Was a very busy week on the floor as we wanted to give bills a chance to become law before session ends. Any bills that didn’t make it through one chamber this week, will basically not be able to become law before we adjourn in May (unless they receives a special vote to consider from 2/3 of the chamber).

H. 5118 South Carolina Energy Security Act

I did not support this legislation. Not after what happened to us with VC Summer years ago. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 5118, the “South Carolina Energy Security Act.” Drawing upon the work of the Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad Hoc Committee established by the Speaker of the House, this bill includes restructuring initiatives and makes comprehensive provisions as a means of promoting sufficient, reliable, safe, and economical energy crucial to the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of South Carolina and to the state’s economic development and prosperity.

Through the legislation, the General Assembly encourages Dominion Energy South Carolina, Inc. and the Public Service Authority to complete joint evaluations and pursue necessary permitting for adding natural gas generation capacity at the retired Canadys coal fired generation station in Colleton County. The legislation includes provisions authorizing the Public Service Authority to enter into joint ownership arrangements of electrical generation and transmission facilities with investor-owned electric utilities.

The General Assembly encourages Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC to complete evaluations and pursue necessary certification for constructing a second powerhouse using the existing reservoir at Bad Creek Pumped Hydro Station in Oconee County which will approximately double the size and peak hourly capacity of the facility.

The General Assembly encourages Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC and Duke Energy Progress, LLC to complete evaluations and pursue necessary permitting for constructing hydrogen capable natural gas generation or otherwise to place into service such natural gas generation within the utilities’ balancing areas serving South Carolina. Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC and Duke Energy Progress, LLC are further encouraged to determine what facilities may be necessary to interconnect such natural gas generation to the electric grid or otherwise deliver electric power from the utilities to its customers.

Should any of these projects be approved, the Office of Regulatory Staff is charged with providing continuous monitoring that includes reviewing whether projected construction timelines and financial projections are being met. ORS is required to provide monthly written updates to the Public Service Commission and to the members of the General Assembly.

The legislation includes provisions encouraging the prompt siting, permitting, and completion of energy infrastructure projects, energy corridor projects, and brownfield electrical generation projects.

Provisions are made for economic development electric utility rates that the Public Service Commission may offer to those who are identified by the South Carolina Department of Commerce as transformational customers who are proposing to make sizeable new commercial or industrial investments in South Carolina or significantly expand their activities in the state.

The Public Service Authority, in consultation with the South Carolina Department of Commerce, is authorized to serve as an anchor subscriber of incremental natural gas and pipeline capacity needed in the future by the state to recruit new transformational projects or to assist in the expansion of transformational projects as identified by the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

Through the legislation, the General Assembly encourages electrical utilities to explore cost effective, efficient bulk power solutions, particularly during periods of constrained capacity, for non-residential customers with electric loads in excess of 25 megawatts, including agreements for co-location of electric generation or storage.

The legislation prohibits offering any incentive that would result in a reduced electric rate to a data center until July 1, 2034.

Provisions are included for a strategic plan to advance the development of advanced nuclear generation including small modular reactors, molten salt reactors, and spent nuclear fuel recycling facilities to serve customers in this state in the most economical manner at the earliest reasonable time possible.

The legislation directs the Public Service Commission to be responsive to the clean energy needs of customers and the economic development implications for the state when reviewing and approving voluntary clean energy programs. The PSC is charged with considering updates to these voluntary renewable energy programs on an ongoing basis.

The legislation subjects facilities requiring a footprint of more than 125 acres of land, such as solar energy farms, to provisions governing the certification of major utility facilities.

The legislation makes provisions for expanding utility investment in and customer access to cost effective demand-side management programs for enhancing efficient use of existing resources, promoting lower energy costs, mitigating the increasing need for new generation and associated resources, and assisting customers in managing their electricity usage to better control their electric bill.

Under the legislation’s restructuring provisions, the Public Service Commission, which provides oversight for the state’s utilities, continues to have its members elected by the General Assembly, but its membership is reduced to three commissioners, chosen from the state at-large, rather than seven commissioners (representing each of South Carolina’s Congressional Districts). The legislation allows for greater transparency in proceedings before the Public Service Commission.

