Bill's Straight Talk -- Legislative News

 

May 4, 2019: State Sales Tax CUT in HALF?

It is hard to find an issue more controversial than tax "reform". While most everyone wants lower taxes, updating and modernizing taxes gets very personal when your favorite tax exemption is tossed overboard in favor of lower overall tax rates. (Let the screaming begin.)

Goal: Cut SC's Sales Tax in Half

Thursday the House Tax Policy Review Committee on which I serve filed legislation (H.4532) that seeks to create a broader, fairer and flatter tax policy that modernizes and makes more stable SC's sales tax system. The goal is to lower the sales tax from 6% to 3%. That's HUGE! To accomplish that, the bill expands sale taxes on certain services and adjusts the current exemption laws.

Broader, Flatter & Fairer

The bill broadens the sale tax base by substantially expanding taxes on services, capturing more of the expanding service economy versus solely relying on a declining tangible goods economy. Our sales tax system a vestige of the 1950s, relying on a dwindling base of taxable tangible goods. The percentage of sales that are taxable has dropped from about 50% in 2002 to 35% today - the consequences of a changing economy. Experts consider our sales tax base to be "narrow." Of the states in the Southeast, only Virginia has a more narrow sales tax base. Broadly taxing services develops a more stable revenue base and helps in reducing year to year volatility. Since there are a limited number of exemptions that can be repealed, the taxing of services is the only way to broaden taxation so the overall rate can be reduced.

The ideal is to flatten the sales rate from 6% to around 3%. We call for more services to be taxed, but that tax would be only 3% on those new activities as compared to the current 6% rate. This then enables a rate reduction to 3 or 4% on the myriad of tangible items taxed now at 6%.

Sales taxes are naturally regressive because no matter how small or large your income, we all pay the same sales tax rate. Broadening the base and lowering the tax rate is fairer and less regressive.

Adjusting Sales Tax Exemptions

The bill, as drafted, retains most of the exemption on groceries, electricity and medicines. As example, the change in electricity exempts 75% of the amount then applies 3% to the remaining 25%. That would result in 75-cents of sales tax for every $100 of a power bill. The same would be true for groceries and medicine. Upon close examination, the Committee recognized the importance of maintaining many of the current exemptions since they are essential business inputs protecting agriculture and manufacturing production. This avoids tax stacking or pyramiding.

Gradual Change Recommended

As proposed, the bill calls for phase-ins/phase-outs of taxes on services and exemptions along with timetables that extend over several years so that revenues are balanced out and includes a circuit breaker to halt tax changes if the economy dramatically changes or certain revenue estimates are not met. There would also be a trust fund to cover shortfalls. (Learn More - FAQ on Sales Tax Reform)

Just Getting Started

This sales tax legislation has been a decade in the making starting with the original TRAC (Tax Realignment Commission) initiated by Gov. Sanford in 2009. I have served on every House tax policy committee since 2011 and this is the first comprehensive sales tax reform legislation to be filed. It is coupled with legislation we filed a month ago that would reduce the state income tax rate 35-percent from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years. (Learn More - Income Tax Reform)

These two bills have been sent to the House Ways & Means Committee which is planning to hold many public hearings during the remainder of the year so everyone can provide their opinions and ideas. What all this will look like after going through the legislative process is anyone's guess. However, after years of studying SC's tax system, the time has come to remodel our tax system to be fairer to citizens and more competitive with other states in attracting business, industry and new jobs.

Time Out for Pictures

Serving SC Veterans
In the legislature's continuing efforts to better serve SC veterans, Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by veterans, military leaders and legislators at the Statehouse to sign into law a bill that makes the SC Division of Veterans Affairs a cabinet-level agency. The former Director of the division is now Secretary of the cabinet agency. I was a cosponsor of the legislation. This bipartisan bill reflects SC's strong military tradition and shows appreciation to our veterans.

Honoring Champions
The North Augusta HS 2019 Class AAAA Basketball State Champions were honored by the House of Representatives. This is a 3-peat for the "Lady Jackets"! They were brought onto the floor of the House and later stood on the Statehouse steps and flashed the 3-peat sign. Congratulations!

Stopping Federal Over-Spending
I spent time with former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He visited the SC Statehouse to encourage legislators to move forward with the Article V Balanced Budget Amendment to put the brakes on the federal government's out-of-control spending. I'm the primary sponsor of the BBA legislation (H.3017).

Loving Ronnie Young
Rep. Ronnie Young (R-Aiken County) was warmly welcomed back to the House of Representatives this week. Ronnie is facing some health challenges. Members of the Aiken Delegation surrounded him while he thanked his colleagues for their many well wishes and prayers.

Legislative Briefs

Santee Cooper

After weeks of the debate, the Senate agreed on a compromise and passed a joint resolution providing several methods of reforming Santee Cooper. The bill requires the Department of Administration to administer a competitive bidding process for the sale or private management of Santee Cooper and would allow Santee Cooper to submit a proposal to reform itself. The Senate added the compromise amendment to the House version of the resolution (H.4287) which has been sent back to the House where it will receive much attention next week.

Teachers Rally at Statehouse

Thousands of public school teachers from across the state left their classrooms Wednesday to join a protest rally at the Statehouse. We always welcome citizens to the Capitol to express their beliefs.

 

What's puzzling about this teacher protest is that the House of Representatives has addressed nearly every one of their major issues this year.

 

• They demand a pay raise. Next year's budget contains an additional $159 million for raises for all teachers at no cost to local districts (that's in addition automatic step increases).
• They want a fix to the teacher shortage. In immediately addressing the recruiting challenge, we will be raising starting teacher salaries by 10% bringing teacher pay above the Southeastern average.
• Their demand for smaller class sizes is understandable, but addressing that immediately would only exacerbate the teacher shortage because of the need for many more teachers.
• Their demand for more mental health counselors in schools is being met; for the third consecutive year, the General Assembly is increasing funding to reach the goal of a mental health professional in every school by 2020.
• Their demand for less testing was addressed in the House education reform bill that eliminates four of the six current state assessments.

 

Many of the complaints concerning school discipline and other workplace policies are rightfully the jurisdiction of local school boards and teacher's grievances should be addressed locally where they could be rapidly fixed.


While teachers demand more money for salaries and schools, we must recognize SC is 24th among states in funding public education, yet LAST in student achievement.

 

It's more than money and it will take more than one year to get public schooling on the successful track. The House of Representatives has been working on education reform for four years and passed this comprehensive reform legislation in which teachers had a big say. It's now time for the Senate to finish what we started.

Education Workforce Analytic System

The House passed a bill supported by Governor McMaster to merge the existing workforce and education data oversight committees in order to make our kindergarten through workforce education pipeline more efficient. The purpose of this bill (H.3757) is to centralize information that agencies are already collecting place it in a more secure database. The data collected will only be used internally to ensure our state resources are being efficiently used. By using this modern analytical system, South Carolina will be joining 37 other states in improving the ability to respond to critical workforce needs now and in the future.

One More Week
The countdown is on as the final week of this legislative session approaches. Three legislative days remain in the regular session, however, the good news is this is the first year of a two-year session and there is much more we hope to accomplish.

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AIKEN COUNTY ROAD ALERT FOR I-20
SCDOT has closed the eastbound right lane of I-20 at mile marker 26 (South Edisto River). Emergency deck repairs started Friday. It's anticipated the lane will reopen next Tuesday. If you're heading toward Columbia from Aiken you will avoid delays by utilizing Wire Road to I-20 (the interchange at mile marker 29).

 

PICTURE OF THE WEEK

 


PACERS GET A NEW LOOK. USCA unveiled its new logo today resulting from a collaboration among faculty, staff and students who shared their perspectives with a design agency. According to USCA the new visual brand goes a long way toward helping identify as a university within a larger system, yet allowing the new logo to build on the unique culture -- both at the university while being reflective of our region in the state.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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April 29, 2019: Heartbeat Bill Wins House Approval

The S.C. House of Representatives voted on a LIFE or DEATH issue this past week.

Fetal Heartbeat Bill Passes

Wednesday was consumed with many hours of floor debate over the Fetal Heartbeat Bill (H.3020). The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected by a physician - that's usually about six weeks. An amendment was added to allow for exceptions in the case of a medical emergency, rape, or incest. In the end, Representatives voted 70-31, mostly along party lines, to pass the legislation and send it to the Senate. Similar bills introduced in in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 all died before making it to the House or Senate floor. This is the furthest the legislation has progressed in South Carolina.

 

Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio have passed heartbeat abortion bills this year, and other states - including Florida, Tennessee and Texas - are also expected to approve similar measures this year. Legal challenges abound.

 



While the House vote sets up the potential for passage when the General Assembly reconvenes in 2020, Senate approval will be difficult because at least one Democrat Senator has already vowed to filibuster the bill as he has done in the past with other abortion bills.

Time Out for Pictures

AIKEN ROAD ALERT
University Parkway has re-opened to traffic after being closed for more than a month for emergency repairs when a steep embankment gave way. This is a main thoroughfare that funnels traffic to USC-Aiken and the county's only hospital, Aiken Regional Medical Center. Hat's off to SCDOT, the contractors and the utility companies for working together swiftly to complete repairs 25 days ahead of schedule!


State House to the School House Tour
I was back in school Friday morning. My 'State House to the School House Tour' stopped at Aiken's J.D. Lever Elementary for the 9th time. Each year I visit with 3rd graders in elementary schools around House District 86 to give them insights and answer their questions as they study state government.


Honoring Aiken County's Mental Health Warrior
Friday evening, I had the honor to recognize Lisa Tindal for her dedicated service leading Mental Health America of Aiken for the past decade. The SC House Resolution was presented before a large gathering at MHA's "Aiken's Cookin' With Celebrity Chef's" at Woodside Reserve. Lisa, who has been this community's mental health warrior, is leaving MHA to be of service as a new grandmother. Thank you, Lisa; we wish you the best.


Legislative Briefs

Senate Kicks Education Overhaul to Next Year

This was the year of education reform intended to start the transformation of SC's lackluster public education achievement scores. It was for the House of Representatives, but not for the Senate. Representatives started the legislation, passed it then sent it to the Senate. Now, Senators say it's impossible to get a vote in the Senate in the next two weeks before the legislative session ends. House leadership and Gov. Henry McMaster have urged Senators repeatedly to get an education package done. The Governor has said this year offers the best chance for improving a system that's fallen among the nation's bottom.

Talk, but No Action
Senators debated the future of Santee Cooper this past week, but took no action. The legislation being debated calls for bids from companies to buy the state-owned utility. Some Senators want to retain the utility and have someone else manage it. Next week may bring clarity from the Senate.

Senate Serves Up its Budget
Senators have passed their version of the state's $9.3 billion budget last week. The House and Senate will meet over the next few weeks to negotiate the differences between the two budgets and come up with a final version. Major highlights...

• State Support to Public Schools: The House version of the budget would give $150 million, at no cost to local districts, for teacher pay raises. The Senate added $15 million to the Base Student Cost but requires the local district to match the funds.


• State Employees Raises: The Senate added a $600 one-time bonus for state employees earning less than $70,000 per year on top of the 2% across-the-board pay increase for state employees the House had in the budget.


• Farm Aid -- Hurricane Devastation: The Senate added $25 million to set-aside for a grant program to assist famers who suffered devastating crop losses as a result of the flooding associated with Hurricanes Michael and Florence in Fall 2018.


Taxpayer Rebate: The Senate changed the $50 tax rebate to per return and not per taxpayer with an income tax liability.

 

Rideshare Safety Update
The Senate has taken recommendations from popular rideshare companies and replaced the House version of the Samantha Josephson Rideshare Safety Act with their own proposal. Instead of light-up signs on Uber and Lyft vehicles, the bill now requires rideshare drivers to display license plate numbers on the front of their cars.

Coastal Drilling On Hold
President Donald Trump's administration is backing away from plans to allow offshore oil drilling along the shores of SC and other Atlantic coast states. The U.S. Interior Department announced that drilling for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean is on hold awaiting court decisions. The news drew an enthusiastic response from Gov. Henry McMaster who has sided with those opposed to drilling off the coast because of its potential impact on the state's $20 billion tourism economy.

Ten Most Popular Governors in the Country Are Republicans
And, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster is one of the ten. (Read More)

Picture of the Week

 

Hundreds of folks were pounding the streets of Aiken Saturday morning.

The ‘Run United’ half-marathon was the first at the starting line on a sunny,

crisp morning in historic downtown Aiken. The shorter fun run and kids run were next

off the starting line. Organized by Aiken Electric Coop, the annual event supports Aiken’s United Way.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.


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April 15, 2019: Wait 'Til Next Year!

 

Last week was a milestone in this year's legislative session. It was 'crossover week' when legislation must pass the House or Senate if a bill is to have a possibility of being approved by the other body this year. The House is on its annual Easter furlough week so when we return there will be three weeks (nine legislative days) left in the first year of a two year session.

Major Progress

Earlier this year the House passed a comprehensive education reform bill that includes raising teacher pay, decreasing statewide testing, consolidating small school districts, and creating a committee that will monitor the education system from pre-K to post-graduation. The bill was sent to the Senate where it is going through the same committee process and public hearing debates. Parts of the comprehensive legislation (offered in smaller separate bills) have been moving forward. I'm hopeful the Senate will pass an education reform package that not only gives teachers a much-needed pay raise but also fixes some of the deep-rooted problems that plague our current education system. We must not stall another year.

Smart Budgeting

Budgeting consumes a lot time and attention at the Statehouse. This year's budget process was the best I have seen. Budget writers worked closely with Gov. McMaster. The goal was to protect taxpayers with a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar spent. This budget proposal spends tax dollars where they are needed most. Nearly $160 million was budgeted to provide every public school teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. It didn't stop there. $50 million was targeted for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades. $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools. And, $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that cannot afford them. Let's hope the Senate finds much agreement as they debate the budget this week.

Tax Reform Gets Underway

At long last we're getting serious about comprehensive tax reform. We took a big step forward in reducing state income taxes with the filing of a legislation by members of the House Tax Policy Review Committee on which I serve. The bill calls for reducing the state income tax rate from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years. Coming next is legislation to substantially lower the state sales tax by eliminating many current tax exemptions. These bills will undergo many public hearings and, hopefully, will move forward early next year.

Wait 'til Next Year

I'm a positive fellow who shares legislative progress with you weekly. But 'truth-in-politics' requires full disclosure - including what didn't make it through the legislative gauntlet so far this year: Let's call this 'Wait 'til next year'.

Distracted Driving Bill Crashes

My DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) legislation faltered during House debate when trial lawyer/legislators managed to quickly confuse the debate with legal technicalities and got the bill sent back to committee - their committee - where it's likely D.O.A. Fortunately, Sen. Tom Young and I teamed up to file a 'Hands Free' cell phone bill in the Senate the following week. Even though polling shows a large majority of South Carolinians favor the 'Hands Free' bill (only 12% are opposed), this legislation must wait 'til next year.

Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill

The heartbeat bill passed two committees and reached the House floor for debate all in a single day on April 2, but quickly stalled because of a filibuster threat by House Democrats that could have kept other bills from passing before the crossover deadline. Previous heartbeat bills all died before making it to the House or Senate floor. This one could pass the House in the next few weeks, however, its prospects in the Senate aren't good.

Medical Marijuana

The Compassionate Care Act would legalize marijuana for medical purposes with a physician's referral. This year the legislation has had more momentum than ever before, but it's still stuck in a Senate committee where it has had several hearings.

Gun Open Carry

It will be next year before legislation can be heard allowing gun owners to carry their guns without a permit. "Open carry" proposals in the House missed the crossover deadline. A hearing on the bill scheduled for this past week was canceled after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter McCoy, received a death threat on a Facebook post that accused him of holding up the bill.

