Big Progress in Final Hours of Session

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the 2017-2018 legislative session ended… sort of. More on this a little later.

First, we’re pleased to report that the final week brought a few pleasant surprises that move us closer to a few more legislative victories for the business community.

High-Impact Incentives

On Wednesday, the Senate added language dealing with high-impact incentives (a Chamber priority) onto a bill that deals with tax credits for abandoned buildings. A previous stand-alone, high-impact incentives bill was stuck on the House Ways and Means calendar and didn’t receive a hearing.

Late on Thursday, the House elected to send the amended bill to a conference committee. In a race against the clock, conferees from both the House and Senate were agreed on and named before the 5 p.m. deadline. This means the legislation can continue to progress after the official end of session. Initial signs are strong that the House will concur with the Senate’s addition of high-impact incentives. The conference committee may meet as early as next week.

Workforce Expungement

Also on Wednesday, the Senate gave second reading to a House bill that allows for expungement of low level, nonviolent criminal offenses; mostly drug possession crimes. This Chamber priority will help expand South Carolina’s workforce by allowing individuals to clear their records of one-time convictions that often hinder employment.

The legislation received a third reading in the Senate on Thursday and, in the waning minutes of session, the House voted to concur with the Senate’s changes. That sends the expungement bill to the Governor’s desk for signature into law and notches another legislative victory.

Energy Regulation

The conference committee for the Public Service Commission (PSC) Ruling Delay (S.954) met twice over the last two weeks. Both the House and Senate conferees agreed with delaying the PSC from ruling on a merger until December. However, they are at an impasse when it comes to setting an experimental rate. The House wants the full 18% reduction while the Senate insists on the 13% reduction. The conference committee is likely to continue meeting over the coming weeks.

On Tuesday the Senate placed the Utility Plants, Projects and Rates Bill (H.4375) and the Utilities Consumer Advocate Bill (H.4379) for special order giving them priority status on the Senate calendar.

Utility Plants, Projects and Rates (H.4375) repeals the Base Load Review Act moving forward. The Senate gave Utility Plants, Projects and Rates (H.4375) a third reading on Thursday, sending the bill back to the House where they didn’t agree to the Senate changes, thus sending the bill to conference.

The Utilities Consumer Advocate Bill (H.4379) creates a utility consumer advocate in the Office of Regulatory Staff. It received a third reading in the Senate, but the House didn’t get a chance to take up the Senate changes before the clock ran out. However, the Sine Die resolution passed by both chambers includes all legislation dealing with Santee Cooper and SCANA, so It will be debated when the House reconvenes on May 23 to take up the budget conference report.

And The Budget

Finally, the state appropriations bill conferees agreed to meet next week to begin budget deliberations, which means the session will end without a budget. However, the legislature, in their Sine Die Resolution, agreed to come back twice: once on May 23/24 to vote on the budget conference report and again on June 27/28 to take up Gubernatorial vetoes.

If necessary, the legislature also agreed to come back to deal with any issues that arise with Santee Cooper and SCANA. This truly could be the session that doesn’t end! As always, we will keep you up to date on the latest from Columbia.

Have a great weekend!

George Ramsey,
CMCC Business Lobbyist

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