Here are the highlights from last week at the Statehouse –
Charter School Bill – Following debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Senate passed H. 3241, a bill that would update the laws related to charter schools. Some of the highlights of H. 3241 are:
- colleges and universities could sponsor charter schools. Now, only local school districts or the statewide charter school district can sponsor charter schools.
- single-gender charter schools could be created.
- charter school students could compete for and participate in extracurricular activities at their resident public school if the charter school does not offer those activities.
The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for consideration. To read the version passed by the Senate, go here.
Budget Update –The Board of Economic Advisers (BEA), the entity in charge of revenue projections, met last week to review tax collections and analyze South Carolina’s financial situation. For the fiscal year (July 2011 – June 2012), South Carolina has collected $207.1 million more in tax revenue (income, sales, and corporate taxes) than at this point last year. That’s a 3.4% increase from last year. Those numbers indicate South Carolina’s economy continues to make steady progress.
House approves pension bill – There has been a good bit of media coverage of proposals to make changes to the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS). Most state, local, and school employees are members of SCRS. The House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would make significant changes to the SCRS. To read a summary of the House’s bill, go here.
This bill still has a long ways to go before becoming law. Although a Senate committee has been studying the issue for some time, the Senate has not yet taken up a bill to address the deficiencies in the SCRS. However, I expect the Senate will debate that legislation soon. It’s safe to bet that the Senate will make significant changes to the House’s version of the bill. I will keep you updated as the legislation makes its way through the Senate.
High School graduation rates – A recent national report indicates South Carolina had the 3rd largest increase in high school graduation rates since 2002. Unfortunately, at 66% our graduation rate falls well below the national average of 75%. Therefore, although we’re making progress, keeping our children in school remains a tremendous challenge for South Carolina. Here’s a short summary of the report.
Bills of Interest
Common Core Education Standards – As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, in 2010 the State Board of Education adopted Common Core, a program that would establish a national set of standards to prepare K-12 students for college and careers. Proponents argue Common Core creates higher educational standards that will better prepare our students for college and careers in the 21st century. Opponents express concern that Common Core would actually lower our standards and place much of our K-12 curriculum in the hands of a national organization rather than having those decisions made in South Carolina. The Senate Education Committee had a brief discussion about Common Core in a meeting last month, and I expect it will come up again at a meeting this week. I appreciate the valuable input many of you have provided.
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. Additionally, Bridgestone is now hiring machine technicians. To read an article about this specific job, go here.
MTU expansion – Tognum America announced last week that it will expand its Graniteville MTU plant. Here’s a press release from the Department of Commerce. You can also read an article from The Aiken Standard, discussing the expansion.
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 Tuesday, Leadership Aiken County visited the Statehouse. I was able to speak with them briefly during a break. I really appreciate the young talent that has stepped up to make Aiken County a great place to live and work!
On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a meeting with leaders in SC Bio, an organization devoted to advancing South Carolina’s life sciences industry. SC Bio reports that there are nearly 600 life sciences companies in South Carolina that employ over 13,500 people at an average wage of over $53,000. Although we do a poor job of marketing it, South Carolina is a national leader in developing and advancing new technologies. SC Bio is a great example!
On Thursday morning, I visited with the current Leadership South Carolina class. We had a great discussion about challenges facing South Carolina and ideas to address those challenges. Leadership South Carolina does a great job to bring all aspects of South Carolina together to work on ways to improve our state.
On Thursday night, I attended the McCormick County Republican Party’s annual dinner. As usual, well over 100 people attended the meeting. I had a great time, and I really appreciate the invitation!
On Friday night, Blair and I attended the Ruby Slipper Gala in Aiken. The Gala is a big fundraiser to support local charities and is the kick-off for the Aiken Steeplechase. The Steeplechase, which was held on Saturday, attracted over 30,000 people.
Town Hall Meetings – I have 2 town hall meetings this week – in Saluda and Graniteville. These meetings are great opportunities for me to keep you updated about what is happening in the General Assembly and, more importantly, allow me to hear from you. I hope you can make it to one of these meetings. Here is a list of upcoming meetings –
Richland Ruritan Club Building
217 Richland Creek Rd.
Leavelle McCampbell Middle School
82 Canal Street
Edgefield County Council Chambers
225 Jeter Street
Midland Valley High School
227 Mustang Drive
Jefferson Elementary School
170 Flint Drive
Merriwether Elementary School
565 Spring Haven Drive
North Augusta, SC
I am still working to schedule a couple town hall meetings in McCormick County. I hope to have those set soon. I will announce the meetings as they are scheduled.
McCormick County magistrate, Jake Trantham, to retire – Summary Court Judge Jake Trantham has told me he plans to retire in the very near future. Judge Trantham has done a great job for McCormick County, and I really appreciate his service. If you’re interested in serving as a magistrate in McCormick, please check the “McCormick County Magistrate Information” page on my website.
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.