|It is very busy in Columbia as we approach the final weeks of the 2015-16 Legislative Session. Here's some of what's going on...|
If you are a regular reader of my updates you probably feel like you are in Groundhog Day when I, yet again, describe our attempts to fix our crumbling roads. In my last update I told you of the Senate's package which was agreed to and returned to the House of Representatives for their vote. Our package included significant reforms to SC Department of Transportation and the State Infrastructure bank as well as $400 million in recurring funding. Admittedly this was not the ideal solution but was a significant step forward. Regretfully the House not only rejected this solution, but abandoned their initial proposal by offering a third alternative. Unfortunately this latest proposal was a non-starter for the Senate as it stripped out recurring funding for road repairs.
Now we must go to a conference committee and attempt to hammer out a compromise. One thing is clear to me, because of political gamesmanship and out of state third party influence, the opportunity for a thoughtful and permanent solution has been severely impaired. Nevertheless, I will promise to work hard for the best possible bill in 2016 and, if necessary, return to Columbia next session determined to pass a real solution to our crumbling roads.
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For possibly the first time ever, the Senate passed a bill authorizing the shortening of the legislative session. This will not only save millions of taxpayer dollars annually, but it will force the General Assembly to be much more efficient in taking up the people's business. The House, to their credit, has passed this type of legislation regularly over the years so I anticipate we can get this legislation to the Governor's desk shortly.
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From the first time I entered public office, I have voluntarily disclosed my sources of private income so as to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest. Last week, the Senate passed a bill that will require this type of disclosure to all members of the General Assembly. Several other ethics reform bills remain on the calendar and have the potential for passage. They include independent investigations of ethics violation complaints and untraceable third party funds used to influence legislation. Stay tuned.Share Your Thoughts On This Issue
South Carolina State University
Several years ago, as a result of years of mismanagement, SC State University was facing the very real possibility of closing its doors. Because the university is an important part of Orangeburg community, and the entire state of SC, the general assembly, on the condition that the entire Board of Trustees be replaced, provided emergency funding in excess of their normal appropriations. Part of that aid was in the form of loans. Since that time SC State's new leadership has significantly improved the fiscal situation at the school and things are definitely moving in the right direction.
Last week legislation was passed that will forgive much of the loan that was originally provided to the school. I voted against this forgiveness. To be clear, I want to see the school succeed and am willing to assist when possible and appropriate. However, I also believe that significant and extraordinary resources have been provided to the institution. They have a responsibility to repay some of those resources and this is a reasonable expectation based on their improved health.Share Your Thoughts On This Issue
A Few Other Issues
Port Enhancement Zones (S743) creates tax incentives for port related firms providing jobs in certain rural areas. Firms in Dorchester County should benefit from this legislation. Refugee/Anti-terrorism (S997) provides certain requirements for refugees entering SC from certain federally designated terrorism hot spots. Confinement of Juveniles (S1136) proposes a Constitutional Amendment to separate confinement of juvenile offenders and older confined persons and raise age of juvenile from 17 to 18. SC Able Savings Plan (H3768) enables families to set aside private funds in tax advantaged accounts much like IRA's and 529 Plans to care for individuals with disabilities. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection (H3114) prohibits someone from performing an abortion except in the case of medical emergency and certain other exceptions, after 20 weeks.Share Your Thoughts On These Issues
Please reach out to me if you have further questions about these or any other issues. I am happy to take a deeper dive with you.
And as always, thank you for your support. It is a great honor for me to serve the people of Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston Counties. I thank you for this opportunity.