There are just 2 weeks (6 legislative days) left before the General Assembly adjourns on June 7. Here are the highlights from last week at the Statehouse –
MEMORIAL DAY – On this Memorial Day, let’s all take time to say “thank you” to a veteran and remember those who have given the last full measure of devotion to their country so that you and I can enjoy the freest society known to mankind.
STATE BUDGET – The Senate spent all last week working on the 2012-2013 state budget. I offered several amendments during the debate, including one to eliminate public funding for private organizations. My amendment failed, 23-17. You can read more about my proposal here.
On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted 27-10 to give final approval to the budget. I voted “no,” primarily because this year’s General Fund budget is nearly 14% more than last year’s. Even in a good budget year, I think double digit spending increases are irresponsible. I realize I’m in the minority (obviously, by virtue of the overwhelming vote), but I don’t think we should spend the money simply because it’s available. Here is an article with more specifics about the budget. To see how I voted on various amendments, each individual section of the budget, and final passage, go here and click on “Voting Record.”
The budget now returns to the House of Representatives. There will likely be a conference committee appointed to work out the differences between House and Senate versions later this week.
GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING – In several earlier email updates, I have talked about a bill that would restructure state government by abolishing the Budget & Control Board, creating a new Department of Administration, and requiring legislative oversight of executive agencies. The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, and a conference committee has now been appointed to work out the differences. I have been appointed as 1 of 3 senators on the conference committee. Here is an editorial from The State on the issue. I hope the conference committee will meet this week. I will keep you updated.
BILLS OF INTEREST
SC RETIREMENT SYSTEM – The Senate and House have passed different versions of a bill to overhaul and preserve South Carolina’s pension system. A conference committee will begin meeting, likely this week, to reach an agreement. Here is an article about the proposed changes. You can read the bill here.
“Tim Tebow” Bill – The “Equal Access to Interscholastic Activities Act” would allow students who attend charter schools, the Governor’s school, or home school to participate in extracurricular activities at the students’ resident public school. The bill is modeled after similar legislation in Florida that allowed Tim Tebow to play football at a public high school even though he attended home school. A House committee passed the bill last week, and the full House should consider the legislation this week. The Senate has already passed the bill. You can read the bill here.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS – South Carolina’s unemployment rate continues to improve, dropping to 8.8% in April. Here are the numbers for the counties in our Senate district:
|County||April 2012 unemployment rate||March 2012 unemployment rate||April 2011 unemployment rate|
You can see the entire report here.
U.S. FIBERS EXPANSION – U.S. Fibers recently announced plans to invest $5.5 million into an expansion of its Trenton plant. The expansion is expected to create 48 new jobs! This announcement follows U.S. Fibers $10.1 million expansion in 2010 that generated 85 new jobs in Edgefield County. To read more about the expansion, go here.
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 http://www.readysc.org/bato/
Brasfield & Gorrie, the contractor for the new Bridgestone plant, is accepting applications for:
- Carpenter-must have own hand tools. Industrial Construction and concrete experience preferred. 5yrs experience preferred
- Laborer-Industrial construction and concrete experience preferred. Must be able to lift up to 70lbs and work in all types of weather. 2 yrs experience preferred
Applications will be taken at the job site trailer at 436 Old Vaucluse Road on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11am-3pm and Thursdays from 4pm-6pm. Preemployment drug screen required as are Safety Toe Boots.
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 morning, I attended the McCormick County Republican Women’s meeting at Hickory Knob State Park. I presented a brief update on the budget and government restructuring. As always, the hard-working group of active ladies had a great crowd! I really appreciate the invitation!
On Wednesday morning, I joined other members of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation in paying tribute to Aiken Public Safety Officers Scotty Richardson and Sandy Rogers at the statehouse. Several officers from ADPS and the Richardson and Rogers families attended the ceremony. I am very grateful for all our law enforcement personnel and their families for the sacrifices they make to keep us all safe.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met with players and coaches of the Gilbert High School baseball team. The team went 30-2 this season and won the state AA championship. Gilbert High School has had a very successful 2011-2012 school year. Congratulations Indians!
On Friday night, I attended graduation ceremonies at Wardlaw Academy in Johnston. Saluda High School also graduated on Friday night. I’ll be attending several ceremonies this week. Congratulations to the class of 2012!
On Saturday morning, Blair, Carter, and I attended a Memorial Day ceremony at the Horse Creek Veterans Park in Bath. We really enjoyed the program, and we were happy such a large crowd came out to celebrate and thank our veterans.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS – I have held 13 town hall meetings so far this Spring. I hope to have a couple more before the legislative session ends. I’ll keep you updated as we get them scheduled.
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.
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.