The duties of the Division of Consumer Advocacy in the Department of Consumer Affairs are transferred to a new Division of Consumer Advocacy created within the Office of Regulatory Staff.

The Nuclear Advisory Council is transferred from the Department of Administration to the Office of Regulatory Staff and its membership is expanded to include an additional at-large member appointed by the Governor to serve as the Council’s chairman and director.

The legislation establishes an Energy Policy Research and Economic Development Institute at the University of South Carolina to serve as an expert and reliable advisory resource for state policymakers, government, and industry. Supporting the efforts of the Advanced Resilient Energy Nexus, SC Nexus, the institute is charged with bringing together a coalition of experts from various domains within the energy ecosystem, individuals and organizations specializing in innovating public policy approaches, as well as specialists from across higher education, including such institutions as the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and South Carolina State University. The EPI shall aid South Carolina in developing a strategic long term approach to address energy related challenges and economic development opportunities for the State of South Carolina. A six-member governing board is created for the EPI, made up of those who hold key legislative leadership positions or their designees.

The Office of Regulatory Staff, in consultation with a stakeholder group that includes representatives of consumer, environmental, manufacturing, forestry, and agricultural organizations, natural gas and electrical utilities, the South Carolina Public Service Authority, and other affected state agencies, is charged with preparing a comprehensive South Carolina energy assessment and action plan which must identify recommended actions over a ten-year period to ensure the availability of adequate, reliable, and economical supply of electric power and natural gas to the people and economy of South Carolina. This ten-year plan must be submitted to the Public Utilities Review Committee for approval.

H. 5245 Charter Schools

The House gave second reading to H. 5245 as amended, with third reading the next day. The bill relates to charter school admissions, and would provide that charter schools may give enrollment preference to children of active duty military service members in South Carolina if their enrollment does not constitute more than 20 percent of the overall enrollment (also revising and clarifying existing enrollment preference provisions).

H. 4702 “South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative Act”

The House gave second reading to H. 4702 as recommended by the Education committee, with third reading the next day. H. 4702 would enact the “South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative Act,” which seeks to “continue to expand access to computer science learning experiences to all students because computer science supports literacy, math, problem solving, and technological skills, and advances productivity in every discipline, industry, and profession.” H. 4702 provides for the expansion and enhancement of computer science education in public high schools through the creation and implementation of a statewide computer science education plan and the requirement that each public school offers at least one computer science course by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.

H. 4703 South Carolina Stem Opportunity Act

The House gave second reading to H. 4703, with third reading the next day. The bill would enact the ” South Carolina STEM Opportunity Act” by establishing the South Carolina Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Coalition, the South Carolina Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Fund within the State Treasury, and the SC STEM Coalition Advisory Council. The Ex. Dir. of DEW is to be the chair of the Advisory Council, with the President of USC appointing a 12th member. The coalition would coordinate STEM education programs in K-12 and higher education, promote STEM education statewide in collaboration with business and industry, and work towards the development of a technology-ready STEM workforce in South Carolina. The coalition is also tasked with collaborating in research and development of STEM education tools and best practices, facilitating participation in STEM-related competitions, promoting STEM teaching as a career, and engaging business and industry in STEM activities for schools.

H. 4874 Regulations on Captive Wildlife

The House amended, gave third reading, and sent to the Senate H. 4874. South Carolina is one of three states that do not have laws that regulate captive wildlife. In an effort to ensure safety of the state’s captive wildlife, the bill requires DNR to provide for regulations on possession of all South Carolina native captive wildlife. Among many things, the bill outlines that DNR must establish permitting requirements for wildlife rehabilitator or apprentice wildlife rehabilitator at a cost of twenty-five dollars for three years. In addition, the department may charge twenty-five dollars for wildlife research permits valid for one year after issuance. The department may inspect any location where captive wildlife are being held during reasonable hours and if a permittee refuses to allow inspection is subject to immediate permit suspension or revocation. DNR has the authority to seize captive wildlife under certain conditions. The bill specifies that a permittee, or any other person or entity from whom captive wildlife was seized, is liable for any costs incurred by the department or its agent as a result of care provided to seized captive wildlife. This bill also establishes new offenses for violations. No one convicted of a major wildlife violation or a crime that carries a penalty of more than one year in prison within the last five years is eligible to be permitted.

