PSC is conducting its review and rendering its decision under this timeline and during any appeals of decisions that could follow, the nuclear premium charge is to be removed from the power bills of SCE&G customers. The House version orders new electricity rates for customers of SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas to be reduced by eliminating all of the increases that have been imposed in recent years under the Base Load Review Act to finance the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power project in Fairfield County. These lower experimental rates would no longer include the increases, amounting to around 18% to 19.5%, that have been included on the power bills of SCE&G customers to fund construction of the nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville which have now been abandoned. The Senate approved an experimental rate that eliminates most, but not all, of the increases attributable to the Base Load Review Act by allowing a 5% nuclear premium charge to remain on the power bills of SCE&G customers. A conference committee has been appointed to address the differences between the Senate and House on this legislation.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4488, a bill ALLOWING OFFICIALS WHO ARE DETERMINING CAUSES OF DEATH TO HAVE ACCESS TO PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING INFORMATION, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation expands the list of persons to which the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Drug Control may provide prescription monitoring program data so that it also includes a coroner, deputy coroner, medical examiner, or deputy medical examiner who is involved in an official inquiry into the cause and manner of a person’s death.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3699 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation authorizes the SHARING CHILDREN’S HEALTH INFORMATION WITH CAREGIVERS in abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions. The legislation removes prohibitions that prevent the Department of Social Services from sharing with foster parents, or other caregivers, the medical, mental health, and other known, or reasonably obtainable, information about children necessary to provide them with adequate care. This disclosure requirement applies to abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4683, the “BEACHFRONT MANAGEMENT REFORM ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes revisions to the limitations placed on the development of oceanfront property and other coastal areas. The legislation makes provisions for the baselines and setback lines that are be used until the Department of Health and Environmental Control completes its review cycle, to be initiated after 2023, to establish new lines. The legislation includes provisions for how DHEC is to evaluate oceanfront areas that incur extraordinary erosion due to the impact of a storm system or event named by the National Weather Service when making its reviews to establish new lines. A new protocol of notification requirements and public hearings is established for DHEC to follow as the agency revises lines in its beach preservation policy. The appeals process is revised to allow property owners to have one year to be granted a review of the baseline and setback line.

The House insisted upon its amendments to H.3819, a bill establishing new REQUIREMENTS THAT MUST BE MET BEFORE PRESCRIBING OPIOID ANALGESICS TO MINORS, and appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on the legislation.

The House returned S.918 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation includes provisions that draw upon the work of the special House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee that was appointed by the Speaker of the House to examine the growing misuse of prescription painkillers and recommend legislative actions to counter the epidemic of ruinous addiction and fatal overdoses. The legislation imposes new LIMITATIONS ON INITIAL PRESCRIPTIONS OF AN OPIOID MEDICATION FOR ACUTE PAIN MANAGEMENT OR POSTOPERATIVE PAIN MANAGEMENT. Under the bill, Initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain management or postoperative pain management must not exceed a seven day supply, except when clinically indicated for chronic pain, cancer pain, hospice care, palliative care, major trauma, major surgery, treatment of sickle cell anemia, or medication assisted treatment for substance abuse. Upon any subsequent consultation for the same pain, the practitioner may issue any appropriate renewal, refill, or new opioid prescription. The limitation does not apply when a practitioner orders an opioid prescription to be wholly administered in a hospital, nursing home, hospice facility, or residential care facility. The legislation makes provisions for the Department of Health and Environmental Control to use information in the state prescription monitoring program system to provide PRESCRIPTION REPORT CARDS to health care practitioner who prescribe controlled substances to inform them about their prescribing trends compared to other practitioners. The legislation includes provisions for EXPANDING THE PRESCRIPTION MONITORING PROGRAM DATABASE TO INCLUDE INFORMATION ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF OPIOID ANTIDOTES. The legislation establishes protocols for the timely submission to the database of the date an opioid antidote was administered, the dosage and route of administration, and the name, address, and date of birth of the person to whom the opioid antidote was administered, if available, that apply when an opioid antidote is administered in a hospital emergency department or other health care facility or by a first responder. DHEC is required to maintain data on the administering of opioid antidotes including the frequency with which opioid antidotes are administered in health care facilities and by first responders by geographic location. The legislation requires a health care practitioner or the practitioner’s delegate to review a patient’s opioid antidote administration history in addition to the patient’s controlled substance prescription history before issuing a prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance.

The House returned S.709 to the Senate with amendments. The bill establishes new requirements for PUBLIC SCHOOL FIRE AND SAFETY POLICIES AND DRILLS. Within each school year, public schools, including charter schools whose instruction is not primarily delivered online, must conduct at least two fire drills, two active shooter/intruder drills, and two severe weather/earthquake drills, with at least one of each drill conducted each semester. The legislation establishes requirements for school facility fire and safety policies and programs that charge the State Department of Education and the Office of the State Fire Marshal with developing model fire and safety policies and program guidelines and reviewing the safety policies and programs adopted by school districts and charter schools. The State Department of Education and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, in consultation with school employed mental health professionals and the State Fire Marshal, must develop and update guidelines for the conduct of active shooter/intruder training along with developmentally appropriate training materials. These guidelines must be included in required annual teacher collegial development. A developmentally appropriate active shooter/intruder drill instructional video must be shown to all students at the beginning of each semester, and the State Department of Education must make this video available to all public school classrooms.

The House amended Senate amendments to H.4116 and returned the bill to the Senate. The legislation revises the state’s Medical Practice Act to provide that PHYSICIANS CANNOT BE REQUIRED TO OBTAIN NATIONAL CERTIFICATION AS A CONDITION OF LICENSURE, REIMBURSEMENT, EMPLOYMENT, OR ADMITTING PRIVILEGES AT A HOSPITAL or federally qualified health center. This prohibition applies to “Maintenance of Certification” or “MOC” continuing education programs that measure core competencies in the practice of medicine and surgery and are approved by a nationally recognized accrediting organization.

The House returned H.3886, the “SOUTH CAROLINA HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION ACT”, to the Senate with amendments. The bill establishes new comprehensive provisions governing the operation of homeowners associations.

The House returned S.857, a bill revising the composition of the WIL LOU GRAY OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL BOARD OF TRUSTEES, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation reduces the board’s membership from fourteen to twelve by eliminating the ex officio positions for the Governor and the State Superintendent of Education.

The House approved S.937 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation extends the temporary devolution of powers, duties, and obligations vested in the DENMARK TECHNICAL COLLEGE AREA COMMISSION to the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education until January 1, 2019, in order to coordinate with a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation timeline.