Legislative Update – March 10, 2017

My note – A $50 increase in Base Student Cost will not even fund a step increase for District employees.  FM

The eighth week of General Assembly was spent with clearing the calendar in the House to prepare for the budget debate.  The House will gavel in on Monday at 1:00 pm to begin work on its version of the 2017-18 Appropriations Bill.

Senate Amends Roads Bill

H. 3516 – (Roads Bill):  After hearing an update from Transportation Secretary, Christy Hall, the Senate Finance Special Transportation Subcommittee amended the bill so that it would generate about $800 million annually instead of the $600 million in the House passed version. There are three major differences between the two versions of the bill.

·         In the House version of the bill, the gas tax would be increased by two cents over 5 years for a total of a 10 cents increase.  In the Senate version of the bill, the gas tax would be increased by two cents over 6 years for a total of a 12 cents increase.

·         In the House version of the bill, the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases would be increased from $300 to $500.  In the Senate version of the bill, the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases would be increased from $300 to $700.

·         In the Senate version of the bill there is no reform of the Department of Transportation.

The amended bill received a 7-2 favorable report and should be considered by the full Senate Finance Committee on March 14.

Senate Amends Pension Reform Bill

H. 3726 – (Pension Reform) On Wednesday, Senator Sheheen moved to “poll out” H. 3726 from the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate agreed to the polling out of the bill and place it on the calendar.  On Thursday, Senator Sheheen offered a strike all and insert amendment to replace the language of the House bill with the Senate’s language found in S. 394.  The amendment was adopted and the amended bill was given a second reading vote of 38-0. With unanimous consent to give the bill third reading on Friday. The bill will be returned to the House with the question of concurrence in the Senate amendments.  The House will likely non-concur and the bill will head to a conference committee once the House finished its debate of the budget.

House of Representatives

Action Taken on the Floor

·         H. 3513 – (Retired Teacher Certification) This bill creates a new teacher certification credential for retired teachers who previously held a professional educator certificate. The credential is good for 30 years and exempts those holding the credential from having to complete any professional development requirements except those required by the district in which the individual is employed.

o   Action:  The House gave second (103-0) and third reading to the bill and it now moves to the Senate for consideration.

·        H. 3587 – (School Seizure Safety Taskforce) The bill creates a study committee and enumerates the membership of the committee. The committee is to examine issues related to epilepsy and seizure safety awareness in public schools.

o   Action:  The House gave second (93-6) and third reading to the bill and it now moves to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee for consideration.

·         H. 3792 – (Stadium Bathrooms) The bill sets minimum standards for the number of toilets and lavatories available for men and women at middle and high school stadiums.  The bill is aimed at relieving public school districts from having to meet the state’s current building code requirements for its stadiums.

o   Action: The bill was amended on Wednesday to effectively return the guidelines/codes for stadium renovations back to the 2015 codes.  In doing so the number of lavatories and toilets required would be significantly reduced.  The amended bill received second and third reading and was moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

Ways and Means Committee

·         H. 3720 – (Appropriations Act):  In preparation for the budget debate, the House Ways and Means Committee provided a budget briefing on Wednesday to the membership. The following are the education highlights reported.

o   $100 million for capital improvements in a school district that was an Abbeville lawsuit plaintiff or with a poverty index of 80% or higher;

o   $38 million to increase the Base Student Cost by $50 to $2400 per pupil;

o   $19 million for SC Public Charter Schools student growth;

o   $10 million in the lottery for new school buses to move towards a 15-year replacement cycle; and

o   $3 million to help fund the cost of industry certifications.

 

·         Ways and Means Capital Needs and Bonding Subcommittee met on Tuesday morning to discuss a bond bill.  Each subcommittee presented the capital needs of its agency.  Representative Whitmire requested $95 million for replacement of all 1995 or older buses.

o   Action: The subcommittee only received reports from the budget subcommittees.

Ways and Means Subcommittees Actions

·         H. 3343 – (SC Education School Facilities Act): This bill establishes a mechanism to defray the costs of qualified school projects based on a prioritization report for needed school facility construction and renovations.

o   Action: The bill was amended and received a favorable report.  It now moves to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

·         H. 3056 – (State Leadership Scholarship Program): This bill creates a scholarship program for “students who demonstrate leadership potential.”

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

·         H. 3058 – (Lottery Game): This bill would create a new lottery game of which the proceeds would be allocated to the State Department of Education to facilitate accelerated learning of underachieving students.

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

·         H. 3311 – (EEDA Pathways): This bill directs the State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education, the State Department of Education, the Employment and Workforce, and the Department of Commerce to implement a Pathways Initiative in alignment with the EEDA. The initiative is to facilitate a seamless transition from K12 education to employment in industries with critical workforce shortages.

o   Action: The bill was amended and given a favorable report.

·         H. 3098 – (Tier IV Tax Deduction): This bill provides income tax deductions for teachers who reside and work in a Tier IV county or counties with a combination of the highest unemployment rate and the lowest per capita income.

o   Action: The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

 

Senate

Action on the Floor

·         S. 199 – (Stopped School Bus) This bill authorizes the Department of Public Safety to issue a ticket to the owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a stopped school bus based upon the inspection of photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other digitally recorded images produced by a digital recording system mounted on a school bus. It establishes civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. Appeals procedures are also outlined in the bill.

o   Action: The Senate gave second reading to the bill after adopting an amendment that would allow the registered owner to present certain evidence that he was not the driver at the time of the violation.

 

K-12 Education Committee

·         S. 389 – (Teachers of Tomorrow) The bill provides for another alternate route to obtaining a teaching certificate in the state. This bill authorizes the for-profit company, Teachers of Tomorrow, to certify teachers.  Per the bill’s preamble, the company is based out of Texas, has been operating for 11 years, and has certified more than 42,000 individuals.

o   Action: The Committee carried the bill over.  The Committee stated that the Alternative Certification regulation could be amended to allow the State Board of Education to approve this, and other alternative route certification programs as they come forward.

·         State Board of Education Regulations: The following regulations received a favorable report of the Committee.

o   Reg. 43-234 Defined Program, Grades 9-12 and Graduation Requirements.

o   Reg. 43-236 Career or Technology Centers/Comprehensive High Schools.

o   Reg. 43-258.1 Advanced Placement.

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