The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3358, legislation that provides a framework for issuing and renewing state driver’s licenses and identification cards to bring South Carolina into COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL REAL ID ACT of 2005, and enrolled the bill for ratification. South Carolina’s compliance deadline of January 31, 2017, was extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security upon the request of former Governor Haley until June 6, 2017, and the enactment of compliance legislation should allow the state to operate under extended regulatory relief through September 30, 2020, the final implementation date for the federal REAL ID Act. If no action were taken, South Carolina driver’s licenses and identification cards would soon no longer be accepted where federal law requires the use of REAL ID compliant credentials for establishing personal identity. With no action taken, the presentation of South Carolina-issued ID would not be sufficient for entering such areas as federal buildings and military bases, after June 6, 2017, and, after January 22, 2018, would not be accepted for boarding commercial flights at airports. Enactment of compliance legislation should spare South Carolinians the trouble and expense of obtaining other compliant forms of identification to gain this access during the coming months, such as the necessity of presenting airport security with a United States Passport in order to board even domestic commercial flights. The legislation repeals the state statute that was adopted specifically to prohibit South Carolina agencies from complying with the provisions of the federal REAL ID Act. In order to comply with federal mandates, the legislation: transitions South Carolina licenses from a ten-year to an eight-year renewal cycle; provides for the inclusion of a Department of Homeland Security approved image, a star, for marking compliant state licenses or IDs; and, makes provisions for scanning and retaining copies of original personal documents like birth certificates, social security cards and proof of residency that are required for establishing identity. A REAL ID compliant card may only be issued to individuals who present all supporting documents required for a compliant credential. The legislation provides an individual the option of obtaining a noncompliant driver’s license or identification card lacking the star emblem from the SC Department of Motor Vehicles, with the understanding that the credential will not satisfy security requirements at places, such as federal office buildings, military bases, and airports where REAL ID compliant documents are needed. The DMV shall not provide direct access to the department’s full driver’s license database to any other jurisdiction. To begin to meet implementation costs, the legislation authorizes the DMV to expend $1.7 million from its current cash balances.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3548, the “SOUTH CAROLINA UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION FROM DISMEMBERMENT ABORTION ACT”. The legislation prohibits the performance of a dismemberment abortion, which involves the use of surgical instruments to kill the unborn child by cutting up the body for piecemeal extraction, unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother or to prevent the mother from suffering serious, irreversible physical harm. Physicians or others who knowingly perform, or attempt to perform, prohibited dismemberment abortions are guilty of a felony punishable with a fine of ten thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for two years. The legislation specifies that a woman upon whom a dismemberment abortion is performed may not be prosecuted for a violation, for a conspiracy to commit a violation, or for a related offense. The legislation makes provisions for a legal cause of action that may be brought against those who perform a prohibited dismemberment abortion to obtain such relief as actual damages, punitive damages, and legal costs.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3343, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION SCHOOL FACILITIES ACT”. The legislation makes provisions for state financial assistance to school districts, through such means as the issuance of state general obligation bonds and the awarding of grants, that must be used for permanent school instructional facilities, health and safety upgrades, technology access inside the school, and fixed building assets including the costs for construction, improvement, enlargement, or renovation of school facilities. The legislation does not provide financial assistance for unimproved real property, centralized school district administration facilities, or facilities normally identified with interscholastic sports activities. Under the legislation, the State Department of Education is charged with conducting a comprehensive study of all school districts’ facilities and physical assets and is assigned the responsibility of producing an annual prioritization report, with a total project cost that must not exceed two hundred million dollars, that ranks the qualified school projects. The department’s prioritization report must also provide a recommendation of whether financial assistance for a specific school project should be in the form of grants, loans or a combination of both. The legislation makes provisions for financial assistance to be allocated using the priorities established by the Office of School Facilities of the Department of Education as approved by the State Board of Education. Upon review of the information, the General Assembly may, through budget proviso or joint resolution, set the principal amount of the State School Facilities General Obligation Bonds to be considered. Upon approval of the Joint Bond Review Committee, the project prioritization report, with certification from the State Board of Education, must be submitted to the State Fiscal Accountability Authority in order for bonds to be issued. The legislation makes provisions for the State Board of Education to establish a revolving fund with such monies as may be appropriated by the General Assembly to operate a grant program that provides nonrecurring aid to school districts for facility maintenance expenses to include fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler or suppression systems, roof and heating and air conditioning repairs or replacements.