Constituent Update #3 – 2014

What a few weeks we’ve had!  I don’t have to tell you what a mess we have as a result of all the bad weather.  The clean up alone is estimated to be near $160 million.  It will take awhile to get all the debris cleared but the state and county staffs are working hard. We’ve been busy as well as the State House and I’d like to update you on a few items.

Military Tax Relief
As a result of Act 388, many of our citizens serving our country in the military have experienced the tripling of their property tax on their home simply because they received new orders and their duty stations changed.  Because they were no longer residing in their SC home on a full time basis, their property was then considered a second home and assessed at a much higher property tax rate.  What made this situation worse is that given the weakness of real estate markets, these servicemen and women were unable to sell their homes and get out from under these punishing rates.

Last year I sponsored a bill that would allow these families to maintain their residential property tax rate when, through no fault of their own, they were forced to temporarily leave SC for another duty assignment.  The bill quickly passed the Senate before being delayed in the House. Thankfully, a companion bill from the House was quickly acted upon by the Senate and passed. Beginning with the 2014 tax year, military families will no longer be penalized for owning a home in SC.

Ethics Reform
The General Assembly recently passed a significant ethics reform bill.  While it did not contain everything I would have liked to see, it did move the ball forward in several meaningful ways. Among those are:

  1. Private income disclosures for elected officials
  2. Elimination of leadership PAC’s
  3. Requirements for legislators to recuse themselves under certain circumstances
  4. Legislators now prevented from working as lobbyists/consultants or being appointed to boards or commissions within two years of leaving office.

What was not accomplished was the creation of an independent review committee to address accusations of ethics violations.  While this would have been preferred, it became clear that the votes were not there to pass a bill with this included.  Although I was disappointed and voiced my objection on the record, I felt some advancement was better than no advancement at all with respect to improving public perception.

I remain steadfastly opposed to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), believing it does nothing to solve the real problem with the US health care system, that of the increasing cost of health care delivery, while further threatening our long term economic health.  I believe that the ACA should be repealed by congress and replaced with policy that attacks rising health care costs and improves outcomes.

While congress is responsible for this federal law, many are looking for a state remedy.  One solution has come to be known as “Nullification of Obamacare”.  This is currently being debated in the SC Senate.  While for those that share my displeasure with the ACA, this approach may sound attractive, the reality is “nullification” of a federal law that has been ruled by the US Supreme Court as constitutional is just not possible.  Further, a careful review of the language of the bill being debated proves that it does not nullify as the title would suggest. In fact I believe those that support this measure have been sold a bill of goods by those marketing the idea.  Recent attempts to alter the language have now created even more questions.  What is becoming clear is that if we are not careful, we run the risk of significant economic damage to the state.  By all accounts despite our action, Obamacare will still be in full effect across this nation.

I will continue to work towards ways to combat this poorly drafted and implemented federal law that are effective, meaningful, and defensible.  In the meantime I, and many of my colleagues, have called on the US Congress, to correct their error. (See that resolution here)

With that said, I’d like to know your thoughts on the Affordable Care Act.

Complete The ACA Survey

State Budget
The SC House of Representatives completed work on the 2014/15 general appropriations bill by passing their version last week. The Senate finance committee is currently working on the the Senate version and we expect to begin our debate in late April.  A priority for me, in this nearly $7 billion budget, continues to be focusing on sustainable, recurring solutions to our transportation infrastructure deficiencies.

A Personal Thank You
A few weeks ago, I requested support for my participation in the “Dancing With The ARK Stars” benefit for Alzheimer’s family support services.  This community responded like it always does…unselfishly!  Thank you so much for helping this very worthy cause.As promised, here is the video of my dance.  Special thanks to my wonderful partner and coach Teresa Rogers of Carolina Dancesport.  She truly worked a miracle!  Enjoy…

And as always, thank you for your support.  It is my pleasure to serve as your Senator!





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