House Floor Actions
March 30, 2023

H. 4060 passed the House and was sent to the Senate. The bill is a product of the House’s State Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad Hoc Committee. The bill addresses improvements in the delivery of workforce education in K-12 and higher education. The following provisions are included in the bill:

The bill codifies the state’s workforce readiness goal of at least 60 percent of all working-age South Carolinians having a postsecondary degree or recognized industry credential before 2030.
The State Department of Education (SDE) must ensure that all public high schools provide remedial courses in language and math for students in their senior year of high school who desire to pursue postsecondary education but are not ready for college-level coursework. The courses will be counted as elective credits. The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education (SBTCE) must approve the courses adopted by SDE.

Each high school senior must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) before graduation. Students are exempt from this requirement if their parent or guardian declines to complete the form, the school counselor exempts them for good cause, or a student who is 18 years of age exempts themselves.

Development and housing of the Educator Preparation Report Card is transferred from the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) to SDE.

CHE’s Advisory Committee on Academic Programs must develop a statewide postsecondary articulation agreement for dual enrollment courses between all school districts and higher education institutions. The agreement must ensure that dual enrollment courses are equivalent to collegiate courses and supersedes all previous local dual enrollment agreements. Dual enrollment may be offered to students in the tenth through twelfth grades. The section also provides that CHE and SBTCE must implement policies guaranteeing students who have earned an associate of arts (AA) degree or an associate of science (AS) degree from a public two-year college will receive a minimum of 60 transfer credit hours at a public college or university and be considered part of the junior class. Additionally, public four-year colleges and universities must create a reverse transfer option for public two-year college students who enroll without completing an AA or AS degree. Once coursework is completed at the four-year college, credits earned may be transferred back to the originating public two-year college.

The Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) must provide online access to information regarding the economic value of college majors. In addition to showing the economic value of each major offered in South Carolina, DEW must also compare the bachelor degrees earned to job availability. DEW may expand its report to include master and doctoral degrees.

SBCTE and the State Board of Education must provide a report to the General Assembly before July 1, 2024, determining how to best transfer adult basic education and adult secondary education from the State Board of Education to the SBCTE.

H. 3295 was amended, passed by the House, and sent to the Senate. The bill allows the State Board of Education to waive applicable laws and regulations if a district is successful in its application to start a competency-based school. When applying, districts must ensure Competency-Based Education (CBE) for all students in a selected school and show parental consultation regarding implementation. The bill states the following Competency-Based Education core principles: learning outcomes must emphasize competencies identified in the Profile of the Graduate; competencies must be explicit, measurable, and transferrable; students must master competencies along a personalized and flexible pathway before advancing; assessments must be meaningful and used to personalize learning experiences; and, students must receive timely and personalized support based on their learning needs.
Competency-Based schools cannot be exempted from anti-discrimination laws, or health, safety, civil rights, and disability rights requirements, and state and federal assessment requirements may not be waived. All eligible students must be allowed to attend, and schools may not limit, deny, or show preference in admission. The State Department of Education (SDE) shall create evaluation criteria, and schools must submit data for a biennial review. The State Department of Education shall establish a definition for competency-based education that must be published on the website of each school district that implements this system of education. If a school does not perform as expected, SDE may request revocation of the waiver if concerns are not alleviated. State and federal assessments are still required. CHE and the State Tech Board must establish policies providing fair and equitable access to admission, scholarships, and financial aid for students with Competency-Based credit or diplomas.
Students may earn credits for the successful completion of courses through traditional means or a competency assessment that shows mastery of standards. This may include methods and documentation such as tests, interviews, peer evaluations, writing samples, reports, or portfolios. When awarding credit “a greater emphasis shall be placed on a student’s mastery of course material rather than completion of predetermined time allotments for courses.” Unless waived, schools must still ensure that at least 1,080 instructional hours are completed during the year.

H. 3843 was amended, passed by the House, and sent to the Senate. The bill amends statutes regarding students who attend public schools outside of their attendance zone and school district. The bill also directs school boards to adopt an open enrollment policy by the 2023-24 school year that is based on the requirements set forth in the legislation, and the State Department of Education (SDE) must develop a template to assist districts. SDE is also required to include all district open enrollment policies on its School Choice website portal, and annually report to the State Board and chairs of the House Education and Public Works Committee and Senate Education Committee.
A district open enrollment policy shall adhere to federal desegregation and other education requirements and be posted prominently on its website. Among the items to be posted are the following: a description of the application requirements and timeline; a method for allowing parents to declare school preferences; lottery and waitlist policies; whether a nonresident fee will be charged to cover costs of enrollment; and, whether there is a fee waiver or mitigation process.

