Legislation Ratified (Through Thursday, June 8, 1995)

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The following measures have been ratified as acts but have yet to be approved by the governor.

Organ and Tissue Donor Program (H. 3023, Rep. Byrd). This act establishes the Gift of Life Trust fund, an eleemosynary corporation which must provide organ and tissue education, such as public campaigns and provision of financial assistance to transplant recipients who have exhausted all other means of assistance available to procure anti-injection medications. This trust fund would accept gifts, bequests and grants from individuals, foundations and other sources and would supplement, but not replace, services provided by state agencies. The fund is administered by a 9-member board of directors, appointed to 4-year terms by the governor, to include members representing organ, tissue and eye recipients and their families, a forensic pathologist, and one representative each from a South Carolina certified organ procurement organization, a South Carolina tissue procurement organization, and a South Carolina eye bank. The board may employ a director and other staff as necessary to carry out these provisions, although administrative costs may not exceed 20 percent of the total funds credited to the trust fund. In carrying out its duties, the board must develop and implement organ and tissue donation, educational programs, and campaigns; make policy recommendations for promotion of organ and tissue donations; and evaluate applications for and award financial assistance to organ and tissue recipients for anti-rejection medications.

Except for administrative fees paid to the Department of Revenue and Taxation, funds credited to this trust fund may only be used for the following purposes:

The act also allows donations to this trust fund to be made when persons file their income tax returns, with the donation not changing the person's tax liability (in other words, the donation would be made by reducing the person's tax refund or by requiring him to designate extra money for the fund, in addition to that which is due on his tax.) Furthermore, an applicant for a new or renewal driver's license, identification card, vehicle title or license plate may contribute $1 to the Trust Fund while engaged in any of these activities, with the $1 fee added to the cost of the item purchased.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

"Vulnerable" Adults Cannot be Considered Abused or Neglected if Furnished Nonmedical Remedial Treatment through Spiritual Means (H. 3185, Rep. P. Harris). This act provides that no vulnerable adult may be considered to be abused or neglected solely because, in lieu of medical treatment, he or she is being furnished non-medical remedial treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone, which the person has practiced freely in accordance with his religion.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Compacts for Deployment of National Guard in Other States for Purposes of Drug Interdiction (H. 3758, Rep. Cotty). This act authorizes the governor, with the consent of Congress, to enter into compacts and agreements for deployment of the National Guard with governor of other states for drug interdiction, counterdrug and demand reduction activities (hereafter referred to as "antidrug activities"). To facilitate these agreements, this act enacts the "National Guard Mutual Assistance Counterdrug Activities Compact." (In addressing congressional consent to the compact, the act states that consent may already be in place under a particular federal code section, and that if such consent has not been given, then the compact is not effective until consent is obtained.)

Under these provisions, a state may request another state for use of the latter's National Guard in conducting antidrug activities, and the South Carolina National Guard may enter into mutual assistance and support agreements with one or more law enforcement agencies operating within South Carolina to facilitate cooperative efforts in attacking drug trafficking. This compact is effective upon adoption by any two states, with a "party state" (i.e., state belonging to this compact) permitted to withdraw from the compact by enacting a statute repealing the compact.

For purposes of this compact, "drug interdiction and counterdrug activities" is the use of National Guard personnel, while not in federal service, in law enforcement activities intended to reduce the supply o ruse of illegal drugs in the United States. As examples, these activities include, but are not limited to, making available equipment of the Guard to law enforcement officials for law enforcement purposes and providing Guard personnel and other equipment to aid government officials and agencies otherwise involved in prosecution or incarceration of individuals processed within the criminal justice system who have been arrested for illegal drugs. "Demand reduction" includes the provision of available Guard personnel, equipment, etc. to federal, state, local and civic organizations for prevention of drug abuse and reduction in demand for illegal drugs.

Upon request of the governor of a party state for assistance in these antidrug activities, the governor of a responding state may send all or part of his National Guard forces to the other state for such purposes, and the requesting state's National Guard forces then would be placed under temporary operational control of the military authorities of the requesting state. The governor of a party state is permitted to withhold his State's guard forces from deployment in another state and to recall the forces deployed in a requesting state. A requesting state that receives Guard forces from another state for antidrug activities must assume responsibility for liability for the dispatched Guard units (whether the liability may arise under laws of the requesting or the responding state[s]), reimbursement of the responding state for damages to the equipment and operating expenses of the dispatched Guard units, and payment of compensation and death benefits. Officers and enlisted personnel of the Guard performing duties pursuant to this compact are subject to and governed by the provisions of their home state's Code of Military Justice, whether performing duties in or outside their home state.

