The 2018 S.C. legislative session may have ended Thursday, but lawmakers are nowhere near finished for the year.
The GOP-controlled Legislature agreed this week to come back to the State House on May 23-24 and June 27-28 to pass the state's $8.2 billion general fund budget and override or sustain any vetoes by Gov. Henry McMaster, R-Richland.
Lawmakers also may decide to conform the S.C. tax law to the new federal tax code, reinstating a $1,525 personal exemption for individuals on their state income taxes. That move, adopted by the S.C. House, is designed to head off a more than $200 million tax hike for some S.C. taxpayers.
"Tax conformity is the biggest issue out there that nobody knows about," S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said Thursday. "But I can promise you they will know about it when they go to file their taxes and the preparation costs have doubled and tripled."
Legislators also still must take up bills addressing the failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project in Fairfield County. That project has cost SCE&G's power customers $2 billion already and continues to cost them $37 million a month in the form of higher power bills.
The Legislature has proposed — but not yet passed — bills that would slash SCE&G's power bills, fire the members of the state commission that OK'd nine rate hikes for the project, strengthen the state agencies that regulate utilities, fire the board of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility and repeal the 2007 law that enabled the nuclear project in the first place.
"Everything the House has advocated for is still in play, and that tale will certainly be told over the next couple weeks," Lucas said. "But I'm excited that we still have the opportunity to deal with those issues."
While those proposals will remain on the table when legislators return to Columbia, other proposals — both small and consequential —died when the General Assembly closed the books Thursday on its 2017-'18 session. To pass next year, those proposals will have to be reintroduced.
Among the proposals that died:
- Outlawing "dismemberment" abortions. A bill to outlaw rare "dismemberment" abortions passed the House but died in the Senate after senators briefly expanded it into an outright ban on almost all abortions. Senate Democrats filibustered the final vote on the expanded abortion ban for more than 13 hours until Republicans gave up, realizing their counterparts never would let the bill become law.
- Banning plastic bag bans. A bill to prevent local governments from banning plastic bags failed in the Senate after two years of lobbying by the plastic-bag industry. Local government advocates and environmentalists fought the House-passed bill, saying it would infringe on the rights of cities and counties to decide local issues, including whether plastic bags should be legal.
- Cracking down on texting while driving. A proposal, by state Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, to levy higher fines on motorists caught texting while driving never made its way out of the S.C. House. Taylor said Thursday he plans to file the bill again next year.
- Boosting wind energy. A proposal to establish a process for developing more wind energy off the S.C coast also died in the Senate. The bill, pushed by state Rep. Gregory Duckworth, R-Horry, was touted as a way to help jump-start offshore wind development.
- Oppose or support offshore drilling? Legislators never took up a joint resolution on offshore drilling, failing to go on the record to state their position — for or against — on the controversial proposal. While the action would have been nonbinding, it would have given the pro-drilling Trump White House more insight of what the elected representatives of South Carolinians think.