H. 4820 Statewide Turkey Hunting Season

The House adopted the committee’s amendment, gave third reading, and sent to the Senate H. 4820, a bill creating a statewide turkey hunting season. The bill outlines the season for hunting and taking of male wild turkey is April 10 through May 10. The bill also reduces the season bag limit from three to two for statewide residents. This provision takes effect January 2025 and expires January 2030. After which the provision is amended back to the prior language of January 2025.

H. 5066 “Fair Access to Insurance Requirements”

The House has passed H. 5066 the “Fair Access to Insurance Requirements” and is sending it to the Senate. This proposal seeks to provide an affordable option for liquor liability insurance to any person or business required to have this coverage.

A person licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption that is open after 5:00 p.m. would be required to carry a policy with a limit of at least one million dollars in the annual aggregate during their biennial permit effective dates. Additionally, any person or business licensed to sell liquor could not knowingly sell it to a person who is intoxicated.

Operations, which close by 10:00 p.m., having servers trained in SC Department of Insurance [SC DOI] approved courses, meeting SC DOI risk-limiting requirements, and with less than 40 percent of their revenues coming from alcohol sales, [or are nonprofits obtaining a one-time alcohol serving fundraising event permit] would potentially qualify for liquor liability policy limit mitigation. As amended, reductions are stepped up

for locations that close even earlier, also have servers participating in responsible alcohol service-based trainings, or who have higher percentages of gross receipts from food sales. Food trucks on these premises serving nonalcoholic beverages will have their sales calculated into this location’s gross receipts.

Nonprofit organizations would only have to have half of the total annual aggregate policy limits, or $500,000 coverage. In addition, and as amended, no more that 50 percent of the annual aggregate limit could be paid out on any claim.

H. 4158 Domestic Violence Survivor Rental Termination Rights

H. 4158, a bill to allow documented domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other criminal sexual assault survivors to terminate any rental agreements is on its way to the Senate after passing the House this week. These domestic violence survivors who are listed in rental agreements, must report a qualifying event as defined in this bill to their landlord within 60 days of its occurrence, and then could remain in the leased premises for up to 30 more days. They would still need to pay their monthly rent during this time and move out after it expires. Landlords could not charge any rental termination fees, or other such costs, to these tenants. Tenants would have to pay any rents owed, however.

H. 4912 Tax Law Changes

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 4912, a bill providing for the retention of owner-occupied residential property tax status for relocated Department of Defense civilian employees. The legislation provides that a civilian employed by the Department of Defense who receives orders for a DoD civilian permanent duty or temporary change of station for at least one year, retains eligibility for the special four percent tax assessment ratio for owner‑occupied residential property and applicable exemptions for so long as the owner remains on such orders, regardless of the owner’s subsequent relocation and regardless of any rental income attributable to the property. The legislation extends to these DoD civilian employees the property tax benefits afforded reassigned or deployed active duty military personnel. The legislation revises the taxation of aircraft owned by airline companies as a means of placing South Carolina in a competitive position with neighboring states. The legislation establishes a property tax exemption for a portion of the value of an airline company’s aircraft and revises provisions relating to the valuation of aircraft to specify the manner in which time on the ground is calculated. The legislation revises provisions for determining whether a taxpayer is eligible for the four-percent assessment ratio on owner-occupied property to provide that tax assessors may not require the submission of individual income tax returns for determining whether someone is eligible for the special assessment ratio for owner-occupied property. Provisions are included to address instances of an error by a county in levying real or personal property tax that require the county treasurer to accept partial tax payments over a six-month period from someone affected by the error. No penalties or interest may be assessed against the taxpayer for six months after the taxpayer is made aware of the error. The Department of Motor Vehicles may not revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew the driving privilege of a person for failure to pay taxes during this payment schedule period.