Gun Regulations

If Republican advocates didn't get they want with open carry, Democrats didn't get any major gun regulations passed, either. A House proposal to tax gun purchases to pay for school resource officers made it nowhere this year. Nor did a proposal to extend the waiting period for background checks before purchases.

Offshore Drilling

Five bills on seismic testing and drilling off the Atlantic Coast, some that would ban drilling and others that would support it, were filed this year. It's a hot-button issue as President Donald Trump's administration works to open previously protected U.S. waters to drilling. Two of the bills got out of a House Committee this past week, but too late to beat the crossover deadline.

Rolling Back Dam Regulations

A bill that would remove state oversight of 1,600 of South Carolina's 2,400 regulated dams didn't make the crossover deadline. Opponents say those dams need oversight because more than 80 have broken during storms in the past four years, causing record flood damage downstream. Supporters contend the bill rolls back unnecessary and burdensome regulation for rural landowners and farmers.

Pension Reform M.I.A.

Reforming the state pension plans is long overdue. The unfunded liability right now is $23 billion. Each day the liability increases by $2.5 million. Two years ago legislative leaders promised to tackle reform the next year. That was last year. Sadly, no progress this year. It's time! It's beyond time for a fix!

STATEHOUSE PHOTOS

It was my honor to present a House Resolution recognizing April 22-26 as Public School Volunteers Week. Accepting the Resolution were Aiken School Board members Rosemary English and Jason Crane. We are grateful to all the volunteers who work tirelessly to help educate and support our children.

I welcomed FFA students from Ridge Spring-Monetta High School to the Statehouse. They joined FFA chapters from across South Carolina participating in their annual trek to the Capitol to bring more than 400 flats of flowers they grew. From Begonias to Vinca the beauty of the Statehouse will be enhanced by the colors grown and donated by the FFA students.


LEGISLATIVE NEWS BRIEFS

Consolidating Little School Districts
A piece of the school reform passed the Senate last week. It would require school districts with less than 1,500 students and located in poorer counties to consolidate by the start of the 2022 school year. As currently drafted, the impacted districts are in Bamberg, Barnwell, Clarendon, and Hampton counties. The bill's primary sponsor is Aiken's Sen. Tom Young.

Uncovering Dark Money
The House subcommittee on Constitutional Laws gave favorable reports on two "sunshine" bills that would shed more light on political ads paid for by secretive groups and their anonymous donors. The bills would require independent expenditure committees (2 or more individuals who spend $500 or more to engage in election communications) that pay for political mailers, radio ads, or television commercials to register (like every candidate is required to do) with the State Ethics Commission. They would also need to disclose how much they spent and any donors who contributed more than $1,000.

Business Tax License Fees
Legislation to reform the business license tax system was filed in the House to help small businesses by lowering the costly business tax. The tax has risen 50% in recent years along with burdensome compliance issues that make the process time consuming. H.4431 could help bring uniformity to the system statewide and help South Carolina compete economically with neighboring states.

Offshore Drilling and Seismic Testing
Two competing bills passed favorably out of Agriculture subcommittee, one for and one against, seismic testing and offshore drilling off the South Carolina coast. One bill would make it difficult for oil companies to search and drill for oil along the South Carolina coast. On the contrary, the other bill that passed makes it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas. This will leave the debate up to the full House.

Ride-sharing Safety Makes Strides
The House voted overwhelmingly, 99-1, to pass the Samantha Josephson Ride-sharing Safety Act. The bill requires Uber and other ride-booking companies to put an illuminated sign in their window to help connect riders to the correct drivers. North Carolina legislators filed an identical Uber Safety Bill in their State House last week.

Child Torture Defined Under State Law
A bill defining "child torture" was passed by the Senate. A person would be charged with homicide by child abuse if the person causes the death of a child while committing torture or knowingly aids and abets another person to commit torture that results in the death of a child.

Childcare Facility Background Checks
The Senate passed this bill to require foster care or adoption placements to add background check requirements from each employee of a residential facility where children in foster care may be placed.

Responsible Alcohol Server Training
The Senate passed this bill calling for mandatory alcohol server training and education programs for businesses to obtain alcohol server certificates. Training programs may be either online or in the classroom and will focus on state laws regulating the purchase of alcohol, impaired driving or driving under the influence, the effect alcohol has on the human body and human behavior, methods of refusing to serve or sell alcoholic beverage to individuals under twenty-one years of age and intoxicated individuals as well as methods for effectively checking the identification of an individual.

Drone Restrictions
The Senate passed a bill making it unlawful to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle near a federal military installation with restricted public access or the Savannah River Site without written consent from the managing director of the property.

Honoring Sen. Fritz Hollings at the State House
Today (Monday), South Carolina will mourn one of its longest-serving political figures. The casket of former U.S. Sen. and S.C. Gov. Fritz Hollings will be on display in the lobby of the Statehouse from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. The funeral will be held Tuesday in Charleston.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
__________________________________________________________________________________

April 7, 2019: Life is a Heartbeat

 

Life is a precious gift from our Creator and must be valued and protected under law. That issue was heavily debated at the Statehouse this week.

Heartbeat Bill Headed for House Floor Debate

It took hours of contentious debate, but with a vote of 15-7, the House Judiciary Committee advanced the Heartbeat bill (H.3020) to the full House. The vote was mostly along party lines. The Heartbeat bill would outlaw abortions after a baby's heartbeat is detected. The pregnant woman also must be informed of the heartbeat and given the opportunity to hear it. One amendment was added - an exception for victims of rape and incest. The legislation is supported without amendments by leading pro-life groups in our state. Currently, in SC, a baby can be terminated up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. After 20 weeks a mother's life must be in jeopardy. Georgia passed a similar Heartbeat bill last week. The governors in Mississippi and Kentucky have recently signed similar bills into law.

Bringing Broadband to SC's Internet Deserts

If you have lousy internet service you're not alone. Nearly 12,000 Aiken County residents lack access to the most basic internet service - they live mostly in the eastern portion of Aiken County. Much of that 'Internet Desert' is in the House District I serve. Lagging high-speed internet has left rural communities across the state struggling for jobs, educational access and accessible, affordable health care. More than a half million South Carolinians are being left out of the digital economy due to not having broadband access. What is a good quality of service? One expert describes it this way, "A K-12 student can go to their house, can do their homework and can engage the internet in a meaningful way."

The SC House took a step to fix that by overwhelmingly approving legislation (H.3780) that would help pay for rural broadband access. I'm a cosponsor of the legislation. If the bill becomes law, providers could apply to the state for up to $2 million to expand broadband internet service in under-served areas, where at least 90 percent of households do not have access to fixed broadband at speeds faster the dial-up. During floor debate, I emphasized that the need to close the digital divide in Aiken County and elsewhere is long overdue.

Educating Distracted Drivers

Nearly everyone is fed up with distracted drivers who pay more attention to their smart-phone than the road. Those who drive recklessly by not keeping their eyes on the road need to be educated. That's just what Rep. Mac Toole and I proposed in a bill ( H.4383) we jointly filed this week. It calls for the SC Department of Public Safety to conduct a statewide public service campaign funded by distracted drivers. An example, if law enforcement pulls you over for a violation (i.e., speeding, etc.) and sees you holding your phone, the fine for the initial violation would double. The additional monies would fund a public awareness campaign. This bill was created after trial lawyer/legislators sidetracked my 'Hands Free' legislation (H.3355) during House debate by sending it back to committee - their committee!

Making Rideshare Services Safer


In the wake of the tragedy involving the killing of Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina student last weekend, legislation (H.4380) has been proposed to make it easier for riders to identify Uber and Lyft vehicles. The proposal requires drivers for ridesharing services to display illuminated stickers on their windshields.

Santee Cooper: Status Quo Can't Stand

The House of Representatives continues to lead the efforts on giving rate relief in the wake of the massive debt accumulated by Santee Cooper from the failed VC Summer nuclear plant. A special Legislative Study Committee (made up of 4 House members, 4 Senate members, and the Governor) has received four proposals to purchase Santee Cooper-each with assurances about rate reductions, employee retention, retirement protections, environmental assurances, and more.

This week the House passed a joint resolution (H.4287) that will take the next step towards negotiating with the four entities who have placed initial "bids" and we are now in the due diligence stage of the process. We will continue to analyze the best next steps for the state-owned utility while making the ratepayers, taxpayers and employees' top priority.

Aiken Update

University Parkway Repairs
Work is proceeding at a rapid pace to repair the erosion of University Parkway, a main thoroughfare with access to Aiken Regional Medical Center and USCA. SCDOT reports contractors are continuing backfilling operations with about 6,000 cubic yards of material brought in to fill the eroded road bank. Next week will feature the installing of drainage structures. SCDOT deserves much praise for moving swiftly to remedy this emergency situation.

Run United
There is still time to make plans to participate in this year's Run United. Sponsored by Aiken Electric Coop to raise money for United Way, this year's event will take place Saturday, April 27th, in historic downtown Aiken. To learn more CLICK HERE.

Legislative Briefs

New Deer Tags Law
Following passage by the Senate, Gov. McMaster has signed into law a bill that provides SC hunters with two, unrestricted tags for non-antler deer (as opposed to the current eight tags that can be used only on specific dates) in addition to the three, unrestricted tags for antlered deer.

Animal Cruelty
The House has received legislation (S.105) from the Senate that would impose restrictions on tethering animals, provide standards for animal shelters and require magistrates and municipal judges to receive training on animal cruelty laws.

Kids & Tobacco
The Senate passed a bill (H.3420) that would prohibit minors from entering stores that sell primarily nicotine products.

Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act
Legislation (H.3807) that restricts those under 18 years of age from using tanning beds and other equipment that provides tanning through ultraviolet radiation in a tanning facility was approved by the House.

Tracking Civil Forfeitures
The House took the first step in reining-in abuses in the state's Civil Asset Forfeiture Law by approving the creation of a database to track property seized by law enforcement. As proposed (H.3307) the tracking information would be available on a searchable public website. This is just the first piece of legislation intended to protect innocent people who have had their money and belongings illegally seized.

Truth in Labeling
A bill (H.4245) calling for clear labeling of vat-grown, cell-cultured meat for sale, a new trend, was passed by the House. It prohibits misrepresenting a product as 'meat' or 'clean meat' that is cell-cultured meat/protein.

Reforming the PSC
The House approved legislation to reform the SC Public Service Commission which governs the operations of the state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper. H.4261 terminates the current PSC Board of Directors and establishes criteria for their successors, including qualifications to ensure their relevant expertise.

Improved Cell Service
On a vote of 108-2, the House sent the Senate a bill (H.4262) that establishes standards for small wireless facilities, including small cells and distributed antenna systems, on utility poles in rights of way to encourage the development of strong and robust wireless and broadband communications networks throughout the state.

Elevating Veterans Affairs
The House agreed with the Senate amendments to create the Department of Veterans Affairs an executive branch of government. H.3438 was sent to the governor for his signature. Veterans Affairs has been a division of the Department of Administration.

Relief for Service Members
The House sent the governor legislation (H.3180) that aligns SC with federal law that provides for contracts for phone services, Internet, cable, direct satellite, and athletic club or gym memberships to be cancelled, without early termination charges, when those in military service are deployed or reassigned.

Help for "Help Wanted"
Legislation aimed at helping government retirees covered under the SC Retirement System to return to work without being subject to the ten thousand dollar earnings limitation was approved by the House. This allows skilled workers to fill the many job vacancies throughout the state. H.3620 was sent the Senate.

Palmetto Fellows Scholarship Enhancements
The House passed legislation (H.3936) that would allow those students awarded the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship to also use it at two-year colleges in addition to four-year colleges and universities.

Picture of the Week

The House of Representatives recently bid farewell to its longtime Clerk, Charles Reid. Charles was elected Clerk in 2004. Prior to that he served as legal counsel to the Speaker of the House and was an assistant Attorney General. The Clerk is the House Parliamentarian and oversee the House staff. His wise counsel will be missed. We wish him great success and the ability to spend more time with his family.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

March 31, 2019: Slashing SC's Income Tax

This week brought a big step forward in reducing income taxes in South Carolina. I joined other members of the House Tax Policy Review Committee in introducing legislation that would substantially change our state income tax by making it flatter and fairer. The bill calls for reducing the state income tax rate 35-percent from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years.

 

Flatter & Fairer

 

Our entire state tax system is an antiquated, hodgepodge of unfair taxing policy that awards some and punishes others. Our Tax Review Committee has been working for a couple of years to develop policies that would make SC's tax structure fairer and stimulate our state's economy. Just last week we heard from famed Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer who encouraged us to lower tax rates resulting in growth in the economy.

Currently, SC has five income tax brackets, topping out rapidly at 7 percent. That's high and not competitive with our neighboring states. Our plan (H.4334) would eventually slash the tax rate from 7% to 4.5%. Who pays more and who pays less under the proposal would depend on how many tax credits and deductions people currently take and how they make their money. The state's current tax policy gives preferences to older people and gives breaks on certain kinds of income, such as profits from stock trades. Under the proposal, all income and ages are treated equally. Itemized deductions and income tax credits would go away. (Learn more here)

The legislation heads to the House Ways & Means Committee where public hearings will soon be held - after all, everyone has something to say about taxes. Our tax committee's work is far from finished. Next up is a legislative proposal to make our state's high sales tax flatter & fairer.

Senate Takes on Distracted Driving

With my 'Hands Free' distracted driving bill suffering a "detour" last week in the House when it was sent back to committee, a new strategy was initiated this week. Sen. Tom Young filed a nearly identical 'Hands Free' bill in the Senate (S.723). This version returns to my original legislative intent of last year by calling for fines of $100 for the first violation and $300 for subsequent violations along with two points on a violator's driving record. The Augusta Chronicle's editorial lauded the maneuver:



(Read Editorial)

Virginia Passes 'Hands Free'

Gov. Ralph Northam this week amended a bill that would make holding a communications device while driving illegal. The bill prohibited drivers from holding the device in highway work zones, but the governor amended the 'Hands-Free' legislation to be a statewide law saying, "The time has come for the Commonwealth to implement an effective and fair law to combat distracted driving." (Read More)

Pro-Ball: Two States, One Team

The House of Representatives voted 90-25 in passing a bill that would give the Carolina Panthers nearly $8 million in tax breaks for each of the next 15 years if it moves its headquarters and training facilities to Rock Hill, across the border from where they play in Charlotte. The tax breaks are worth roughly $115 million over the next 15 years. Proponents argued the team's move to SC would spur development that would outweigh those incentives. Some legislators questioned whether the state should incentivize the Panthers, owned by a billionaire. I welcome the Panthers to SC, but I joined those voting to oppose the tax incentive package. The bill went to the Senate where one Senator used a procedural motion to stall the bill.

Terrorism

Under legislation sent to the Senate this week, supporting terrorism could be turned into a state crime. This bill (H.3046) defines "significant plans or steps toward terrorism", a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Anyone who raises money or collects weapons to support a terrorist operation could be convicted of supporting or concealing an act of terrorism and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Santee Cooper Sale Negotiations Proceed

Momentum is building in both the House and Senate for the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The House has issued a Joint Resolution authorizing the Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee which paves the way for the selling of Santee Cooper by continuing the committee process and evaluating bids before recommending a final offer to the General Assembly. And, just this week legislation (H.4261) was filed in the House that would increase transparency and accountability at Santee Cooper.

Bummer Bonuses!

Santee Cooper came under fire this week for its plan to pay its top executives nearly $511,000 in bonuses over the next nine months. The bonuses to seven executives are meant to keep top talent at the state-owned utility during this tumultuous time. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Shane Massey called it "a really bad idea".

