House Floor Actions
April 27, 2023
Education Scholarship Trust Fund,” “ESTF,” or “fund” means the individual account that is administered by the Department to which funds are allocated to the parent of an eligible student to pay for qualifying expenses. Senate S. 39 passed the House and was enrolled for ratification. The bill establishes the “Education Scholarship Trust Fund (ESTF).” Eligible elementary and secondary students may be awarded scholarships in the amount of $6,000 to pay for education expenses. The scholarship amount may not be altered unless directed by the appropriations act. Expenses may include, among other items, tuition and fees, instructional materials, tutoring, computer hardware, assessments, and transportation (not to exceed $750 per year). The department shall create an individual online ESTF account for each scholarship student.
Public and independent schools may accept scholarship funds, but charter schools and home-schooled students are excluded. Eligible students must reside in the state and have attended a public school in the state during the previous school year or received a scholarship the previous school year. Families must meet a specified percentage of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify:
• 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the 2024-25 school year;
• 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the 2025-26 school year;
• 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for the 2026-27 school year and for all subsequent school years.
The bill establishes a cap on the number of students who may participate in the ESTF:
• A maximum of 5,000 students may participate in the 2024-25 school year;
• A maximum of 10,000 students may participate in 2025-26 school year; and,
• A maximum of 15,000 students may participate in the 2026-27 school year and for all subsequent school years.
The State Department of Education (SDE) must create an application process for the Fund, determine student eligibility, and inform students and parents about eligibility and providers. Before receiving funds, parents or guardians must agree to provide instruction in at least English/language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.
SDE may deduct no more than two percent of the ESTF to administer the program and may contract with vendors to manage accounts and provide services. Providers may be banned if they do not comply with accountability standards or provide educational services. Participating independent schools must meet curricula, diploma, and attendance requirements, comply with health and safety codes, and not unlawfully discriminate based on race, color, or national origin.
Scholarship recipients attending an online Education Service Provider must visit their resident public school at least once per semester for a wellness check and SDE is to keep data about the visit. If a student’s academic program is ended before the end of a school year or semester, the parent must notify SDE, and remaining funds revert to the ESTF.
Education Service Providers providing full-time instruction must provide the following assessments:
• Grades three through eight must take the SC Ready or SC Ready alternative assessment.
• Grades four and six must take the SC Pass or SC Pass alternative assessment.
• Alternatively, grades three through eight may take a nationally normed formative assessment at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. SDE must approve the assessment and it must have a linking study.
• Grades nine through twelve must take a nationally norm referenced, or formative assessment approved by SDE.
The Education Oversight Committee must report on learning gains and graduation rates of scholarship recipients to include delineated, aggregated data. An ESTF Review Panel is established to provide advice to the Department.
H. 3583, legislation to abate Sexual Extortion in South Carolina was unanimously passed in the House and is in the Senate now for its consideration. This offense typically involves someone obtaining nude images of someone else via text messaging, or ‘sexting.’ Once the recipients have these images, they then blackmail the senders by threatening to publish their images on the Internet, or otherwise distribute it, with often fatal outcomes. It proposes abating these schemes by adding sexual extortion and aggravated sexual extortion definitions to the criminal code and proposing penalties for violators, and aggravated violations, of this new crime.
The House reviewed Senate amendments to H. 3532, committing crimes while out on bond, amended it, and returned it to the Senate for consideration and debate in light of the House amendment made to its bill.
This measure would impose a mandatory five-year jail term for anyone out on a pretrial bond, or other pretrial release, for committing a statutorily listed violent crime who is then found, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have committed another, unrelated, and statutorily-listed, violent crime. These crimes include rape, domestic violence, offenses involving preying on minors, strong arm robbery, weapons offenses, or using weapons to commit these types of crimes while out of jail on bond. This sentence could run consecutively or concurrently, in the discretion of the trial judge.
This jail time could be imposed only after the conclusion of a separate sentencing hearing, to be conducted as soon as possible after a defendant is convicted of the second, unrelated violent crime. If a defendant is found guilty of the second violent crime through a jury verdict, that jury would hear all evidence related to this offense. If a conviction results after a non-jury hearing or guilty plea, the trial judge would hear the entire, relevant evidence as defined in this proposal.
Solicitors would be required to file a written 30-Day Notice with defendants of their intent to pursue this charge. They also would have to prove the elements of it beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once the first pretrial bond or other pretrial release is revoked, and a written order has been issued with findings of fact and conclusions of law, a hearing on setting any subsequent bond would have to be held within 14 days of the first bond being revoked. Any subsequent bond in these circumstances would have to be paid in full in US currency, to the exclusion of all other forms of bond, but could be posted either by a defendant or with a bondsman. Motions for revocation or modification of any bond would have to be in writing, heard, and a ruling made within 30 days after notice was filed.
While serving this five-year sentence, offenders would not be eligible for good-time credits, parole, work release, or extended work release. Defendants or prosecutors would still be able to file speedy trial motions for disposition of this offense.
The House was also sent to the Senate H. 3734, Municipal Election Reforms. This legislative effort would require municipal elections to be conducted only in odd-numbered years on the third Tuesday in March, the first Tuesday of July, or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November using voting systems adopted by the State Election Commission. Municipal elections authority could be transferred to county boards of voter registration and elections. As amended by the full committee, the terms for municipal mayors and council members would commence at the next regular city council meeting in the month after the election results were certified. This proposal also prohibits the extension of terms for any mayor or council member elected in an even-numbered year when existing election dates are changed. As amended, if they were elected in an odd numbered year, that term would be extended. Officers would continue to serve until their successors are elected and qualified.
