Here are the highlights from last week at the Statehouse –
BUDGET – The state budget is generally the most significant legislation that the General Assembly deals with each year. It is made up of 3 parts: General Fund (income, sales, and corporate tax collections), Federal (primarily education, Medicaid, and transportation funds), and “Other” (fee and fine collections).
Last week the House Ways & Means Committee passed a budget for the full House of Representatives to consider. This first draft of the budget would provide pay raises for most state employees and teachers, hire additional law enforcement officers, and contribute to the deepening of the Charleston port. Follow these links for analysis from the Associated Press and The State.
The budget still has a long ways to go. It must pass the full House, the Senate Finance Committee, and the full Senate before going to Governor Haley for approval. It probably will not be finalized until late May.
INCREASE IN TOURISM – I mentioned last week that the economic trends show a rebounding economy in South Carolina. A big reason for that rebound is an increase in tourism, which accounts for a large portion of South Carolina’s economy. A recent report indicates that tourism increased in 2011 and is expected increase in 2012. Here is an article from The Sun News (Myrtle Beach) about this significant news.
CATHERINE TEMPLETON, NOMINEE FOR COMMISSIONER OF DHEC – The full Senate began to take up the nomination of Catherine Templeton to be the new Commissioner of DHEC. Senator Phil Leventis (Sumter) is filibustering Ms. Templeton’s nomination. Here are a couple articles about Ms. Templeton and the filibuster, here and here.
This nomination has garnered a lot of attention because of the significance of DHEC. I have met Ms. Templeton several times, and I am extremely impressed with her. I expect the Senate will vote on Ms. Templeton’s nomination this coming week. I intend to vote to confirm her nomination.
MARK KEEL, NOMINEE FOR REAPPOINTMENT AS CHIEF OF SLED – Last year, following former Chief Reggie Lloyd’s retirement, Governor Haley selected Mark Keel to serve as Interim Chief of SLED. The Governor has now nominated Chief Keel for appointment for a full 6-year term.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Chief Keel’s nomination last week, and I expect the full Senate will consider the nomination this week. I voted for Chief Keel in committee, and I plan to vote to confirm him when his nomination comes before the full Senate. You can read an article about Chief Keel’s appointment here.
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION – I’ve talked a lot about this bill in past weeks, so I won’t rehash the details again. However, The Herald (Rock Hill) had a good editorial about the bill this past week, so I thought I’d share it.
BILLS OF INTEREST
COMMON CORE EDUCATION STANDARDS – After mentioning this bill in last week’s update, I received a good bit of feedback about it. Since Common Core could have a significant impact on our K-12 education curriculum, please continue to let me know what you think. As a bit of further explanation, 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 a recent 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.
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
This past week at the statehouse, I met with a 3rd grade class from North Augusta Elementary School and the Future Farmers of America from Saluda High School and Strom Thurmond High School. I really enjoyed each one of the groups. If these students are representative of all our students, South Carolina’s future is bright!
Red Oak Grove Bridge (Edgefield County) – As everyone who lives in the Westside of Edgefield County knows, the bridge on Red Oak Grove Road has been closed for about 1½ years. I talked with SCDOT this week, and the plan is for the bridge to reopen in late April or early May. I will give you more information as I receive it.
Town Hall Meetings – I have started scheduling a new round of town hall meetings. Here is a list of meetings scheduled so far –
Pleasant Hill Elementary School
664 Rawl Road
Gilbert High School
840 Main Street
Lexington High School
2463 Augusta Highway
Circle Fire Department
3321 Columbia Highway (U.S. 378)
Leavelle McCampbell Middle School
82 Canal Street
Midland Valley High School
227 Mustang Drive
Jefferson Elementary School
170 Flint Drive
I am working on scheduling several more town hall meetings in Edgefield, McCormick, and Saluda counties. I will announce the meetings as they are scheduled.
NEW SENATE DISTRICT – Our Senate district has changed because of the 2010 census. The 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.
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.