News in Pictures

Aiken's New Public Safety Headquarters

Sunday afternoon saw the Aiken community gather to cut the ribbon and dedicate the new Aiken Public Safety Headquarters. The new facility repurposed a closed Food Lion grocery store saving millions of dollars in construction costs. The facility was named in memory of the late J. Carrol Busbee, who was the longtime police chief who served the city for more than a half century. The Aiken legislative delegation presented House and Senate Resolutions marking the occasion.



Talking with Students

The 'State House to the School House Tour' took us to Aiken's Chukker Creek Elementary School Friday. Sen. Tom Young and I fielded questions from the very smart third graders.

Charlie Cook's 'Campus Clash' Comes to SC
Charlie Kirk & Candace Owens ROCK! The Turning Point stars brought their 10 City 'Campus Clash' to USC this week. A large crowd of mostly college students enthusiastically embraced their Conservative views. I had the opportunity to welcome Charlie to SC.

LEGISLATIVE BRIEFS

New DSS Director
Michael Leach has been nominated by Gov. McMaster to be the next director of the SC Department of Social Services (SCDSS). Leach, a trained mental health clinician, has over 10 years of experience in Tennessee's Department of Children's Services. Gov. McMaster said, "It is clear that transformative leadership is required in South Carolina to resolve the daunting and frustrating issues that the Department of Social Services faces, and has faced, while striving to deliver positive solutions to many not so positive situations." Leach, 39, will need Senate confirmation.

Wild Turkey Hunting Season

It's officially turkey season! Under the state law passed in 2015, the wild turkey hunting season statewide for 2016-2019 for hunting male turkeys on private land is from March 20-May 5 with a statewide season bag limit per hunter for male turkeys at 3. For four seasons, those changes have been in place while an extensive study of wild turkeys was conducted. That study was recently completed, and SCDNR now recommends changes to the turkey hunting season and to bag limits. Legislation was filed this week proposing those changes.

Electric Co-Op Transparency
In an effort to make South Carolina's 20 electric co-ops more transparent to their customers, the House passed a bill that allows the Office of Regulatory Staff (the state's utility watchdog) to audit co-ops. This will give oversight a chance to raise red flags if a co-op is breaking state law or misspending money.

Daylight Saving Time

The Senate passed S.11, a bill that would have South Carolina observe Daylight Saving Time year-around if Congress passes legislation authorizing states to do that. The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.

Financial Protection for Deployed Service Members

The Senate passed H.3180, a bill that would provide additional protections for service members who are deployed. The bill would allow for service members to cancel certain contracts - gym memberships, cell phone agreements, etc. - if they are ordered to deploy for a period of time and cannot benefit from the contracts during their deployment. The Senate amended the bill which has been sent back to the House for consideration.

SC Department of Veterans Affairs
The Senate passed H.3438, a bill that would create a new, cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs. The House will now consider the Senate's amendments.

Senate Passes Hemp Farming Bill
Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law H.3449, a bill that brings SC law into line with federal law regarding the permitting of hemp farms.

 

Pictures of the Week

 

 

March is all about horses in Aiken. This weekend, was the 103rd 'Aiken Horse Show in the Woods'. Hitchcock Woods is the largest privately-owned urban forest in America. Its 2,100 acres and 70 miles of trails has been the perfect place for equestrians since the early 1800's. For the Taylor family it was a day of tailgating ringside as we supported our granddaughter Avery as she competed.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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March 22, 2019: Distracted Driving Bill Crashes; Pulled from the Ditch

WARNING - Watch out for that driver swerving from lane-to-lane, drifting off onto the shoulder of the road, speeding up, slowing down or hurling their vehicle forward blinded by their smartphone. Regrettably, it is likely the epidemic of erratic, dangerous and deadly distracted driving will continue unabated in South Carolina for the foreseeable future.

House Sends DUI-E Bill Back to the Starting Gate

Wednesday's debate on the House floor over my legislation calling for driver's to go 'Hands Free' from their cell phones while driving was side-tracked by legislative trial lawyers who confused the debate with legal technicalities ensuring a successful vote to send the bill back to committee - their committee, Judiciary. It's likely their maneuvering will kill the bill for this session. If it does reemerge, it could be as toothless and ineffective as SC's current texting law. (Read Aiken Standard Story)

SC Being Left Behind Again

Bloomberg recently headlined a story: Distracted Driving Crackdown is Coming: The public is finally at the point where they're fed up. It appears that crackdown will swerve around SC for now. While we delay, 16 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have banned hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. It doesn't stop there - 23 states are currently working on similar hands-free legislation this session with bills already moving.

Georgia is Leading the Way

Our neighbor, Georgia, became the 16th state to pass the 'Hands Free' law. It took effect last July 1st. There was a 90 day grace period, so in reality it was only enforced for the last three months of the year. But Georgia's initial statistics for 2018 are encouraging - a 15% reduction in commercial motor vehicle fatalities with road fatalities down 3.4% with 53 lives saved over 2017. This was after a 34% rise in fatal crashes in Georgia since 2014.

The news is even more encouraging for the 13 states that have had the 'Hands Free' law in place for two years. Those states are seeing an average 16% decrease in traffic fatalities with fatal motorcycle crashes down 11%. Meanwhile, SC continues to rank #1 nationally in traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven!

New Pathway Brings Hope

Life experiences provide great teachable lessons. One of those life lessons is that when hope vanishes - revive hope with a new path forward. That's exactly what I did working closely with Sen. Tom Young. Within hours after the House debate was side-tracked, Sen. Young and I connected and he will introduce the 'Hands Free' legislation in the Senate. The bill will be filed next week.

The legislative process is rigorous, but common sense legislation that has widespread public support, like curbing distracted driving, should move more swiftly and win approval to become law thereby saving lives.

For me, perseverance in the legislative process is essential. Onward!

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Picture of the Week

 

It’s always a joy to host the Aiken County High School Student Shadows. Once each year selected students from all the area high schools visit the Statehouse to gain in-depth legislative insights. This year they also visited the SC Supreme Court.

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March 16, 2019: Spending Your $$$

 

Unlike the House of Representatives in Washington DC, your SC House of Representatives knows its responsible to you to pass a state budget that is balanced and spend your tax dollars on meaningful and important priorities. That is exactly what we did this week. We work diligently to spend funds wisely.

Budget Priorities

'Budget Week' in the House is rather grueling; Tuesday's debate alone extended to more than 15 hours. After going through the budget line-by-line, we successfully sent the 2019-2020 budget to the Senate with only one "nay" vote.

The budget process is much-improved thanks to Gov. Henry McMaster and his staff working in concert with budget writers, building consensus among legislators. The General Fund Appropriations Bill totals $8.7 billion. It had four major pillars for funding.

It was our goal to protect taxpayers with a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar spent. Not only does the budget not increase taxes, this version of the budget actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax. But don't spend that rebate yet because it is questionable if it will stay in the Senate version of the budget when they send it back to the House.

Budget Highlights

• Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.
• $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.
• $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.
• $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don't already have one and cannot afford them.
• $41 million to raise state employee salaries.
• $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.
• $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state's retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.

 

Want to Know More?
Read this Budget Summary: Click Here
Review the Update Budget Graphic Presentation: Click Here

More Budget News

Planned Parenthood Nixed
Many amendments were considered during the budget debate one of which was to add Gov. McMaster's language to ensure taxpayers will not have to pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood.

USCA Scores Budget Win
This year's capital budget included $3.5 million for USC-Aiken to renovate the old, second floor gymnasium in its education building to a more usable space for educational initiatives with the university's enrollment growth. The Senate will need to concur for USCA to receive the funding.

Aiken Legislative Delegation Moves to Block Savannah River Draining by Feds
With the clock ticking toward midnight Tuesday, the Aiken Legislative Delegation won approval from the House of Representatives aimed at stopping the Army Corp of Engineers from 'pulling the plug' on the Savannah River - a move that would turn the SC's 'west coast' shoreline along North Augusta into a mud swamp. The budget proviso prohibits DHEC from using any funds to approve the licensing, permitting, authorization or certification related to the new Savannah River Bluff Lock & Dam so as to maintain the current water level. (Aiken Standard Reports)

 

Legislative Briefs

Panthers on the Move- ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
The Carolina Panthers are working on a deal to move their NFL team's headquarters and training facilities out of Charlotte and into South Carolina. This would be a huge economic win for our state that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. At a Statehouse news conference, Gov. McMaster and legislators announced they are working on legislation that will help make this possible by providing incentives and working with SCDOT to provide infrastructure improvements for the Rock Hill and York County areas.

Federal Funding for Charleston Port
In his budget request to Congress, President Trump included $138 million to continue dredging Charleston Harbor! It's great to have a President who understands the importance of the economic engine that the Ports represent to SC. Our state has already contributed $300 million for this dredging project, which will allow the largest container ships in the world to easily utilize the Charleston Port.

State House to the School House
Friday, I took my 'State House to the School House Tour' to East Aiken Elementary School. I have been visiting East Aiken and other elementary schools in House District 86 for nine years. It is a joy to share the State House experience with the students and answer their many questions.


Aiken Delegation Meets Monday
The Aiken Legislative Delegation will hold its regular 'Listening Session' this Monday, March 18, at 6:00 p.m. at the Aiken County Government Center on University Parkway. There will be several formal presentations then citizens are invited to address legislators on any topic important to them.


ALERT - AIKEN ROAD CLOSURE
SCDOT has discovered a slope failure on University Parkway that threatens the integrity of the roadway. University Parkway between Doctors Dr. and Physicians Ct. has been closed for repairs and will likely remain closed until April 1. Aiken Regional Hospital is still accessible via Hudson Rd., Trolley Line Rd. or By-Pass 118.

 

 

 

Pictures of the Week

 

Granddaughter Avery and her classmates from Thomas Hart Academy in Hartsville briefly visited the Statehouse Tuesday (to the joy of her Grandpa). They were in Columbia competing at a music festival at USC. They returned home with Gold.

 


I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE


It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

March 9, 2019: 'Big & Bold' Wins

 

Here's the reality - we do not have a funding problem in public education in SC - we are 24th in education spending in the nation, but are ranked last in testing and college readiness.

The status quo is not working. That's why this week the House of Representatives passed big and bold, transformative, comprehensive reforms to improve schooling for our children, now and in the future. It's a starting point in bringing our state's education system into the 21st century.

The SC Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act

We set out nearly a year ago to craft this reform bill led by House Speaker Jay Lucas. Ideas were sought from teachers, administrators, education experts, students, parents, the business community and every citizens with constructive ideas that will contribute to real and meaningful change in education. Many of their suggestions were incorporated into this legislation.

Following six hours of debate on the House floor, the legislation passed with enormous bipartisan support on a vote of 113-4. Thirteen bipartisan amendments were added to the bill that will now go to the Senate. Passage was applauded by education experts around the nation.

The 100+ page legislation significantly enhancements to the state's 'Read to Succeed' early literacy initiative, empowers schools to personalize student learning, advances student college and career readiness, expands access to rigorous computer science coursework, overhauls school turnaround policies and gives teachers daily, 30-minute planning periods.

Want to learn more?
The Post & Courier provides a detailed accounting of the education legislation.
The SC business community weighs in with its position.
The State Newspaper reports.
The Post & Courier - news report.

Money Talk - One Wins we all Win

The winner of the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot from last year finally claimed their prize. Good for 'Mr. of Ms. Anonymous'! The State of South Carolina wins, too. The state reaps a one-time, $61 million reward. So, when the House starts debate on the budget next week, we'll add that amount to what we were already budgeting to provide tax relief and we'll be able to return $96 million to taxpayers. This will result in a one-time, $50 taxpayer rebate for every South Carolinian with an income tax liability.

Budget Week Ahead

Next week the House of Representatives will be single-minded as we focus on one issue - passage of the nearly $30 billion state budget which takes effect July 1. Long days that will stretch into the night. There will be much debate, proposed amendments and more than a couple of hundred votes before the budget wins passage and is send to the Senate. This coming year's proposed budget aligns spending with the priorities set by Gov. Henry McMaster and the House.

If you wish to learn more about the state's budget priorities, I invite you to view this informative Power Point presentation created by the House Ways & Means Committee: (Click here) If you have the perseverance to wade through the entire budget, join me in this weighty read: (Click here)

TALK, TALK, TALK

This week it was ALL TALK when I joined Rep. Chris Wooten on The Point (100.7 FM) - Columbia's Talk Radio Experience. Chris hosted me as we spent an hour talking about the dangers of distracted driving. We also spent considerable time focused on the benefits of South Carolina passing the Article V Convention of States - the only lawful way states have to rein in the out-of-control federal government (term limits, balanced budget, etc.). This week Utah became the 14th state to pass the Article V COS Resolution joining Arkansas which approved it last month. 34 states are needed to call a Convention of States.



Welcome Tri-Development

It's always a joy to have Ralph Courtney, staff members and clients of Aiken's Tri-Development Center to the Statehouse. They join us annually for Disability Days. Rep. Bill Clyburn and I were pleased to greet them in the Statehouse lobby.


 

Legislative News Brief

(To Review Legislation Click on 'QUICK SEARCH' and Enter Bill Number)

Crime of Female Mutilation
The House passed legislation establishing the crime of female mutilation. The legislation (H.3973) establishes felony criminal provisions that apply to the mutilation of the genitalia of females who are under the age of eighteen or older females who are unable to consent to the procedure. A violation is punishable with a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for not more than twenty years.

PTSD Aid for Firefighters
The House approved S.326 which distributes $250,000 to the South Carolina State Firefighters Association to provide for post traumatic stress disorder insurance and programs for SC's firefighters.

Safe Havens for Babies
The House voted to increase the age limit that babies may be delivered to designates locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty. The legislation (H.3294) applies to infants who are up to one year old rather than the current standard of no more than sixty days old.

Help for New Mothers
It's called the SC Lactation Support Act. The House passed (H.3200) as a means of promoting public health and benefiting SC's economy by keeping nursing employees in the workforce. The legislation requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide workers with reasonable unpaid break time and space to express milk at work.

Speeding Up Jobs for Veteran Families
SC is very veteran friendly. Legislation (H.3263) passed this week establishes a protocol that allows the SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to expedite the issuance of professional and occupational licenses to spouses of military personnel transferred to SC when the spouse holds a professional or occupational license issued by another state that has similar requirements.

Improving 9-1-1
The House approved legislation (H.3586) calling for updating, and implementing a comprehensive strategic plan for a coordinated statewide 911 system to address changing technology, services, and operating efficiency and effectiveness.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

 

 

I always welcome constituent visitors to the Statehouse. This week I met with Susan Dick, of Aiken, who an advocate for legislation that would protect animals in distress. I fully support the current legislation moving through the General Assembly that would significantly improve animal safeguards.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me. (EMAIL)
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March 2, 2019: Teaming for Big Wins

 

This legislative week started with the General Assembly honoring the Clemson Tigers winning the 2018 National Football Championship and an inspiring pep talk by head football Coach Dabo Swinney on the importance (and effectiveness) of unity in order to get things done. 

 

Team South Carolina

 

Dabo's speech was a powerful reminder for the need for unity and bipartisan support to accomplish the big policy issues to move SC forward. He explained how the Tigers came together to win their third national title in school history and second in three years. Swinney emphasized that his team "had every excuse to be divided." The 2018 Tigers included players from 87 different cities and 18 different states. They held different religious and political beliefs. They came from different families, neighborhoods and socioeconomic backgrounds. They lost teammates who transferred and even one by an untimely death in the middle of the season. Swinney then encouraged the General Assembly to work together - like his football team - for the betterment of South Carolina. 

