Jun 20, 2016

South Carolina 2016 Legislative Report

The South Carolina Legislature adjourned sine die on June 2nd for the 2016 session year, the second year of a two year session. The legislature returned on June 15th to consider Governor Nikki Haley’s vetoes and a limited agenda of conference reports. The legislature was able to address several issues this year, including infrastructure repairs and funding, flood relief for those affected by the historic October 2015 floods, and long-debated ethics reform.

Road Improvement Funding

During the final week of the legislative session, the House and Senate passed legislation to fund much-needed road improvements across the state. The bill allows the state to borrow $2 billion to begin road improvements for interstates and bridges, many of which were severely damaged after the historic October 2015 floods, and does not allow a tax increase to fund the projects. The bill also grants the Governor the authority to appoint all eight members of the Department of Transportation Commission, which governs the SCDOT.

Governor Haley unenthusiastically approved the legislation one week after its passage. In a message to the Senate and the House, Governor Haley stated that she signed the bill only because it is better than nothing. She ended her message by stating that “[o]ur business is unfinished.”

Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) agreed with Governor Haley and stated that road improvement funding will be revisited in 2017 “because we didn’t do the job this year.”

2016-2017 Budget

At the end of May, legislators agreed to the budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1st. The $7.5 billion budget includes a 3.25% pay increase for state employees, $11 million for the local government fund, and $30 million for beach nourishment.

Governor Haley line-item vetoed $41 million worth of spending in the legislature’s plan, but most funding was restored on Wednesday’s special, one-day session. However, the Governor’s line-item veto of the study to move the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum to the Charleston area was sustained on Wednesday, as Representative Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston) stated on the floor that the Department of Administration would conduct the study with or without the appropriated funds.

Ethics Reform

In his final speech on the Senate floor after being defeated by his primary opponent, Senator Wes Hayes (R-York) called for the Senate to pass ethics reform on Wednesday, June 15th.

After much debate and compromise, the Senate later unanimously passed legislation to require independent investigations of complaints against legislators. An additional ethics bill which requires all officeholders to report private sources of income also passed the legislature on Wednesday. Governor Haley has advocated for the legislation since 2012 and is expected to approve both bills.

June Primaries

On Tuesday, June 14th, several incumbent legislators lost their re-election bids to party opponents in the state primary. Representatives Doug Brannon (R-Spartanburg), Donna Hicks (R-Spartanburg), Ralph Kennedy (R-Lexington), and Wendy Nanney (R-Greenville) will not be returning to the House in 2017 after losses in Tuesday’s primaries.

Governor Haley focused her attention on four major Senate GOP primaries, but only one of her challengers succeeded. Senator Wes Hayes (R-York, Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman) was defeated by former York County GOP Chairman Wes Climer of Rock Hill.

Senators Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence, President Pro Tempore and Finance Committee Chairman) and Luke Rankin (R-Horry, Ethics Committee Chairman) defeated their Haley-endorsed primary challengers on Tuesday. Representative Stephen Goldfinch’s (R-Georgetown) bid for retiring Senator Ray Cleary’s District 34 seat will be decided in the June 28th runoffs. Representative Goldfinch will face attorney Reese Boyd of Murrells Inlet, who is endorsed by Governor Haley.

Several other incumbents face June 28th runoffs including Senators Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg), Creighton Coleman (D-Fairfield), Mike Fair (R-Greenville, Corrections and Penology Committee Chairman), and Larry Martin (R-Pickens, Judiciary Committee Chairman), as well as Representative Bill Bowers (D-Hampton).

Please contact any member of the McGuireWoods Consulting team if you would like more detailed information about any of the above issues or any other policy issues in South Carolina.

Governor James H. Hodges, Senior Advisor
Robert Adams, Senior Vice President
William D. Boan, Senior Vice President
Amber S. Barnes, Vice President
Brian P. Flynn, Vice President
Kayleigh E. Hall, Assistant Vice President
Robin T. Crawford, Research Assistant