The Senate has received H. 3883, a bill that would allow circuit court trial judges discretion to retain alternate jurors through deliberations. Trial judges would determine the appropriate time to release these alternates from jury duty.
House members have overwhelmingly voted in favor of S. 341, a bill that would allow guardianship appointment revisions to include petitions being filed 180 days prior to a youth turning 18 years old. It must be shown to the court that this youth would benefit from a guardianship being in place even after they obtain adulthood. This bill has been enrolled for ratification.
They also amended and sent to the Senate S. 342 adding homeless children and youths definitions. This bill would add definitions of ‘unaccompanied homeless youth,’ ‘homeless child or youth,’ and ‘youth at risk of homelessness’ to the South Carolina Children’s Code. Significantly, all of these definitions would include anyone from their birth to 24 years of age who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
The House has sent the Senate H. 3217, the “Uniform Unregulated Child Custody Transfer Act.” This proposed legislation arises from work performed by the national Uniform Law Commission. It sets out criteria for adoption and transfer of custody of children by a custodial parent, or parents, to the other parent, stepparents, blood kin, or fictive kin, without state agency involvement or the issuance of a court order. It would prohibit the transfer of their children to anyone else not on this list, with an intent to abandon their parental rights. It also has a specific prohibition against soliciting or advertising services to facilitate permitted transfers. Additional proposed provisions incorporate these placements into existing preplacement state laws for the adoption of these children by their custodians. It exempts transfers of custody of Native American children in violation of any applicable tribal law provisions.
Florence County would be added to the list of counties with a Register of Deeds in the event the favorable report issued by the committee on H. 3313 is adopted and this bill is enacted. This list specifies the South Carolina counties who have a Register of Deeds to handle all real estate-related matters. In the past, county Clerks of Courts handled these documents.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H. 3605, a bill addressing the screening of applicants for professional and occupational licenses and the investigation of complaints filed against those who hold such licenses and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation provides that a professional or occupational board under the authority of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation may not solely or in part deny a license to an applicant because of a prior criminal conviction, unless the criminal conviction directly relates to the duties, responsibilities, or fitness of the occupation or profession for which the applicant is seeking a license. Boards are prohibited from using vague or generic terms, such as “moral turpitude” or “good character,” nor may they consider charges that have been dismissed or dropped or that have resulted in a finding of not guilty as a justification for denying an applicant a license. An applicant who has submitted a completed application may not be denied a license because of a prior criminal conviction unless the licensing board has given the applicant an opportunity to appear at a hearing to determine the applicant’s fitness for the occupation or profession. When a license is solely or in part denied because of the applicant’s prior criminal history, the board must, within thirty days of the hearing, issue a written final order that includes the grounds for denial and notification that appeals are to be made to the Administrative Law Court. The legislation revises provisions governing the investigation of professional and occupational licensees when complaints have been filed against them. Within thirty days after an investigation is initiated, the LLR Director is responsible for sending: (1) a letter advising the licensee that a complaint has been filed, an investigation has been initiated, and the licensee is requested to respond in writing within fourteen days; (2) a copy of the complaint; (3) the name of the complainant, unless the board believes good cause exists to withhold the name; and (4) all materials filed with the complaint. In any case, where an investigation prompts a licensing board to recommend a formal complaint, the legislation requires a procedural review in which the LLR Director is charged with verifying that notification requirements have been fulfilled and that any response from the licensee has been included and considered in the investigative file. Any procedural defects that the Director finds during the review must be rectified before a formal complaint can be issued. The legislation includes the “Earn and Learn Act of 2023” which makes provisions for paid professional and occupational apprenticeship programs as a means of expanding economic opportunities and building a skilled workforce according to industry standards by allowing a worker to earn a paycheck while fulfilling licensing requirements.
The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3953, legislation restructuring the Department of Consumer Affairs as a cabinet agency accountable to the Governor in the executive branch of state government. The bill dissolves the department’s nine-member governing board, the Commission on Consumer Affairs, and provides for the head of the department to be an administrator appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the Senate, who is subject to removal from office by the Governor.
S. 581 names the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula) as the official carnivorous plant of South Carolina. It passed the House and was enrolled for ratification.
S. 299, pertaining to the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, passed the House and was enrolled for ratification. The bill provides for the inclusion of the State Child Advocate to the Committee.
H. 3168, regarding Antique Vehicles, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. This bill clarifies that antique motor vehicles and motorcycles may be used at night for particular purposes if equipped with working headlights and rear lights.
H. 3732, Classic and Antique Motor Vehicles, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. This bill designates the restoration, exhibition, showing, and enjoyment of classic and antique motor vehicles as the official family-friendly pastime of South Carolina.
H. 4291 , Clog Dancing Day, designates the eighth day of August of each year as “Clog Dancing Day” in South Carolina. The bill was read a third time and sent to the senate.
H. 4352, Middle Level Education Month, designates the month of March of each year as “Middle Level Education Month.” “Middle Level” refers to middle school, also known as intermediate school or junior high school. It was read a third time and sent to the Senate.