Here are the highlights from last week at the statehouse –
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION – Following weeks of debate, the Senate passed H.3066 on Thursday. This bill would accomplish the most significant restructuring of South Carolina state government in decades and, consequently, took a long time to work out. As passed by the Senate, the bill is roughly 130 pages long. To put that in perspective, most legislation passed by the General Assembly probably consists of fewer than 5 pages.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Abolishes the Budget & Control Board, a 5-member agency that has controlled many of the executive functions of state government for the last 60 years.
- Creates a new Department of Administration, to be run by a director appointed by the Governor, and transfers most of the Budget & Control Board’s executive functions to this new cabinet agency.
- Ensures the independence of the Board of Economic Advisers, an agency responsible for analyzing economic data and projecting revenue trends that are the basis for our state budget.
- Prohibits state agencies from running budget deficits unless the General Assembly, through a recorded vote, authorizes additional funding.
- Establishes a 9-member trustee board to govern state employee benefits (health insurance and retirement).
- Requires the legislature to conduct regular oversight of all executive agencies. For too long, the General Assembly has abdicated its oversight role and, consequently, has done very little to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.
The bill now returns to the House of Representatives for consideration of the Senate’s changes. I’ll keep you updated on how things proceed. To read the bill, as passed by the Senate, go here. You can read analysis from The State, The Post and Courier, and the Associated Press.
ECONOMIC TRENDS – The Board of Economic Advisers met last week and determined that January’s tax collections were $10.3 million (1.7%) over the previous year’s collections. For the fiscal year (July-June), revenues are $177.4 (4.7%) million over last year’s collections. These numbers show a slow, but steady, economic recovery in South Carolina.
NEW SENATE DISTRICT – In my first update of the year, I told you that our Senate district had changed because of the 2010 census. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Justice signed off on the new Senate districts. However, several private individuals filed suit, challenging the new district boundaries. Last week, a U.S. District Court dismissed that lawsuit. As a result, the new Senate districts are now in effect. Our district now contains all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the new district map, go here.
BILLS OF INTEREST
COMMON CORE EDUCATION STANDARDS – In 2010 the State Board of Education adopted new education standards, commonly referred to as “Common Core.” Common Core’s purpose is to establish a national set of standards to prepare K-12 students for college and careers. S.604 would prohibit the State Department of Education from implementing Common Core. Here is an AP article about the legislation. Since I expect this bill may come up for a vote at some point, I would appreciate your input.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES
BRIDGESTONE HIRING – The Bridgestone plant in Graniteville announced a significant expansion last Fall. They are now hiring for the new positions. For information on how to apply, go here (http://www.readysc.org/bato/)
If you know of a business that is hiring, please let me know. I’d love to include that information in the next newsletter so we can get the word out.
LAST WEEK’S MEETINGS
On Monday night I attended the Edgefield Lions Club meeting and presented the club with a United States flag that flew over the Statehouse. The Lions Club is a service organization that does great work for the community, especially in assisting those in need of eye care.
Thanks to all our service clubs for making our communities better!
CONGRESSMAN JEFF DUNCAN TO BE IN EDGEFIELD AND SALUDA – Congressman Jeff Duncan will hold “Listening Sessions” in Edgefield and Saluda on Wednesday, February 22. Jeff will be at the Old Edgefield Grill (202 Penn Street, Edgefield) 12:00–1:00 and Mig’s (216 N. Wise Rd., Saluda) 4:30-5:30. Please take advantage of this opportunity to talk with our Congressman!
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.
EMAIL UPDATES – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.