General Assembly Stops Short of Getting Businesses Back on Track – Fails to Act on Needed Liability Reform, SC Statehouse Run-Off Election Update, New Mask Requirements in Some Municipalities

Email to COVID-19 Mailing List: June 24th

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: General Assembly Stops Short of Getting Businesses Back on Track – Fails to Act on Needed Liability Reform, SC Statehouse Run-Off Election Update, New Mask Requirements in Some Municipalities


1. General Assembly Stops Short of Getting Businesses Back on Track – Fails to Act on Needed Liability Reform

Liability Protection: The House and Senate both adjourned this week before debating proposals to provide limited liability protection to South Carolina’s healthcare providers and businesses that have been serving the state during the pandemic. Both bodies formed special committees, took public testimony, and attempted to draft legislation…but fell short of getting the job done at a time when our businesses urgently need to have some certainty to stay open during this pandemic.

Liability protection has been addressed in 32 other states and is key to getting workers back to work, and states’ economies restarted. It is not lost on us that hospitals, healthcare providers, PPE manufacturers, food chain suppliers, pharmacies, grocery stores, childcare centers, and many other businesses and industries were asked to stay open and serve the public while the General Assembly was at home, sheltering-in-place. 

Liability protection was included as one of Governor McMaster’s accelerateSC Task Force’s top recommendations. The House did introduce a bill, but with policymakers not set to return until September, businesses are left without the certainty that other states have provided. We appreciate the efforts of Representative Russell Ott (D – Calhoun), a member of the House COVID-19 Liability Protection Review Committee, to introduce an amendment to make the issue part of the debate about the allocation of CARES Act Funds. Unfortunately, the amendment was deemed not germane.

We will keep pushing for legislators to take up this critical issue as soon as possible and in their next session in mid-September. We encourage the use of our new website, which allows you to send a pre-populated email to your senator and representative telling them how important it is that the General Assembly comes back to pass a safe harbor bill that will:

  • Provide limited liability protection for businesses, healthcare providers, and educational institutions in any COVID-19 related lawsuit from the start of the pandemic to the end of the pandemic.
  • Ensure that employers who have taken steps to keep workplaces safe and follow public health guidelines are protected from liability.

CARES Act: Today, the General Assembly approved a plan (H.5202) to authorize approximately $1.2 billion of the $1.9 billion of the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for South Carolina. The Senate passed the bill with the Senate Finance Committee amendment during its one-day session yesterday, and the House subsequently concurred in the Senate amendments today. They both closely mirror the accelerateSC Task Force and the Governor’s recommendations.

The joint resolution, as passed, includes several items on the SC Chamber’s priority list for businesses and education/workforce. We outlined many of these items in our “Relief and Recovery Agenda for SC Businesses” as priorities from the beginning of our work with the accelerateSC Task Force, and we thank the General Assembly for getting these priorities accomplished:

  • $500 million for the Unemployment Trust Fund
  • $50 million for broadband expansion
  • $210 million for K-12 education including:
    • $50.7 million for summer learning camps
    • $160 million for bringing students back to school five days earlier than previously planned.
  • $270 million for state and local agencies (including higher education)

These authorization amounts represent the maximum amount given to an agency or office. All agencies or governmental offices seeking funds must apply for them through the grant administrator, Guidehouse, who will review the application and then determine if the request meets the qualifications for CARES Act money as dictated by the Federal Government.


2. SC Statehouse Run-Off Election Update

Yesterday, three State Senate and seven State House of Representative run-off races were held. The following candidates have won their run-off races: 

Senate:

District

Associated Counties

Candidate

Party

16

Lancaster, York

Michael Johnson

Republican

33

Horry

Luke Rankin

Republican

39

Berkeley, Calhoun, Colleton, Dorchester, Orangeburg

Vernon Stephens

Democratic

House of Representatives: 

District

Associated Counties

Candidate

Party

3

Pickens

Jerry Carter

Republican

5

Pickens

Neal Collins

Republican

35

Greenville, Spartanburg

Bill Chumley

Republican

88

Lexington

RJ May

Republican

99

Berkeley, Charleston

Mark Smith

Republican

109

Charleston, Dorchester

Deon Tedder

Democratic

115

Charleston

*Too close to call

 

*House District 115: This election is too close to call. Updates will be provided here.

The SC Chamber is pleased to announce that Chamber PAC supported candidate Neal Collins has won his run-off. Find more information on these run-offs here

The general election will occur on November 3rd.  For more information on this election, follow updates at the SC Chamber Election Center. SC Chamber PAC-supported candidates in the general election will be released soon.


3. New Mask Requirements in Columbia and Greenville

This week, the City of Columbia and the City of Greenville passed mandatory mask ordinances. Richland and Greenville Counties have experienced two of the highest incidents of positive cases in the state. As of today, DHEC is reporting that there are approximately 3,000 confirmed cases in Richland County and 4,300 cases in Greenville County. DHEC continues to encourage wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, avoiding group gatherings, regularly washing hands, and staying home if sick.

Columbia Ordinance

The City of Columbia passed its mask ordinance on June 23rd.

  • People within the limits of the City of Columbia must wear a mask:
    • Inside a public building
    • Waiting to enter a public building
    • Interacting with others outdoors within six feet of each other
    • In public and private businesses
    • Public and private transportation
    • Walking in public when it isn’t possible to maintain a six-foot distance from others
  • Masks are not required:
    • In personal vehicles
    • In an enclosed space or when you’re only with members of your household
    • During outdoor physical activity not within six feet of others
    • While eating, drinking or smoking
    • Within religious establishments
    • When a mask causes or aggravates a health condition
    • When a mask would prevent the receipt of personal services
  • This ordinance goes into effect on Friday, June 26th, at 6 am and is currently set to expire 60 days from the implementation (August 26, 2020).
  • Failure to comply with this ordinance will result in a fine of not more than $25.
  • Additionally, employees in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies within city limits must wear masks or face a fine not more than $100.

Greenville Ordinance

The City of Greenville mask ordinance was passed June 22nd and is narrower than the Columbia ordinance.

  • People within the city limits of Greenville must wear a mask inside a grocery store or pharmacy.
    • Failure to comply with this ordinance will result in a fine of not more than $25.
  • Additionally, employees of restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies must wear masks.
    • Failure to comply with this part of the ordinance will result in a fine not more than $100.
  • The Greenville ordinance went into effect on Tuesday, June 23rd and is set to expire 60 days after implementation (August 23, 2020)

In both cities, masks are not required to be worn by people with underlying health conditions where a mask would be harmful.