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Constituent Update #4

We’ve had an incredibly productive few weeks in the Senate.  I’d like to fill you in on some of that…

A FEW HIGHLIGHTS

Crime & Punishment
We’ve seen the knee-jerk reaction in Washington, DC to recent gun violence, and we all know that Washington “cures” are sometimes worse than the problem. In South Carolina, we instead tried to take a more measured approach by keeping guns away from the mentally ill, without infringing upon law-abiding citizens’ second amendment rights.   Our new law will require probate and circuit courts to submit to SLED the names of those who are are found to be mentally ill to be placed into the NICS database. Passage of this bill brings SC in compliance with federal law and will prevent those that are a danger to themselves and others from purchasing firearms. The bill also provides a way for people to have their ability to purchase firearms restored through a reinstatement process.

Additionally, the Senate recently passed legislation that would allow for the revocation of bonds for subsequent violent crime offenses.  It’s hard to believe that our criminal justice system would not allow for a person that is arrested and charged with a violent crime, while out on bond for a previous crime, to be held and the previous bond revoked. But our law enforcement officers are faced with this situation everyday.  The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

Taxes & Jobs
Our military families sacrifice so much.  Due to changes in tax law several years ago, when a SC resident member of the United States Armed Forces was transferred out of state, property taxes on their home tripled because their home was no longer their primary residence.  This is unfair and damaging to these families. Legislation passed by the Senate and sent to the House will allow for these taxpayers to maintain their primary residence classification as long as they remain on orders outside of the state.

Boeing has been a wonderful addition to our community. The opening of their second 787 assembly facility has made our region one of only three locations in the world where wide-body commercial aircraft are built.  Boeing has directly created thousands of jobs and countless others indirectly.  Recently, Boeing announced the creation of up to 2000 more jobs when it announced their engineering group would operate from their Charleston facility.  This is good news for our entire region.

Healthcare Costs
Ever since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, our nation has been stuck in an endless and often times fruitless debate.  The real shame in all of this is in the bill’s title.  The “Affordable Care” act does little to reduce the escalating costs of healthcare delivery.  With that goal in mind, the Senate took a step in the right direction by passing changes to our regulations on how a physician and their supervised physician assistant can work together.  By reducing these regulations, I believe we have moved in the direction of real reform by reducing cost while maintaining high standards in patient care. Make no mistake, this does not solve our national problem, but it does begin to address the core problem – costs.

STILL WORK TO DO

With one month to go in the current session we still have much to do. In addition to the budget, we’re continuing to move forward on a couple of high-priority bills that I told you about early in the session.

Budget
Various Senate subcommittees have been working on components of the FY 2014 budget for some time now.  The entire Senate will take up the budget in the next few weeks and our state is faced with several critical items in addition to the normal appropriation challenges.  My goal, and the goal of many in the General Assembly, is to keep government as small as possible by concentrating on core government functions.

One such core function is transportation infrastructure.  A special committee moved forward on a proposal that will add nearly $1.3 billion in new money for infrastructure.  The proposal will add $1 billion in one time money and roughly $200 million annually.   Through a combination of new oversight, government restructuring, better prioritization, and creating dedicated revenue streams for roads instead of putting that money toward other government spending, we believe we can take a big step toward getting our infrastructure in better shape. The proposal also includes dedicated money for counties and a county match program, so that local governments will also have the tools they need to improve local roads.

Election Filing Reform
We straightened out the mess that got hundreds of candidates kicked off of the ballot last year. The House has also proposed a solution and as you might expect there are several significant differences.  The House and Senate have now each appointed negotiators to work out the differences between our two bills. We expect that to be done in short order, and the bill sent to the governor.

Ethics Reform
A Judiciary Subcommittee is working to improve and strengthen the Ethics bill sent over from the House. Our state ethics laws are sorely outdated, and updating them is probably an opportunity that won’t come along again any time soon. Therefore, we must make sure it’s done right. The House bill represents a good start on ethics reform, but the Senate plans to make it as strong as possible before moving it forward. We need good ethics laws with teeth to make sure people have confidence in the government that represents them.  To that end, and separate from this ethics legislation, the Senate recently passed legislation that would require those who lobby our local governments – counties, municipalities, etc. – to register as they do now at the state level.

NOW…THE BAD NEWS

I believe that it is always important to stand and face your failures. I also believe it is unbecoming to sugar coat or spin the facts to provide a false sense of accomplishment. In that spirit, I must report some bad news from last week.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the House of Representatives beat the Senate in the annual House vs. Senate Softball game last Tuesday.  The House scored three runs in the bottom of the 7th to take the win 15-14.  For the reasons I stated earlier, I will not mention the questionable calls. Nor will I bring up the unverifiable eligibility of several players on the House roster.  I also won’t bring up the legality of some of the equipment used by the other side.  I will only say that I am sorry to have let you down.

As always, I thank you for your support and your friendship. It is a pleasure to serve as your Senator!

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