The act authorizes South Carolina's Adjutant General to enter into a mutual assistance and support agreement with one or more law enforcement agencies of this State and with the National Guard of other party states to provide personnel, assets and services for these antidrug activities, provided all parties to the agreement are not specifically prohibited by law from performing these activities. The agreement must set forth the powers, duties and obligations of the parties to the agreement, which among other things must include the duration of the agreement, the manner of financing the agreement, and the chain of command or delegation of authority to be followed by Guard personnel acting under the agreement's provisions. Before becoming effective, the agreement must be submitted to the South Carolina Attorney General's Office for approval, with the attorney general permitted to delegate his approval authority to the appropriate attorney for the South Carolina National Guard. The attorney general or his agent in the Guard must approve the agreement unless it is not in proper form, it does not meet the requirements of this act, or unless it does not conform with South Carolina laws.

The compact does not authorize or permit Guard units or personnel to be placed under operational control of a person not having National Guard rank or status required by law for the command in question, nor does the compact deprive a properly-convened court of jurisdiction over an offense or a defendant because the Guard (while performing duties under this compact) was utilized in achieving an arrest or indictment. Additionally, the compact is not to be construed as preventing the governor of a party state from delegating his responsibilities or authority respecting the National Guard, but for this compact's purposes, the governor must not delegate the power to request assistance from another state.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Dry Cleaning Facility Discharge Rehabilitation (H. 3907, House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee). This act is designed to clean up drycleaning facility sites which have been contaminated by release of drycleaning solvents. Under these provisions, a "Drycleaning Facility Restoration Fund" is established, to be administered by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Judgments, reimbursements, loans, other fees and charges related to implementation of these provisions, along with various taxes and registration fees are credited to this Fund. The act requires the owner or operator of each drycleaning facility to register the facility with DHEC by October 1, 1995 and to pay initial and annual renewal registration fees, with the fee for a facility being $750 (if employing fewer than 5 persons); or $1,500 (5-10 employees); or $2,250 (if more than 10 employees). The act also imposes an environmental surcharge on production in South Carolina or importation into this State or perchloroethylene and Stoddard solvent, with the surcharge being $10 per gallon on perchloroethylene and $2 per gallon on Stoddard solvent used for drycleaning purposes.

H. 3907 also requires drycleaning facility owners to install structures around machines or items in which drycleaning solvents are used; lists activities for which this environmental clean-up fund may not be used; and requires levying of an environmental surcharge if the drycleaning fund becomes insolvent.

A drycleaning facility in existence as of July 1, 1995 that drycleans with Stoddard solvents or its breakdown products only is exempt from the provisions of this act, although the owner or operator of a facility or person may choose to place the facility under these provisions by paying the facility's required annual fee before October 1 of this year. If the facility owner or operator chooses not to place the facility under these provisions as of that date, then the current or future owner or operator if the site or person may not receive any funds or assistance under this act. Furthermore, a drycleaning facility in existence on July 1 of this year and which uses perchloroethylene and Stoddard solvent or their breakdown products may choose no later than October 1 of this year not to abide by these act's requirements, by not paying the annual fee by that date. However, an owner, operator or person of a facility using perchloroethylene and Stoddard solvents or their breakdowns may not elect to remove a facility from these act's requirements for one solvent and not the other.

Also under these provisions, if DHEC finds that a person has violated a provision of this act or regulation promulgated pursuant to it, then DHEC may issue an order requiring the owner, operator or person to comply with the provision or regulation, or DHEC may bring civil action for injunctive relief. An owner, operator or person violating a provision of this act, a regulation, or order of DHEC is subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 for each day of violation. Furthermore, if the person wilfully violates these provisions, regulations or orders, then he is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by a fine not exceeding $25,000 per day of violation and/or imprisonment for not more than 1 year.

The act also establishes a 15-member Drycleaning Advisory Council to advise DHEC on matters relating to regulations and standards that affect drycleaning and related industries. If signed into law, H. 3907 would be effective July 1, 1995 and would be repealed 10 years later (July 2005) unless reauthorized by the General Assembly.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Elevator and Home Inspections (H. 4018, Rep. Cato). This act prohibits a special inspector from performing elevator inspections pursuant to the State's Elevator Code or regulations promulgated pursuant to that Code on an elevator on which he or his employer has a current service or warranty contract.

