February 5, 2021

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3609, a joint resolution restoring teacher salary step increases that were suspended by Act 135 of 2020, enacted by the General Assembly due to financial uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 virus. The legislation appropriates $50 million dollars from the 2018-2019 Contingency Reserve Fund to provide for teacher step increases for the 2020-2021 School Year.

The House amended, passed and sent to the Senate H. 3589, a bill that would re-designate certain schools from their previous designation as a “schools of choice” to “schools of innovation.” This designation would relieve a school from following certain statutes, rules, and regulations in allowance and recognition of nontraditional approaches. The bill outlines the steps a school district must follow to achieve the status of exemption. In order to earn this exemption, a district must identify each law, regulation, and policy from which the school is requesting exemption. The bill would allow that public school districts may establish multiple (but a limited number) schools of innovation. (Districts may not name all schools in a district as a school of innovation). This has to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the local board and a two-thirds vote of the State Board of Education. Any change in a request that is pending approval by, or has been approved by, the State Board of Education must be made in the same manner as provided for initial requests. The designation must be renewed every four years through the same process as for the initial approval.

The House passed as amended and sent to the Senate H. 3613, revisions to the Read to Succeed Act. This bill (involving early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments) would amend the Read to Succeed Act (Act 284 of 2014) and contains most of the changes that were adopted last year by the House in the Omnibus Education Reform and H. 4761 of 2020. The bill would provide that the SC Department of Education shall approve no more than five reliable early literacy and numeracy screeners. A district would administer the universal screening process in the first “thirty days of the school year and repeat, if and only if, the student demonstrates literacy and numeracy deficiencies at midyear and at the end of the school year to determine student progression in reading and numeracy in kindergarten through third grade.” Waivers can be granted for alternative instruments.

In addition, the bill creates the South Carolina Reading Panel, and determines the composition, functions, and duties of the panel. Moreover, the bill establishes definitions concerning the universal screening processes used in public school districts for students experiencing academic or social-emotional difficulties and provides that all related screening tools must be capable of identifying students with dyslexia or other reading disorders. Reading interventions must be evidence-based, follow a multi-tiered system of support, and holds that professional development on reading practices be scientifically based. The bill clarifies that district reading plans must provide inappropriate in class interventions.

Also, regarding the Read to Succeed Office, the bill revises the requirements concerning coursework necessary for literacy add-on endorsements and revises requirements for professional development for certified reading/literacy coaches and literacy teachers. The coursework must be founded on scientifically based reading practices and evidence-based interventions, including how to use the data to identify struggling readers and inform instruction).
The bill also revises the requirements for screening and diagnostic assessments and interventions relating to mandatory student retention provisions of the Read to Succeed Act, to revise criteria for retention and exemptions from retention, to eliminate an appeals process, and to revise criteria for intensive instructional services and support provided to retained students. The bill would remove the requirement that reading/literacy coaches be employed in all elementary schools, revise requirements concerning the roles and functions of reading/literacy coaches, and provide certain reading and literacy support services to schools identified as having certain levels of lowest achievement on English/language arts summative assessments by third grade students. Section ten clarifies the roles and requirements of reading coaches. SDE will hire reading coaches for schools where more than one-third of third-grade students score at the lowest achievement level on SC READY. Reading coaches will be employees of the Department, but assigned to specific schools. The remaining schools may use state appropriated funds for reading coaches, reading interventionists (who can assist with instructing students), or scientifically-based reading professional development. The Department must monitor their spending, and schools that do not use the funds for these specified purposes will lose reading coach funding.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3586, a bill establishing a Department of Insurance Fraud Division. The legislation provides for the transfer of insurance fraud duties and obligations from the Attorney General’s Office and houses them in a new Fraud Division established within the Department of Insurance.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3222, a bill enabling the Department of Health and Environmental Control to suspend a waste tire processing facility from accepting waste tires when it is determined that the capacity at the facility is exceeded. In an effort to address concerns dealing with the incompliance of permitted capacity for recycling tire facilities, the bill outlines steps along with timeframes to allow a facility to come into compliance prior to being suspended. The bill also requires DHEC to maintain a list of facilities known as the Waste Tire Rebate Facility List. The Waste Tire Rebate Facility List shall include permitted waste tire processing facilities. In addition, DHEC has the ability to remove any facility whose permit has been revoked or suspended, until the permit has been reinstated.

The House amended, passed and sent H. 3071, a Joint Resolution that creates the Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee. This Resolution examines the potential for further growth of the equine industry and the resulting economic impact. The committee shall study the potential for equine business growth in South Carolina, outlining steps to encourage growth, as well as identifying any barriers that exist and how to eliminate or reduce them. The committee is to compare South Carolina’s incentives and barriers to other Southeast states (as well as nationally). The study shall investigate any fees, assessments, reimbursements, as well as mills and feed. This seven-member study committee will include two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee; two members of the Senate appointed by the chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee; two members from the equine industry, with one appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one appointed by the President of the Senate, upon the recommendation of the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; and the Commissioner of Agriculture, or his designee. The study committee shall provide a report outlining its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by February 15, 2022. The study committee dissolves upon receipt of its report.

The House passed and sent to the Senate H. 3054, a bill relating to the Department of Natural Resources’ mailing requirements for the Notice of Suspension of Privileges. Currently, when licenses are suspended, the Notice of Suspension is sent by certified mail to ensure that the notice was received and acknowledged. This bill allows the department to mail notifications through the first class mail service. As a result, the change in this requirement provides a cost savings to the agency.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3056, a bill that implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s 2018 study of the Department of Natural Resources to modernize statutes. As a result, the bill deletes outdated Department of Natural Resources commissions and fish and game clubs that are no longer part of the laws and practices of the Department. The bill also deletes language regarding Legislative Delegations appointing game warden for counties, such as, but not limited to, the Prestwood Lake Wildlife Refuge Board, Catawba-Wateree Fish and Game Commission, Cherokee Fish and Game Club, Darlington County Advisory Fish and Game Commission, and the Lee County Legislative Delegation to Protect Fish and Game in Lee County.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3059, a bill that repeals provisions relating to the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to issue Heritage Trust Revenue Bonds. In 2006, the General Assembly allowed the Department to issue bonds against the Heritage Trust Account. Those bonds that were issued are now retired and the authority to issue the bonds had a sunset date of 2008. This bill just deletes that authority language. This bill does not affect the Heritage Trust Fund, which is still in effect.

The House passed and sent to the Senate H. 3740, a local bill that went without reference. The bill relates to the Lancaster County Commission for Higher Education and would provide for the Commission’s receipt and administration of Lancaster county millage-derived funds, which must be set aside and used exclusively for the benefit of the University of South Carolina, Lancaster.

In addition, the bill would provide that the Dean of the University of South Carolina Lancaster must be an ex officio member of the commission. The bill also clarifies the commission’s role relating to the offering of post-secondary courses, removes certain archaic language, and requires the Commission to submit an annual report to Lancaster County Council.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3585, a bill implementing regular updates and revisions for Department of Insurance provisions.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3587, a bill providing a technical correction in reduction in insurance coverage provisions.