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Our legislative session has been productive

We had another busy week in Columbia both on the floor and in committees as we head toward Easter and the closing weeks of session. Here are the highlights:

Competitive Insurance Act (S.569)

At A Glance

The Problem: Home insurance rates across South Carolina, but particularly on the coast, are skyrocketing because of weather damage to homes. We need to help lower insurance costs for all South Carolinians.

The Solution: The law would provide grants to people with homes valued less than $300,000 and help lower insurance premiums when they make improvements to their homes.

The Details

  • The S.C. Safe Home program, created in 2007, offers about $1.5 million in grants for people with homes valued at $300,000 or less to weatherize their property and thereby lower their premiums.
  • One provision of the bill is a doubling of the amount dedicated to a program that helps some homeowners lower the cost of their insurance.
  • The amount available for grants would increase to more than $3 million under the new bill.
  • The program is funded by a tax charged to insurance companies on premiums they collect. The bill does not raise the tax, rather, it would increase from 1 percent to 2 percent the amount of collections dedicated to the S.C. Safe Home program.
  • The bill also would require the S.C. Department of Insurance to develop a hurricane model based on weather data specific to South Carolina. The current model is based on weather data specific to Florida, which is statistically more likely to be hit by such a storm.
  • The bill received 3rd reading on April 16 and sent to the House.

Hearing Aids (S.1056)

At A Glance:

The Problem: Currently South Carolinians, particularly the elderly, are getting ripped off by companies advertising on the internet and television.  They offer hearing aids at discounted prices that are not properly fitted for the individual. That would be like selling eyeglasses without a prescription.

The Solution: We will protect our elderly citizens by requiring a license issued by South Carolina LLR to sell hearing ads.

The Details:

  • Prohibits the sale of hearing aids through the mail, internet or other means unless the sells holds a unsuspended or unrevoked license issued by SC LLR.
  • The seller also must provide direct fitting, sale, and delivery of the products.
  • Puts the sale of hearing aids in a similar sales category as eyeglasses.

Breach of Security of State Agency Data (S.1086)

At A Glance:

The Problem: When the Department of Revenue’s security systems were hacked and  3.9 million South Carolina tax returns and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers had been exposed, taxpayers were not notified for several weeks after the breach occurred.

The Solution: Taxpayers have the right to know if their information has been compromised.  This law would only allow for delays in the releasing of information it would compromise a SLED investigation.

The Details:

  • Requires the notification of a data breach at a state agency within 72 hours of discovery.  The notification must be provide:
    • a clear description of the incident in general term,
    • a telephone number and website citizens can contact for information on the breach,
    • and what the agency has done to protect from further unauthorized access of personal identifying information.
  • The SC Department of Consumer Affairs is also required to post the information on their website.

County Election Commissions (H.3198)

At A Glance:

The Problem: A lawsuit has been filed that challenges the constitutionality of county election commissions created by local legislation.  Local legislation has been ruled unconstitutional by the SC Supreme Court.  This is a huge problem because it could create another election debacle like we saw two years ago.

The Solution: Elections are at the very heart of our democracy so we must head off controversy before it happens. To stop the debacle that would result from a successful lawsuit, we are passing a bill that will merge county election commissions and boards of registrations into single boards in each county. I inserted specific language about Cherokee County that protects our individual boards because they were created in the 1970s. Cherokee County will merge its two boards after the November election.

The Details:

  • Each  county will have a combined “Board of Voter Registration and Elections” going forward.
  • The members of this board will be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the county legislative delegations.
  • The boards will total not less than 5 and not more 9 persons.  At least one appointee shall be a member of the Republican Party and one appointee shall be a member of the Democratic Party.
  • Board members shall serve 4 year terms and may be reappointed.
  • Any member that misses 3 consecutive board meetings shall be removed from office.
  • Each board will elect a chairman and any other officers they may need.
  • The board will hire a director and the director is responsible for hiring and managing the staff.
  • The bill received 2nd reading on April 16.