Here are the highlights from the 8th week in the Senate:
STATE PENSION SYSTEM – The Senate passed S. 394, a bill to address the South Carolina Retirement System’s challenges. The bill would:
- Ensure that members of the investment commission are qualified.
- Cap employee contributions in the South Carolina Retirement System (state employees, teachers, and most local government employees) at 9.0% of their salaries while the employer’s portion would increase to a total of 18.56% over the next five years. Thus, beginning in 2022, employees and employers will combine to save nearly 28% of an employee’s salary until the system becomes solvent.
- Police officers, who are in a different pension system, would see their contributions capped at 9.75% with employers picking up 21.24%.
- Once the pension systems become fully funded, sometime around 2040, the bill would abolish the pension system for all new employees and allow those new hires to participate in a 401(k)-type system.
The House of Representatives passed a similar version of the bill last week, as well. The Senate and House will have to reconcile the differences before sending the bill to Governor McMaster.
ROADS AND BRIDGES – Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.3516, a bill that would raise about $600 million annually for repairs to South Carolina’s roads and bridges. The bill would generate that amount of money by:
- Raising the gas tax by 2 cents/gallon each year for the next five years, for a total of 10 cents.
- Increasing the cap on the 5% sales tax on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500.
- Creating a $250 one-time vehicle registration fee for people moving into SC (Active duty military are exempt).
- Increasing the biennial vehicle registration fee for those under 65 years of age from $20 to $40. The fee for those 65 and older or handicapped would increase from $20 to $36.
- Imposing a new $60 biennial fee for hybrid vehicles and a new $120 fee for electric vehicles.
The bill would require all new money to be sent to a new Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund that could only be used for “repairs, maintenance and improvements to the existing transportation system.”
In addition to raising $600 million for roads and bridges, the House bill would also ensure that the governor controls the SCDOT commission by appointing the commissioners with advice and consent of the General Assembly. The governor could also fire commissioners.
A Senate subcommittee will begin work on the bill this week, and the full Senate should begin debate on the bill the week of March 21. Stay tuned.
REAL ID – I have received several messages over the past week about Real ID. Real ID is a federal law passed shortly after 9/11 to ensure states have a minimum level of security requirements in place when issuing driver’s licenses and state ID cards. South Carolina has refused to comply with that federal law for several reasons, but we have received multiple extensions. If South Carolina does not comply, South Carolinians will not be able to use our driver’s licenses or state ID cards to fly on airplanes and enter military bases, federal buildings, and other federal properties like the Savannah River Site. While Governor McMaster has requested a waiver from compliance, the House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would bring South Carolina into compliance. The Senate Judiciary Committee will now consider the legislation. I will keep you updated.
STATE BUDGET – The House of Representatives is expected to debate and pass the 2017-2018 budget this week. The Senate Finance Committee will then consider the budget. The full Senate should debate the budget the week of April 4. I will give you more details as the budget moves through the process.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA – A good number of folks have asked me about legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in South Carolina. There are bills pending in the Senate and House, but both bills are still in committee. I am not on the Medical Affairs Committee in the Senate, so I will not see the bill unless it passes committee and comes to the full Senate. I will keep you updated if the bill moves.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday night, I attended a meeting of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation.
Tuesday was Clemson University Day at the statehouse. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to Clemson’s Board of Visitors.
On Wednesday morning, I joined other members of Saluda County’s Legislative Delegation in interviewing candidates for the County Veterans Affairs Officer.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met with the justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court to discuss issues affecting the judiciary.
On Thursday morning, I chaired a special subcommittee tasked with ensuring the South Carolina Department of Corrections can fulfill a death sentence for those who have been sentenced for capital crimes.
Our primary method of execution in South Carolina is lethal injection. However, the Department of Corrections does not have the drugs necessary to carry out a sentence, and, because of political pressure globally, we have not been able to purchase those drugs. Other states are also facing this issue.
SCDOT PROJECTS – SCDOT Secretary, Christy Hall, recently appeared before the Senate Transportation Committee to present an annual State of the SCDOT. You can view Secretary Hall’s power point presentation here.
SCDOT’s website provides a good bit of information about projects across the state. You can see a list of statewide priorities here and a map with all projects here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 2:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
OUR SENATE DISTRICT – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
SPEAKING WITH GROUPS – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
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