 

 

Education Reform Bill Heads for House Debate

 

Momentum continues to build in support of the SC Career Opportunity and Access for All Act. I am proudly one of 96 co-sponsors in the House - a true bipartisan coalition that's continuing to push for dramatic fixes to our poor performing K-12 public education system (South Carolina ranks 24th in per pupil spending, yet last in student achievement). 

 

This week, I joined other members of the House Education Committee in bi-partisan approval of the reform legislation. The bill passed 15-1 and now heads to the House floor for debate next week. Following our vote, Committee Chair Rep. Rita Allison said, "This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we have seen in this committee for a good while."

 

 

The reform bill is expected to be debated by the House next Wednesday. We have received enormous input from teachers, parents, students, and the business community making a stronger, better bill with the foundations of bold reform. This shows we can agree that education needs fundamental reforms like raising teacher pay, teaching our children to read, testing less and teaching more, consolidating small school districts so they run more efficiently, and creating accountability for school boards. These important reforms form the foundation for our bill. 

 

Want a line-by-line review of the amended legislation?  Click here for the analysis by the Post & Courier

 

The Future of SRS

 

"SRS is the clear choice." That powerful statement came from Nichole Nelson-Jean, the top official of the National Nuclear Security Agency, in addressing the Aiken Chamber's First Friday gathering. She was referring to the decision to bring pit production (nuclear triggers) to the Savannah River Site. The final decision will be made soon and if SRS is designated for pit production it will return to its original roots - some call that the old bomb plant. Pit production at SRS will be an enduring mission for 50, 75 to 100 years, create thousands of jobs and be a major economic boon to Aiken County.

 

Savannah River Drawdown

An Update from my colleague, Rep. Bill Hixon:


This week, Sen. Tom Young and I met with Governor McMaster and Col. Hibner, of the Corps of Engineers, in the Governor's office. For over an hour we discussed the Corps plans to make the Savannah River dam inoperable and install a fish ladder. Sen. Young and I, along with Governor McMaster, let the Corps know that North Augusta and South Carolina wanted to remain SOUTH CAROLINA'S RIVERFRONT not a CREEK FRONT. We will not settle for the MUD FLATS they showed us recently when they drew down the river so it could be seen what it will look like in the future. Gov. McMaster pledged to do whatever he could to help save our riverfront. Stand by. Lots more work to be done. Never give up!

 

 

Santee Cooper Sale Negotiations Proceed

 

Four House members joined with Gov. Henry McMaster to out vote four senators on a special legislative committee which allows the potential sale of Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, to move forward. The senators on the committee pushed for a slower approach, but the 5 to 4 vote means the outside consultants will proceed to study the four credible purchase bids and, ultimately, negotiate with would-be acquirers to bring the panel a "best-and-final" offer to buy the utility. The sale is being considered after Santee Cooper racked up $4 billion in debt trying to build two unfinished nuclear reactors, debt that could cost its customers more than $6,000 a household in higher rates over the next four decades.

 

Time Out for Pictures

 

Pastor's Day


Tuesday was the Annual Pastor's Day at the Statehouse. Blessings to Aiken's Ray Popham and his wife, Teresa Popham, for praying over me in the Statehouse lobby. 

 

New Monetta Fire Station

 

Today we cut the ribbon opening the third fire station serving the Monetta area of NE Aiken County. Station #3 is located on Wire Road just north of I-20. This fire station is strategically located so that 96% of the homes in their 65 mile coverage area are within 5 miles of a fire station which means lower insurance rates for homes and businesses. I was pleased to present Chief Nathan Shuler with a SC flag that flew over the Statehouse. We quickly hoisted it up the flag pole with Old Glory.

 

 

 

Hollow Creek VFD

 

Fun times with wonderful folks helping raise money for the Hollow Creek VFD near Perry Friday evening. It was a firehouse dinner that kicks-off their annual Enduro motorcycle races this weekend. It was a WOW moment when the just-released SCDOT road sign I acquired at the Statehouse this week proclaiming Clemson's National Football Championship brought $500 in the live auction. 

 

 

Legislative News Briefs

 

Electric Coop Bill Advances

 

A House panel unanimously advanced legislation that would give the state's utility watchdog oversight over South Carolina's 20 electric cooperatives. The proposed bill (H.3145) stems from board members at one cooperative from taking high pay and expensive benefits while charging customers some of the highest electric rates in the state. When the financial misconduct was revealed, members of the St. Mathews-based Tri-County Electric Cooperative tossed board members and elected a new board.

 

Sunday Liquor Sales Expansion Fizzles

 

Opponents beat back a move to expand Sunday liquor sales in 10 of SC's major tourist counties. The House Judiciary Committee sent the bill (H.3082) back to subcommittee for further consideration. That's most often a death blow. Currently, SC bars, restaurants and hotel lounges can sell liquor by the drink on Sundays, however, state law forbids stores to sell liquor on Sunday's. 

 

Civil Asset Forfeiture 

 

Legislation that would change the way civil forfeiture cases are handled is making its way through the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Laws. Right now, law enforcement can seize property from residents, sometimes without charging or convicting them of a crime, and then profit from the proceeds. This bill ensures that no person can lose their property unless/until they are convicted of a crime.  

 

New Child Abuse Definition Advances

 

The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill Tuesday to criminalize female genital mutilation as child abuse after a judge struck down a federal ban. The bill (H.3973) is sponsored by a bipartisan group of two dozen lawmakers. It would make attempting, performing or facilitating the practice on a minor under the age of 18, or an incapacitated adult, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison or a $20,000 fine, or both.

 

Troubled DSS Gets Budget Whack 

 

SC's Department of Social Services lacks a permanent director and struggles to hire caseworkers to oversee children in their care. Legislators creating next year's state budget are frustrated that they can't get straight answers from DSS to their questions, including how many children in its custody died last year. That has resulted in budget writers not including $44.5 million requested to hire and retain caseworkers to oversee child-abuse cases. In recent years the legislature has added millions of dollars to Social Services' budget, however, the agency has not shown demonstrable progress in such areas as caseloads. 

 

Compassionate Care Act Paused

 

A Senate panel is seeking more information before advancing a bill to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. Senators are looking to hold several more hearings to hear testimony from supporters of the bill and the medical community. They also want to hear from law enforcement officials who are hesitant to support legislation allowing marijuana for any use. The legislation would allow cannabis use for terminal, debilitating medical conditions such as cancer or chronic diseases that could be treated with opioids. It would allow patients to purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana or its equivalent every two weeks, if recommended by a doctor.

 

Opioid Education 

 

I was proud to support a bill that will aid in the ability to fight against the opioid epidemic in SC. We are hopeful the Senate will pass, and Gov. McMaster will soon sign into law the requirement that coroners and medical examiners be given expanded career education so that they can better identify deaths that are caused by opioid overdoses. 

 

Chief Justice Reports

 

SC Supreme Court Chief Justice Don Beatty made his annual address to the General Assembly this week reporting on the state of judiciary. Among his requests - pay judges more. (A pay increase for judges is included in the proposed state budget.) He also called for stopping the unconstitutional practice of jailing poor people who cannot afford lawyers. Beatty said the jailing is a violation of the Sixth Amendment (which guarantees the right to a lawyer in criminal cases) and he is developing solutions to address this issue.

 

Picture of the Week

 

 

Enjoyed hosting constituents on their visit to the Statehouse Wednesday. Cedar Creek residents Jim & Lynn Misicka and Dan & Penny Sims were joined by ‘The Taylor Team’ — Aiken Realtors Sunny O’Donovan, Susanne Kneese and the most lovely Donna Taylor. After their introduction to the House of Representatives, they took the official Statehouse tour then I took them on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol. Fun for all (including me)!

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE 

 

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

February 24, 2019: Payday for SC Teachers

 

Reforming public education in South Carolina is long overdue. It has been 40 years since the state's education system has been overhauled. There has been a lot of tinkering through those years, but the results are miserable. Consider this:

 

Education Reform is Making Progress

The legislative process is a winding road. Along the way, the initial K-12 reform bill is being revamped based on input from teachers, school officials and others. This week the House subcommittee considering the reform legislation made initial amendments. Meanwhile, the budget committee approved nearly $160 million to raise teacher pay, including raising starting teacher pay to $35,000 for next year. Among the significant proposed changes to the original education reform bill:

▪ Add "Teacher Bill of Rights. It seeks to reduce administrative burdens to allow for more time to prepare and teach.

▪ Remove a provision that would have the state's Education Department study using teacher pay bands, not salary schedules to pay teachers.

▪ Remove a provision that would allow high-performing schools to hire non-certified teachers to teach subjects in which they have real-world experience. Teachers argued non-certified employees would lack basic teaching skills, leaving students worse off.

▪ Teachers at underperforming schools were concerned they would be fired immediately during a state Education Department takeover. Now, only the teachers deemed problematic would lose their jobs.

▪ Delete a handful of tests that were supposed to be removed in the first draft of the bill.

▪ Reinstate parents' rights to appeal a school's decision to hold their child back a grade. The first version of the bill would have removed that right.

▪ Delete a part of the bill that could have led to jail time for school board members who fail to attend mandatory training. The bill would still allow those school board members to be fined.

▪ Change the official title of the staffer who works for the new "Zero to Twenty" education committee was changed from "tsar" to "executive director."

The education reform bill has wide bipartisan support; two-thirds of the 124 members of the House are cosponsors. The legislation has a long path forward and other revisions are expected.

Budget Committee OK's Spending Plan

This coming year's budget was successfully passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee. The 2019-2020 budget is built on a commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we vote to spend.

How prudent is state budgeting? SC is currently one of only fourteen states with a AAA credit rating according to Moody's. Our debt level is .39% of state revenues which is significantly lower than our constitutionally set 5% limit.

In addition to efficiently funding the normal core functions of government, this initial budget plan makes substantive investments in education and workforce development. It prioritizes public and higher education not only because we owe it to our students, but also to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce.

Highlights from the House Ways and Means Committee 2019-2020 Budget Proposal

• Almost $160 million to provide teachers a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers.

Clarification: In recent days social media postings have misrepresented the teacher salary issue. FACT: All teachers regardless of years of service will receive the 4%. The misinformation on social media stemmed from the fact that teacher with 23+ years do not also get the annual 2% step increase. This $160 million appropriation covers ALL the teacher raises.


• $44 million in recurring funds to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students.


• 2% pay raise for most state employees (more on this below).


• $49.7 million is appropriated to the state health plan to prevent any premium increases to state employees and retirees.


• Almost $78 million for improvements to workforce partnership programs in technical colleges, including funding for training new workers, purchasing new workforce equipment and more.


• $40 million for new, paper-backup voting machines to ensure our election process is secure and fair.


• $20 million to exempt from income taxes the retirement income of military veterans and first responders, saving the average first responder and military veteran $350 each year.


$$$ for State Workers

By every measure, SC's state employees are underpaid compared to their counterparts in neighboring states and to what many could be paid in the private sector. Roughly 75% of all state workers earn less than $41,000 a year. A 2016 study showed the pay of state workers lags 15% behind pay of government workers in other states and 16% behind the pay of public-sector jobs in SC's cities and counties. House budget writers are looking to provide some assistance. Most state employees would get a 2% pay raise under the most recent draft of the state's 2019-'20 spending plan. The exception would be higher education employees earning 100K or more.

Governor McMaster's Budget Reaction

"This Ways and Means budget is a big win for South Carolina - prioritizing teachers, students in rural school districts, classroom safety, tuition payers, and workforce training. Our collaboration and communication on these items...was unprecedented and...bodes well for future efforts on education reform, tax reform, and ratepayer relief." - Governor Henry McMaster

Battle of Aiken

This is a special weekend in Aiken. It is the annual Battle of Aiken reenactment. The event normally draws thousands of visitors. The Battle of Aiken is about education. Every year, the Friday preceding the battle weekend, the grounds are open to school children. A marvelous opportunity to learn history and heritage thanks to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This time, I experienced a first. The Colonel in charge of the artillery invited me to fire a cannon. BANG! Naw, make that B-A-N-G!!!


Read Aiken Standard Article

Aiken County Leaders

Aiken County's rising 'Super Stars' visited the Statehouse this week as part of their yearlong education into various aspects of government and community initiatives. Sen. Tom Young and I welcomed this year's Leadership class and spent time answering their questions.

Legislative News Briefs

Regulating Hemp
The House passed H.3449 to remove the cap on the number of permitted hemp farms. Farmers will still need to apply for a permit with the S.C. Department of Agriculture, but there will no longer be a cap for the number of permits available or limits on the number of acres that can be planted with hemp. This change was prompted by Congress that voted to remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substance Act and now defines industrial Hemp as an agricultural commodity.

Solar Energy
The "SC Energy Freedom Act," (H.3659) will expand Solar Energy options in SC. The bill passed the House unanimously and will extend current rooftop solar customer "net metering" until 2021 and provide for the long-term net-metering rate to be set by the Public Service Commission. The bill requires utility companies to create programs for individuals to participate in community-based solar projects and establishes requirements to ensure access for low and moderate-income individuals.

Palmetto Scholarship Protection
The Higher Education Committee I chair enthusiastically advanced H. 3936 to protect high-performing students from paying a penalty for starting at a two-year or technical college. This bill closes a loophole in current law to allow students who use their Palmetto Fellows Scholarship to attend an eligible two-year or technical school to receive a maximum of four continuous semesters that can also be used to attend an eligible four-year college. Rachel Nussbaum, a scholar student, brought this issue to her legislator, Rep. Sylleste Davis, who filed the bill. Rachel provided compelling testimony during her appearance before the committee.

Deer Hunting
The House approved H.3750, a bill that changes the SC Hunting License and a Big Game permit. Currently, permits allow three unrestricted individual antlered deer tags and eight date-specific individual antlerless deer tags which are valid only on specified days. This bill provides, instead, that a resident receives, in addition to the three antlered deer tags, two antlerless deer tags that are not date-specific with the purchase of a hunting license and permit. As a result, the bill eliminates any reference to the minimum number of days for the taking of antlerless deer in Game Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Better Serving SC Veterans
Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by veterans, members of the General Assembly, and S.C. Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Van McCarty in supporting proposed legislation which would make the South Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs a standalone cabinet agency. Currently, the Division of Veterans Affairs is housed under the Department of Administration.

SC's Booming Tourism
For the sixth consecutive year tourism in SC has shown record growth. 2017 generated a record economic impact of $22.6 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2016. Tourism growth in the state has increased 50% increase since 2010, according to the SC Parks & Recreation Division.

Picture of the Week

 

Aiken County Representatives spent a portion of Wednesday afternoon in a Statehouse meeting with ‘Super Achievers” —

the Chancellor Ambassadors from USCA. What a magnificent group of student leaders

 

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about that we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

February 17, 2019: TAKEN - Seizing Your Property

 

Imagine law enforcement stopping you for a traffic violation or barging into your home or business and seizing your property, sometimes without charging or convicting you of a crime. The Greenville News calls it "TAKEN" in its recent investigative series.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

This week, I was part of a bipartisan group of Representatives that introduced legislation aimed at changing the way civil forfeiture cases are handled. Right now, law enforcement can seize property from residents, sometimes without charging or convicting them of a crime, and then profit from the proceeds. H.3968 ensures that no person can lose their property unless they are convicted of a crime. Civil asset forfeiture was originally intended to seize the property of criminals so they can't profit from ill-gotten gains, but innocent people have had their money and belongings seized, too. The TAKEN team spent two years documenting every single asset forfeiture case over a three year period in SC. Police seized more than $17 million and most of that cash ended up funding local law enforcement. Critics say that is an incentive for police to seek profit from forfeiture. A tip of the cap to the Greenville News; this is the type of journalism we need and want.

