Legislative Update
May 27, 1997
Vol. 14, No. 19

South Carolina House of Representatives
David H. Wilkins, Speaker of the House

Room 309, Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211, (803) 734-3230

========================= L P I T S

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Legislative Update, May 27, 1997



The House of Representatives devoted much of its attention to the issues of automobile insurance reform and private property rights.

The House amended and returned to the Senate S.254 which provides comprehensive changes for the state's automobile insurance market. The bill repeals compulsory auto insurance, allowing an individual (who has not committed specified violations) to register an uninsured motor vehicle in lieu of securing automobile insurance. This may be accomplished by paying a five hundred dollar annual fee into the Uninsured Motorist Fund established under the bill. An individual who owns or operates an uninsured vehicle without paying the fee is guilty of a misdemeanor. If an uninsured motorist who has not paid the requisite fee is involved in an accident, he must pay a three hundred dollar reinstatement fee. Fifty percent of this reinstatement fee as well as the dollar currently collected on each uninsured motorist coverage policy must be directed to the Department of Public Safety and deposited in the "Uninsured Enforcement Fund." With regard to the voluntary automobile insurance market, the bill authorizes flex rating. Auto insurance rate level increases or decreases seven percent above or below current rates may take effect without prior approval. Auto insurers may utilize rating tiers in the voluntary market. The current mandate that auto insurers write coverage is repealed, but the bill specifies criteria which insurers may not use as a basis for refusing to issue or renew a policy. The existing Reinsurance Facility and recoupment fees are eliminated. The needs of those who wish to be insured, but are unable to find coverage in the voluntary market, are met, instead, by a newly-created Joint Underwriting Association comprised of all auto insurers conducting business in the state. This JUA must provide auto insurance coverage which is set at a self-sustaining rate. That is, premiums paid must be sufficient to cover losses. When the Senate did not concur in House amendments, the House made its appointments to a conference committee charged with reconciling the differences of the bodies.

The House amended and discussed H.3591, The South Carolina Private Property Rights Protection Act, which addresses situations where regulations and other governmental actions restrict the use of private property to such an extent that the value of the real property is significantly diminished, but the property owner is not compensated for his loss. As amended, the bill establishes a new, separate cause of action for property owners who are "inordinately burdened" by governmental actions. This cause of action is independent of the Constitutional doctrine of takings. Under the act, a real property owner is entitled to relief, which may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the property, for specific action of a governmental entity which has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property. In order to seek relief under the act, a property owner must act within one year of the governmental action which he claims is an inordinate burden on his property. A specified procedure must be followed including a written claim filed by the property owner, a written settlement offer from the governmental entity. The property owner may accept the offer and, should the offer contravene the application of a statute as it would otherwise apply to the subject property, the property owner and the governmental entity would jointly file an action in circuit court for settlement approval. If the settlement offer is not accepted by the property owner, the governmental entity must issue a "ripeness decision" identifying the permissible uses for the property. Should neither the settlement offer nor the ripeness decision satisfy the property owner, the owner may file a claim in circuit court. The circuit court shall determine, considering the settlement offer and ripeness decision, whether the governmental entity inordinately burdened the property. If the court finds inordinate burden, a jury is impaneled to determine the amount of compensation. The formula for compensation is the fair market value of the property at the time of the governmental action minus the fair market value of the property, as inordinately burdened. The House amended the bill so as to exempt from its provisions any action of a governmental entity affecting the location of or approval of any extension of any type of radioactive waste facility.

The House refused to concur in Senate amendments to H.3694, which authorizes the issuance of capital improvement bonds. The House amended the bill so as to restore it to its House-passed version. The House also amended the bill to provide that projects identified by the bill must first be funded by surplus 1997-98 general fund revenues, and if these funds are insufficient, only then may bonds be issued. A conference committee was appointed to reconcile House and Senate differences on the matter.

A conference committee was appointed for H.4151 when the House refused to concur in Senate amendments. The concurrent resolution sets an election time for filling a seat vacated on the Legislative Audit Council. The Senate amended the resolution so as to require a candidate to win a majority in each house of the General Assembly in order to be elected.