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3311, a bill enacting a comprehensive WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PATHWAYS INITIATIVE. The legislation revises the membership of the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development within the Department of Commerce, which provides centralized oversight and comprehensive planning for the numerous job training initiatives housed in various state agencies, so that the Education and Economic Development Act experts appointed by the State Superintendent of Education include a school district superintendent, a school counselor, and a career and technology education director. The legislation charges the member agencies of the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development with developing and implementing a statewide Career Pathways Initiative, in alignment with the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Act, to improve employment outcomes and address critical workforce needs. The initiative encompasses a Career Pathways program to facilitate a student’s transition from education to employment and a Pathways to New Opportunities Initiative to provide career services, including education, training, and job search assistance to adults. A Career Pathways Grant Fund is created for the purpose of awarding competitive grants to technical colleges to fund Pathways‑specific expenses, including program administration, career and technical equipment, facilities, instructional materials, transportation, and tuition grants. Funds must be used to establish new pathways or enhance existing pathways that confer the necessary skills and training to prepare students for careers in high‑demand fields in industry sectors with critical workforce needs. The Department of Employment and Workforce, in coordination with the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and the Department of Commerce, shall develop, coordinate, and implement a Pathways to New Opportunities Initiative, which must leverage existing services and new resources to provide subsidized career training and certification and job placement assistance to adults throughout the state pursuing careers in high‑demand occupations in industry sectors with critical workforce needs. A Workforce Scholarship and Grant Fund is created to provide financial assistance to assist individuals with the costs of attending eligible technical college or professional certification programs such as tuition, fees, textbooks, and school related transportation. The Department of Employment and Workforce, in consultation with the Department of Commerce, must develop and implement a plan to facilitate the job placement of qualifying individuals who have completed the necessary training and certification, to ensure that they are matched with available employment opportunities in industry sectors with critical workforce needs throughout the state.
The House made appointments to a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3726, the RETIREMENT SYSTEM FUNDING AND ADMINISTRATION ACT.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3041, a bill ENHANCING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS FOR REAL ESTATE LICENSURE. The legislation expands criminal background check requirements for Real Estate Commission licensure, by requiring fingerprint-based screening and by requiring these background checks not only for initial licensures but also for licensure renewals under a six-year cycle that requires screening with every third renewal.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3038, a bill making provisions for the LICENSURE AND REGULATION OF LOCKSMITHS. The legislation creates the Board of Locksmiths and provides for its composition, function, and duties. The legislation requires applicants for licensure to satisfy certain criteria, complete testing requirements, and submit to state and national criminal background records checks.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3886, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION ACT” to establish new provisions governing the operation of homeowners associations. In order to be enforceable, a declaration or other governing document of a homeowners association must be recorded in the local clerk of court’s or register of deeds office so that these documents are accessible to the public as matters of public record. The legislation establishes a new requirement for disclosing to potential owners whether a property is subject to the governance of a homeowners association and how copies of HOA governing documents may be obtained. A homeowners’ association is required to provide at least forty‑eight hours’ notice to homeowners before a meeting to take action to increase an annual budget. The legislation clarifies that the magistrates court has concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate certain monetary disputes between homeowners associations and homeowners. An Office of Homeowners Association Ombudsman is created within the Department of Consumer Affairs to receive complaints, provide information about the roles, rights, and responsibilities of the various parties, and assist with meetings, mediations, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. The ombudsman is required to make an annual report to the General Assembly that includes statistics on complaints received and any recommended changes to state law that would improve HOA regulation.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3789, the “SOUTH CAROLINA YOUTH CHALLENGE ACADEMY AND SOUTH CAROLINA JOBS CHALLENGE PROGRAM EXPUNGEMENT ACT”. The legislation affords eligible youthful offenders who successfully complete military and job training programs the opportunity of having nonviolent criminal offenses expunged from their records.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3055, a bill establishing a temporary legislative RESTORATIVE JUSTICE STUDY COMMITTEE to review state juvenile justice laws and make recommendations, including a proposed pilot program, to facilitate and encourage diversion of juveniles away from the juvenile justice system and towards restorative justice practices that emphasize repairing the harm caused to victims and the community by offenses, including victim initiated victim‑offender conferences, family group conferences, circles, community conferences, and other similar victim‑centered practices. The study committee is charged with making its report to the General Assembly by March 1, 2018, at which time the study committee dissolved.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3125, the “SAFE CHILDREN’S ACT”, which codifies a comprehensive set of best practices for Department of Social Services protocol and interventions in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3215, a bill creating the criminal offense of IMPERSONATING A LAWYER. The legislation provides for graduated penalties for violations, ranging from misdemeanors for initial violations to felonies for certain subsequent violations.