2018 Legislative Session Review
Alex James

The second year of 2017-2018 session of the General Assembly came to a close on May 10th at 5pm as both houses gavelled out of session pursuant to state law. They will, however, return for two sets of dates to finish up the budget and pass a few bills that are in conference committee as well as override any vetoes made by the Governor. While we still have a handful of issues left to be decided in the coming weeks, the HBASC advocacy team, on your behalf, were able to protect the housing industry from unnecessary regulation and promote housing affordability. The HBA employed a team of lobbyist, strong electronic advocacy tools, and membership engagement through research, testimony and grassroots involvement at the Bird Supper and other events throughout the session to address nearly 300 bills that could affect our industry.

Among this year’s legislative victories is S. 105, the Automatic Stay bill, which sets a 90 day limit for a stay on a construction permit after which time a judge must rule to continue the stay or allow construction to proceed. Additionally the bill, passed by the Senate (March 2017) and the House (Feb 2018) by supermajorities and signed into law by Governor McMaster back in March, shifts the burden to those who wish to have the permits denied.

Also on the list of achievements this year is H. 4683, the Beachfront Management Reform Act. This bill was a direct response to a proposal from DHEC that was rolled out last year that would have put hundreds of homes in the state in front of the jurisdictional lines. Under the new law no data for the setting on new lines will be used within 18 months of a named storm that causes extraordinary erosion which solves the issue of many of the measurements for the new lines being done immediately following Hurricane Matthew. The current lines revert back to the seaward most line from the past two cycles and the bill insures an appeals process is in place.

Another important piece of legislation that is set to become law this year is H. 3886, Homeowner’s Associations. The new law will protect private property and homeowner’s rights and provide for a clear, open, and transparent set of rules that HOAs must follow. Thanks to Senator Tom Davis the bill does not create a new state agency to supervise and regulate HOAs. The bill passed both the House and Senate nearly unanimously and is awaiting the Governor’s Signature.

An item of interest to the HBA that is still before the General Assembly in the 2019 budget is a workforce development program in the state budget: Be Pro Be Proud S. C. This public/private partnership would encourage South Carolinians of all stripes to find a path to rewarding, prideful, and professional careers.

Several other bills that the HBA was working on this year did not make it through the legislative process, but we will continue to work on these issues and bring them up again when the legislature reconvenes next January.

One of these bills is Business License Reform. This bill, H. 3650, was sponsored by the Chairman of the House LCI Committee, Representative Bill Sandifer. Last year this bill, which would help provide responsible administration for a fee that continues to grow an average of 5% annually and silently costs every S. C. household more than $500 a year, passed out of LCI, but was recalled to committee from the House floor. We look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Sandifer to tackle this important issue.

We have worked this past session with Senator Thomas Alexander and his staff on S. 579, S. C. Building Codes Reform. This bill was taken up in Senate LCI subcommittee, but did not move forward. This state specific code would allow for a more efficient and effective code adoption process. The new code would be tailored to the safety and affordability of homeowners in South Carolina. The S. C. Building Codes bill would allow S. C. to join a national movement to a six year flex code adoption cycle from the current three year cycle. We look forward to bringing this issue forwards again in the next session.

Another bill we hope to introduce in the coming session is an S. C. Residential Builders Licensing Bill that would clarify the requirements to obtain a builders license as well as the abilities and responsibilities of a licensed builder. SCBJ