By Mark Cothran, Elizabeth Edwards
August 01, 2013
Brief Session Summary
From road funding to providing more access to capital for homegrown start-up companies, here is a look at the major issues that were debated in 2013:

Transportation Funding
This issue was undoubtedly the top priority of the state’s business community this year. SCDOT officials say the state needs $29 billion in new spending over the next 20 years to meet its road maintenance needs. The state’s motor fuel user fee, or gas tax, has not been increased since 1987 and with the current political climate, there was not a willingness to debate raising the gas tax this year. The legislature did however look at other options, and creatively put together a package of nearly $600 million that with federal matches could exceed $800 million. The legislature will use $50 million of recurring general fund revenue to bond $500 million for roads and bridges. They also transferred $41.4 million of recurring dollars collected from vehicle sales taxes revenue and put up to $50 million in one-time money to go specifically to bridge repairs.

High Growth Small Business Job Creation Act
Legislation creates an angel investment tax credit and encourages private investors to fund high-growth South Carolina start-up businesses through a 35 percent tax credit. There are $5 million of credits available each year. Nearly 30 states have a similar measure, including Georgia and North Carolina.

The $6.3 billion state budget funds the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. This year’s budget debate in the Senate was contentious at times with a good bit of focus on proposals to fund our state’s deteriorating road and bridges.

Identity Theft Protection
After the widely publicized breach of data at the S.C. Department of Revenue last year, the legislature allocated $10 million in funding to continue credit monitoring services, $10.7 million for security upgrades and tax deductions of $300 million for individuals and $1000 for joint filers for people who buy their own consumer protection and identity theft-resolution services.

State Government Restructuring
The Department of Administration legislation currently sits in conference committee. The legislation moves administrative functions of government to a Department of Administration that reports directly to the governor. The key difference in the legislation is who handles state procurement. Gov. Nikki Haley and the House want the executive branch of government to handle procurement, while the Senate would create the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, a quasi-form of the Budget and Control Board. It will likely be debated again in January 2014.

This year the legislature provided $26 million to expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten to all school districts where more than 75 percent of students live in poverty. After a failed attempt to pass a widespread school choice amendment, Senate Conservatives successfully fought to approve a tax credit for donations made for private-school scholarships for disabled students.

Ethics Reform
No passage, may be back next year.

Election Reform
After more than 200 candidates across South Carolina were kicked off of the ballots in 2012 for not properly filing campaign paperwork, the legislature spent the beginning of the 2013 session focusing on legislation to correct and simplify the filing issues.

Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act
H. 3093, the Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act, was signed by the governor. The bill allows a taxpayer making investments of a certain size in rehabilitating an abandoned building to receive income tax credits or credits against the property tax liability.

Medicaid Expansion
Neither the House nor Senate included a budget provision to expand Medicaid. Instead, an alternative plan in both versions of the budget includes a redirection of Medicaid spending under a new Medicaid Accountability and Quality Improvement Initiative.

Unemployment Benefits
The Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) made a $144 million early debt payment to the federal government, which was four months ahead of schedule. DEW reported this will save approximately $1.7 million and expects to make another $50 million payment in September. The early payments should result in lower unemployment tax bills for employers in 2014.

Beer Bill
This legislation amends the South Carolina code to allow sampling and sales of beer at breweries. The legislation allows for the sale of 48 ounces of beer to a consumer at a brewery. This legislation levels the playing field with our neighboring states to allow breweries to attract tourists, local residents, and other visitors to tour their facility and taste their products.

Guns in Bars and Constitutional Carry Act
This legislation relates to carrying a concealed weapon in a business that sells alcohol. The bill’s language would replace the current prohibition with new provisions that afford concealed weapons permit holders some legal authority to carry their firearms into bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve beer, wine, or alcoholic liquor. There is legislation that would also revise the requirements to receive a concealed weapons permit. A compromise was not reached and this bill will be back up for debate in 2014.

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