Conference Committees were also appointed to reconcile differences over H.3400, the general appropriation bill; H.3402, the joint resolution to appropriate capital reserve funds; and S.483, which pertains to assaults on emergency medical service providers.

The House nonconcurred in Senate amendments to H.3317 which pertains to training required of local law enforcement officers.

The House returned several bills to the Senate with amendments:

S.207 provides that regulation of video games pursuant to the Video Games Machine Act is not prohibited, including the prohibition on payoffs and location of these machines in counties where such payouts and machines are prohibited under the local option provisions of that Act. Provides civil penalties for machines located in counties where payouts are prohibited.

S.456 pertains to the domestication of a foreign adoption of a foreign child. Under the bill, the court may, in all cases where documentation is found to be satisfactory, transmit the certificate of adoption to the state registrar along with an order that a hearing will not be necessary. Court Administration is required, in consultation with the Department of Health and Environmental Control, to prepare and make available adoption forms and guidelines for obtaining the domestication of a foreign adoption.

S.452 eliminates requirements that the state's property and casualty insurers submit to the Department of Insurance loss and expense experience reports. The information submitted in the reports is available to the Department of Insurance via the database maintained by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Instead of the routine reporting currently required, the legislation provides that the Department of Insurance may require reports of loss and expense experience at the discretion of the director.

S.624 pertains to debt incurred by Joint Municipal Water Systems, providing, among other things, that a two-thirds vote of the commissioners is required for the systems to borrow money and issue bonds.

The House amended several bills and sent them to the Senate:

H.4082 which provides that it is unlawful for an entity to change a customer's utility provider without the customer's authorization. A violator is subject to a fine of not less than one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars for each violation. A violator is liable to the customer for all charges incurred by the customer, in excess of those normally incurred through his designated provider, during the period of the unauthorized change.

H.3908 provides that the sale of property in instances of delinquent taxes may take place in areas in the county other than the county courthouse, and provides other specifications for notifying the current owner of record of the impending sale. An amendment allows penalties to be waived for an owner who obtained possession of taxable property within the tax year, but received insufficient notification.

H.3917 provides that public corporations may include restrictions or conditions that limit the transfer or receipt of rights, options, or warrants by the owner of a number of, or percentage of, the outstanding voting shares of the public corporation.

H.3971 overhauls the state's probate code.

The House also sent the following to the Senate:

H.3966 revises the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act by, among other things, reducing from three to two the number full working days required for serving notice of impending excavation or demolition. The bill also provides that an individual who damages an underground utility belonging to a utility who is not a member of an association for mutual receipt of notice is not liable for civil penalties or personal property damage if the person who damaged the utility gave proper notice to the association for mutual receipt of notice.

H.3857 which removes from the Ombudsman in the office of the Governor and assigns to the Department of Social Services the authority to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect occurring in health facilities licensed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control or operated by the Department of Mental Health. DSS is granted powers provided for the investigation of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable adults.

H.3891 provides when a deed recording fee is owed by the grantees and clarifies certain exemptions from the recording fee.

Several bills were enrolled for ratification:

S.634 enacts recommendations from the Governor's Juvenile Justice Task Force. The bill authorizes the Department of Juvenile Justice to establish a prison industries system. All funds collected by DJJ from the sale of articles produced in industry system must be used to defray the necessary expenses or operating the program and pay the salaries of personnel involved in the program and the wages of juveniles employed. Out of the wages paid to juveniles, the following must be deducted (with total deductions not to exceed eighty percent of gross wages): (1) state, federal and local taxes, (2) child support monies, where applicable, (3) funds for the compensation of victims, in an amount comprising no more than twenty percent and no less than five percent of gross wages. Of this victim compensation money, ninety-five percent must be used to compensate the victim(s) of the juvenile's crime and five percent must be submitted to the SC Victim's Compensation Fund. The Juvenile Parole Board is authorized to determine the conditions for parole for juveniles transferred from DJJ to another state agency due to mental illness or mental retardation requiring specialized care. Before the juvenile may be released from the agency providing appropriate care, that agency must submit a request to the Juvenile Parole Board and obtain the board's approval. The bill also authorizes the Juvenile Parole Board to conduct parole hearings via two-way closed circuit television.

