April 5, 2024

Members of the House were on legislative furlough this week, but it was a busy week for members of the Senate as they spent long hours in chambers debating legislation before next week’s crossover deadline of April 10th.  Members of the House will return to statewide session next week, while members of the Senate will meet in perfunctory session to allow members of the Senate Finance Committee adequate time to work out their version of the state’s 2024-25 spending plan.


Floor Action

The Senate gave third reading to a bill restricting what e-cigarettes businesses can sell, passing the legislation in a unanimous 45-0 vote on Tuesday.  Under the bill by Senate President Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee) and twenty-one cosponsors, retailers can only sell vaping devices that are currently approved by the FDA, as well as devices that are currently in the application process.  The bill includes fines for retailers who are in violation of the statute, as well as fines for companies that advertise e-cigarettes to children.  The bill now heads to the House for their consideration.


The “SC Justice Act” is likely dead for the year, after the bill dealing with joint and several liability failed to come up for a vote in the Senate this week.  Stakeholders working on the tort reform legislation, which was previously set for Special Order, failed to reach an agreement on the bill and the Senate removed the legislation from its priority debate status on Wednesday evening.


Other News of Note

Filing for elections closed on Monday, April 1st and the stage is now set for the June primary and November general elections.  Senator Mia McLeod (I-Richland) announced Monday that she will not seek re-election to her District 22 seat, creating another open seat in the Senate with five Senators having announced their retirement after this session.  In the House, fifty-four districts have contested primaries, and a number of members have both primary and general election battles.  An updated filing list is attached to this update for your reference.


The Department of Transportation has a new Secretary, as Justin Powell was confirmed by the Senate in a 45-0 vote Tuesday.  Powell, who takes over for Christy Hall who retired at the end of March, has worked at the agency since 2019.


Members of a Senate Finance Subcommittee spent over six hours questioning state Treasurer Curtis Loftis on Tuesday, accusing his office of committing a $1.8B accounting error, withholding information about the error, and putting blame on the Comptroller General’s office instead of taking responsibility for the accused mismanagement.  Members of the committee also questioned Loftis on whether he and his office had followed all the statutory requirements entrusted to them by state law, as well as why the state ledger had not been reconciled since 2017 and almost $31B of state money is listed incorrectly in the ledger.  The meeting between the Treasurer and the Senate panel was extremely contentious at times, with Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) stating that “Mr. Loftis has abrogated his responsibilities and breached the public trust,” and Treasurer Loftis arguing that “I’m being blindsided by complex questions, and they’re being asked in the most leading of manners.”  Senators pledged to keep asking questions and call other officials before them to get to the bottom of who the funding belongs to and why no one was aware of the $1.8B account.  Loftis stated during the hearing that this term, which ends in 2027, will be his last.