H. 4082 Ophthalmic Disease Medicines

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 4082, a bill providing a sales tax exemption for certain ophthalmic disease medicines. The legislation codifies a budget proviso that has been included in the general appropriations act’s temporary law by placing this sales tax exemption for eye disease treatments in the state’s permanent law as a statutory provision.

H. 5225 Clinical Preceptor Income Tax Credit

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 5225, a bill revising the clinical preceptor income tax credit afforded physicians, advanced practice nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who provide supervision and instruction during student clinical training experiences for a public teaching institution or independent institution of higher learning. Eligibility is expanded to include training in such specialty care as dermatology, hematology, neurology, and oncology. Under the legislation, the credit is equal to one thousand dollars for each rotation served, not to exceed four thousand dollars a year. The provider must be a Medicaid participating provider and have a minimum of at least 100 Medicaid and Medicare patients combined or be a free clinic. The credit is available through 2029.

H. 4274 “South Carolina Public Expression Act

After passing the House on third reading this week, the Senate has received H. 4274, proposed to be called “The South Carolina Public Expression Act.” This bill would allow defendants sued for civilly expressing themselves in legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceedings to file a motion, within 60 days of being sued, to dismiss the case. Once procedures set out in this proposal are followed to assert these rights, all civil discovery proceedings would be stayed, and these motions would become the next priority in these cases. Exemptions from these suits include government employees acting in their official capacities, as well as government officials enforcing laws to protect against any imminent threat to public safety.

H. 3748 Willfully and Criminally Altering Geodetic or Other Surveying Monuments

Also sent to the Senate this week, was H. 3748. It represents a proposal to increase criminal penalties for altering, damaging, moving, or removing geodetic, property corner monuments, control monuments, and any other land surveying monuments and markers. Someone who inadvertently moves such a monument who then notifies the affected owner of this occurrence would not be subject to prosecution.

H. 3980 Reporting Suspected Insurance Fraud Incidents

The House has passed and is sending, as amended on third reading, H. 3980. Judges would have to report all cases of suspected false statements or misrepresentations, about conducting a business of insurance, to the Insurance Fraud Division of the Office of Attorney General should this legislative initiative become law.

H. 4559 Probate Court Appointed Representatives for Military Toxic Exposure Victims

The also passed H. 4559. This bill would amend the South Carolina Probate Code to allow appointment proceedings related to any claim under the 2022 PACT Act, to proceed, regardless of the date of the individual’s death. The PACT Act provides benefits for individuals exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation, and other toxins –including sand and dust, particulates, oil well or sulfur fires, chemicals, warfare agents, depleted uranium, herbicides, and other occupational hazards– during their military service. This change would ensure veterans and families could file claims under the PACT Act even if the affected veteran passed away over ten years ago.

H. 5016 State Auditor Appointed by Governor

Also receiving third reading and on its way to the Senate is H. 5016. Instead of being selected by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, South Carolina’s State Auditor would be appointed by the Governor, upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The State Auditor would serve for a four-year term and could be reappointed by the Governor to additional terms and could be removed by the Governor for cause as well. It proposes minimum qualifications for the State Auditor. Compensation would be set by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority.

H. 4304 Loss of Consortium by Parents or Children

The House is also sending the Senate H. 4304. This proposal would establish a right of consortium between parent and child as well as between child and parent. As such when either is injured, a right of recovery for proximately causing loss of companionship, aid, security, and services would arise, and be actionable in Common Pleas Court civil actions for recovery. This recovery would be offset by any other damages from an incident in question that have been paid prior to commencement of any loss of consortium lawsuit.

H. 4871 Farm Animals Being Transported by Motor Vehicle

The House approved the committee’s amendment, gave third reading, and sent to the Senate H. 4871, a bill that prohibits a person from interfering or harassing a farm animal being transported by a motor vehicle, unless prior consent of the driver is given. For the purpose of this provision, the bill outlines the definition of “interfere” as being intentional, knowing, or reckless acts that disrupts or otherwise impede the transportation of animals. The definition of “harass” is intentional, knowing, or reckless acts having the effect of causing apparent emotional distress or fear. This provision is added to the criminal code and therefore the bill provides for penalties if there is a conviction. Also, the bill outlines that law enforcement acting within the scope of duties are exempted from this provision.

