Here are the highlights from last week at the Statehouse –
SC’s unemployment rate drops – Recent numbers indicate South Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen below 9% for the first time since 2008. Even better, according to this article, South Carolina’s economy is now the 2nd strongest in the Southeast.
Our expanding manufacturing base is a big reason for the encouraging news.
State budget update – The Board of Economic Advisers met last week and reviewed tax collections for this year. For the fiscal year (June – July), tax revenues are $208 million (5%) more than collections at this time last year. The increased revenue is evidence of a slow but steady economic rebound.
The Senate will take up the state budget in early May. I expect a big fight on the Senate floor as to whether we should spend all the “new” money.
Interstate Healthcare Compact – The Senate passed legislation that would allow South Carolina to have more say over healthcare decisions. If approved by Congress, this bill would allow member states to work together for a better and more efficient healthcare system in those states. You can read an article about the bill here.
Governor/Lt. Governor on same ticket? – The Senate began debate last week on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the Governor and Lt. Governor to run together on a ticket. Similar to the process whereby we select a President and Vice President, candidates for Governor would select running mates and campaign as a team. Here’s a copy of the bill.
I’m interested in your input: should the Governor and Lt. Governor run together, or should we continue to elect them separately?
Public School Choice and Open Enrollment – The Senate began debate last week on a bill that would require public schools to implement school choice options within the public school system and allow for students to attend any public school they choose, regardless of their zoned district. You can read the bill here. Also, here’s a short article with more information on the bill.
Texting while driving – Last week I served on a subcommittee that considered a ban on texting while driving. Although the House has passed a ban several times, the bill has been stuck in the Senate for more than a year. In an effort to get the bill moving, our subcommittee narrowed the scope so as to prohibit minors from texting while driving and prohibit all drivers from texting or talking on a cell phone while driving through school zones or work zones. The bill now goes to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Here’s a story and video on the subcommittee meeting.
Bills of Interest
SC Retirement System – There has been a good bit of media attention over the last several months about proposed changes to the state retirement system. The House of Representatives passed a significant overhaul of the system last month. A Senate subcommittee has been working on the bill for several weeks. Here is an article discussing potential changes. Here’s a different article that analyzes the TERI system.
I expect the Senate will take up this legislation very soon. Stay tuned.
Open Carry of Firearms – I’ve received a lot of comments over the past week about a recently introduced bill that would allow individuals to carry weapons without a permit. Currently, South Carolinians can carry concealed weapons with a permit. This bill would eliminate the need for a permit and it would remove the requirement for individuals to keep their weapons concealed. You can also read the bill here. I appreciate your input!
Economic Development and Job Opportunities
SC soon to be tire capital of US – In the last several months, Continental Tire announced that it will build a new manufacturing plant in Sumter while Bridgestone and Michelin announced significant expansions of their existing facilities. As a result, South Carolina has received a great deal of national attention for our tire manufacturers. Here are a couple recent articles from The State and the Associated Press, talking about South Carolina’s manufacturing resurgence.
Michelin expansion – Michelin recently announced plans to invest $750 million to build a new plant in Anderson and expand its existing plant in Lexington. The investment is expected to create 500 new jobs, more than half of which will be at the Lexington plant. You can read a couple articles about the new investment here and here.
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 recently that it will expand its Graniteville MTU plant. Here’s a press release from the department of Commerce.
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 a joint meeting held by the Edgefield County Republican Party and the Edgefield County Republican Women. State GOP Chairman Chad Connelly was the guest speaker. It was a great meeting with a good turnout.
On Tuesday morning, I stopped by the PowerUP Lunch, sponsored by the Lexington Chamber of Commerce and several Lexington area churches. I wish I could have stayed for the whole lunch, but I had to get back to the statehouse for a vote!
On Tuesday night, I attended a membership meeting for the Aiken Electric Cooperative. Aiken Electric is a great community partner for Aiken and Edgefield Counties!
On Wednesday morning, I had breakfast with the Lexington Dawnbusters breakfast club. This is a great group of Lexington conservatives. I really enjoyed the conversation!
On Thursday night, I attended Lexington One’s Teacher of the Year Celebration. It was a great program, and I was extremely impressed with the Teacher of the Year candidates. We have some very creative and talented teachers, and we need to do a much better job of marketing them.
On Friday afternoon, I participated in the Aiken Board of Realtors candidate forum lunch. Congressman Joe Wilson was the keynote speaker, and candidates for several offices answered questions. I appreciate the Realtors for hosting the event!
On Friday afternoon, I attended a ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Dorn Grist Mill in McCormick. The McCormick County Historical Society has done a great job rehabilitating the old mill. I encourage you to stop by and take a tour!
On Saturday, I attended the unveiling of an historical marker for Leavelle McCampbell School in Graniteville. 2012 is the school’s 90th anniversary. There was a big turnout for this great day in Graniteville.
Redistricting article – Sunday’s edition of The State included an article on the newly redistricted House and Senate lines. The article focused on our Senate district. Go here to read the article.
STHS mock trial team – A few weeks ago I mentioned that Strom Thurmond High School’s mock trial won the state championship. The team is scheduled to participate in the national tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 4 and 5. This past week, WRDW-TV did a story on the team. You can read the article and see the video here.
Homestead exemption filing is open – Persons who were at least 65 years of age, blind, or 100% disabled as of December 31, 2011, are entitled to a property tax exemption on the first $50,000 in appraised value on their residence. However, in order to get the tax exemption, the person must apply with the county auditor. Auditors are now accepting applications for the 2012 tax year. Contact your county auditor with questions.
Town Hall Meetings – I have held 10 town hall meetings this Spring, and I’m trying to schedule a few more. I’ll keep you updated as we get them set.
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.