State House Report #11

March 30, 2015 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Human Trafficking, Uber & Movement on Roads

This week we took additional steps to combat human trafficking, passed a reform measure to assist the ride-sharing industry, and consolidated road improvement and tax reform proposals.

Cracking down on human trafficking in South Carolina has been, and continues to be, a priority for us. A cross-county jurisdictional loophole in the current law was brought to our attention by prosecutors recently.  As a result, we have passed a measure that would allow prosecutors to engage the grand jury system for individuals who are trafficking humans over county lines. In an effort to increase reporting from exploited individuals and prosecute their traffickers a previously established information and reporting hotline would be strengthened by expanding the publicity of the hotline to high public traffic areas.  The measure now heads to the Senate and upon passage will go to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

We also addressed issues surrounding the ride sharing industry that specifically impacted Uber and other transportation network companies (TNC). In South Carolina, we’ve always had taxis and they fall under the management of the Public Service Commission (PSC). However, the business model for TNCs, like Uber, wouldn’t be viable if each driver had to pay for a taxi license.

In January, the PSC issued a cease and desist order against Uber effectively shutting them down. As a conservative who opposes over-regulation strangling business innovation, I was disheartened by that action. In response, this bill was drafted to set up a framework that allows TNC’s, specifically Uber, to operate legally. H. 3525 establishes that framework and allows the TNC companies to get one license – allowing all of their drivers to operate under that single license. This bill was rated as “business positive” by a leading business advocacy organization, and I am glad to have innovative companies like Uber in South Carolina. I will continue my work to keep them here.

The full House Judiciary Committee gave final approval to the domestic violence act I discussed in last week’s email. I remain committed to using my office and my vote to crack down on violent domestic offenders and advocate survivors. I want to thank those who have spent an enormous amount of time on this project – it’s one I plan to see through.

This week the process of repairing roads and infrastructure took the next necessary legislative step as the House Ways and Means Committee combined the two bills related to roads and income tax. The bill now moves to the whole House under H. 3579. During the next two weeks, I would like to have your input via email, phone call, or social media on this important legislation.  I also invite you to participate in the House Republican Caucus online poll by clicking here. Many floor amendments are expected as we debate this bill, and I will report back to you in subsequent newsletters.

As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

H. 3579 Overview

March 27, 2015 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

H. 3579 Overview

The House Ways and Means full committee today voted to combine the two bills related to roads and income tax. The bill now moves to the whole House under H. 3579.  Through the floor debate and amendment process it may experience changes. The below facts, figures, and estimates provided by the House Ways & Means Committee reflect H. 3579’s current makeup.

1.   RestructuringThere are two key components to restructuring in H. 3579. The first restructures the Department of Transportation and the second component restructures the State Infrastructure Bank.

      A.     Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • The Governor appoints Highway Commissioners (7 districts and 1 statewide) with a Joint Transportation Review Committee screening process approval. These commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Highway Commission will then appoint a secretary with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners hold no “terms” and may only serve a combined 12 years on the commission (retroactive).

DOT

 

      B.      State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB)

  • The SIB Board expands from 7 to 13 members. It would consist of 7 district highway commissioners, 3 appointments from the Speaker of the House, and 3 appointments from the Senate President Pro Tempore. Of those appointments from legislative bodies, 1 of each must be an ex officio Representative and Senator. SIB members would have no terms and may only serve a combined 12 years (retroactive).

CP

  • The SIB would lower its current $100 million project minimum to a $25 million project minimum and must follow project prioritization set forth by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in accordance with ACT 114. Only a Joint Resolution can override prioritization criteria requirements. However, only one project may be re-prioritized in a single Joint Resolution.

SIB

 

2.     Transfer of Local RoadsLocal governments that wish to take ownership of local roads (as identified by SCDOT) in their political subdivision may do so. In doing so, these local governments would be eligible for additional C-Funds. Should local governments opt in to take ownership of additional roads, they would receive transferred roads in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2016.
  • Phase 2: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2018.
  • Phase 3: Local government select final 1/3 of identified roads in 2020.

Trans

 

  • As part of the phase-in process, the monies allocated to participating local governments would see an increased C-fund allocation of $1 million in year one followed by additional revenue increases in phase 2 and phase 3. Participants who opt in during phase 2 in 2018 would see a $500,000 annual increase in C-funds. Finally, participants who opt-in during the final phase would see a $250,000 annual increase in C-funds. C-funds would no longer come with a mandate requiring a percentage of funds be spent on state roads; this decision would rest with local decision makers.