The act also contains provisions pertaining to home inspectors. Under these provisions, an inspection report issued by a licensed home inspector pursuant to the State's Residential Home Builders Law (Title 40, Chapter 59) must be on a form approved by the State's Residential Home Builders Commission. However, this provision may not require a home inspector (hereafter called "inspector") to inspect every item contained in the commission-approved form, nor may it prohibit the inspector from performing a home inspection whose scope goes beyond information contained in that form. The inspector must indicate on the inspection report any items which were not inspected and must disclose the scope and any limitations of each inspection before performing a home inspection. Finally, the act requires any advertisement (i.e., any form of public notice) by a licensed home inspector to include the name, business name, address and license number of the licensee, with the use of any false, misleading, unfair or deceptive practices in any advertisement being grounds for disciplinary action as provided under the Residential Home Builders Act.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Fingerprint Checks Required of Persons Applying for Operators and Employees of Day Care Facilities (S. 46, Sen. Jackson). This act requires anyone applying for a license as an operator, seeking employment or to provide caregiver services at a child day care facility to undergo fingerprint checks, to be performed by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the FBI, to determine any criminal history the person may have. Any facility seeking licensure, registration or approval renewal, its employees, and its caregivers, who have not done so previously, would be required on the first renewal after June 30, 1995, or by June 30, 1996 (whichever is later) to undergo these fingerprint checks. However, the fingerprint checks required at renewal are mandated only if the renewal coincides with employment of a new operator, employee or caregiver.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) would be prohibited from issuing a new or renewed license, registration or approval for any type of child day care facility if the operator has been convicted of a felony or of various other listed offenses (such as murder, homicide by child abuse, drug trafficking, etc.) {Current law already prohibits DSS from issuing a license or registration for a facility if the operator has been convicted of an Offense Against the Person; an Offense Against Morality and Decency; or contributing to the delinquency of a minor.} A person convicted of one of these crimes who applies for a license as an operator, employment with, or is employed by, or who seeks to provide caregiver services with, or is a caregiver at a facility would be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by a fine not exceeding $5,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year.

Also under these provisions, anyone seeking employment with the day care licensing or child protective services divisions of DSS must first undergo state and federal fingerprint reviews to determine any criminal history the person may have. No person may be employed in these divisions who has been convicted or has pled guilty or nolo contendere to (1) an Offense Against the Person; (2) an Offense Against Morality and Decency; (3) contributing to the delinquency of a minor; (4) a felony; (5) various other listed offenses (such as murder, homicide by child abuse, drug trafficking, etc.); or a criminal offense similar in nature to crimes in (1) through (5) committed in other jurisdictions or under federal law. Furthermore, upon citing a child day care center, group day care home or family day care home for a violation of the State's "Children's Code" (Title 20, Chapter 7) or regulations promulgated pursuant to that Code, DSS must provide the center's owner and operator with a brochure stating the rights and procedures available to the owner or operator for a hearing in accordance with the department's fair hearing regulations, along with the rights/procedures available to appeal a decision rendered under the department's fair hearing process.

S. 46 also eliminates DSS's authority to charge the licensee a fee for the cost of a SLED check and prohibits SLED from charging more than $25 to conduct a check required under these provisions.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Exemption from Sunday Blue Laws (S. 375, Sen. Jackson). Currently in South Carolina, each county is exempted from the State's Sunday "Blue Laws" upon collecting more than $900,000 yearly in accommodations taxes. Presently, only 4 of the state's 46 counties---Beaufort, Charleston, Greenville and Horry---exceed the $900,000 accommodation tax threshold, although Richland County is expected to surpass that figure this year. In counties without a complete exemption from the Blue Laws, retail establishments may not open on Sundays before 1:30 pm, although those establishments may remain open as late as they desire after that time.

S. 375 allows a county governing body, by ordinance, to suspend the Blue Laws within that particular county, but if the governing body refuses to suspend the Blue Laws, then the question of continuance of these laws must be placed on the ballot at the November 1996 general election, with results determined on a "local option basis" (i.e., some counties might vote to continue the Blue Laws, while others might vote to suspend them). If the result of the referendum is against continued observance of the Blue Laws, then the Sunday work restrictions would not apply within that particular county once the referendum results are certified to the Secretary of State. This 1996 referendum also is required of counties which qualified for the Blue Laws exemption (because of surpassing the $900,000 accommodation tax collection threshold) after May 8, 1985. The act continues current provisions which protect workers who conscientiously object to Sunday work and which prohibit retail establishments from being forced by their lessor or franchisor to open on Sundays, along with provisions protecting from discrimination persons whose regular day of worship is Saturday.