H. 5121 Recreational Fishing Licenses for Non-Fishing Devices

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 5121, a bill allowing recreational license for the use of set hooks in the Congaree River and the Upper Reach of the Santee River for residents sixty-five years of age or older. These provisions expire on January 1, 2030.

H. 5169 “Farmer Protection Act”

The House adopted the committee’s amendment and gave second reading, with unanimous consent for third reading on the next legislative day to H. 5169, a bill addressing the possibility of denial of financing under the “Farmer Protection Act.” As a result, this bill takes steps to ensure that financial institutions do not discriminate against agriculture producer’s based, in whole or in part, upon environment social issues such as agriculture producer’s greenhouse gas emissions, use of fossil-fuel derived fertilizer or the use of fossil-fuel powered machinery. The bill further states that “agriculture producer” means a person or company engaged in the growing of crops, livestock, or dairy production for retail consumption.

H. 4609 Golf Carts to Operate at Night

The House approved the committee’s amendment, gave third reading, and sent to the Senate H. 4609, a bill that outlines that local governments may enact ordinances to allow golf carts to operate in designated areas within their jurisdictions at night, provided that the golf cart is equipped with working headlights and rear lights. The bill further outlines that the ordinance must include a description of the boundary of the designated area(s).

H. 5183 Revised Certifications for Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The House approved the committee’s amendment and gave second reading, with unanimous consent for third reading on next legislative day, to H. 5183, a bill that revises certification for Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). Currently certain CMA certification standards are due to lapse on July 16, 2024. As a result, the bill expands the number of approved certification programs. The bill also states that “certified medical assistant,” or “CMA” also includes medical assistants who have maintained certification from one of the certifying boards, such as but not limited to Board of Medical Examiners or the Board of Nursing, since January 1, 2020 and individuals employed as certified medical assistants as of the effective date of this provision who do not meet the education or training requirements required, but who meet those requirements no later than July 15, 2026. The bill also provides additional responsibilities for the unlicensed assistive personnel.

H. 4867 Telecommunicator CPR Training (T-CPR)

The House approved the committee’s amendment, gave second reading with unanimous consent for third reading on next legislative day to H. 4867, a bill that requires all 911 telecommunicators that provide dispatch for emergency medical conditions to be required annually to be trained, utilizing the most current nationally recognized high-quality telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR). This provision begins January 1, 2025. “T-CPR” means telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is the dispatcher-assisted delivery of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instruction by trained emergency call takers or public safety dispatchers to callers or bystanders for events requiring CPR, such as out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA).”

It further states that telecommunicators providing emergency medical conditions who have completed the specified training, nor governmental entities employing such telecommunicators, shall be liable for any civil damages for any personal injury arising from the provision of CPR instructions to 911 callers except acts or omissions amounting to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. Any civil cause of action for damages arising from this provision must be brought in accordance with the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.

H. 4953 State Veterans’ Cemeteries

The House gave second reading, with unanimous consent for third reading on next legislative day, to H. 4953, a bill that removes the residency requirement to qualify for a plot in a state veterans’ cemetery for a veteran that has been honorably discharged.

H. 4934 Paid Military Leave

The House adopted the committee’s amendment and gave second reading, with unanimous consent for third reading on the next legislative day, to H. 4934. This bill increases the paid military leave allotted to state employees, including school district employees, who are either enlisted or commissioned members of the South Carolina National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves from 15 to 30 days per year for training purposes or other duties as required.

H. 4681 First Responders Advisory Committee

The House gave second reading, with unanimous consent for third reading on next legislative day, to H. 4681, a bill that increases the First Responders Advisory Committee membership from nine to ten by adding the South Carolina Coroner’s Association. The First Responders Advisory Committee provides an annual report identifying concerns and issues pertaining to first responders to the General Assembly.