S.303 provides that in situations where a contractor or subcontractor falsely represents himself as having worker's compensation insurance when engaging in work for a higher tier subcontractor, contractor, or project owner or when a contractor or subcontractor fails to notify that employer within five days of a lapse in his coverage, these actions of the contractor or subcontractor constitute fraud. In such situations, the higher tier subcontractor, contractor, or project owner is relieved of liability.

S.451: Under current law an individual or group health insurance policy or health maintenance organization (HMO) is prohibited from: (1) preventing or limiting an insured individual from selecting a pharmacy or pharmacist of his choice when the pharmacist or pharmacy has agreed to participate in the insurance plan according to the terms offered by the insurer; (2) denying a pharmacy or pharmacist the ability to participate as a provider of pharmaceutical services under the plan, if the pharmacy or pharmacist meets the terms and requirements of the policy and agrees to the terms of reimbursement set forth by the insurer. The bill repeals the "sunset" provision under which these prohibitions expire May 18, 1997.

S.267 raises the civil penalty (from twenty dollars to one hundred dollars) which the court must impose upon an individual who is duly drawn and summoned to attend as a juror, but who, without sufficient excuse, fails to attend. The civil penalty for unexcused nonattendance for jury duty in a magistrate's court is raised from ten dollars to one hundred dollars. Additionally, the bill enhances a magistrate's ability to punish contempt in his courtroom, authorizing him to impose fines up to five hundred dollars and imprisonment up to thirty days (currently, a maximum of twenty dollars/ twelve hours).

S.40 provides that records, reports, applications, and files kept on clients and potential clients of the Continuum of Care for Emotionally Disturbed Children are confidential. Such information may only be disclosed under court order, upon consent of client or guardian, or under other specified conditions. An individual who improperly discloses such information is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than one year.

S.397 provides that the consent of a municipality must be obtained prior to the creation of a multi-county industrial park if the proposed park encompasses all or a portion of the municipality.

S.133 adds certain prosecutors to the list of individuals authorized to initiate involuntary admission of a person with mental retardation or a related disability to the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

S.577 is a joint resolution authorizes the Department of Social Services to establish, in one region of the state, a pilot child protective services program which allows less serious cases to be diverted to an assessment track rather than following normal protocol.

S.622 is a joint resolution authorizing the Department of Public Safety to retain and expend motor carrier registration fees for fiscal year 1996-97.


Committees of Conference on the part of the Senate were appointed for H.3400, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.3402, the Capital Reserve bill. The Senate conferees (for both bills) are Sens. Drummond, Land, and Giese. Senate conferees for H.3694, the 1997 Bond Bill, are Sens. Moore, Smith, and Passailaigue.

The Senate gave third reading and sent to the House S.174. The original version of this bill, known as the "zero tolerance" bill, required a six months driver's license suspension for a person under age 21 who, with a blood alcohol content of two-hundredths of one percent or more, operates a motor vehicle. The Senate revised the bill to include, in addition to the "zero tolerance" provisions, numerous amendments creating tougher driving requirements, especially for younger, inexperienced drivers.

The Senate sent a message to the House of nonconcurrence in the House amendments to S.559, ADEPT (Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Professional Teaching), which revises evaluation and qualifications of teachers.

Bills which received third reading in the Senate and were ordered enrolled for ratification included: H.3961, which provides for the manner in which a person who has been disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year or more may be re-examined to obtain a commercial driver's license; H.4053, which relates to recovery from estates of certain individuals for medical assistance; H.3112, which enacts the Osteoporosis Prevention, Treatment, and Education Act and the Osteoporosis Education Fund to promote public awareness, prevention, and treatment of osteoporosis; and H.3650, which includes numerous conforming provisions to the Family Independence Act of 1995 (most of these provisions concern child support, employment, and training).



The Education and Public Works Committee reported favorable with amendment on S.542. This bill establishes a procedure for the State Board of Education (SBE) to add textbooks to the list of textbooks approved for use in SC public schools, upon written request of the boards of trustees of five or more school districts during any 365 day period.