3.   Funding Components There are two funding components.

     A.    Gas Tax
       1. Per Gallon Tax – Currently it is 16.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel (gasoline and
diesel). This proposal would drop it to 10.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel.

Tax

 

         2. Excise Tax – A wholesale indexed excise tax of 6% would be applied to a 6-month
average of the wholesale price of motor fuel.

     B.  Auto Sales Tax – Currently the auto sales tax is 5% of total vehicle costs capped at $300. This proposal would raise that cap to $500. Currently the auto sales tax is broken down with 20% going to education, 40% to the DOT, and 40% to the General fund. Under this proposal, the 20% capped at $300 for education remains, the 40% of the $300 designated to the General Fund moves to DOT and all funds over the $300 also go to DOT.

4.   Control Component: This proposal includes two controls designed to prevent dramatic changes to gas prices from affecting the revenues dedicated to infrastructure.

      A.  Penny Control

  • The wholesale excise tax would not fluctuate more than one penny in a 6-month period.

6

 

      B.   Lifetime Control

  • The combined gas tax (comprised of the per gallon AND excise) cannot exceed 26.75 cents/gallon.

5.    Revenue Generated:

      A.  Estimated New Revenue: Under this proposal revenues generated would be $428 million annually.

  1. Approximately $100 million from the auto sales tax cap increase, and shift of remaining General Funds to DOT.
  2. The remaining $328 million from the gas tax increase.

      B.  Gas Tax Revenue Sources

  1. Out-of-State motorists currently comprise 1/3 of the revenues from the gas tax. Under this proposal that would equal $109 million.
  2. The Average driver (driving 11,000 miles/year in a car receiving 22 miles per gallon) would pay an additional $50 annually.
  3. The remainder is paid by “high usage vehicles” to include citizen commuters and transportation related industry.

6.  Income Tax Reduction: Under this proposal an income tax reduction would be phased in over a two-year span beginning with fiscal year 15-16. The relief is realized by increasing the amount of exempt income in each existing tax bracket by $140 in the first phase, and another $140 the second, for a combined total of $280.

      A.   Cost to the General Fund

  • 2015-2016: $1,337,967
  • 2016-2017: $25,510,778
  • 2017-2018: $21,910,558

      B.   Average Savings

  • The average South Carolina taxpayer would save $48 annually.

 

 

Legislative Update- March 23, 2015

March 23, 2015 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Tommy catches up after some technical difficulties last week. They had third reading on the budget, worked with SC State, and had the CDV meeting. This week will have more focused work on the roads. Also, friends from Taiwan will be at the State House this week.

State House Report #10

in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

 Cracking Down on Domestic Violence & SC State Resolution

This week, the House of Representatives advanced legislation cracking down on domestic violence. We also took decisive action by passing a resolution concerning the overhaul of South Carolina State University.

Reports indicate that South Carolina’s murder rate of women killed by men sits at twice the national average. It’s unacceptable, and my colleagues and I are committed to strengthening our laws to give law enforcement the necessary tools to reverse this pattern of abuse in our state.

For 6 months, the House Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee under the direction of Chairman Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort) diligently studied all aspects of the issue. The committee listened to dozens of hours of testimony from both survivors of domestic violence and from the law enforcement and prosecutors charged with bringing justice to those who perpetrate crimes of domestic violence.

As a result of their findings the committee produced the Domestic Violence Reform Act. This comprehensive legislation:

  • Significantly enhances penalties for those found guilty of committing acts of domestic violence.
  • Paves the way for middle school students to receive instruction on how to identify and respond to domestic violence situations.
  • Creates the Domestic Violence Advisory Committee comprised of citizens, medical doctors, and law enforcement to review instances of death as a result of domestic violence and submit a public annual report.

Currently South Carolina’s domestic violence laws are occurrence based – an approach that has proven insufficient by itself. H 3433 institutes a hybrid model based on the number of occurrences and adds that penalties become more severe depending on the level of injury sustained, also accounting for any aggravating circumstances. I am committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence in South Carolina and this restructuring demands the punishment fit the crime.

We also took forceful and necessary action to solve the well-publicized troubles at SC State University. The House unanimously passed a joint resolution that:

  • Removes the current SC State board members.
  • Gives authority to newly appointed interim board members.
  • Allows the interim Board of Trustees to remove the current President if they deem that action necessary.

“It is my hope that our joint resolution – which received unanimous bipartisan support – will put SC State back on a path to success,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington).

As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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