H. 4673 Beginner’s Permits

The House approved and sent to the Senate H. 4673. H. 4673 would amend the law regarding beginner’s permits, hours and conditions of vehicle operation, renewal and fees, driver’s training courses, and eligibility for full licensure. The bill would provide that persons at least 18 years old may take the driving test after maintaining a beginner’s permit for at least 30 days.

H. 4601 Preventing the Escape of Loose Material And Debris

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 4601. H. 4601 would amend current law relating to preventing escape of materials loaded on vehicles by incorporating that “No person shall operate on any highway any vehicle with any load unless such load and any covering thereon is securely fastened so as to prevent such covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway.” The provisions would not be applicable to and do not restrict the transportation of certain agricultural products.

H. 5244 “Catawba Nation” Special License Plates

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 5244. H. 5244 would provide that the Department of Motor Vehicles may issue “Catawba Nation” special license plates.

H. 5023 Work Zone Safety Program Course

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 5023. The bill would establish the work zone safety program within the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV must require all persons obtaining an initial driver’s license, and who are required to complete a driver’s education course to take the work zone safety program course.

H. 5024 Special License Plates

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 5024, which would provide that surviving spouses of members of the National Guard may apply to obtain National Guard license plates or transfer National Guard license plates issued to their spouses. The committee passed two amendments adding additional special license plates: Autistic and Neurodivergent special motor vehicle license plates to owners of private passenger-carrying motor vehicles registered in their names who are autistic or neurodivergent or who are parents of children who are autistic or neurodivergent. The application for this special motor vehicle license plate must include an original certificate from a licensed physician that certifies the applicant, or his child is autistic or neurodivergent. Also, South Carolina Association for Pupil Transportation Special License Plates are included in this bill.

H. 4349 Greenville Technical College Area Commission

The House gave third reading to H. 4349 which relates to the Greenville Technical College Area Commission. The bill would set out its powers and responsibilities.

H. 4289 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

The House gave second reading and ordered H. 4289 to third reading, as amended. H. 4289 would hold that “When determining admissions or employment decisions, a public institution of higher learning may not…promise admission, benefits, or promote or engage in differential treatment to an applicant for admission, or hire or promote a faculty member or employee, [or deny] on the applicant’s or faculty member’s or employee’s commitment to or making a declaration of personal support for or disagreement with any political ideology or movement, including a promise or statement regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, or other associated political issues.” Related to that “a public institution of higher learning may not ask for or demand any such political promise or declaration from an applicant, or a faculty member or employee.” Other elements of the bill include free speech, antidiscrimination laws and accreditation issues. Reporting is required by each school (schools must report to CHE and CHE must report to the General Assembly).

H. 4649 Promote Safety and Security on School Premises

The House gave second reading to H. 4649, as amended, with third reading the following day. H. 4649 would provide that public school districts with more than 15,000 students may use uniformed security personnel over 21 years old who are armed or delegated arrest authority to work on the premises of the district to promote safety and security on the premises (provided they are licensed as a proprietary security business). These persons do not play an advisory, mentor, nor instructional role. The bill provides requirements regarding training, licensure, registration, and certification those security officers (with exceptions): the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) mandates specific training and registration requirements for security officers in schools. Schools must have a dedicated division for security and emergency management, would be required to form a written agreement with local law enforcement for joint training and continuous education in areas like firearms handling, defensive tactics, and managing active scenarios, ensuring uniformity in training and responses, and security officers would undergo recertification every two years. The bill maintains the obligation of districts to use school resource officers as currently required by law and that these private security persons would not supplant school resource officers, nor can they act as mentors to students.

H. 4116 Funeral Directors

The House made appointments to a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H. 4116, a bill making revisions relating to the licensure and regulation of funeral directors and other licensed funeral service providers.

H. 3121 Perpetual Recreational Trail Easements

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H. 3121, legislation establishing an income tax credit for perpetual recreational trail easements and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for a one-time income tax credit equal to ten cents for each square foot of property that a taxpayer encumbers with a perpetual recreational trail easement and right-of-way. To qualify for this tax credit, the trail must provide a connection between a trail within a municipality’s or county’s regional trail system plan and a local or regional attraction or point of interest, such as other trails, parks, waterways, or other recreational and open space attractions, retail centers, arts and cultural facilities, transportation facilities, residential concentrations, or similar destinations. User groups may include equestrians, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized users. The maximum amount of tax credits allowed to all qualifying taxpayers under these provisions may not exceed one million dollars for each calendar year. The legislation includes a sunset provision that repeals these tax credits on January 1, 2029.