Also under this act, once a county collects more than $900,000 in accommodations taxes in a fiscal year, then the county's complete exemption from the Blue Laws would continue from year to year (i.e., permanently), even if in subsequent years these tax collections fall below the $900,000 yearly figure. The act further provides that when a municipal or county governing body issues a Sunday permit allowing athletic events, public exhibitions, historical or musical entertainments or concerts to be held prior to 1:30 pm on Sundays, that governing body, by resolution, may suspend the current prohibition against businesses opening before that hour and instead may allow businesses to operate after 10 am that day.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.

Restricted and Supervised Lenders (S. 602, Sen. Short). Currently, South Carolina's consumer finance industry is divided into two classes of lenders---(1) restricted lenders, and (2) supervised lenders. Restricted lenders operate under a rate structure set by statute, while in contrast, supervised lenders may charge any rate of interest on loans, so long as the rate is within the maximum posted in the lender's office and filed with the Department of Consumer Affairs. As a result of deregulation, a number of supervised lenders (deregulated) remain active in the small loan area, and because of their deregulated nature, supervised lenders can and do charge significantly higher rates of interest on small loans than do restricted lenders. This legislation attempts to correct problems associated with deregulation of the consumer finance industry.

The maximum finance charges permitted on loans made by restricted lenders is amended, such that in addition to these finance charges, the licensee may contract for handling fees (for such services as credit checks and other services). These charges may not exceed the lesser of 5 percent of the cash advance or $200, and this is a one-time charge, subject to refund upon repayment of the loan. Dollar limits also are placed on renewals of loans made by restricted lenders, such that a licensee may not renew a loan more than once during a 15-month period where the actual dollars given to the customer is less than 10 percent of the net outstanding loan balance at the time of renewal. Also, for all loans made by supervised lenders, any rate posted and filed with the Department of Consumer Affairs may be used; however, on loans with a cash advance not exceeding $600, a supervised lender may not post a rate exceeding the maximum charges imposed on restricted lenders. A licensed lender may not charge a rate higher than that disclosed as an annual percentage rate or that posted and filed with the Department of Consumer Affairs, whichever is less.

S. 602 also adds a new section to the Consumer Protection Code by prohibiting a licensed lender from renewing a loan of $1,000 or less more than once during a 15-month period where the actual dollars given to the consumer is less than 10 percent of the net outstanding balance at the time of renewal. With regard to unconscionable actions, the act provides that in addition to injunctive relief, the consumer has a cause of action to recover actual damages, and in an action other than a class action, a right to recover from the person violating this provision a penalty in the amount determined by the court of between $100 and $1,000. Additional grounds are provided for substantiating unconscionable practices in the collection of a debt, including limitations on communication on the part of the creditor to the debtor, and the bill also is amended to specify what constitutes grounds for fraudulent, deceptive or misleading representations in connection with collection of a consumer credit transaction. The act also provides a timetable for initiating legal action in a claim of unconscionable conduct, specifies the course of action for relief on the part of the consumer, and lists provisions pertaining to sending postdated checks for these debts.

The act also requires the Administrator of the Department of Consumer Affairs to develop a pamphlet explaining the rights and responsibilities of consumers who obtain consumer loans from either supervised or restricted lenders, with each licensed lender responsible for reproducing and distributing the pamphlet finally approved by the administrator. Any lender licensed to make supervised loans who was previously licensed as a restricted lender may elect again to be licensed as a restricted lender, by requesting this change and meeting the requirements of the Board of Financial Institutions by January 1, 1997. The act also sets guidelines for a mandatory review of the consumer finance industry on or after July 1, 1997, and again on or after July 1, 1998, to study the impact of this act and any subsequent amendments to the consumer finance laws.

S. 602 also lowers from 18 to 12 percent the maximum authorized rate in reference to loan finance charges on a consumer loan, including a loan pursuant to open-end credit, and changes the definition of "supervised loan" to mean a consumer loan in which the rate of the loan finance charge exceeds 12 percent (as currently opposed to 18 percent) per year.

The act also provides that reasonable insurance may be sold to/required of the borrower for the purpose of insuring the life and earning capacity of not more than 2 parties obligated on the loan other than accommodation parties (as opposed to the current limit of 1 party). Also provided are proportional adjustments to credit life rates of both joint decreasing and level balance individual premiums, in proportion to changes made to individual decreasing balance premiums of .65/100 in a 1994 legislative act, and provisions are listed which clarify that restricted lenders may sell joint coverage as well as single coverage credit life insurance. The act also specifies that a failure to apply at least 40 percent of any minimum payment toward principal is not a violation where caused by the consumer's agreement to a promotion offered by the dealer, including deferred payments, deferred or waived finance charges, a combination thereof, or other special terms.

Status: Ratified on June 6, 1995.