Districts are not required to transfer local funds for students enrolling elsewhere. Districts may, but are not mandated to, alter the structure of the school to create more space. Programs may be established, changed, or expanded and eligibility criteria may be waived. Also, transportation may be provided to students outside of their attendance zones. Existing students may not be displaced due to transfers. Enrollment policies for students transferring from outside the attendance zone or district must be established using the following hierarchy:

1. Students who meet the program or school’s requirements and seek to attend the designated school in the district’s feeder pattern.
2. Siblings of students who reside in the same household and are already enrolled in the school.
3. Students whose parents or guardians are assigned to the school as their primary place of employment.
4. Students selected by lottery.

District policies may not have the purpose or effect of causing racial discrimination.
Districts that deny enrollment must do so in writing and include specific reasons for the decision. Denial may occur only in the following situations: a documented lack of capacity in the school, level, or program; the school does not offer the program; the student does not meet established eligibility requirements for the program; or there is a desegregation plan in effect for the district and denial is necessary for compliance.

Finally, a state law that defines eligibility for public school attendance is amended to conform with the changes made in the bill. Included in the changes is the termination of the provision that allows students to gain residence by owning real property in a school district. The property will have to have been owned on or before June 30, 2024.

The House passed and sent to the Senate H. 4023, which seeks to change the First Steps to School Readiness Act, making it permanent and stating that future reauthorizations are not required. Future Executive Directors of the Office of First Steps to School Readiness must be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Directors serve at the pleasure of the First Steps Board of Trustees.

The bill revises the composition, appointment process, and terms of membership for local First Steps Partnership Boards (as well as provides for the termination of certain current board members and the transition of certain tasks by local partnerships). The bill also includes provisions related to the administration of local partnerships, including establishing multicounty partnerships and developing and adopting a standard fiscal accountability system for local partnerships. It also requires all publicly funded early childhood serving agencies and entities to participate in certain data-sharing initiatives supported by the advisory council.

Other changes proposed by the bill include adding the Director of the Department of Mental Health as a trustee to the First Steps Board of Trustees, revising data governance policies, providing for certain activities to build parent knowledge, and requiring the development, implementation, and review of an overall strategic plan by the First Steps advisory council.

The Senate will be receiving H.3682, proposed legislation to better facilitate Levying on Seized Animals for Care Costs in the ill-treatment of animal cases, after it passed the House this week. Before defendants could be held responsible for paying costs incurred while their charges were pending, required hearing procedures with prior notice would have to be met under this proposed bill. A surety or bond for animal care could be required. The entity housing these seized animals would receive reimbursement for the care they provided while these charges were pending. As amended, animal owners found innocent of any ill-treatment of animal charges made against them would receive full reimbursement of all related care costs they fronted during the pendency of these charges.

H. 4066, State Executive Committee Election Protests, is also headed to the Senate after passing the House. This proposed legislation would limit state conventions to a maximum of 943 delegates. The state executive committee would hear all election protests and could require protest bonds to be posted by anyone contesting an election. Before doing so, however, they would have to pass an appropriate resolution prior to that election being held. Bonds are proposed to be capped at $750. Successful protests would mean any bond posted would be returned to its poster.

The House passed H. 3359 and sent it to the Senate. Those House amendments made minimal changes regarding highway crossing and helmet requirements. H. 3359 extensively addresses the subject of utility terrain vehicles (UTV). This bill defines the term utility terrain vehicle and provides for the registration and operation on highways and streets (to include side-by-side, four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle, transporting individuals and cargo or both, tires, width, steering, and seating). The bill also addresses speed and engine power parameters to ensure they are over the size of UTVs designed for young people.

UTVs must be registered like passenger vehicles. They would be exempt from county property tax and subject to registration renewal biennially. They are subject to user fees for electric, hydrogen, and fuels other than motor fuel. Other requirements are an unobscured license plate, registration, proof of ownership, liability insurance, and a ten-dollar biennial fee. UTVs may only travel on roads with a fifty-five-mph speed limit or less, but UTVs may cross at an intersection where the road has a posted speed limit of more than fifty-five miles an hour. It may be operated on an island road not accessible by a bridge designed for use by an automobile. An operator must be at least sixteen years old and hold a valid driver’s license. The operator must have in his possession while operating on a street or highway: a license plate and registration certificate, proof of liability insurance, and driver’s license. The vehicle may only be driven during daylight hours if the operator is sixteen and holds a conditional driver’s license. Registered UTVs may not be operated by anyone who holds a beginner’s permit holder, even if accompanied by a licensed driver, a moped operator’s permit, a temporary alcohol license, a route restricted license, a provisional driver’s license, or solely a motorcycle license. No child under eight years old may be a passenger in a registered UTV while operating on a road. Drivers and passengers are required to have helmets and goggles. Registered UTVs must be equipped with Type 2 seat belt assembly (pelvic and upper torso restraints), operable headlights, brake lights, taillights, and turn signals. Drivers and passengers of a registered UTV, while being operated on a roadway, must wear a fastened safety belt.