H. 4548 Retired School Bus Drivers to Return to Work

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 4548, a bill allowing retired school bus drivers to return to work without being subject to earnings limitations. The legislation allows school bus drivers who have retired under the South Carolina Retirement System to return to employment with public school districts as school bus drivers without affecting the monthly retirement allowance that they are receiving from SCRS.

H. 4294 Fire Districts

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 4294, a bill providing temporary authority for rural counties to suspend millage limitations to support fire districts instead of relying upon fees to fund these fire protection services. The legislation establishes a protocol that allows a county with a population of no more than seventy thousand that lacks a full‑time fire department that is fully supported by the local fire millage to approve a one-time suspension of its millage limitation resulting in no more than a two percent increase in the county’s overall annual fire budget. Should a rural county make use of this option by approving the suspension with a two-thirds vote of the county council, any increased revenue resulting from the suspension of the millage limitation must first be used to eliminate fees or other similar charges that support fire protection with the remainder used to support the fire protection district. This authority for suspending the millage limitation sunsets after a year.

H. 4594 Tax Conformity

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 4594, this year’s state / federal income tax conformity bill. The legislation updates reference to the federal Internal Revenue Code in state income tax statutes and provides for conformity so that any extensions adopted at the federal level are adopted for South Carolina income tax purposes.

H. 4189 Captive Insurance Companies

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H. 4189, a bill revising provisions governing captive insurance companies. Notably, the legislation provides authority for captive insurance companies or their protected cells to include plans to operate with foreign currency, upon approval of the Director of the Department of Insurance. The legislation provides for forty percent, rather than twenty percent, of captive insurance company premium tax revenue to be distributed to the “Captive Insurance Regulatory and Supervision Fund.”

H. 5154 Gas Utilities

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 5154, a bill revising provisions setting the maximum civil penalty imposed on gas utilities for regulatory violations to bring them into alignment with federal law.

H. 5120 Concurrent Resolution on Federal Legislation for the Deployment of Modern Energy Infrastructure

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 5120, a concurrent resolution urging federal legislation for the deployment of modern energy infrastructure. Through this concurrent resolution the members of the South Carolina General Assembly urge federal legislators to work in good faith to enact legislation that reforms federal permitting and environmental review processes to promote economic and environmental stewardship by expediting the deployment of modern energy infrastructure. These recommended reforms should enable faster and lower cost construction of energy infrastructure of all kinds, without prejudice, including considering steps to: (1) limit excessive use of judicial processes to slow projects inappropriately; (2) prevent inappropriate usage of the Clean Water Act and other laws to hamstring the lawful building of linear energy infrastructure, such as pipelines and transmission lines; (3) enact reforms to plan, permit, and pay for the necessary build out of electricity transmission infrastructure to support a more reliable energy grid that lowers costs for consumers and businesses; and (4) enable the domestic build out of the full array of modern energy technologies, including nuclear, emissions management, hydrogen, critical mining and processing, and all other needs for a modern energy system. These legislative reforms should also strive to ensure accountability for federal agencies conducting permitting and environmental review processes, including better data, more aggressive timelines, and permitting shot clocks. These legislative reforms must be accompanied by a redoubling of efforts to streamline federal regulations to support the efficient building of new energy infrastructure. It is further resolved that failure to act to update federal permitting system to support building new energy infrastructure will further harm consumers, workers, and businesses, while making the United States less competitive and more vulnerable to both foreign adversaries and domestic outages. Congress is called upon to act with urgency in the coming months to fix the broken permitting system.

H. 3227 Pinball Playing No Longer a Youthful Status Offense

The Senate will also be receiving H. 3227. Under its current version, minors would no longer face status offense prosecutions for playing pinball if this bill becomes the law in South Carolina