Legislative Update – January 27, 2017

The third week of session was one of great fanfare and historic moments.

Fruit Basket Turnover

With former Lt. Governor Henry McMaster being sworn in as the state’s 117th governor on Tuesday, a series of historic events took place.  Prior to the swearing in of McMaster, Senator Hugh Leatherman resigned as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  The individual holding that positions ascends to Lieutenant Governor when that position becomes open.  Senator Leatherman did not want to move into the position of Lieutenant Governor so Senator Leatherman resigned prior to the office becoming vacant.

Upon gaveling in on Wednesday the Senate received the message from Senator Leatherman regarding his resignation and then proceeded to elect a new President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  Senator Shane Martin nominated Senator Kevin Bryant for the position. Senator Bryant was elected.  After being granted “privilege of the floor” and making his remarks, Senator Bryant was sworn in as the state’s new Lieutenant Governor.

As the new Lieutenant Governor Bryant’s first act was to call for the election of President Pro Tempore.  Senator Luke Rankin offered Senator Leatherman and upon finishing his remarks, Senator Shane Massey offered Senator Harvey Peeler for the office as well.  Upon the conclusion of Senator Massey’s remarks the Senate proceeded to a vote.  Senator Leatherman was once again elected to the position of President Pro Tempore of the Senate by a vote of 28 to 16.  After the vote, the Senate adjourned for the day.

One Step Closer to an Appointed Superintendent

Both the House and the Senate made steady progress in advancing legislation to make the State Superintendent of Education an appointed position.

On Tuesday, January 24th, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider S. 137. This bill deals with the Constitutional amendment needed to make the position appointed.  Senator Malloy expressed in subcommittee his concern over the question’s wording and proposed an amendment in full committee to have the question phrased in such a way as to require the voters to cast a “no” vote to make this an appointed position.  An example question might be, “Do you want to retain the right to elect the State Superintendent of Education?” The amendment failed and the bill received a favorable report.  It is expected that Senator Malloy will address his concern once again when the bill is discussed on the Senate floor.

On Wednesday, January 25th, the Senate Education Committee gave a favorable report to the amended S. 27. This bill sets out the qualifications of the State Superintendent of Education.  Last week the bill was amended to specify that the education experience must be “public” education.  During the discussion of the bill, several members noted that they may amend further to strengthen the education requirements when the bill is discussed on the Senate floor. Senator Sheheen stated he plans to submit an amendment to clarify the timing of the various steps involved with transitioning the position from an elected to an appointed position, and to ensure a vacancy is clearly and appropriately provided for.

On Tuesday, January 24th, the House Judiciary Committee gave favorable reports to H. 3036, the House companion bill to S. 27, and to H. 3146, the House companion bill to S. 137.  Chairman Delleney offered an amendment to H. 3036, dealing with the qualification of the superintendent, to strike the word “extensive” which was adopted.  Two members, Representatives King and Norrell, voted against the bill.  House Bill 3146 received a favorable report with two members, Representatives Norrell and Rutherford, voting against the bill.  Now, as amended, all four House and the Senate bills are identical.

State Board of Education Regulations

The Senate Education Committee gave a favorable report to R 43-274.1 At-Risk Students (Document 4656) which included minor changes deleting references to PASS and HSAP. Even though R 43-80 Operation of Public Pupil Transportation Services (Document 4658) received a favorable report from the subcommittee, the full committee asked that the regulation be withdrawn and resubmitted to clarify the statutory references in the regulation. The full committee supported the subcommittee’s recommendation to have the SCDE withdraw and resubmit R 43-279 Minimum Standards of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Enforcement (Document 4657), and R 43-210 School Resource Officers (Document 4659).

House K-12 Subcommittee Action

The House Education and Public Works Committee met on Wednesday morning to discuss three education related bills that were approved by the subcommittee. The first bill, H. 3427, requires the State Board of Education to adopt grade appropriate standards for computer science and computational thinking and computer coding for grades 9-12 by August 2018, and requires each public high school and public charter school to offer at least one computer science course beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The fiscal impact statement presented to the committee generated a lot of discussion.  The fiscal impact statement shows a total impact to the state general fund for the Department of approximately $1.3 million over the first two years of implementation and a $19.2 million fiscal impact to the local school districts in fiscal year 2019-20, the third year of full implementation. The impact to local school districts was based upon hiring an additional computer science teacher for each high school.

