February 19, 2021

The House approved, and the governor signed, S. 1 the “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” which delays a pregnant woman from having an abortion until a doctor first checks her for a fetal heartbeat using ultrasound equipment. She may view this ultrasound while it is being performed.

Any doctor violating this requirement commits a felony punishable by a ten thousand dollar fine or imprisonment for up to two years, or both. These penalties do not apply in medical emergencies, or when no heartbeat is detected.

Once a fetal heartbeat is detected, no abortion can be conducted unless the pregnancy is the result of a rape or incest event, the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, or a fetal anomaly has presented, and the fetus has gestated for less than 20 weeks. Doctors are required to report rape or incest events to their county sheriff within 24 hours of performing those abortions. Doctors also have to tell pregnant women that they are making a report to the county sheriff. Doctors have to document these conversations.

Nothing in this Act prohibits the sale, use, prescription, or administration of any drug, device, or chemical for contraceptive purposes.

No pregnant women can be criminally prosecuted for violations of this Act. They are instead able to file a civil cause of action for Act violations, and recover their damages, attorney fees, and costs.

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H. 3707, a joint resolution making appropriations for the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 virus, including vaccinations. The bill was ratified (R 4).

Under the legislation, a total of $208 million is appropriated from the Contingency Reserve Fund. $63 million is allocated to the Department of Health and Environmental Control and $45 million is allocated to the Medical University of South Carolina to allow DHEC and MUSC, in consultation, cooperation, and collaboration with the South Carolina Hospital Association, the South Carolina Primary Care Association and any other Federally Qualified Heath Centers, and other appropriate entities and associations, to: (1) expand statewide vaccination capacity; and (2) continue to administer the statewide COVID-19 testing plan. The use of these funds includes costs related to COVID-19 such as vaccination, continued testing and contact tracing, personal protective equipment and medical supplies, personnel costs, education and marketing campaigns, quarantine, transportation and storage, and mobile health units. Participation in contact-tracing programs shall be solely on a voluntary basis, and data collection must comply with confidentiality requirements and be limited to public health information. DHEC, in coordination with MUSC, the South Carolina Hospital Association, the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare, and other relevant stakeholders, shall implement a plan to reach rural and underserved populations who are eligible to be vaccinated. $100 million of the Contingency Reserve Fund appropriation is deposited in a COVID-19 Vaccine Reserve account that is created to pay for administering COVID-19 vaccines, addressing costs associated with such issues as staffing, facility rental, security, traffic control, storage, transportation, and mobile health units. Of these reserve account funds, up to $75 million is allocated to hospitals, or political subdivisions partnering with them, and up to $25 million is allocated to other COVID-19 vaccination providers that are enrolled and activated by DHEC, or political subdivisions partnering with them. In approving expenses, DHEC must give priority to

hospitals and other providers with a high demand for the vaccine and the ability to administer the vaccine in high quantities. No reserve account funds may be released to any vaccine provider that is not offering vaccine appointments to the general public. On the first day of each month, the Executive Budget Office must provide a detailed accounting of vaccine reserve account funds in a report that is to be transmitted to the Governor and the General Assembly and made available on the Executive Budget Office website. Additionally, any recipient must provide an accounting of the expenditures to DHEC and the agency must post the accounting on its website.

The legislation provides that all vaccines received by the state must be allocated to the four DHEC public health regions in a per capita manner with considerations taken into account for such factors as poverty level, infection rates, age, and high risk populations. MUSC shall coordinate with DHEC and partner with local healthcare providers to ensure that gaps in statewide vaccination delivery are covered, with priority given to rural and underserved areas. Under the planning process, available vaccines must be administered to South Carolinians as rapidly as possible, to ensure that no doses are permitted to expire, and to position South Carolina favorably in the event that any future federal allocations to states may be based in part upon a state’s ability to administer the vaccine expeditiously. DHEC is charged with record-keeping responsibilities and daily reporting requirements to keep the public informed of vaccine availability, doses administered, and progress towards attaining the state’s vaccination goals.

The legislation includes temporary authority for a wide array of health care professionals to administer COVID-19 vaccines that includes retired physicians and nurses, students at medical schools and nursing schools, as well as licensed dentists and optometrists who have completed COVID-19 vaccine training. These temporary exemptions from professional scope of practice provisions are set to terminate when South Carolina is no longer under a declared public health emergency concerning COVID-19.

The House gave second reading to H. 3610. This bill would provide revised accountability measures available to the state Superintendent of Education for public schools and public school districts, with provisions for assistance and intervention.

The following definitions are used throughout the bill:

“Turnaround plan” outlines goals for a school or district’s educational improvement. Plans must have specific strategies for improving student achievement.

“Underperforming school,” means:

An elementary school or middle school where fewer than twenty-five percent of its students are at “ meets” or “exceeds expectations” on the English/language arts and mathematics SC READY assessment works or its successor.