SC DMV must not register or renew the registration of a UTV unless a certificate of title has been issued to the owner or an application delivered by the owner to SC DMV. The SC DMV may require a bill of sale, invoice, or other sales document to properly title. Certificates of titles issued under this subsection must be branded “off-road use only. This act takes effect one year after approval by the Governor.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 3952, a bill revising the administrative authority of the Department of Consumer Affairs relating to motor vehicle dealers under the state’s Consumer Protection Code. The legislation revises Consumer Protection Code provisions addressing motor vehicle sales contracts and the closing fees charged by dealers to recover their actual costs for all administrative and financial work needed to transfer and deliver the motor vehicle to the consumer. The legislation revises the criteria that the Department of Consumer Affairs utilizes to determine if a dealer’s closing fee is considered reasonable. In administering and enforcing these provisions, the department is charged with promoting education for consumers and best practices for dealers and mediating complaints between a consumer and a dealer, whenever possible

In conducting its administrative and enforcement responsibilities, and in any review or investigation of dealers, the Department of Consumer Affairs must: (a) have probable cause to believe, based on a consumer complaint or other credible evidence, that the dealer has violated a Consumer Protection Code provision; (b) prior to contacting the dealer’s employees or visiting the dealer’s business premises, present the dealer with written notice of any cause or complaint which necessitates any department review or investigation and any request for records necessary to conduct the review or investigation; (c) allow the dealer to cure any unintentional Consumer Protection Code violation within sixty days of notice from the department; and, (d) close its investigation into the complaint and pursue no further administrative action on it once the complaint has been cured. A dealer is considered to be in substantial compliance if the consumer receives a clear and prominent disclosure of the closing fee in the sale or lease transaction and was not misled by any other failure to comply with other requirements. A dealer may not be held liable in any action for a Consumer Protection Code violation if the dealer shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid the error.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 3782, a bill revising statutes governing telephone, cable television services, and other telecommunications public utilities to specify that video streaming services are not subject to the franchise fees that local governments charge for the use of public rights of way.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3977, a bill facilitating property and casualty insurance e-policies that are posted online. The legislation establishes conditions under which an insurer may post a standard property and casualty policy or endorsement, that does not contain personally identifiable information, on its website instead of mailing the document to the insured. Should an insurance company exercise its option to post e-policies online, the insured must still be able to obtain, upon request, a paper copy of the policy without charge.

The House concurred with Senate amendments and enrolled for ratification H. 3312, legislation that creates the Child Food and Nutrition Services Study Committee. This 17-member study committee is to examine the advisability of transferring the administration of certain national food and nutrition programs and initiatives currently administered by the State Department of Education to the State Department of Agriculture. These programs include but are not limited to, the school lunch program, school breakfast program, afterschool snack program, special milk program, and summer food service programs.

In addition, the legislation provides for the membership that includes appointees from governmental and legislative agencies along with two members who have a child that is a recipient of free and reduced lunch and two members from a local school district’s food services department. The legislation outlines that the committee shall make a report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by January 1, 2024, at which time the study committee terminates.

To protect farmland in South Carolina, the House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate H. 3951, legislation that gives landowners another option for protection by creating the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Program. The purpose of the program is to give landowners another option for protection by identifying and providing permanent protection to strategically significant working farmland properties whose continued availability to commercial agricultural businesses is essential to the long-term future of the economic sector. The bill creates an eight-member committee, each serving two years, to administer the program. The bill provides for the criteria for the selection of committee members.

In addition, the program is to create a fund for qualifying projects under this program. The fund’s purpose is to complement agricultural projects funded by the South Carolina Conservation Bank and cooperating entities by creating a matching grant payment for qualified projects. The committee will evaluate and verify whether proposed project applications qualify for the program, as well as designate the amount of program funds to be applied to a qualified project. Funds shall be awarded only for qualified projects which result in the permanent protection of agricultural lands. The bill provides criteria for funding projects. The bill also states that elected or appointed officials and their immediate family members are not eligible to participate in the program. This provision takes effect upon approval by the Governor and is contingent upon funding in the General Appropriations Act.

H. 4120 passed the House and was sent to the Senate. This bill would create an “Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit” within the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). The proposed bill also includes provisions for the administration and duties of the unit, including the requirement for it to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.