With the Governor declaring a state of emergency in certain counties devastated by the Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael this year, GR staff began conversations early with key legislators about the idea of disaster relief from the State. Both versions of the budget added a proviso that would provide $25 million in direct relief for farmers affected by the hurricanes last fall. Should federal assistance become available, Farmers will have to sign an affidavit stating they will return any state money if federal assistance is received. The program will be similar to Farm Aid, administered by the SC Department of Agriculture following the 2015 flood.
Sen. Campbell, chair of Senate Agriculture, pre-filed a piece of legislation (S. 107) to make the dam safety program more efficient and effective. The bill also included a provision for a refundable tax credit to help dam owners with the financial burden of making repairs/modifications to a dam that has been reclassified because of development below the dam. S. 107 received a favorable report out of the committee and was placed on the Senate Calendar. However, members of Senate Finance have concerns about the financial effect of the refundable tax credit, so S. 107 was sent to the Finance committee, while maintaining its place on the calendar, for further review. GR staff will continue to work this priority issue next session.
The House Tax Reform Committee met this year to discuss how to reform South Carolina’s tax code. From those conversations, the House introduced three pieces of legislation affecting income tax (H. 4334), sales tax (H. 4532), and the business license tax (H. 4431). The House is expected to begin discussing these bills in subcommittee next legislative session.
H. 4245 – a bill that would make it illegal to represent or label any cell-cultured protein as “meat” in South Carolina – made it out of both the House and the Senate in the final week of the 2019 Legislative Session. The Governor will need to sign this bill before it becomes law.
With a big game license, hunters will now receive two antlerless deer tags that can be used at any time with the option of purchasing four more additional antlerless deer tags. If a hunter purchases the four additional antlerless deer tags, then SCDNR will provide two additional antlerless deer tags to be used in game zones 3 and 4 free of charge. The bill was signed into law on April 3, 2019, and should be effective for the 2019 hunting season.
The Senate and House both approved the SC Department of Agriculture's plan to regulate hemp in South Carolina. The Senate amended the bill, and the House concurred, to remove the 40-acre limit and to allow SCDA to issue additional hemp licenses to applicants who applied for the 2019 growing season but were denied because the department had already awarded licenses to the maximum of 40 farmers. This bill will help the hemp industry grow in South Carolina. The Governor signed this bill into law on March 28, 2019.