The 2014 South Carolina legislative session is shaping up to be an interesting one, with several high-profile issues on the table. It is also an election year for every member of the House and all statewide constitutional officers. The campaign filing deadline is March 31st, so the General Assembly will be in session when legislators officially field contenders, which historically tends to color many actions taken during that time.
As in years past, priorities can change with the wind at the State House. But for now, there are several issues that are expected to be at the forefront of debate during the 2014 session, including:
· Ethics Reform – H.3945 was one of Governor Nikki Haley’s priorities in 2013 and should be front and center again in 2014. The bill has been set for special order in the Senate and will definitely come up early for debate.
· Transportation Funding – The legislature should be applauded for directing nearly $600 million towards roads and bridges in 2013, but that however, is just a start. The SCDOT estimates that they need $29 billion over the next 20 years to bring our state’s infrastructure to a “good” condition. There is a bill, H.3412, which has already passed the Senate Finance Committee and is on the Senate floor for consideration. It would do a number of things including indexing the gas tax for inflation. Our state gas tax has not been increased since 1987. We currently have the nation’s fourth largest state highway system and the nation’s fourth lowest state gas tax.
· Government Restructuring – S.22 currently sits in conference committee. This legislation would establish a Department of Administration, which the Governor has been seeking for three years now. The biggest difference between the House and Senate remains the state procurement process.
· Regulatory Reform – Governor Haley put together a regulatory reform task force that met throughout 2013 to look at burdensome state regulations. The group just released its report in November. Rep. Eric Bedingfield (Greenville) and others will be leading the charge to push regulatory reform next year.
· Guns in Bars/Restaurants – S.308 would allow concealed weapons to be carried into businesses that sell alcohol that is consumed on the premises. This bill has passed both Chambers and currently resides on the Senate floor with House amendments.
· Access to Capital – After last year’s successful passage of Angel investor legislation, there will once again be a push to help attract more private capital for South Carolina start-up companies. A couple of different proposals are being discussed including crowdfunding legislation that would ease federal SEC regulations and ease intrastate investments to occur in South Carolina.
· Tort Reform – S.773 and S.788 were both introduced by Senator Shane Massey during the last week of the 2013 session. These two bills deal with court transparency and liability reform.
· Nullification of the Affordable Care Act – H.3101 is a bill that was introduced and led by a group of conservative legislators. It currently resides in a special order slot on the Senate calendar. This legislation would restrict the enactment of Obamacare and would allow the state attorney general to take businesses to court if he “has reasonable cause to believe” they are harming people by implementing the law. The legislation will most likely take up a good bit of time in the Senate when it comes up for debate.
· Judicial Elections - For the first time in decades, there is going to be a contest over who will be chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court. Costa Pleicones is challenging Jean Toal to be the chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court. Lawmakers will vote very early in session to decide who will be the new chief justice.
· Common Core Standards - The Common Core State Standards is a U.S. education initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform. Several conservative members of legislature are opposed to this in SC and the issue will most certainly be debated during 2014.
· Flow Control – H.3290 is known as the "flow control" or the "Business Freedom to Choose Act." This legislation would override a county's authority to enact ordinances to restrict solid waste disposals at certain facilities or to control how solid waste or recycling are managed within their own county. The bill has passed the House and is currently on the Senate floor for consideration.
· Budget Surplus – The Board of Economic Advisors announced in November of 2013 that state lawmakers will have an additional $440 million to allocate. Budget requests from state agencies easily surpass $1 billion and a significant portion of the new monies will most likely go to pay for the current Medicaid program. During an election year, it will be especially interesting to see how lawmakers divvy up this extra revenue.
For more information about state legislation and the upcoming 2014 session of the South Carolina General Assembly, please contact Mark Cothran or Elizabeth Edwards of the Upstate Chamber Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org