March 9 – 11, 2021

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3770, a joint resolution authorizing the expenditure of federal funds disbursed to the state to assist those who are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation creates the South Carolina Emergency Rental Assistance Program administered by the South Carolina State Housing Financing and Development Authority (SC Housing), under the direction of its board of commissioners, and establishes an advisory panel to review and monitor the implementation and evaluation of the program and funding. Program assistance addresses renter households in which at least one individual: (a) qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; (b) demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and (c) has a household income at or below eighty percent of the area median. Priority is given to eligible households where someone has been unemployed for at least ninety days and households with income at or below fifty percent of the area median. The South Carolina Emergency Rental Assistance Program does not administer the share of federal funds that seven South Carolina counties claimed directly by completing the application process to run their own rental assistance programs. Program funds may not be awarded for residents of Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland, or Spartanburg counties unless there are additional funds remaining after obligating funds to all other eligible residents in the state.

The House approved and ordered to third reading H.3105, the “South Carolina Religious Freedom Act.” This proposed legislation that was sent to the Senate this week deems religious services in houses of worship as essential services during states of emergency. As such, they would be allowed to continue operating throughout the duration of any declared states of emergency.

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H. 3609 and enrolled the joint resolution for ratification. This joint resolution would restore teacher step salary 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, approved, and sent to the Senate H. 3444, proposed legislation to clarify State Election Commission Statewide Authority. It would establish the ultimate authority of the State Election Commission to ensure standardized performance, conduct, and practices by county boards of elections and voter registration. In addition, the SEC would ensure that county commissions administer elections and voter registration in our state and comply with applicable state or federal laws, as well as all State Election Commission policies, procedures, and regulations.

The House amended, approved and sent to the Senate H. 3225, legislation that increases awareness of the rising maternal morbidity rate for African American women by enacting the “South Carolina Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act.” Among the bill’s findings: American women die in childbirth at a higher rate than in any other developed country and African American women have a three to four times higher risk of dying from pregnancy complications than other women. South Carolina maternal mortality rates among African American women have soared by over 300 percent in recent years. The bill creates a study committee to examine, a) the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women in South Carolina and how this varies from the rates experienced by other women; b) the maternal mortality data associated with perinatal care, including by race or ethnicity, to determine any statewide trends, statistically significant differences in maternal mortality rates among races or ethnicities, and reasons for the differences; and c) all methods and practices that will improve rates of maternal mortality among non-Hispanic Black women in South Carolina. This thirteen-member study committee shall provide a report that outlines findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by January 1, 2022.

The House approved and sent to the Senate H. 3821, a bill to enact the “South Carolina Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.” This bill updates existing law and establishes a more modern method for, and a uniform manner of making, transfers of custodial property for the benefit of minors. This proposed legislation repeals existing, outmoded law covering these transfers.

H. 3925 was recalled from the Education Committee, subsequently amended, approved by the House and sent to the Senate. This joint resolution would waive the requirement that new homeschooled students must wait one year prior to participating in public school interscholastic activities for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. The bill specifically requires that eligible students must have been enrolled in a public school for the beginning of either the 2019-2020 school year or 2020-2021 school year.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H. 3608 and enrolled the legislation for ratification. This joint resolution addresses a funding shortfall for the Public Charter School District as a result of the General Assembly enacting Act 135 of 2020 due to financial uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 virus. The legislation appropriates $9 million dollars from the 2018-2019 Contingency Reserve Fund to the Department of Education for distribution to the Public Charter School District, including the Charter Institute at Erskine, for per pupil funding for the 2020-2021 School Year. This funding shall not be used for administrative salary increases. The legislation also provides that, in the current fiscal year, a charter school sponsor may, but is not required to, approve charter applications that meet statutory requirements.

The House amended, approved and sent to the Senate H. 3024, legislation authorizing the issuance of mobile barbershop permits. This bill authorizes the Board of Barber Examiners to issue mobile barbershop permits, establish permit requirements, and provide for regulations of mobile barbershops. Inspections must be conducted on mobile barbershops and upon satisfactory inspection, the board shall issue a bi-annual permit to be affixed within the mobile barbershop as prescribed by the board. In addition, the board shall issue a permit card to be carried by the barber when practicing barbering through a portable barber operation. At all times, a licensed barber must be in charge and present during the operation of a mobile barbershop and is responsible for all barbering services provided at the mobile barbershop.

The House approved S. 287 and enrolled it for ratification. The Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation may require physical therapists and physical therapy assistants to have a state and national criminal records background check (supported by fingerprints) performed as a requirement for eligibility for initial licensure. The applicant is responsible for the costs of conducting these background checks.

The House amended, approved and sent to the Senate H. 3308, a bill that increases the watercraft idle speed wake distance to within fifty feet of a moored or anchored vessel or a person in the water or one