Educators Speak Out on Reform

Education reform was once again in the forefront this week. As always, I am grateful for all of the comments I have received from constituents on fixing this issue. Legislators are working hard to make this comprehensive reform bill the best it can be for our students and teachers. This week hundreds of teachers, students and others attended an evening Statehouse hearing to give their input on H.3759. Their testimony to the K-12 subcommittee took nearly 5 hours. Legislators listened carefully to feedback on different components of the bill. Right now, there are eighty bipartisan cosponsors on the legislation, each of whom are dedicated to providing students with a quality education that prepares them with the skills they need to succeed. (Check out the Fast Facts at the end of this newsletter.)

Aiken HS NJROTC Honored

The Aiken High School Navy JROTC cadets were honored by the House of Representatives this week. I presented them a House Resolution recognizing the Navy JROTC's 54 year history in the Palmetto State. JROTC has helped develop thousands of cadets into informed and responsible citizens through promoting patriotism and respect for constructed authority by cultivating their leadership potential, personal honor, self-reliance, and individual discipline. I salute them.

DUI Driving Law

In an effort to crack down on drunk driving, the House introduced a bill that will require DUI offenders to have ignition-interlock devices (breathalyzers) in order to start the engine of their cars. Right now, the law in SC requires interlocks for all offenders with a BAC of .15 or greater, but this bill would require offenders with a BAC of .08 or higher to have one in their car. H.3300 is supported by Governor McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson and a companion bill is in the Senate as well.

Hands-Free Distracted Driving

The distracted Driving legislation I'm championing is tentatively scheduled for debate on the House floor next Wednesday (Feb 20). The bill (H.3355) simply calls on drivers to go HANDS FREE from their cell phones and other portable electronics and focus on their driving. Sixteen other states, including Georgia, have enacted the HANDS FREE legislation. 23 states, including SC, are currently working on HANDS-FREE legislation. In some states the governor is leading the way calling for fast-tracking the bills.

Survey of VOTER ATTITUDES in South Carolina

 

 

Arkansas Becomes #13

Big News - Arkansas has become the thirteenth state to officially pass the Article V Convention of States resolution! This is a huge step forward in the nationwide movement where 'We the People' can propose amendments aimed at placing ironclad limits on the federal government, including term limits on Congress. I continue to work on all fronts of the Article V initiatives in SC. I was honored this week with a plaque for championing U.S. Term Limits Article V Resolution.

 

Legislative News in Brief

 

Reducing School Paperwork
The House joined the Senate in approving S.168 which calls on the State Department of Education to develop recommendations for reducing and streamlining the amount of paperwork and reporting required of teachers, schools and school districts.

Tucker Hipps Transparency Act
The House passed H.3398 to make the Tucker Hipps Transparency Act permanent law and avoid it sunsetting. This law requires public colleges and universities to maintain a report of student misconduct investigations related to fraternity and sorority organizations. These include offenses involving alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, physical assault, and hazing.

Vets' College Tuition
The House voted unanimously for legislation I sponsored calling for veterans with service-connected disabilities to receive in-state tuition at the state's public colleges and universities regardless of the length of time the vet has resided in this state. H.3639 was sent to the Senate.

Stopping Hodgepodge Local Tobacco Laws
Across the nation, more than 400 local governments have enacted their own restrictions on the sales and marketing of tobacco and nicotine products. That patchwork of local laws creates a myriad of problems from taxes, enforcement and an uneven set of government-induced commercial advantages and disadvantages imposed on retailers. The House gave second reading approval to H.3274, a bill that preempts local government regulations of vaping, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Shutdown Assistance
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3630, a joint resolution that provides a three-month extension in real property tax penalties for workers left unpaid during the recent government shutdown.

School Flooding Make Up Days
The House sent the Senate a bill (H.3929) that would allow the schools that were forced to close because of last years serious flooding to waive the requirement of making-up days beyond the three days forgiven by local school boards.

SC's Illegal Immigration Enforcement
The House gave second reading approval to H.3417, a bill transferring the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit from the Department of Public Safety to the State Law Enforcement Division. The legislation implements a recommendation of the House Legislative Oversight Committee from the committee's study of the Department of Public Safety.

The Long Tow
Legislation approved by the House would allow a pickup truck with a fifth wheel assembly to tow one additional trailing vehicle but the combination of vehicles may not exceed a length of 75 feet. H.3051 only applies to recreational vehicles.

Move Over Month
The House voted approval of a bill (H.3388) designating March as "MOVE OVER AWARENESS MONTH" in SC. DOT and Public Safety are charged with conducting programs during the month of March every year that emphasize the importance of motor vehicle drivers
moving over into an adjacent lane whenever possible when approaching or passing through a highway work zone, an emergency scene, or any other traffic incident.

SC National Guard Recognition
The House approved a bill allowing those who served in the National Guard to receive the Veteran's designation on driver's license.

FAST FACTS ON EDUCATION REPORM

All teachers will get a raise. The base starting teacher pay will increase to $35,000. All other teachers will receive a raise that will bring them above the Southeastern average with a goal of moving teacher pay to the national average within 5 years.

• The Zero-to-Twenty Committee is not another oversight committee. It will consist of a unique group of individuals - not bureaucrats - who will monitor our education system from pre-kindergarten to post-graduation and make suggestions to the General Assembly on how to improve the education-to-workforce pipeline.


• This bill will eliminate 4 of the 6 mandated state assessment test...giving teachers more time for classroom instruction. We will eliminate the 8th grade science test, the 5th and the 7th grade social studies tests, and the U.S. History end-of-course test. Doing away with these tests will save an estimated $3.1 million and allow more time for classroom instruction.


• This bill allows the elected State Superintendent of Education to remove a principal or teacher as a last resort if, after intensive assistance, a school has chronically underperformed for 3 of the last 4 years. Any teacher or principal can be hired back at the discretion of the State Superintendent of Education.

 

Photos of the Week
Me & My Shadow!

Had a great time this week with my legislative student shadow, Wells Harm. This polite and smart Chukker Creek 4th grader got an up-close civics lesson and a welcome from Speaker Jay Lucas. Proud parents, Ben and Elizabeth Harm, observed from the House gallery.

 

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

February 10, 2019: Mega Billion $$$ Question

 

We are a month into the new legislative session. Momentum is picking up and progress is being made as committees begin moving legislation to the House floor for debate. In the coming weeks, expect to see developments with the education reform bill, a plan for reforming the tax system and an outline for next year's budget. Here's this week's top-line legislative overview.

Santee Cooper - The Mega-Billion $ Question

Whether to keep or sell Santee Cooper, the state-owned electrical utility, is the mega-billion dollar question before the legislature. The legislative committee studying whether to sell Santee Cooper received a detailed report this week summarizing the top four offers to buy the utility. Three of the offers would ensure the 2 million customers who get power from Santee Cooper would pay no more for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear plant. Currently, Santee Cooper customers are on the hook for roughly $6,200 more per household in higher rates over the next four decades to pay off the power plant debt. Customers of the twenty electric co-ops are obligated to pay about $4,200 per household because they get their power from Santee Cooper.

Tax Reform Picking Up Momentum


The House Tax Review Policy Committee, a bipartisan committee appointed by the speaker last year, met this week to continue its exploration how to modernize our state's tax structure that is a hodge-podge of laws cobbled together over the past 70+ years. During the meeting I joined others in calling for a bold plan that will reduce income taxes and broaden the base of sales taxes resulting in much fairer tax rates across the board for all South Carolinians. For those who wish to learn more.

 

Curbing Distracted Driving - Ready for House Debate

For the second time in two weeks, a House Committee has advanced the legislation (H.3355) I'm sponsoring to curb distracted driving in SC. On an 11-3 vote the full House Education Committee sent the bill to the House for debate and a vote which could happen in the next week or two. The 'Hands Free' legislation calls for drivers to hang-up their phone and other electronics and drive. Drivers can still talk on their cell phones but need to use a speaker and not hold their phone. Sixteen states, including Georgia, have a 'Hands Free' law with Virginia is poised to be the 17 with passage by their senate this Tuesday.


CLICK TO READ EDITORIAL


SC's "CON" Job Needs to Go


I have long supported the repeal of SC's government-driven, crony capitalist system called Certificate of Need (CON). I joined Rep. Nancy Mace in cosponsoring her bill (H. 3823) that would fully repeal CON. It is a restrictive law that requires government permission be obtained before any new health care facility is built or expanded - or even if a new service is offered at an existing facility. This law has allowed some hospitals to hold a monopoly and those medical providers seeking a CON are required to navigate a labyrinth of red tape and sometimes years in delays. According to George Mason University's Mercatus Center, CON laws lead to higher health care spending, fewer hospitals and a lower quality of care. Their study further shows the presence of a CON program is associated with fewer hospitals in rural, suburban and urban areas alike.

Education Reform - Speak Up

Want your ideas to be heard on reforming SC's education system? I invite you to attend a rare evening hearing by the subcommittee shaping the legislation. Public input on H.3759, the education reform bill, will be Tuesday, February 12th starting at 4:45 pm in room 110 in the Blatt Building on the Statehouse grounds. If you wish to testify, please sign the "Speaker" sheet provided at the meeting. Please limit testimony to no more than five minutes. If you cannot attend the meeting, please express your views by filling out this online survey:

SURVEY LINK

Aiken's Retired Teachers

It was a joy Friday morning to speak to members of the Aiken County Retired Teachers Association at their Woodside Country Club breakfast. There were hundreds of years of knowledge and experience among them and their service has positively impacted generations. I'm pictured with one of Aiken's favorite teacher, Beverly Giles.

 

Legislative News in Brief

 

Judicial Elections
On Wednesday, we held a joint assembly bring the House and Senate together to elect judges for the Court of Appeals, Family Court and Circuit Court. We elected a diverse group of judges that represent SC's judicial system in the highest regard. Check out the complete list of the elected judges: Judges Elected

Need More Poll Workers
The House approved a bill revising qualifications for poll workers to allow for a more expansive pool of eligible workers to meet the current shortage. The legislation (H.3035) allows someone who is registered as a voter in SC to serve as a poll worker anywhere in the state, replacing more restrictive provisions that require poll workers to reside in the area where the primary or election is being held. The State Election Commission sought the change.

Judge Tosses SC Voting Machine Lawsuit

A federal judge Friday tossed out a lawsuit alleging that SC's antiquated voting machines are so flawed that they put the constitutional rights of voters at risk. The judge said imperfect voting machines may present some conceivable risk, but plaintiffs failed to show there was a "substantial" risk that their right to vote could be jeopardized.

Teen Vaping Restrictions Passes
Legislation to make it harder for SC teenagers to get their hands on e-cigarettes passed the House unanimously. The affects more than 400 brands that come in more than 7,000 flavors. E-Cigarette manufacturers supported the teen restrictions in H.3420

Coyote Bounty
One state senator introduced a bill (S.489) calling for a $75 on every killed coyote. He would pay for it by adding $1 to state hunting license fees. There is no disagreement that coyotes have become a costly nuisance and a threat across the SC. The population has gotten far out of hand with an estimated 350,000 coyote's roaming the state. Sen. Stephen Goldfinch says he thinks it's time for hunters and other sportsmen to go to war with coyotes.

Personhood Legislation
The so-called "personhood" legislation (S.485), which would stipulate that life begins at conception and grant the unborn at that moment all rights as any other citizen, has been reintroduced in the state senate. It would effectively ban abortions and would allow the possibility for prosecutors to pursue a criminal case against individuals who willfully perform abortions. Last year, a similar bill to ban nearly all abortions except for cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother's life failed in the Senate after an hours-long filibuster.

SC's Domestic Violence Ranking Drops
Just a few years ago SC was ranked #1 among states for being the deadliest for women. In response, the legislature overhauled our domestic violence laws increasing the penalties for offenders and passing a mandatory lifetime ban on gun possession for those convicted of the most serious charges of domestic violence. The new report released this week shows SC has dropped to 6th place in state ranking for the highest incidence of domestic violence. We're moving in the right directions.

Lucky Me!

Thank goodness they put me back in 5th grade Friday! I joined Aiken 5th Graders at the Children's Symphony Concert at USCA's Etheridge Center. It's the 25th year the Aiken Symphony Guild has sponsored the concert series. For some of these kids this is the first time they have been introduced to a live orchestral performance. My longtime pal, Joe Pinner, "Mr. Knozit", of WIS-TV fame, was the MC for the concerts.

 

Picture of the Week

 

The flags over the South Carolina State House were lowered to half-staff Tuesday in memory of Aiken’s Irene Rudnick. Gov. McMaster ordered the flags lowered to honor Irene who was a long-serving State Representative. As an attorney, she served for many decades as an adjunct professor at USCA. A true civic leader!

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

February 2, 2019: "Let's Make a Deal"

 

Word came late Friday that the state of South Carolina has received four legitimate offers to make a deal to buy all of Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility. That would pay off the $8 billion in debt resulting from the financial fiasco brought on by the failed construction of the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant that resulted in the sale of SCANA to Dominion Energy.

Ratepayers & Taxpayers Would be Free from Paying

The offers would ensure the 2 million customers who get power from Santee Cooper would pay no more for the failed nuclear plant. Currently, Santee Cooper customers are on the hook for roughly $6,200 more per household in higher rates over the next four decades to pay off the power plant debt. Customers of the twenty electric co-ops are obligated to pay about $4,200 per household because they get their power from Santee Cooper. (Read sale memo here)

Gov. Henry McMaster, who has pressed for selling Santee Cooper, said, "There is no longer any significant reason to delay action needed to solve the Santee Cooper crisis. I ask members of the General Assembly to objectively review the report and place the interest of the state's ratepayers and taxpayers first and those of the naysayers last."

The decision to sell Santee Cooper is up to a vote of the General Assembly. I favor the sale, with the best terms.

Distracted Driving Bill Advanced

South Carolina's streets, roads and highways are one step closer to being safer with the unanimous vote of a House Sub-Committee to advance my legislation (H.3355) to curb distracted driving. The House panel listened to three hours of gripping testimony from victims and experts before sending the DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) to full Committee. This bill calls for a fine of $200 for not putting your phone down while driving.

 

Distracted Driving Fast Facts

 

• SC ranks #1 nationally in traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles.
• 62 traffic deaths in SC last year were directly attributable to distracted driving. (Source: SCDPS)
• Texting while driving has surpassed drunk driving as the #1 perceived threat to personal safety. (Source: AAA)
• Pedestrian deaths in SC have increased 50% because of distracted drivers.
• Researchers found that drivers manipulating their cell phone had their eyes off the road an average of 4.1 seconds out of the final 6 seconds leading up to a crash. (Source: AAA)
• Progressive Insurance just rated SC as one of the top 5 states where drivers have the hardest time putting down their cell phone.
• States that have enacted a 'Hands-Free' law show an average decline of 17% in traffic fatalities (that would equate to saving 175 lives in SC).
• 85% of South Carolinians believe distracted driving is dangerous.
• 65% of South Carolinians favor 'Hands-Free' law for drivers; 12% oppose.


Heard Around the State and More

The hearing and decision to move forward with the legislation received statewide news coverage. Here's just a sampling:

 

Augusta Chronicle
The State, Columbia
Post & Courier, Charleston
WIS-TV, Columbia
Aiken Standard
WJCL-TV, Savannah
WCBD-TV, Charleston
Index-Journal, Greenwood
The News & Observer, Charlotte


Bold Education Reform


Modernizing SC's public education system got underway in earnest this week at the Statehouse. The House Education K-12 Subcommittee began taking public testimony on House Speaker Jay Lucas' legislation (H.3759) overhauling the state's approach to public education. Lucas' plan for transforming education involves increasing teachers' salaries, dissolving failing school districts, improving job-training opportunities and encouraging innovations. Lucas' 84-page bill includes a "Student Bill of Rights" that says all students deserve highly qualified teachers, excellent principal leadership and a system that puts their success first. Wednesday's three hour hearing was filled with explanations detailing the bill along with public testimony. Many more hearings will be held.