The second bill, H. 3220, received a favorable report by the full committee.  It re-establishes the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council.  The makeup of the council is as it was established in the initial Education and Economic Development Act.

The final education bill, H. 3221, also received a favorable report by the full committee. This bill requires the Department of Education to implement a program for assisting and intervening in school districts exhibiting fiscal and budgetary concern.  The bill establishes three levels of fiscal concern – fiscal watch, fiscal caution, and fiscal emergency.  It outlines the various characteristics and procedures required at each level.

Education Oversight Committee Budget Request

On Tuesday, January 24th, the Education Oversight Committee presented their budget to the Ways and Means K-12 Subcommittee.  Melanie Barton presented on behalf of the Committee asked that the following be funded out of the Education Improvement Act.

  • Recurring Funds for Computer Science Task Force (New)                                                  $500,000
  • S2TEM Centers SC (Increase)                                                                                                     $1,250,000
  • State Agencies’ Teacher Salary (Increase)                                                                                $394,415
  • National Board Certification (Decrease)                                                                                  ($3,000,000)
  • SC ETV (Increase)                                                                                                                          $200,000
  • Teacher Supplies (Increase)                                                                                                         $357,500
  • CERRA – Teaching Fellows (Increase)                                                                                       $1,200,000
  • State Assessment Program (Decrease)                                                                                      ($2,044,000)
  • Industry Certifications/Credentials (Increase)                                                                         $4,000.000
  • Aid to Districts Diagnostic Support (New)                                                                                 $6,100,000
  • Accountability – Value Added (New)                                                                                          $1,400,000
  • SC Public Charter School District (Increase)                                                                             $22,898,631
  • Robotics (New)                                                                                                                                 $125,000
  • Department of Commerce (Increase)                                                                                          $150,000
  • SC Education Innovation Fund (Increase)                                                                                 $6,068,454

State Department of Education Budget Request

On Wednesday, January 25th, Superintendent Spearman presented the agency’s budget request. Listed below, in order of priority, are those that were discussed.

  • EFA: Increase base student cost to $2500. The subcommittee discussed the strain on locals with EFA required match.
  • School buses: $10 million in recurring funds and $95 million in nonrecurring funds to replace old inefficient buses (1800) that cost 41 cents per mile versus 21 cents per mile. There was discussion about lease options, as well as privatization. SDE stated they were looking at all options. The 15-year replacement cycle would require $34 million a year.
  • Technical Assistance: $4.4 million to bring in additional schools.
  • Power School: $1.6 million for security improvements.  However, members expressed concerns about data accuracy in Power School.  SDE advised that the funding is needed to do what the Legislature wants and to collect needed data.
  • Bus Driver Salary: to provide supplements to assist school districts in retaining and obtaining/competing for drivers.
  • Student Engagement Survey: $750,000
  • Virtual SC:  $3.75 million
  • CATE:  $3 million for CATE Office changes such as computer science and modernized vocational equipment.
  • Teacher Supplies: $357,000.
  • ADEPT: assisting, developing, and evaluating teachers.
  • Mechanic Salaries: funding for increases in mechanic salaries to support bus fleet.
  • Educator Evaluation System: $1.6 million.
  • Technical and Work Based Education: $1.9 million.
  • Instructional Materials: $53 million (supplies more than 42 million books).
  • Personalized Learning: $200,000

Senate Labor Commerce and Industry

The Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee met on Thursday, January 26th, to consider S. 218.  The purpose of the bill is to prevent local governmental entities from adopting their own laws or mandates related to requiring employee benefits on private sector businesses within their jurisdictions.  However, the local governments or political subdivisions can establish their own employee benefits for their own employees.  (See subsection D).  Senator Massey introduced the bill based upon a trend of similar legislation in other states and due to rumblings that some local political subdivisions in South Carolina where discussing passage of certain benefit requirements for all businesses in their districts that were more burdensome than state policy.  This legislation will provide a uniform policy for the state. The bill received a favorable report.

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