The Senate version of the bill prohibits the SBE from approving the adoption of a textbook or other instructional material which contains any clear, substantive, factual, or grammatical error, and provides that contracts between the SBE and a publisher or vendor of textbooks or other instructional material require that the material is free of any such errors. The bill provides for the purchase by a school district of SBE-approved school textbooks directly from a publisher under contract with the state board when needed for instruction by the school district if the textbooks are not available from the State Department of Education. Also, the bill prohibits a public school from beginning a course if state-approved textbook(s) or other course material is not available on the first day of class or if the delivery date is after the first two weeks of classes unless the board of trustees determines that the class should be offered. The bill establishes membership requirements for evaluation and rating committees for textbooks and for instructional materials and delineates certain considerations which must be including in rating and evaluating criteria. The bill also provides that before final adoption, the state board shall make all textbooks and instructional material available for public inspection for at least thirty days, at display centers geographically dispersed throughout the state.

The amendments recommended by the committee include: a provision that textbooks may also be added to the approved list by written request of boards of trustees of two or more school districts with a combined population of 25,000 or more students, and local school districts shall establish procedures under which principals and teachers of the district may transmit textbook requests; a provision adding publishers and vendors of instructional materials to the list of people with whom the SBE may negotiate and execute contracts pursuant to this section; changing the language which stated that each evaluating and rating committee charged with assessing textbooks or instructional materials for the development of higher order thinking skills and problem solving "must" have at least one layperson on the committee, and a majority of the membership "must have expertise in the areas under consideration, to read that each committee "may" have "up to 25% lay membership," and that a majority of those appointed to the committee "must be full-time classroom teachers"; a provision strengthening the requirements in the bill for public review of materials recommended by the review panels.

The committee also gave a favorable recommendation with amendments to S.510. This bill allows the transfer of license plates from one motor vehicle to another motor vehicle of the same vehicle owner or lessee, only if the applicant has assigned to another the title to or the lease on the motor vehicle from which the plate is to be transferred. The bill also provides for collection of property taxes from motor carriers who have failed to pay, and provides for fees in lieu of property taxes for semitrailers and trailers of motor carriers. The bill also provides that certain motor vehicles which are acquired after March 31, 1997, are subject to fiscal year 1998 property taxes. The committee's recommended amendments to the bill include: striking language which disallows a license plate transfer unless the applicant has assigned to another the title to or the lease on the motor vehicle from which the plate is to be transferred, and striking language which provides that the department shall require that proof of the assignment it determines appropriate before it shall process a transfer application; a provision amending a section relating to assessment of property taxes for motor carriers, by providing that the county must distribute revenue from the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes received pursuant to this section "within thirty days of its receipt" to every governmental entity levying a property tax in the manner set forth in the section; an amendment providing that certain motor carrier vehicles which are acquired after March 31, 1997, are not subject to fiscal year 1998 property taxes. The Senate version of the bill provides that these vehicles are subject to 1998 taxes.


The Judiciary Committee reported out four bills:

S.60 establishes a procedure by which a driver's license may be reinstated for an individual whose license has been revoked for five offenses involving driving under the influence (other than a felony DUI offense). A circuit court may grant an individual's petition that his driving privileges be reinstated if that individual: (1) has not been convicted of an alcohol or drug violation during the previous seven years; (2) has completed successfully an alcohol or drug treatment program; and, (3) evinces an overall driving record, character, and habits which indicates he will operate a vehicle safely. After reinstatement, a subsequent DUI violation requires cancellation of the individual's driver's license. The committee proposed amendments to the bill which clarify that the individual seeking reinstatement must also not have been convicted of an alcohol or drug violation in another state during the previous seven years. Amendments provide for a two hundred dollar filing fee to request reinstatement. Amendments also revise driver's license suspension/revocation periods for DUI convictions as follows: suspension for a second conviction is raised from one year to two years; suspension for a third conviction is raised from two years to four years; a fourth conviction incurs permanent revocation (as opposed to current law under which a driver's license is revoked upon a fifth conviction).