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.4003, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA PRODUCE SAFETY ACT”, to afford the South Carolina Department of Agriculture authority to oversee a new federal safety standards program applicable to certain farm produce. The program ensures that large farmers are handling and packaging produce in accordance with these national food safety standards. This legislation affects farms with an average annual monetary value of produce sold during the previous three‑year period of more than twenty‑five thousand dollars on a continuing basis. The program is federally funded and would discontinue if federal funds were to terminate.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3817, a bill that provides for MORE EXPANSIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE TAKE‑BACK PROGRAMS by allowing pharmacies and certain others to register as collection centers for unused prescription drugs as a means of preventing substance abuse by keeping opioids and other dangerous prescription drugs out of the wrong hands.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4048, a bill requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to issue, pursuant to its Medicaid Home and Community‑based waiver, PERSONAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEMS (PERS) DEVICES to Medicaid recipients that include, in addition to emergency response services, unlimited twenty‑four hour, seven‑day a week live phone contact with experienced registered nurses for triage services.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3885, a bill providing clarifications and ENHANCEMENTS FOR THE LEWIS BLACKMAN HOSPITAL PATIENT SAFETY ACT requirements for health care practitioners to wear badges that allow patients and family members to identify them by name and professional capacity.
The House approved and sent the Senate to H.3428, a bill revising provisions governing “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” ORDERS to allow a parent or legal guardian to request a do not resuscitate order for emergency services for a child under 18 years old who has a terminal condition. Provisions are also including for revoking such a DNR order.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3450, legislation enacting the “ELECTROLOGY PRACTICE ACT” to provide for the licensure and regulation of electrologists and electrology instructors through an Electrology Licensure Committee established under the Board of Medical Examiners. The legislation is offered as a means of ensuring minimum standards of competency for those who practice or offer instruction in electrology, which involves the permanent removal of hair from the skin through the application of an electric current.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3417, a bill providing authorization for MOBILE BARBERSHOPS that can be transported from one location to another and offer temporary portable barber operations in such settings as a client’s home or a nursing home. The legislation makes provisions for mobile barbershop permitting and regulation by the State Barber Board and subjects mobile barbershops to all state and local laws, regulations, and ordinances pertaining to the practice of barbering.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3867, a bill revising an AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION to exempt all property devoted to housing low income residents if the property is owned by an instrumentality of a nonprofit housing corporation.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3150, a bill addressing MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. The legislation requires municipal elections be held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November in each even‑numbered year, the same time when general elections for federal, state, county officers must be held. The legislation establishes a new Uniform Election Procedures Act to apply to municipal elections. The legislation requires that general elections be held for uncontested municipal races by eliminating an exception that currently allows a general election not to be conducted to fill a municipal office when only one person has filed for the office and no one has filed a declaration to be a write‑in candidate.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3685, a bill REVISING SPECIAL ELECTIONS DATES, so that the state’s calendar for setting those special election dates will allow for compliance with the requirements of the South Carolina Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3428, a bill requiring the Director of the Division of Veterans’ Affairs to receive and respond to VETERANS’ COMPLAINTS REGARDING COUNTY VETERANS’ AFFAIRS OFFICERS. The Director shall forward the complaint along with his recommendation for discipline, including the possible removal of the county veterans’ affairs officer in question, to the appropriate legislative delegation for its consideration and final determination.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3898, a bill revising the INFORMATION THAT MAY DISCLOSED ABOUT ADOPTEES, biological parents, and biological siblings so that the provisions also apply to biological grandparents.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3440, a bill enacting House Legislative Oversight Committee recommendations for updating qualifications for the visually impaired members of the SOUTH CAROLINA COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3804, a bill revising FIFTH WHEEL TOWING RESTRICTIONS to allow recreational vehicles to tow golf carts and certain other vehicles on the state’s roads. The legislation provides authorization for pick-up trucks, with features commonly referred to as ‘fifth wheels,’ to be limited to towing one trailing vehicle. Their maximum combined overall length is set at 75 feet.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3601, a bill revising BEAR HUNTING IN GAME ZONE 4 by replacing the current lottery system for issuing bear tags.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3743, a bill authorizing the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “POWERING THE PALMETTO STATE” SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES honoring South Carolina’s electrical linemen.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or my 24-hour phone line at 331-8468.