Public Input Needed

Representatives want public input on this education reform bill. A February 12th evening hearing has been scheduled so teachers can be heard at a time they may be available. If you cannot attend, please fill out this survey: Survey Link

Legislative News in Brief

My goal in this weekly legislative newsletter is to provide you a digest of happenings at the SC Statehouse. Since your time is precious, I typically write more in-depth on a few issues, then provide a digest of other stories along with bill numbers so you can seek out more information if you desire on the SC Legislative website. The pace is picking up on moving legislation forward in this new session so it's time to digest.

Vets Tax Break

In an effort to attract more military retirees to SC, the House unanimously passed a bill that exempts retirement income for more than 38,000 retired veterans that are currently being taxed. By giving veterans a tax cut, the state revenue could potentially increase as the economy grows with more retirees and their families moving to the state. H.3135 removes the current $17,500 cap on income. The legislation needs Senate approval.

Death Penalty Bill Revived

Senators passed a bill bringing back the electric chair for the state's death row executions, as well as adding firing squads as an execution option. The legislation passed the Senate 26-13 and was sent to the House where a similar proposal died last year. The bill is an attempt to address the S.C. Corrections Department's inability to carry out executions because it does not have the chemicals needed for lethal injections. Currently, the state's 35 death row inmates can insist on lethal injection, effectively blocking their executions.

Free Range Parenting

A Senate panel endorsed a bill (S.79) that would loosen restriction on how parents are allowed to raise their children. The bill would amend SC's child abuse and neglect law to state that children who are old enough and mature enough don't always have to have adult supervision. In my view, this pulls back the government nanny-state and places responsibility for child rearing where it belongs - with parents and common sense

Booze on Sundays
A House panel hearing legislation to allow expanded Sunday liquor sales in 10 tourist-heavy SC counties voted to advance the bill (H.3082) to full committee. The bill calls for local leaders or county voters approve the expanded sales. The SC Baptist Convention testified in opposition of Sunday liquor sales.

Ban on Child Marriages
In SC you have to be 16 to receive a marriage license. However, if you're pregnant you can marry much younger. That loophole in authorizing marriages would be closed if the Senate goes along with a bill (H.3369) passed unanimously by the House.

Protecting Teens from Vaping
A bill to protect teens from vaping passed out of the House Judiciary committee and will continue to the House floor for a vote. This bill (H.3420) bans vaping on public school property and makes it illegal for children under 18 to enter a vape shop without an adult.

House Vote Settles Local Government Funding Squabble

SC local governments have been wrangling with the General Assembly for more than a decade over the amount of money sent by the state to them. At long last, counties and cities came to the negotiating table and agreed on a new funding formula that calls for the funding formula to rise and fall with state revenues rather than an arbitrary formula that is impossible to meet in economic downturns. The bill (H.3137) goes to the Senate.

Prosecutor Protection
A bill (H.3472) that would add prosecutors in the Attorney General's office to the list of judicial officers to carry concealed weapons into courthouses won House approval 101-1.

Transparency for Liens

The House unanimously passed legislation (H.3411) allowing the SC Department of Revenue to implement a system of filing and indexing liens. This information would be made available to the public via the Internet making it a cost-effective for people seeking those vital records.

Exceptional Needs Tax Credit

A bill to increase the tax credit for exceptional needs programs won House Approval. This bill (H.3576) aims to increase funding for programs that help families with children that have special needs to seek out the educational opportunities that best fit their kids.

Picture of the Week

 

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

January 26, 2019: Time to be Bold

 

"South Carolina is red hot." With those words Gov. Henry McMaster opened his annual State of the State address to the General Assembly. In his address broadcast statewide, McMaster declared, "The state of our state is strong - and getting even stronger." He then issued his vision coupled with a challenge to legislators to be bold and aggressive: "We must be bold, aggressive and think long-term.
That means we must keep taxes low, reduce burdensome regulations and invest heavily in infrastructure."


Reduce Income Taxes

The Governor called for a reduction of SC's marginal income tax rates which are the 12th highest in the nation. He called for a $2.2 billion tax cut in personal income tax brackets resulting in an average 15-percent reduction. He also pointed to his executive budget which calls for sending $200 million of this year's budget surplus back to SC taxpayers in the form of a one-time rebate check.

The governor lauded the special House Tax Reform Committee, of which I am a member, for its commitment to create meaningful tax reform fairer and flatter.

Overhauling Antiquated Education

Governor McMaster called for a top-to-bottom overhaul of SC's public education system. The highest priority is to invest in teachers. SC pays teachers less than surrounding states so to attract and retain the best he called for a 5-percent raise for teachers that would increase average teacher salaries above the southeastern average.

McMaster also called for the revamping of the antiquated funding formula for public education created forty years ago saying it has become outdated, inefficient and confusing.

"It fails to provide the accountability, efficiency and transparency necessary for a modern means of measurement

to determine if taxpayer dollars are being properly delivered and utilized in the classrooms." – Gov. McMaster

 

Additionally, the governor called for all schools to be safe and free from distraction and violence. He cited his executive budget that calls for every public school in our state to have a full-time, trained law enforcement officer and access to a mental health counselor.

Legislative Reaction

Following the State of the State address I told SCETV: "Henry McMaster is certainly an uplifting governor. We're now one-team South Carolina. .... He's going to get stuff done here."

Speaking to SCETV

 

To learn more about the legislative reaction to the State of the State address, read this Post & Courier article: How the SC Legislature loves Gov. McMaster


Education Reform Tops Legislative Agenda

Thursday morning following the State of the State address a comprehensive education reform bill was filed in the House of Representatives. It has been six months in development and is led by House Speaker Jay Lucas.

 

"Most importantly it's time to face reality in education. Without significant reforms our students won't have a future. We give them an opportunity at a better future by putting students' needs above all else. It's time to change the educational model in South Carolina." - Speaker Jay Lucas

 

I'm pleased to be a primary cosponsor of the 84-page comprehensive education reform bill (H.3759). It tackles the fundamental changes needed to modernize our education system. It includes a Student Bill of Rights that ensures every student has highly qualified teachers, excellent principal leadership and a system that puts their successes first. I am committed to doing what is best for the next generation, it's time to bring the way we educate our students into the 21st century.

Major Highlights

• A 9-percent increase for first year teachers while providing an across the board 9% pay raise for all teachers over the next two years.
• Requiring school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money.
• Dissolving school districts that have four consecutive years of failing scores.
• Eliminating three end-of-year standardized tests in elementary schools.

Overviews worth reading: (Post & Courier) (The State)

This particular bill focuses on policy, but more education reform bills are still to come. H.3759 will receive its first committee hearing in the House next Wednesday and is expected to be debated on the House floor in March.

And finally, Gov. McMaster summed up our joint approach when he concluded his State of the State address by stating:

 

"Now is the time to be bold, not bashful. Now is the time to act together. This year. Now!"

 

Distracted Driving Legislation Gets Hearing

 

Distracted driving is epidemic. It's also dangerous and deadly. SC's current texting law is worthless. That's why I'm championing the DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) legislation. H.3355 will be the first bill considered by a House subcommittee next Tuesday, January 29th, and hour after adjournment of the House session (approximately 2:00 p.m.). A number of victims and experts will be testifying. The hearing will be live-streamed on the web by SCETV.


Picture of the Week

 

One of the highlights of the legislative week — The My South Carolina Education School Choice Rally in Columbia! I joined several of my legislative colleagues and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette in celebrating the growing initiative of school choice nationwide and in SC.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

January 19, 2019: Showing Compassion

 

While the federal government seems firmly gridlocked at the intersection of "Malfunction & Malfeasance", your state legislature is fully engaged in moving forward. As example, this week at the Statehouse I participated in a bipartisan movement by legislators who stepped forward to show compassion for those in dire need.

The Compassionate Care Act

Compassion literally means "to suffer together." Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

 

Polls in SC demonstrate that nearly 80 percent of South Carolinians want doctors to be able to act compassionately and provide patients with cannabis for certain chronic and painful medical conditions. On the other hand, about the same percentage do not want marijuana legalized for recreational use. Legislation filed in both the House (H.3660) and Senate this week would allow the use of medical marijuana while being reflective of socially conservative South Carolina values.


The limited use of medical marijuana would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for some medical illnesses. The American Academy of Sciences reviewed 10,000 scientific abstracts and they concluded that there is conclusive evidence that cannabis can provide relief where right now opioids are being prescribed. The bills have strict requirements for prescribing, access and handling of the marijuana for medical purposes. The bill is appropriately called The Compassionate Care Act.

Want to learn more?
Aiken Standard: Aiken lawmaker backs fresh push for medical marijuana in S.C.
WRDW-TV News 12: Restrictions in Medical Cannabis Bill in SC

Compassion for Federal Workers

Understanding the financial stress of furloughed federal workers in SC, the House quickly passed legislation that would protect them from being penalized for not paying their property taxes as the federal government's partial shutdown continues. The expedited legislation won unanimous approval and sent to the Senate.

You Could Be Grounded

South Carolinians are not lining up to get the state's new driver's license that features the REAL ID while the deadline gets closer. That has DMV officials predicting hours-long lines next year in advance of the October 2020 deadline. At that time you will need a REAL ID to fly commercially. DMV Chief Kevin Shwedo briefed our House Education Committee. At the current rate of sign-ups, he said, "I'm betting on six-hour lines because people aren't coming in." Read More in The State: Want to Avoid Long Lines at DMV?

Distracted Driving Legislation Queued Up

Everyone knows distracted driving is epidemic. It's also dangerous and deadly. SC's current texting law is worthless. That's why I'm championing the DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) legislation. H.3355 is queued up to be the first bill considered by a House subcommittee on Tuesday, January 29th, 2:00 p.m. A host of victims and experts will be testifying. The hearing will be live-streamed on the web by ETV.

Executive Budget: Governor Pushes for Teacher Raises, Resource Officers and Buses

Gov. McMaster released his Executive Budget which called for a five percent across-the-board pay raise for SC teachers, bringing the average teacher salary to $53,185. The pay raise would cost an additional $155 million. His budget suggestions also includes a $10 base student cost increase, $46.3 million to help place school resource officers in every school thus adding schools that currently do not have one. $2.2 million to provide for mental health counselors and $5 million for new school bus leases.

Executive Budget: Governor Wants to Payback Taxpayers

Gov. McMaster's budget proposal requested that $200 million of the projected $1 billion in surplus revenue be issued to all state residents who file their income taxes before October 15, 2019.

"I've asked the legislature in this executive budget to do something we've never done before.  This is the right year to make good on that promise and to return that tax money to the citizens who paid it in." - Gov. Henry McMaster

(View the Governor's Executive Budget Proposal)

A Call for Updating Education Funding Formula

The Governor joined House and Senate leaders this week asking state budget analysts for help reworking SC's decades-old, outdated, education funding formula and suggest a new funding model that meets today's requirements. The primary funding formula for public education, the Education Finance Act, was established over forty years ago and fails to provide sufficient measures of accountability in student outcomes. Gov. McMaster is seeking a new funding model to improve efficiency, transparency, accountability, and affordability.

State of the State

President Trump may not be delivering his 'State of the Union' address, but Gov. McMaster will update South Carolinians on the 'State of the State' next Wednesday, January 23rd at 7 pm. He will be laying out his legislative plans for the next year, live from the House chamber. You're invited to watch on SCETV or online.

Duke Energy Proposes to Buy Santee Cooper

Duke Energy has made official its interest in purchasing the embattled, state-owned utility, Santee Cooper, by filing a proposal for the General Assembly to review. The governor requested Duke Energy, along with other companies; evaluate options for a potential acquisition of Santee Cooper. McMaster has been shopping Santee Cooper, saddled with $8 billion in debt and dealing with fallout from the failed nuclear reactor project at the V.C. Summer nuclear power station in Fairfield County.

Gov. McMaster Names First Appointed SC Adjutant General

Maj. Gen. R. Van McCarty has been promoted to be SC's next Adjutant General and National Guard commander. McCarty will become the first adjutant general appointed by a governor since voters approved a 2014 state constitutional amendment to end direct elections of the office. Current Adjutant General Robert Livingston Jr., will retire from military service after a distinguished career that has spanned 41 years, including 8 years as the South Carolina National Guard commander. McCarty currently serves as the deputy adjutant general under Livingston.

Picture of the Week

Our son, Ryan Taylor, and I teamed up to support 'Katrina's Kids' at the Columbia fundraiser. Sen. Katrina Shealy's child advocacy changes lives. She invited Ryan to tell the audience how 'Katrina's Kids' helps the Nancy K. Perry Children's Shelter (Lexington) where he serves as Executive Director. Fun evening for a most worthy charity.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

January 12, 2019: An Encouraging Start

 

Like every state, South Carolina has its challenges. But unlike many states, we're working on real solutions to insure the Palmetto State flourishes to its fullest potential.

 

I'm Encouraged - and You Should Be Too

 

The 123rd Legislative Session began in earnest this week with much pomp and circumstance featuring the inauguration of Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt.Gov. Pamela Evette followed by the traditional inaugural ball. Traditions are valuable and important in all aspects of our lives. But I am encouraged that House Republicans were focused on critical issues of serious substance.

 

 

"This is our time! South Carolina is winning! And we will keep winning!"

 

With those words in his inaugural address, Gov. McMaster built off the Clemson Tiger's victory this week in the National Football Championship. He proclaimed:

 

"Great football coaches have said that the worst mistake a player can make is to fumble the ball. And as the Clemson Tigers just showed the world - South Carolina produces superior teamwork. We will not fumble the football." 

 

 

"As your governor my game plan is to be bold, to coach a team of talented players who make their teammates better players - in practice, preparation and then on the field of competition. My game plan for South Carolina requires changing our offensive plays on education. It means putting a strong defense on the field that tackles regulations, keeps high taxes off the field and protects our environment like it is the end zone."

 

Education: "We Must Be Bold"

 

Improving public education tops the Statehouse agenda this session. I am encouraged that the House of Representatives and Governor McMaster are on the same page when he proclaimed: "We must be bold."

 

McMaster addressed education saying....

 

"Being perceived as weak in education is not good. But, being perceived as not committed to fixing it is disastrous. We will fix it and we will keep winning. We must recruit and build the best team of teachers and educators in the country. It will require providing South Carolina's teachers with compensation that is competitive - in the southeast and across the nation."

 

McMaster continued by saying, SC's commitment to education must be second to none...

 

"Reforming education funding. Making our schools safe with school resource officers and mental health counselors. Restoring old-fashioned discipline in the classroom. Common sense relief for our teachers from testing, forms and paperwork. Consolidating school districts and giving our state superintendent the authority to remove and replace non-productive school boards."

 

Education Breakthrough Coming

 

The term "Comprehensive Reform" scares most folks because it brings upheaval and uncertainty. But nibbling around the edge of our state's education challenges will only layer difficulties and won't likely yield tangible improvements. House Republicans are united in our desire to bring forth an aggressive legislative agenda that syncs our priorities with the Governor's to create an excellent opportunity to put public education on the path to excel. This week House Republicans focused on comprehensive education reform:

  • Paying our teachers more. We will fight to increase teacher pay so our students have access to the best teachers possible.
  • Letting teachers do their job. We will fight to eliminate paperwork and excessive testing in schools, so teachers have more time to teach. 

Our top priority will be to fundamentally change the way we educate our children, so they get the best education possible to live heathy and productive lives and be the future generation of SC's workforce.

 

Distracted Driving High on Legislative Calendar

 

For me, the first day of SC's 123rd Legislative Session began with an early morning Statehouse rally. I was invited to address members of ABATE who came from all over the state. These motorcyclists are on a mission in support of my tougher distracted driving bill (H.3355). The DUI-E legislation calls for drivers to put the phone down and focus on driving.

