COVID Liability Safe Harbor
Our top priority for 2021 is the passage of COVID Liability Safe Harbor protections for our business and manufacturing community. This legislation provides necessary, targeted and temporary liability relief for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and other entities who have followed and continue to follow public health guidance during the pandemic. Nearly 40 states -- including most of our neighbors -- have passed similar laws or executive orders. Please contact your Representatives and tell them that a COVID liability bill is our top priority for 2021 and to pass this legislation without amendment. The legislation provides common-sense protections to entities from COVID-related lawsuits if they follow state health guidelines to protect customers and employees. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
SC Ports Authority Funding
The S.C. Ports Authority is seeking $550 Million for an upgrade to transportation in and out of the Port of Charleston. The plan calls for up to $400 million for a rail yard at the former Navy base in North Charleston and another $150 million for a barge program to move shipping containers by water between Mount Pleasant and North Charleston. These proposals would speed containers going in and out of the Port. The Port has a $33 billion economic impact in the Upstate and supports 117,000 jobs in our region. More than half of the goods and impact for the Ports is in the Upstate. Anything we can do to expand the capacity of the Port -- and the speed of containers entering and leaving -- will help the Upstate's economy. The bill is in House Ways & Means subcommittee. While we support the bond bill, we are supportive of any spending plan that makes the project happen.
Hate Crimes Legislation
Another major priority is passing H. 3620 -- legislation to create penalty enhancements for Hate Crimes. The bill received third reading this morning and is now in the Senate. We are one of the last three states without hate crimes protections, and we do not want to win this race for last. The bill passed swiftly, with the final vote count in the House on second reading finishing 79-29. With ongoing tensions in both our state and our country this week, the need for these protections is more evident than ever. The bill has been assigned a Senate Judiciary subcommittee where we expect strong opposition. Please let your senators know how important this issue is to you by calling them directly or clicking here.
The House approved our immigrant licensure bill after four years. H. 3243 allows people who are in the United States and legally authorized to work by the federal government (including the Dreamers and victims of human trafficking) to apply for and obtain professional licenses in South Carolina. This legislation has been on our agenda for years, and could help our state fill thousands of vacancies in positions licensed by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, such as those in nursing and engineering. There are up to 3,000 of these young adults in the Upstate where they attend school and then may have to leave our state to find the jobs they are legally allowed to have. The bill now moves to the Senate where we hope it can gain momentum in four weeks, instead of four years. Thank you to Rep. Neal Collins (R-Easley) for making this a priority. The bill now heads to Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry committee.
Other Legislative Action This Week
- A conference committee met and amended H.3589, legislation that would allow school districts to have multiple schools of innovation. The House adopted the report 88-21 on Thursday.
- The House and Senate have passed H.3276, the "buydown bill" which would exclude buydowns (money paid by a company to the retailer to reduce the price) from gross proceeds of sales. The bill heads to the Governor for his signature.
- The House and Senate passed S.271, the Abandoned Buildings Tax Credit Extension. This extends the sunset date on the tax credit, which has been an important tool for revitalizing old developments in aging parts of Upstate communities.