Thanks to the advocacy of our campus presidents and their strong relationships with legislators, SCICU member institutions were included in both the Senate and House versions of legislation to appropriate federal CARES Act funding.
The Senate passed their $668 million version on Tuesday, Sept. 15, carving out $115 million for state and local governments and public and private colleges and universities. On Wednesday the House passed a bill allocating $748 million by including $80 million unspent from the first allocation of federal funding passed earlier this year. The House bill created a similar $130 million appropriation as that of the Senate. This funding can be used for reimbursements for COVID-19 expenses.
Since the bills are not identical they will be sent to a conference committee this week (week of Sept. 21) with representatives from both houses. The Senate members of the conference committee will be Senators Tom Davis, Thomas Alexander and Vince Sheheen. The House members are Representatives Murrell Smith, Bill Clyburn, and Kirkman Finlay.
Will there be a state budget this year? It depends on who you talk to.
This week the Senate passed a state budget for fiscal year 2021, which began nearly three months ago. The Senate’s version of the budget keeps most spending at fiscal year 2019-2020 levels, but gives teachers small raises, provides an increased stipend to poll workers, and funds hazard pay bonuses for state employees. The Senate budget keeps the funding of the Tuition Grants Program at last year’s level, providing for a maximum $3,600 grant.
However, the House leadership remains in agreement with the governor that the state’s economy is too uncertain to commit to budget. Instead, they propose passing a continuing resolution to keep running at last year’s spending levels.
COVID-19 Liability Protection
Many thanks to Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey for introducing the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act (S.1259), which initially was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Anticipating some rough going for the bill in the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Massey tried to recall the bill from Judiciary, which would have allowed it to skip the committee process and head straight to a floor debate. This motion required unanimous consent from all senators and unfortunately, an objection blocked the motion. Sen. Massey hopes to get a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee meeting scheduled next week before the Senate adjourns.