 

 

It is expected the DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) legislation will be before a House committee within the next few weeks and, hopefully, be debated on the House floor in February. 

 

Pothole Patrol- Be On the Alert 

 

You are officially 'Deputized' to turn-in road potholes. After recent heavy rainfalls wreaked havoc on our roadways, SCDOT has launched a statewide "pothole blitz" and they're asking for YOUR help! To report potholes (either click this link or call their Hotline at 1-855-467-2368). Please remember, SCDOT employees will be working extended hours to fix these potholes, so please use caution and watch for SCDOT maintenance crews making repairs.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE 

 

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.  

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

December 24, 2018:  I Reported YOU to Santa!

 

Naughty or Nice? We all know Santa has two lists. Each year he looks over those lists and checks them twice.

 

I’m pleased to report to you on this Christmas Eve I gave him helping hand this year to make certain YOU were on the NICE list.

 

Cynthia Pace Photography, Lexington, SC

http://www.cynthiapacephotography.com/

 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and that we each take time during this joyous season to reflect on the wonders of our earthly world and praise God for giving us the miracle of his Son’s birth.

 

Looking forward to the New Year and I wish you good health and much happiness.

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November 14, 2018: Good Thinkin'


For several years there has been growing concern over the ground water availability in the western portion of South Carolina and particularly Aiken County. After a multi-year process, state government has taken a major step forward in addressing water resources for generations to come.

Protecting Our Ground Water


The Board of the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) unanimously voted approval of designating Aiken and six other nearby counties as the Western Capacity Use Area. That DHEC designation requires entities that withdraw more than 3 million gallons of groundwater from aquifers to acquire permits and report their groundwater use to DHEC.

DHEC's staff acknowledged that ground water fluctuates over time, but the aquifers in our region are gradually declining over the course of decades. The water experts make it clear that this is not a today crisis; however, the Capacity Use designation would help address the declines in the future. They said the goal is not to prevent people from using water, but rather to make sure they are drawing it from the right area and right source so other users are not negatively impacted.

The decision to create the Western Capacity Use Area came at the end of several hours of testimony from mostly Aiken County residents.

Good THINKIN'

I am pleased the DHEC Commissioners voted approval of the designation. It was a wise and right decision to take this critical step to manage our precious water resource for everyone: citizens, farmers and industry.

During my testimony, I urged DHEC Commissioners to make their decision based on data, not emotion. There are those who wish to place the blame for the decline of our aquifer levels on large farming operations. While that is their prerogative; I do not. There is scant evidence that the gradual decline of the aquifer has been caused by these larger farming operations. It is unproductive and divisive to be in the blame game. Agriculture is South Carolina's number one industry. It feeds us and millions of others in this nation and around the world. We should celebrate our state's role in feeding the world.

 



While appreciating the needs of farmers we still have a potential long-term challenge to protect our water resources. The Capacity Use designation in four other regions of South Carolina has not hampered agriculture or industrial growth. In reality, the designation has had the desired effect of safe guarding our precious water resources.

The Western capacity use area includes Aiken, Bamberg, Lexington, Barnwell, Allendale, Calhoun and Orangeburg Counties.

Blue Wave was Barely a Ripple

A huge thank you to the voters in House District 86 for returning me to serve another term in the Statehouse. I am most appreciative for the opportunity to represent them. Overall, I am also thrilled with the marvelous voter turnout demonstrating increased voter engagement this year. Across Aiken County voter turn-out totaled fifty-seven percent. That's a strong showing.

My Aiken County legislative colleagues, Representatives Bart Blackwell, Ronnie Young, Bill Hixon and Bill Clyburn also were also re-elected. Gov. Henry McMaster won his first full term and all the state Constitutional officers, all Republicans, won re-election. The media-hyped "Blue Wave" wasn't even a ripple in South Carolina.

Statehouse Remains Red

The election results show the South Carolina House of Representatives remains solidly red. Two Republican Representatives in the Low County lost seats as a result of the Democrat's push in the First Congressional District race. Meanwhile, House Republicans claimed the seats that had long been held by Democrats. The South Carolina House of Representatives remains solidly in the hands of Republicans who have a commanding majority of 80 members or sixty-five percent.



Thank You, Veterans

It was once again my honor to address Aiken's official Veterans Day observance. That ceremony took on special significance because it was 100 years ago that hostilities ended in "The Great War" - "The War to End all Wars" - World War I. That was the foundation for Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day.


 

I told those attending the ceremony the cost of our freedom is priceless but someone has to pay for it. It is our veterans who have paid the price. Tens of thousands of silent grave markers are spread around the world honoring fallen America military men and women. And then there are those who came home from war forever changed. And for our veterans who never saw hostile action, they too, deserve our honor and praise for the sacrifices they and their families made in service to our beloved nation.

 

Picture of the Week

 

Immediately after each election, my temporary slogan becomes: “END POLITICAL SIGN POLLUTION!”  The day following voting, my pal, Roy Stone, collected all the big signs around Aiken County. (This is my small contribution to beautify South Carolina.)

 


I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

November 3, 2018: Reality Check

 

Decision Day is nearly here! If you have not already cast your absentee ballot, Tuesday is your day to be in charge of the political landscape nationally, statewide and locally. Those elected to public service are not in charge - YOU ARE!  Politicians work for you, not the other way around. But, in turn, good bosses provide direction and Tuesday is your opportunity.

 

Washington D.C. vs. Columbia

 

Thankfully, SC state government isn't nearly as dysfunctional as Congress. Columbia is far from perfect and needs to improve, but a survey released just this week shows South Carolinians give substantially higher marks to the General Assembly than their Washington counterparts. The new Winthrop Poll shows state lawmakers received a 46% approval rating while other polls show Congress with a much-deserved and dismal approval rating hovering around 9%.

 

REALITY CHECK

 

The 'Lame-Brain-National-Media-Propaganda-Machine' would have you believe America is spiraling out-of-control as it tumbles from crisis to crisis. To the contrary, media is in crisis, not America.  

 

More than 90% of news coverage of President Trump and his initiatives is negative. Fortunately, a majority of South Carolinians know better. As example, the Winthrop Poll shows that about 3/4 of SC respondents said the country's economy was fairly to very good, while the same number of respondents think the condition of the state's economy is either very or fairly good. The same poll gives President Trump an 83% approval rating and is continuing to climb among SC Republicans.

 

Media "experts" would have you believe Tuesday's mid-term election is a referendum on President Trump. If that's the case then judge him on his performance (his significant accomplishments in less than two years) not on his Tweets or sometimes inelegant rhetoric. 

 

A good place to make that performance evaluation is the website MAGAPILL. Check it out; you will likely be surprised by the long list of accomplishments that were barely or never mentioned in the news.

 

I Ask For Your Vote

 

If you're one of 'my bosses' living in House District 86, I ask for your vote Tuesday. 

 

While I'm not challenged on the ballot, I am CHALLENEGED every day to excel in my role as a public servant.

 

Representing the citizens of House District 86 is a privilege of a lifetime for me. My campaign slogan has always been - STRONG VOICE, EFFECTIVE LEADER. I strive to keep that promise, as well as consistently vote my Conservative principles to limit the size and scope of government and make it less intrusive into your life and personal liberties.

 

A Few Legislative Highlights

 

I fought for seven years to improve government transparency in SC and that bill was signed into law last year.

 

I continue to be the primary sponsor of the Article V Convention of States legislation aimed at reining-in our out-of-control federal government. We will be successful!

 

I'm the chief advocate and sponsor of legislation to curb deadly, distracted driving in SC. We have to reduce this reckless behavior and save lives on our streets and highways.

 

I'm most appreciative the endorsements and recognition from these organizations:

 

 

You can learn more about me at these websites:

 

 TaylorSCHouse   SCLegislatureOnline   Ballotpedia

 

Thank you allowing me to continue my service.

 

Constitutional Amendment 1

 

Next Tuesday's ballot (Nov 6) contains a vitally important Amendment to the SC State Constitution. It's a "good government" reform that has been pushed for decades. A "YES" vote would require the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate. 

 

This is a major step in reforming and making more efficient our antiquated form of state government which gives too much power to the legislature and other elected, executive branch officials. The measure has broad bi-partisan support.


My views on the proposed Amendment appeared in EDUCATION WEEK, a national publication. Please vote YES for Amendment 1 to help make SC's public education system more efficient. 

 

Pix of the Week

 

Lucky Me!  Donna & I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary Friday.  I’m fortunate to be married to my best friend and the love of my life. I repeat – LUCKY ME!

 

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE 

 

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.  

 ______________________________________________________________________________________

 

October 5, 2018:  SC TAX DISASTER AVERTED!

 

Every year the SC General Assembly routinely conforms the state income tax code to the federal governments. That simplifies filing your state income tax when April 15th rolls around. There has been nothing routine this year. The Trump Tax Reform broadly reduced income taxes for most Americans. Had SC not conformed its tax code it would have been a tax disaster making the filing of your 2018 taxes next spring complex and expensive.

 

SC Taxpayers Win!

 

The House and Senate returned to the Statehouse this week and voted Wednesday to align the state's tax code with federal tax changes made last year by Congress, but some want the state to do more with its overall tax language.

 

This legislation saves SC income taxpayers more than $1.2 billion over five years by putting state deductions and exemptions back in place that were removed due to the passage of the Trump Tax Reform. This action keeps more hard-earned money in the pockets of SC taxpayers. The conformity legislation streamlines filing and ensures families will continue to benefit from our state's low tax environment.

 

Business leaders and officials with South Carolina's revenue-collection agency warned that without a conformity law putting South Carolina with the federal level, tax filings would be complicated and difficult for everyone, from business owners to individuals filing 1040EZ short forms.

 

Tax Reform Needed

 

During Senate debate one senator argued in favor of more tweaking of the state's tax code. He pointed out that we have a challenging property tax situation, a questionable income tax scenario and a less than ideal sales tax scenario.

 

I couldn't agree more! I continue to serve on the House Special Tax Reform Committee where for two years we have been exploring ways to lower our tax rates and make them fairer. It's complex - very complex - but it can be accomplished with political courage. I'm ready and willing. It's time for legislators to get on board the reform train.

 

BIG WIN FOR AIKEN COUNTY!

 

Aiken County Representatives are celebrating! It's taken four years, but perseverance won out. During its special session this week, the House and Senate overrode the Governor's veto of the $9 million disaster reimbursement clean-up costs for the 2014 ice storm that wreaked havoc in Aiken County and caused damage in 21 other counties.

 

 

Led by Sen. Tom Young's effort in the Senate, the Aiken Legislative Delegation has been working hard as a team since the ice storm to receive the state's matching share of the FEMA reimbursement. Until this vote, the state had only reimbursed 44 percent of what it owed. 

 

Before the House vote, I addressed my fellow representatives, saying, "Those of you in the Pee Dee region and Horry and Georgetown Counties, imagine if this was you four years later after Hurricane Florence, and you were still here begging to be made whole by the monies that the state customarily provides after disasters. That's the situation these 22 counties, including Aiken, are in."

 

I believe my words resonated with many because of the current situation in northeastern South Carolina. The House voted unanimously to override the veto.

 

Aiken County will receive $4.1 million added to the $3.4 million previously received completing the state's storm reimbursement from 2014.

 

Planned Parenthood Defunded

 

During this week's session to consider the Gov. McMaster's budget vetoes, the House upheld his veto that struck $16 million from Medicaid's budget in an effort to block monies going to Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services. 

 

The budget line McMaster struck funded birth control, prenatal care and annual exams for poor South Carolinians who are insured through Medicaid. That veto could have blocked money to thousands of federally approved health care providers around the state.

 

However, shortly after that July veto, McMaster issued an executive order directing the state's Medicaid agency to continue paying for family planning services to all the agencies other than Planned Parenthood by dipping into reserve accounts. That means health care providers like Aiken's Clyburn Rural Health Center will continue to receive family planning money ($136,000 last year) as will the Aiken County Health Department ($175,000 last year). Overall, the state's Medicaid agency spends more than $40 million annually on family planning services - none of that for abortions.

 

Tragedy near Florence

 

In a hail of gunfire, Officer Terrance Carraway was killed and six others wounded in a neighborhood near Florence. Let us all pause from our lives and prayerfully support the wounded law enforcement officers as they heal and the fallen policeman's family. They need all the help and support they can get. 

 

Let us also support all our men and women in law enforcement in every town, city, county, across South Carolina and around the nation. They risk their lives daily so we may be safe. May God's hedge of protection surround them.

 

Aiken Election Forum

 

I enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Aiken Standard’s Political Forum that drew a large crowd to Aiken’s Municipal Center this week. Candidates for school board, County Council, Statehouse & Congress we’re given the opportunity to speak on critical issues.

 

While I’m not challenged on the upcoming ballot – I am CHALLENGED every day to excel in my role as a public servant. Serving the citizens of HD 86 is a privilege of a lifetime for me. My campaign slogan has always been – “Strong Voice, Effective Leader”.  I strive to keep that promise.

 

 

Friends, public service is a noble calling. I work for the citizens of South Carolina and particularly those in House District 86. In that spirit, I ask every voter in that District to size me up. If you approve, give me your vote and allow me the privilege of serving another term representing you at the Statehouse.

 

KUDOS to SCDOT

 

A tip of the hat to SCDOT for quickly correcting the ill-designed modifications at Talatha Church & Whiskey Road south of Aiken. When neighbors complained about a concrete island that was recently erected, as well as the prohibition of left turns onto Whiskey Rd, SCDOT agreed with them and last week removed the island allowing for left turns in non-peak hours. Next, the City of Aiken has agreed to install a ‘street flood light’ to improve night visibility. It’s now a much SAFER intersection!

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE


I post frequent on my two Facebook pages (Rep. Bill Taylor & TaylorSCHouse). 'Friend Me' or follow me for the latest legislative insights. If you have a problem and cannot get help, call me at (803) 270-2012 or email me at Bill@TaylorSCHouse.com

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

September 24, 2018:  More Misery & Devastation

 

The sunny skies bathing the Palmetto State in recent days mask the devastation and dangers in the Coastal and Pee Dee regions of South Carolina. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, rivers continue to flood and are forecast to continue rising this week bringing more misery and devastation.

"Flo" Means Flooding

Rain water that overflowed the rivers in North Carolina is still making its way into SC. There are warnings of a second wave of flooding in the Pee Dee region and Horry County. Floodwaters could impact more than 30,000 people in the Pee Dee region, according to state emergency officials. There is still the potential for more mandatory evacuations for those living in low lying areas. Residents should be prepared to leave their homes if their public safety officials tell them to do so. Over the weekend there were 16 shelters open for housing 204 people. The American Red Cross and the SC Department of Social Services have placed additional shelters on standby.

Aiken Deputies Head to the Coast

Sunday morning, Aiken County Sheriff Mike Hunt deployed a team of 20 deputies towards the coast to assist with Hurricane relief efforts. These deputies will be assisting with law enforcement operations, emergency services and numerous other tasks. We are grateful for their service and pray for their safety.

Strike Two for Nichols

Two years ago Hurricane Mathew swamped the small town of Nichols, which is located at the confluence of two rivers, in the Pee Dee region. The 400 residents, who were struggling back from that flood, met disaster again when the NC flooding from Hurricane Florence rolled downstream. This time it was much worse - Nichols got an additional foot of water. Even the Town Hall wasn't sparred this time. Fortunately, everyone evacuated safely, and when the water recedes the town will be in muddy ruins.