S.315 revises provisions authorizing witnesses to be present at executions. The bill provides that the Director of the Department of Corrections may approve the presence of two individuals representing the family of the victim for whom the death penalty was imposed (If there are two victims, the Director may allow for one representative per family. If there are more than two victims, the Director may restrict total representation in accordance with space limitations.) The bill also provides that the solicitor or assistant solicitor from the county where the offense occurred to be present. The Director is authorized to exclude any authorized witness for security purposes. The committee proposed amendments which raises the representation afforded the victim's family from two to three individuals. Representation for the media is reduced from five to three individuals. The chief law enforcement officer with original jurisdiction or his designee is authorized as a witness.

S.281 provides that a two-thirds affirmative vote is required from each branch of the General Assembly for the removal or renaming of a monument or memorial located on state property honoring the Confederacy or the Civil Rights Movement to take place. If the monument targeted for removal or renaming is located on the property of a political subdivision, a two-thirds affirmative vote is required of the local governing body.

S.409 revises local governments' authority to raise revenue. The Committee proposes amending the bill to substitute the provisions which the House passed as H.3397.

The committee tabled two bills:

H.3790 pertains to the domestication of a foreign adoption of a foreign child.

H.3973 provides that no person who is acting as a parent, guardian, or who stands in loco parentis may serve as a foster parent if the person has a child under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Justice.



This bill provides for the issuance of special license plates on behalf of the H.L. Hunley submarine. The fee for the plate is $100 every two years, in addition to the regular motor vehicle registration fee that is required under current law. The bill provides that distribution of the fees collected for the special plate is based on the total number of special plates sold, and specifies that the portion of the fees which are distributed on behalf of the Hunley must be used only for efforts to raise, restore, and preserve the submarine.

This bill adds a section to the SC Code of Laws providing that "school districts in which fewer than fifty percent of the district's students score below the standard score on the Basic Skills Assessment Program shall provide enrichment and remediation programs for these students."

This bill adds a section to the SC Code of Laws providing that school districts shall provide after school enrichment and remediation programs for at-risk students.


This bill provides that a court order establishing paternity may be reversed upon presentation of evidence, not available at the paternity hearing, which shows the order was in error.

This bill allows counties to ask voters to approve local sales taxes for certain authorized projects (most of which are for infrastructure). The bill also includes a provision prohibiting a local governing body from imposing a new tax unless specifically authorized by the General Assembly; and an authorization for a local governing body to impose, by ordinance, a local accommodations tax not to exceed three percent, and a local hospitality tax not to exceed two percent of the charges for food and beverages. Ordinances imposing these taxes must be adopted by a positive majority of council (actual majority of a council, rather than a majority of those present). Section 4-9-55 of the SC Code of Laws currently provides that the General Assembly may not pass a bill requiring a county or municipality to spend funds without the State funding the expense, unless approved by 2/3 vote of each house. The bill deletes the current exemptions allowing unfunded mandates in the general appropriation bill and special appropriations bills. The bill also prohibits a local government from imposing real estate transfer fees or taxes unless the General Assembly expressly authorizes by general law the imposition of the fee or tax.

H.4195 SALE OF FIREARMS Rep. J. Brown
This bill provides that a retailer of firearms must perform ballistics tests on a firearm before delivering it to the purchaser and provide the test results to the State Law Enforcement Division along with certain other information which will assist SLED in identifying the purchaser. Penalties are established for failure to comply. An owner of a firearm must report to SLED the sale, transfer by gift, theft, loss, or destruction of a firearm. Penalties are established for failure to comply.

This bill requires, beginning with the reapportionment following the decennial census of 2000, the House of Representatives to reapportion itself so that a House District must be wholly contained within a county if the county has sufficient population.

This bill requires a six months driver's license suspension for a person under age 21 who, with a blood alcohol content of two-hundredths of one percent or more, operates a motor vehicle. In addition to the "zero tolerance" provisions, tougher driving requirements are provided, especially for younger, inexperienced drivers.

This bill provides that a defendant found not guilty of a violent crime for reason of insanity may leave hospital premises unless an employee of the hospital is physically present with the defendant at all times. The bill defines the violent crimes which necessitate this surveillance.


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