March 11, 2022

The Senate spent most of the week focused on Convention of States legislation while the House cleared a number of bills off their calendar before they begin debating the budget next week.  The House will convene on Monday at 1:00 to begin debate on the state’s $13.9B 2022-2023 spending plan and will only focus on the budget next week while in chambers.  The Senate plans to debate legislation which would call for the federal government to pass a balance budget as well as DHEC restructuring while on the floor next week. 

The House announced their plans to take a furlough the week of March 21st, which leaves six legislative days until the crossover deadline of April 7 when they return on March 29.  The Senate has not announced any plans for a legislative furlough at this time.

House Majority Leader Announces Retirement

House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R-York) announced his retirement from the SC House on Thursday, bringing his thirty years of service in the House of Representatives to a close at the end of this year.  Simrill currently chairs the Higher Education Budget Subcommittee in the Ways and Means Committee and led the charge to increase the state’s gas tax in 2017 and for bringing the Carolina Panthers to the state in 2019.  He has been praised by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his persistence and ability to build consensus and his retirement marks the end of an era for a man who has served in the House since he was 26 years old.

Representative Simrill joins a handful of members who have announced that they will not run again, including Representatives Sandy McGarry (R-Lancaster), Garry Smith (R-Greenville), Joe Daning (R-Berkeley), and Bruce Bryant (R-York).  Filing for the November elections opens next Wednesday, March 16 at noon and closes two weeks later on March 30.  Prior to filing for the general election beginning next week,  Robby Robbins won the Republican primary nomination for the House District 97 special election on Tuesday.  Robbins is a member of the SC Department of Transportation Commission and will now face Democrat ReZsaun Lewis in the May 17th special election in order to fill the seat previously held by Mandy Kimmons.

Convention of States Legislation Passes Senate

The Senate spent long hours on the floor this week, debating H. 3205, a bill by Representative Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) which would add South Carolina to the list of states that have legislation calling for a Convention of States where delegates could propose amendments to the United States Constitution in order to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, term limits for members of Congress, and impose limits on the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.  Members of both parties expressed concern that calling for a Convention of States could have unintended consequences, however the bill ultimately received second reading by a 27-13.

The legislation now heads back to the House where they can accept or reject the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

“Comprehensive Tax Cut Act” Passes Senate

The Senate gave unanimous approval to Senate Finance Chairman Harvey Peeler’s (R-Gaffney) income tax cut proposal on Thursday, setting the stage for a House and Senate Conference Committee to reconcile differences between the two tax cut proposals prior to the end of session.  The Senate plan gives $1B in rebates to the state’s income tax filers, reduces the top income tax rate from 7% to 5.7%, and reduces manufacturing property taxes.  The House plan reduces the top income tax rate from 7% to 6.5% in year one and is incrementally phased down to 6% over five years and collapses all other tax brackets to a 3% rate, while both plans eliminate taxes on military retirement.  Senator Peeler stated that “we’ve only just begun to trim,” signaling his desire to continue cutting spending and taxes during his tenure as Senate Finance Chairman.

Other News of Note

Representative John King (D-York) chaired the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon, filling in for House Judiciary Chairman Chris Murphy (R-Dorchester) who remains on medical leave.  King is First Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and has been in the House since 2009. 

The Senate Education Committee met twice this week on their version of education savings account legislation, moving the bill forward to the full Senate for consideration.  The House “Parental Choice in Education Act” remains on the House contested calendar where it has not yet been brought up for floor debate.

The House Education and Public Works Committee held a fourth and final hearing on several bills related to critical race theory on Tuesday afternoon.  The Committee has heard over 15 hours of testimony on five different pieces of legislation which would restrict what teachers can teach on U.S. History, civics and current events.  The Committee plans to put forth a new and comprehensive piece of legislation for consideration by the body.

The House gave second reading to S. 1090 on Thursday, moving the insured workers benefits legislation in the same expeditious manner as the Senate.  The legislation, which was introduced on February 22 as a result of a class-action lawsuit alleging that the cap on state’s unemployment benefits was illegal, must now head back to the Senate where they can either accept or reject the House amendments to the bill.

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