With the second year of the 2017/2018 Legislative Session finalized, this document provides a recap of this year’s Session.
All 124 House members and constitutional officers, including the Governor, were up for election this year. The SC Senate is not up for election until 2020. Interestingly, this is the first year in South Carolina where the Governor picks his or her Lieutenant Governor running mate.
The ongoing State House corruption investigation continues, with special prosecutor David Pascoe and his team leading the charge. Most recently, veteran Senator and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee John Courson pleaded guilty to misconduct in office for funneling campaign money for his personal use. He is the fourth member of the Legislature to found guilty of corruption charges.
It is expected that more indictments could emerge.
The One Dominating Issue
One issue dominated the State House this year: The failed VC Summer nuclear facility. The Legislature, the courts and the Public Service Commission must decide whether rates (set aside for the failed nuclear facility) can be lowered.
In addition to the VC Summer issue, the Legislature spent a large part of its time debating a comprehensive solar bill and a bill that would outlaw most abortions. The solar bill failed on the House floor; and, after hours of debate, the Senate was deadlocked and ultimately killed the abortion ban bill in the early morning hours of Session.
Business Issues in the Legislature
The Legislature took on some very important issues to the business community. They are as follows:
Two bills are at play (H.5341 and S.1258). Here are the summaries of the two bills.
Status: The bill passed the House and is included in the Sine Die Resolution
- Decouples from the new interest expense limitation so that SC businesses can continue to deduct business interest;
- Decouples from the new foreign tax provisions (BEAT and GILTI) so that SC businesses will not have to pay SC taxes on foreign income;
- Decouples from the new federal rule requiring corporations to pay income taxes on economic development incentives;
- Decouples from the new federal limitations on a bank’s ability to deduct FDIC premiums; andDecouples from the 20% LLC deduction.
The bill creates a $1,525 personal exemption for individuals to eliminate the otherwise $200 million increase in individual income taxes
Status: Introduced in the Senate and is included in the Sine Die Resolution
In addition to conforming to the Federal Tax Code through Feb. 9, 2018, the bill offers a South Carolina standard deduction for taxpayers who claim the standard deduction on their federal return in amounts of $7,570 for those single or married filing separately, $11,355 for head of household and $15,140 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er).
H.3653, sponsored by Rep. Mike Forrester (R-Spartanburg), is a bill that will further protect existing manufacturers from groundless nuisance lawsuits. The bill was signed by Governor McMaster earlier this year. SCMA President and CEO Sara Hazzard stated in the Post and Courierand other publications, “As South Carolina's population continues to grow and neighborhoods continue to expand closer and closer to existing manufacturing facilities' footprints, it is important to provide certainty to those manufacturers so they can continue to invest, operate and provide jobs.”
Auxiliary Containers (AKA: The Plastic Bag Bill)
The Senate ran out of time to hear H.3529, a bill by former Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville) that provides local government would not be allowed to prohibit retailers from using auxiliary containers, such as plastic bags and polystyrene, at the point of sale. Currently, a number of towns and municipalities, along the coast, have passed a ban on the use of auxiliary containers at the point of sale, including Beaufort County, Surfside, Isle of Palms, and Folly Beach. This bill would prohibit any future efforts by municipalities. The bill would have to be reintroduced next year and go through the entire Legislative process to be enacted.
Governor McMaster signed S. 105 into law earlier this year. The bill, sponsored by Senator Luke Rankin (R-Horry), implements a new 90-day deadline on environmental challenges to projects, many of them business expansions and growth. It provides predictability as the state continues to grow its infrastructure and business capabilities in order to meet the demands of the Palmetto State’s population growth. The bill was in response to many environmental groups using existing law to indefinitely stop infrastructure and business projects. The new 90-day deadline for these cases to be heard brings much needed predictability to the process.
Superintendent of Education
After decades of consideration and debate, the Legislature passed a bill that takes the Superintendent of Education off of the ballot and makes that person a cabinet appointment. Supported by the business community, this move is intended to make the Governor more directly involved in and accountable for South Carolina’s education system.
Workforce Development Issues
As one of most important issues facing South Carolina’s future, the Legislature continues to work to meet the needs related to the skills gap and workforce. Bills included in this effort are as follows:
- Career Pathways: A comprehensive bill, this bill is intended to better prepare students (children and adults) for workforce needs. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate.
- Applied Bachelorette in Manufacturing: This bill, which passed, provides that technical schools could also include an applied baccalaureate in manufacturing in its curriculum.
- Expungement Bill: Supported by many officials in the business community, this bill provides for eligibility for expungement of criminal records for certain offices with the intent of providing more opportunity for employment of such individuals. This bill was vetoed by Governor McMaster, but overriden.