A high school where fewer than twenty-five percent of its students receive a grade of “D” or better on the End of Course assessments in English and mathematics, or fewer than twenty-five percent of its students fail to achieve at least a “bronze” level on the career readiness assessment.

“Underperforming district” means a district in which sixty-five percent or more of the schools in the district are considered an “underperforming school” (as defined in the “underperforming school” definition, see above).

“Chronically underperforming” school:

An elementary school or middle school where fewer than twenty-five percent of its students are at “meets” or “exceeds expectations” on the English/language arts and mathematics SC READY assessment works or its successor assessment for three consecutive years. (Emphasis added)

A high school where fewer than twenty-five percent of its students receive a grade of “D” or better on the End of Course assessments in English and mathematics, or fewer than twenty-five percent of its students fail to achieve at least a “bronze” level on the career readiness assessment for three consecutive years. (Emphasis added)

The bill creates a tiered system for assistance, professional development, and monitoring. The Superintendent must annually report to the General Assembly about the system’s progress relating to assistance provided to schools.

Once a school and district is determined to be underperforming, the State Department of Education must immediately place the school and district into a tiered status and provide assistance. The legislative delegation, parents, and students must be informed of the rating, and a public meeting must be held. The district must create a turnaround plan containing specific and measurable goals, and broad-based community input is required. The school and district’s strategic plan must be reviewed and revised. After the local school board adopts the plan, SDE must also approve. Plans must be posted on the SDE, district, and school websites, and parents must be informed of the school or district rating and turnaround plan. The Superintendent may seek a state-of-education emergency declaration for a school or school district. The state board must approve the declaration.

The following are the reasons and steps for the respective measures:

School Takeover

· Chronic underperformance, denial of accreditation, or an insufficient turnaround plan (or district refusal to submit a turnaround plan).

· Notification to the Governor, General Assembly, local board and superintendent.

· Assume management of the school.

· Appeal to administrative law court is available.

· State Board may end the emergency if the school sustains improvement for at least three years.

District Takeover

· Underperformance for three consecutive years or for five out of the last seven years. A year in which a report card was not issued shall be disregarded and not included in determining whether a declaration is authorized.

· Accreditation denial, turnaround plan is insufficient or fiscal emergency.

· Notification to the Governor, General Assembly, local board and superintendent.

· Assume management of the district.

· Local board is dissolved, Superintendent assumes authority and responsibility of the district.

· If there is a sustained improvement for at least three years, the State Board may appoint an interim local board. The interim board must serve for a minimum of three years.

· After the emergency, SDE shall develop a plan and timeline for returning management to a local board.

· Fiscal authority (taxing and millage) is transferred to the county council until the emergency is over.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H. 3017, a bill that would provide that two-year institutions of higher learning and technical colleges be among institutions of higher learning whose students may be eligible for Palmetto Fellows Scholarships. Currently the Palmetto Fellows scholarship is available only to students attending an eligible four-year institution in South Carolina. The bill specifically deletes the current exclusion of two-year and technical institutions. Moreover, a student who uses the Palmetto Fellows scholarship to attend eligible two-year institution shall receive a maximum of four continuous semesters and may continue to use the scholarship to attend an eligible four-year institution.

The House approved (as amended) H. 3501, which creates a special commemorative license plate for the two hundred fiftieth (250th) year anniversary of the American Revolution. The biennial fee for this commemorative license plate is the regular license plate fee. The South Carolina Revolutionary War Sestercentennial Commission shall submit the design, emblem, seal, logo, or other symbols it desires to be used for this special license plate to the DMV for approval. The bill exempts this special plate from the requirement of a $6,800 upfront fee from the sponsoring individual or organization before seeking issuance of the plate. The bill’s effective date is January 1, 2022. This would provide sufficient time to design and implement the plate. The production of this plate will cease January 1, 2033.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H. 3689 (regarding the international registration plan). This bill would provide that if a commercial motor vehicle is registered through the international registration plan and is operated under a United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) number assigned to a person other than the vehicle’s owner, then the person to whom the US DOT number is assigned may register the commercial motor vehicle by submitting the appropriate application and fees to the Department of Motor Vehicles. This bill codifies existing agency procedures.

The House approved (as amended) and sent to the Senate H. 3029, a bill that would require the Midlands Technical College Enterprise Campus Authority to file certain documents with the Fiscal Accountability Authority regarding the sale of surplus property. The exemption provided only applies to the sale of the college enterprise authority property when the sale price is not less than market value and the transfer of title is by quitclaim deed. This bill would permanently authorize Act 189 of 2018 and repeal the sunset provision.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H. 3900, a joint resolution that went without reference. The resolution authorizes certain podiatrists to administer premeasured doses of the COVID 19 vaccine. The bill provides for podiatrists who have successfully completed the COVID 19 training programs available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.