View this email in your browser
Legislature Adjourns, Plans to Return Soon for Unfinished Business
The legislature adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, May 9.  There are still several matters that need to be taken care of including the budget and the fate of Santee Cooper.  The legislature is slated to return the week of May 20 for a three-day session.  During this time, they will take up conference committee reports and vetoes. 

The House and Senate non-concurred on the budget bill (H.4000) which means it will go to a conference committee. Conferees are expected to begin work next week to in order to have an agreement by the time the legislature returns on May 20. 

Included in the budget are provisions that would require SCDOT to begin the process of implementing tolls on I-95.  The proviso requires the agency to begin implementing recommendations included in their I-95 toll study and requires them to report back to the General Assembly in March 2020 on the feasibility of tolling and/or other funding options that could be used. 

It will be interesting to see if this proviso makes it through the conference committee. 
Budget Conference Committee Members
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter)
Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York)
Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland)
Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence)
Senator Darrell Jackson (D-Richland)
Senator Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester)
526 Saga Drags On, No Action by JBRC
The Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) met Wednesday to hear an update from the special subcommittee tasked with reviewing the 526/Mark Clark Extension agreement. It was clear from the beginning of the meeting that there was no intent to take a vote on the issue; however, that did not stop committee members from voicing their support to make a decision soon. 

The meeting began with JBRC Chairman Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) requesting information from Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall regarding when authorization for funding would be needed for the project.  Secretary Hall said that based on the cash flow projections and current plans, preliminary activities would continue take place over the next two years and procurement would not be initiated until the spring of 2021.

Following the comments from Secretary Hall, Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) who also serves on the subcommittee, urged the JBRC to move forward with the project.  He said that after hearing compelling testimony from the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB), SCDOT, Charleston County, and third-party financial consultants, there was no one else left to hear from because every party involved had made it adamantly clear that the project was ready to move forward. Rep. Stavrinakis then requested that the JBRC take a vote on the project.

Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee) who chairs the subcommittee, said that he would like to allow the subcommittee to continue their work and voting on the matter was not an action item on Wednesday’s agenda. He emphasized that the JBRC was tasked (by statute) to ensure that all projects were funded by “legal and adequate sources” and he still had concerns over the absence of a legal opinion (which would be required if bonding were to take place) and the use of sales tax money to fund the project.

Rep. Stavrinakis again referenced key points from previous subcommittee testimony that he believed alleviated these concerns.  He added that Charleston needs the project and “they have bent over backward to make it happen” and “the JBRC was the only body holding the project up.”

Following his comments, several members of the JBRC including Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) and Gary Simrill (R-York) voiced their support on making a decision on the project sooner rather than later. 

Rep. Simrill who is a member of the subcommittee and also serves on the STIB Board said that he fully supported the project coming back before the JBRC and the appointment of a subcommittee to review the project. As a member of the subcommittee,  he said nothing that was heard during testimony led to any concerns about the ability for the parties to carry out the project.  Rep. Simrill added that by continuing to delay a decision creates much confusion and urged the JBRC to decide the fate of the project soon.  

If anything, the inaction of the JBRC Wednesday gave proponents and opponents of the project the opportunity to briefly agree on one key aspect of the project – the need for the JBRC to make a decision.

The good news is, Senator Alexander said that he plans for the subcommittee to meet again before the next JBRC meeting, tentatively scheduled for June, which means that there is a chance the fate of 526 could be decided next month.  Stay tuned…
JBRC Members
Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence)
Senator Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee)
Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee)* 
Senator Glenn Reese (D-Spartanburg)
Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley)*
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter)
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg)
Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry)
Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York)*
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston)*
*Denotes 526 Subcommittee Member
Panthers Tax Credit Bill Heads to Conference Committee
After weeks of pressure from the Governor, the House, and even a visit from Sir Purr, the Senate approved a bill (H.4243) that would give tax breaks to the Carolina Panthers so the NFL team will build its new practice facility and team headquarters in South Carolina.

The bill was amended by the Senate and approved on a 27-15 vote Thursday afternoon, after several hours of debate.

For the past few weeks, Senator Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) has questioned the incentives and the real value of the economic impact.  He also expressed frustration with the fact that a new interchange would be built when many other roads in South Carolina should be addressed first.

SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall has stated that the $40 million for the interchange would not come from SCDOT money.  This was also confirmed on the Senate floor this week when the bill was being debated.  The money for the interchange will come from a combination of federal funds and funds from the SC Department of Commerce.

The House did not concur with the Senate amendment; therefore, the bill now heads to a conference committee where conferees will work to come to an agreement.
Toll Bill Remains on Senate Calendar
As we have previously reported, the Senate introduced toll legislation (S.780) a few weeks ago and moved to have it placed on the calendar, skipping the committee process entirely. The introduction of the bill and push to have it placed on the calendar has come as a surprise to many, and some speculate that it could be a way to pressure the inclusion of the toll proviso in the budget. 

S.780 would allow SCDOT to implement tolls for new roads, capacity improvements, reconstruction of roads, and the reconstruction and replacement of bridges if the agency found tolls to be a feasible funding mechanism for the project.  All revenues generated from the toll must be used to pay for the construction, maintenance costs, and other expenses for the project and construction, maintenance and other improvements to the highway corridor. The bill also removes current provisions that require legislative approval of tolling with enacting legislation.  

The bill will remain on the Senate calendar and will sit until the legislature returns in January 2020.  
State Legislatures Continue to Make Road Funding a Priority 
Nine states approved an estimated $1.6 billion in one-time and recurring revenue for roads and bridges during the first four months of 2019, including four in April, according to an analysis by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (ARTBA-TIAC). Transportation investment measures in Iowa and Florida are pending the governor’s signature.

The April investment measures include:
  • Virginia: Local fuel tax of 2.1 percent on the average wholesale price of fuel, implemented in districts bordering I-81 for interstate construction and maintenance. The law also includes a statewide diesel tax increase and an increase in truck registration fees.
  • North Dakota: Implements a new annual registration fee of $120 for electric and $50 for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Idaho: Amends existing law to phase out the distribution of funds from the highway distribution account to the law enforcement account and reallocates those funds to local governments and the state highway account for transportation. Another law permits selling bonds against this revenue.
  • New York: Established tolls for vehicles entering or remaining in the most congested areas of the state. Revenue would be used for public transit improvements.
Pending Measures:
  • Florida: Motor vehicle license taxes are redirected from the general fund to the transportation trust fund to build new corridors. 
  • Iowa: Implements fees on alternative vehicles.
Wyoming, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, and Utah approved transportation investment laws before April.  Learn more about those measures here. 
Petition for Action on Federal Infrastructure Funding
The Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition brings together businesses, the labor and union sectors, transportation stakeholders, and the public to advocate a robust transportation infrastructure grid in the United States. The group has an ongoing petition to urge President Trump and Congress to work together to pass long-term funding and financing solutions that will help safeguard a better tomorrow for America.  If you have not signed the petition, we encourage you to do so today!  
Sign the Petition
2018 - 2019 Newsletter Archive
Copyright © 2019 South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.