Governor Surveys Nichols Damage

This weekend Gov. Henry McMaster surveyed the damage in the Pee Dee by helicopter. In Nichols he took to a National Guard High Water vehicle to view the flooding up close. He pledged that every asset in the state would be directed toward the flooded region as they are bracing for or experiencing historic flooding.

"We Will Not be Pushed to the Wayside!"

I spent time in Nichols during Hurricane Mathew and came to understand the town's resilience and resolve. Sunday, I talked to my friend, Nichols Town Manager Sandee Rogers, and asked her the tough question - should Nichols be relocated rather than rebuilding in the same location. Her response:

"We will not be pushed to the wayside by this. This is our town
and Nichols is the northern gateway to Myrtle Beach."

(Nichols is located on Hwy. 9.)

 

Rogers says the answer is diverting the river waters to not only protect Nichols, but downstream in Horry County and Georgetown. Several months ago the town received a $1.5 million federal and state hazard mitigation grant to study floods and develop solutions for mitigating future flooding. She hopes that study can result in real solutions.

Helping Nichols

Experience is a great teacher and Hurricane Mathew taught Nichols leaders how to respond quickly. Sunday, National Guardsmen were using their high water trucks to take residents back to see their homes to reduce their anxiety and allow them to retrieve items, if possible. Last time it was two weeks before residents were allowed back in. Workers will start to remediate the Town Hall as soon as the water recedes. Town Manager, Rogers tells me volunteer muck-out crews are standing by to assist residents in scooping the mud from their homes. She says they need many more clean-up kits and mold spray. Nichols is better organized this time and they know faster clean-up will reduce the damage from mold.

Shout Out to 'The Gov'

Gov. Henry McMaster took time from his storm leadership to call my cell phone Friday evening and talk to Aiken County constituents who gathered at the Montmorenci FD. My talk was focused on how SC has responded to Hurricane Florence and the increasing flooding disaster in the Pee Dee. Gov. McMaster added a lot to the conversation; there is no better person to explain how 'Team SC' is pulling together to meet the crisis. Thank you, Governor, for taking time to call and address the critical storm challenges we continue to face.



Ruined Roads

Road washouts, culvert failures and bridge damage have closed 125 roads and highways and shut down 53 bridges in the Pee Dee. More road closures will occur as rivers crest in coming days. SCDOT officials say they won't be able to fully assess the damage on some roads until the floodwaters recede.

Road Closures

SCDOT is actively responding to widespread flooding across the Northeast portion of the state. Previously closed locations of I-95 in SC over the Great Pee Dee River have been reopened in both directions. However, I-95 in NC remains closed across the state line due to flooding. There are widespread road closures due to flooding on primary and secondary routes throughout the Pee Dee.

Myrtle Beach: The US 501 Bypass in Conway has been reopened to two-way traffic after completion of the Project Lifeline flood barrier. As water levels continue to rise, this route will serve as the primary access between Conway and Myrtle Beach. SCDOT warns that motorists should anticipate congestion and slow speeds in this area. At this moment there are only two 2-lane roads providing access to the Grand Strand.

Georgetown is Next: Plans have been developed to keep open US 17 for a period of time as the flood waters rise at US 17 crossing over the Waccamaw River in Georgetown. The plan is designed to delay the closing of the bridge for as long as possible. It is expected that floodwaters will overtop the roadway barriers mid-week and require the closure of the bridge to traffic. US 17 in this area has been reduced to one lane of travel in each direction. Heavy congestion and long delays are expected in this area and caution is urged for motorists traveling through the work zone.

Know Before Your Drive: Motorists are encouraged to use SCDOT's 511 app or call 511 for current road travel conditions. SCDOT has an online, real-time map of flood-related closures.

Crops Ruined by Catastrophic Flooding

For three of the past four years, cotton farmers in the Pee Dee have lost their crops to catastrophic flooding. First, it was $330 million in damage from the 2015 so-called "1,000-year-flood". Then came Hurricane Mathew that cost another $50 million. Florence has again decimated crops in the Pee Dee region. Worse, there is little help coming from the federal government - the current U.S. Farm Bill doesn't help farmers. In the 2008 and 2014 farm bills, emergency disaster aid packages for farmers was removed. On average, farmer's income has fallen more than 50 percent since 2014 and these natural disasters can bring financial ruin.

SC Seeks Financial Aid

Gov. Henry McMaster has requested about $1.2 billion in aid from the federal government, according to officials with the S.C. Emergency Management Division. SC has already received approval for $8 million of "quick release" emergency funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The money allows SCDOT to start making repairs to flood damaged highways and other roadways.

Aiken Provides Equine Help

Equine Rescue of Aiken has once again stepped up and sent 7 trailer truck loads of hay, feed and vet supplies to the Pee Dee region and NC. The National Guard is putting it on trucks and moving it to the affected areas. Donations are funding the effort to help horses caught in the flooding, but donations are running far behind what Equine Rescue collected after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. They sent 15 truckloads of supplies there. If you can help, please donate here.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE


I post frequent updates on my twoFacebook pages (Rep. Bill Taylor & TaylorSCHouse). 'Friend Me' or follow me for the latest information. If you have a problem and cannot get help, call me at (803) 270-2012 or email me at Bill@TaylorSCHouse.com

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

September 13, 2018: Prepare for the Worst, Pray for the Best!

 

All eyes in the Palmetto State are on the coast of South Carolina. Hurricane Florence, a potentially deadly monster of a storm, is bearing down on our state.

Don't be a Statistic

If you are still in the designated coastal evacuation zones THIS IS THE LAST GOOD DAY TO EVACUATE! The time to act is NOW! Even if you are not in an evacuation zone, but live in an area prone to flooding or if you don't think your home is capable of weathering the hurricane, I urge you to immediately consider your options. Once the storm passes, you can return to clean-up or rebuild.

Disasters come with statistics - don't be a statistic of Hurricane Florence.

Here's What They're Saying...

"This hurricane is potentially deadly and unpredictable. Once those high winds get here ... it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to come rescue you if you are in one of those zones." -Gov. Henry McMaster

"With the right combination of variables over the next few days, Hurricane Florence would cause more flooding in the Charleston area than Tropical Storm Irma did last year."
- Charleston's Post & Courier

"Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall is expected. North Myrtle Beach could see a storm surge between six and nine feet. Myrtle Beach could see a 4- to 6-foot surge if peak surge happens at high tide."
- Myrtle Beach Online

"The bad news is that Florence is still forecast to be an extremely dangerous, life-threatening hurricane. And the ugly news, for Midlands residents, is the storm is predicted to move inland across the Columbia metro area, which has led to the National Weather Service office in Columbia issuing a tropical storm watch for the first time." - The State

"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you. It's enormous."
- Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeting from onboard the International Space Station as he looks down on Florence

Flooding is a Major Concern

Beyond hurricane damage to the coastal area, the biggest threat to much of South Carolina is flooding. Although 2-6 inches of rain is currently predicted for the Aiken area, this amount could vary depending on Florence's track. Other parts of the state could see over 10 inches of rain.

Team South Carolina

Hat's off to Gov. Henry McMaster and 'Team SC'. The governor and his agency heads have been manning the state's Emergency Operations Center all week and basing their decisions regarding evacuation, storm preparations and the eventual response on the facts. No doubt there will be second-guessing, but 'Team SC' has the advantage of the combined knowledge and experience of every state agency. They know more and fully understand the complexity of responding to an unpredictable natural disaster. The Governor and his team regularly provide updates about preparations for Hurricane Florence. The next briefing is at 2:30 p.m. today (Thursday). View it LIVE.

By the Numbers

• The South Carolina National Guard has more than 2,100 soldiers and airmen on duty and 50 members of the State Guard.
• DOT and DPS reversed 100 miles of I-26 and 20 miles of US 501.
• DOT has more than 3000 team members assigned to the event.
• Today, there are 450 State Law Enforcement Division officers on duty.
• The Department of Public Safety has 666 officers on duty.
• Ordered 125 buses to be staged in Orangeburg to deploy if needed.
• There are currently were 35 emergency shelters open throughout the state with over 1,800 occupants.
• The Air Operations Branch has seven aircraft staged to provide aerial reconnaissance over designated evacuation routes.
• FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team is on site.
• Provided items such as sandbags and generators to counties as requested.
• Clemson Livestock Poultry Health has activated Memorandums of Agreement with the ASPCA and National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition to deploy emergency pet shelter staff, animal search and rescue and animal related damage assessment teams as needed.
• Department of Natural Resources conducting river sweeps.
• Activated "Emergency Mode" on scemd.org and SC Emergency Manager mobile app.

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE


I post frequent weather/hurricane updates on my twoFacebook pages (Rep. Bill Taylor & TaylorSCHouse). 'Friend Me' or follow me for the latest information. If you have a problem and cannot get help, call me at (803) 270-2012 or email me at Bill@TaylorSCHouse.com

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

September 1, 2018: Government WORKS!

 

Given the continual political noise emanating from Washington D.C. dysfunction seems to rule our federal government. The 'Lame-Brain-National-Media-Propaganda-Machine' beats their drums daily focusing on the political in-fighting and trivial while important issues and policy go unreported. That's Washington, not South Carolina. Allow me to focus on one aspect of SC government that is truly excelling.

We're Getting Transparency, Accountability and Efficiency


Four years ago as part of state government reorganization, legislation created Legislative Oversight Committees in the House and Senate. These oversight ("investigating") committees look deeply into state agencies to determine if laws and programs are being implemented and carried out in accordance with the intent of the General Assembly and whether or not they should be continued, curtailed or even eliminated. (Read Mission) The committees shine their spotlights on agencies to insure more public transparency, accountability and efficiency - and IT'S WORKING!

DDSN Under the Microscope

As example, the SC Department of Disability and Special Needs (DDSN) has been before the Legislative Oversight Sub-Committee on which I serve for 20 months. This agency is designed to help its nearly 25,000 South Carolinians who suffer with severe, lifelong disabilities of intellectual disability, autism, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury and conditions related to each of these four disabilities.

DDSN has been described as a "troubled agency' and received lots of media attention for some cases where it was accused of failing to adequately protect its clients from abuse or even death.

During our long, in-depth inquiry of this agency we discovered many flaws and mid-way through the process the Executive Director resigned. Thankfully, Patrick Maley stepped in as Interim Director. Before joining DDSN, Maley was SC's Inspector General and is a retired FBI agent. With the prompting of the Oversight Committee Maley and his staff have excelled in turning around DDSN. They have deeply analyzed their processes and procedures and made many changes. The Oversight Sub-Committee met this week and voted to recommend a number of changes and DDSN offered a lengthy list of current regulations that need to be updated or eliminated. The legislative inspection process as proved beneficial in streamlining and focusing DDSN's practices to improve service to its clients.

 


Identifying Agency Failure

Here's another example of how that House Legislative Oversight Committee cracks down on a failing state agency. This summer the Committee concluded its study of the SC Commission for Minority Affairs with a bi-partisan vote of no confidence in the agency for its failure to fulfill its mission. The Committee sent Gov. McMaster a request that he consider replacing all members of the governing board. (View WIS-TV story) (Read Committee Findings)

The Big Picture

Since its creation in 2014, the House Oversight Committee has completed studies of 21 agencies, is currently meeting with 7 agencies, and has 5 more in the queue. This includes more than 300 hours of meetings, and review of close to 7,000 online comments from constituents like you. You can submit input (link) about an agency at any time, and request notification (link) when meetings are scheduled. Information received during a study, including links to meeting videos, is available online, by going to the Committee website, then scrolling down and clicking on the name of the agency in which you are interested.

As of the end of last session, there were 40 bills filed to implement Committee recommendations. An article about one of those bills, which made significant changes to the process related to law enforcement misconduct, is available here . A list of additional outcomes obtained from some of the agency studies can be found on page four of the Legislative Oversight Committee 121st General Assembly Transparency Report to Citizens (link).

Saving America


In my last newsletter I shared with you the news that I was humbled to be awarded the first-ever 2018 Abraham Lincoln Award for Leadership Toward a More Perfect Union during a national legislative conference in New Orleans. A newly posted YouTube video captures my reaction to receiving that award and my thoughts on finally passing the Article V Convention of States legislation in South Carolina. (Tap link below picture to view video)


LINK: Interview with Rep. Bill Taylor, winner of the Abraham Lincoln Award

 

YOU Can Insure Another Aiken Honor

The two wooden bridges on York Street near downtown Aiken have been named as a finalist in the 2018 America's Transportation Awards competition. This project is among the Top 12 competing for the two highest honors by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO).

The selection for the final award will be based upon voting by the public. It's up to US to vote for this Aiken project. You can vote once a day for the next three weeks.

                                                                     VOTE NOW!

The two bridges, named for the Late Rep. Skipper Perry, are SCDOT's first modern-day designed wooden deck bridges. The planning that went into building these bridges involved extensive use of technology and innovation. A routine inspection found that the original bridges were in critical disrepair. They were immediately closed in February 2016. This diverted a roadway that carries approximately 9,000 cars a day into downtown Aiken. The accelerated design and construction schedule allowed the two structures to open in June 2017. The new modern wooden bridges maintain the unique appearance and feel of the original bridges as requested by city officials and property owners.

 



SCDOT and the people of Aiken worked together on this project. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said, "This effort is a good of example of listening to our stakeholder's ideas and our engineers using innovative technology to achieve a project that improves the quality of life and pride in the Aiken community.


I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

August 20, 2018: I'm Honored!

 

I believe the privilege of public service is its own reward. In politics I more often expect barbs and many challenges, and don't look for public accolades. So, imagine my surprise when I was called to the stage in a New Orleans legislative conference to be recognized for my efforts to put limits on the federal government by calling a convention of states to propose amendments under Article V of the United States Constitution.

In its first-ever awards ceremony lauding state legislators for their support of the Convention of States Action Project, I was conferred with the 2018 Abraham Lincoln Award for Leadership Toward a More Perfect Union. It was presented by former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn at the American Legislative Exchange Council Conference. More than a thousand state legislators from around the nation attended the ceremony.

 


 

The Convention of States Awards pays respect to distinct characteristics of America's Founding Fathers. Nominees this year included 45 state legislators from 18 different states nominated by COS grassroots citizens in their state and selected by a panel of national judges.

The Lincoln Award was presented to me for what was termed, my "Demonstrated ability to cast a compelling vision for America's future; demonstrated ability to overcome colleagues' complacency or fears of uncertainty."

Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self-Governance and the Convention of States said, "Rep. Taylor is among those state legislators who holds up the highest standard of statesmanship in our country."

We Will be Victorious

Quite frankly, I was humbled to be recognized with the Lincoln Award for Leadership. Since first filing the Article V Resolution in South Carolina in 2013, I have been joined by many legislators and citizens working hard for passage of the Resolution to put America back on the right track. With the help of thousands of citizen volunteers in the Palmetto State, I pledge to maximize my efforts in the next legislative session to cross the finish line and be successful in helping put restrictions on our out-of-control, bloated federal government, by helping bring control on Washington DC.

The Convention of States Project is currently organized in all 50 states, including more than three and a half million volunteers, supporters and advocates committed to stopping the Federal Government's abuse of power. Twelve states: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas and Missouri have passed identical Article V Resolutions since the Project's founding in 2013. Virginia hosted the first-ever Simulated Article V Convention of States in the fall of 2016. For more information, visit www.ConventionofStates.com.

Picture of the Week...

 

 

At long last, the Ridge Spring-Monetta area is getting a new high school. I was honored to join other elected officials, faculty and students in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility. The new high school is sorely needed. Here is just one example - currently, students do not have lockers so they have to lug book bags from class to class. Thankfully, the new high school will have lockers and other modern upgrades to aid in educating students. Construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2019. The estimated cost is $40.6 million.

 

I'm Available and AT YOUR SERVICE

 

It is my honor to be of service to you. If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.
____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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