The General Assembly returned last week for the first week of the 2013 session. Typically, the first few weeks of a new session are used by committees and subcommittees to study and work on legislation filed just before session begins. Here are the highlights from the first week in the Senate –
Election Law Reform – South Carolina law requires political candidates to file a Statement of Economic Interests when they sign up to run for office. Last year a previously overlooked portion of that law resulted in more than 200 candidates being prevented from running for offices statewide. The first order of business for the Senate this year is to fix that quirk.
On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.2, a bill that would ensure that incumbents and challengers play by the same rules while giving all candidates an opportunity to correct filing mistakes without being kicked off the ballot. You can read the bill here.
The full Senate should take up S.2 this week.
Sweepstakes machines – I’ve received several phone calls and emails from folks concerned about a possible resurgence of video poker in South Carolina. People purchase internet and phone credits in exchange for playing these “sweepstakes” machines that allegedly have a predetermined prize. If the prize is predetermined, it’s not gambling. In reality, the prizes aren’t nearly as predetermined as advertised. Local law enforcement and SLED have seized over 1,000 machines across the state, claiming they are illegal video poker machines.
In most cases, courts have ruled in favor of law enforcement. However, a couple magistrates across the state have concluded these sweepstakes games are lawful. The result has been a resurgence of these video poker type machines in convenience stores and bars across the South Carolina.
SLED, the Attorney General, and many sheriffs have requested legislative action to clarify that these machines are unlawful. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.3, a bill that would make a slight, but significant, change in law to close the perceived loophole. The full Senate should take up the bill this week, and I expect a pretty spirited debate. You can read S.3 here.
Committee Assignments – Here are my committee assignments for this session –
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Corrections and Penology
- Labor, Commerce & Industry
More responsibilities this year – It looks like I’m going to have a lot more work this year. Here’s why –
- I was selected as one of 2 Whips for Senate Republicans.
- Senator Danny Verdin, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, asked me to chair a subcommittee focused on regulations
- Senator Thomas Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Labor, Commerce & Industry Committee, asked me to chair one of the committee’s 2 subcommittees
- Senator Larry Martin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appointed me as chairman of one of the committee’s subcommittees
- Senator Martin created a new subcommittee devoted to legislative oversight of executive agencies and asked me to chair that subcommittee
- Senator Martin also asked me to be the Judiciary Committee’s spokesman on the Senate floor. When the committee passes a bill I will be tasked with explaining the bill to the full Senate and leading the debate. Since nearly one-half of all bills go through Judiciary, this is a pretty big responsibility.
As I told the Senate President Pro Tempore on my first day, I have a very comfortable couch at home. I ran for the Senate because I wanted to work hard and make a difference; I didn’t go to Columbia to sit around. I’m looking forward to the new responsibilities.
State of the State Address – Governor Nikkie Haley is scheduled to deliver her State of the State Address on Wednesday night. If you’d like to watch the speech, tune in to ETV at 7:00.
Town Hall Meetings – I have held dozens of town hall meetings throughout our district over the past 4 years, and I really appreciate the hundreds of folks who have participated. These town hall meetings give me a chance to keep you updated about what’s going on in Columbia and, more importantly, allow me to hear what’s on your mind. I’m already working on the next round of meetings, which I hope to schedule for late February and early March. I’ll get the schedule out soon.
Our Senate District – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the 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.