The 2020 South Carolina legislative session was anything but typical. Regardless, many significant items passed or were discussed during the abbreviated late summer/early fall session. Parker Poe Consulting, on behalf of our clients, succeeded in several measures to benefit our clients and the State of South Carolina. January 1, 2021, looms as a pivotal moment when we begin to forge a new normal and there will be many new questions and concerns for the state’s legislators to determine. As we enter a crucial election season, here is a recap of the latest legislative session and where things stand for our state.
The CARES Act expenditure authorizations and reimbursement appropriations were the largest fiscal deal cut at the State House during this session. PPC consultants were actively working toward securing funding from this COVID-19 relief federal funding bill on behalf of their clients. It includes expenditure and reimbursement authorization in the following areas.
- Testing - through DHEC (statewide testing and monitoring) up to $73 million. MUSC statewide testing for up to an additional $20 million.
- Department of Employment and Workforce Unemployment Trust Fund - $420 million.
This is in addition to $500 million allocated during Phase I allocations. The legislation spells out that regardless of the trust fund’s balance, businesses will not have to pay tax rates above what they are currently paying in 2020.
- Nonprofit/Minority/Small Business Relief - to continue with the emergency needs related to the pandemic through the end of 2020.
- Minority and Small Business Relief - $40 million
- Nonprofit - $25 million
- State/Local Government, Independent College and Universities - $115 million
- Public Education
- Reimbursements for school safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the Department’s priority for reimbursement, including face masks, gloves, wipes, hand sanitizer, face shields, plexiglass, and more.
- The ability to hire or contract for school nurse services for those schools that do not a full-time school nurse.
- Virtual SC - assistance with reimbursements related to the increased need and usage of these programs.
- Tutoring and supplemental services - prioritizing face-to-face instruction focused on students with identified reading or math difficulties and students with IEPs to address deficits resulting from COVID-19.
Additional measures related to these reimbursement and expenditure authorizations include grants for small businesses. Priority is for businesses that did not receive other assistance, such as CARES funds previously or the Paycheck Protection Program. The priority of applications is related to food assistance, rent or mortgage assistance, utilities, mental health counseling, health care services, criminal domestic violence and children’s advocacy services, arts, and cultural items or activities.
State legislators also agreed that earnings limitations do not apply for retired employees currently drawing from the SC Retirement System or Police Officers Retirement System who returned to participate in the state’s public health preparedness/response. The Public Employee Benefit Authority may apply to have its costs reimbursed to the extent allowed by the federal CARES Act.
Steps have been taken to move forward with broadband internet across the state, with an emphasis on the many rural areas. This $50 million allocation is an important investment for the state and its implications on education, telemedicine, and emergency communications in many underserved areas across the entire state of South Carolina. The Broadband Accessibility Act passed unanimously in both the Senate and House.
Small Cell/5G Deployment
PPC consultants were pivotal to the negotiations and passage of the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, which will help the expansion of 5G technology across the state. This advancement will result in stronger cell service across the state, particularly in crowds such as sporting events, concerts, and other large gatherings where cell service and quality have previously been diminished. The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act passed the Senate 32-6 and the House 104-1.
Business License Tax Reform
After many years of negotiations, the General Assembly passed a reform to the business license tax. Many changes centered on streamlining the process to require a standard application form, renewal date, how to handle appeals, and creating a centralized payment portal so that taxpayer data remains protected. The Business License Tax Amendment passed the House 102-1 and the Senate 35-1.
Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan
The legislature has approved an amendment to the Code of Laws to establish the Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan to provide a supplemental insurance policy upon a firefighter being diagnosed with cancer. Passed 108-1 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.
Other Ratified Items
For a full listing of the ratified Acts that were presented to the Governor, please click here.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Looking ahead to the January 2021 session, the budget will likely be the top item to be considered. Governor McMaster delayed the approval of the state budget until 2021, and many legislators believe the decision will help support better financial knowledge to better prepare for the new year.
For more information, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe Consulting contact.