Here are the highlights from the week 5 in the Senate –
ETHICS REFORM – Ethics reform has received a good bit of attention over the past several months. Governor Haley appointed a committee to review South Carolina’s ethics laws, and that committee recently made several recommendations. Following up on those recommendations, three significant ethics reform bills were filed in the Senate last week. The bills would close campaign finance loopholes and require elected officials and candidates for office to disclose all sources of income. The legislation would also require the State Ethics Commission to oversee ethics complaints made against members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as opposed to the legislative bodies judging their own members.
I have been appointed to serve on the subcommittee that will consider these bills. A meeting has not yet been set, but I expect that will happen very soon. You can read the bills here:
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE IDENTITY THEFT – Shortly after the debacle at the Department of Revenue last year that led to nearly everyone’s personal information being stolen, the Senate appointed an oversight subcommittee to investigate the attack and propose ways to protect South Carolinians going forward. Last week, S.334 was filed. The bill would allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit (capped at $200 for individuals and $300 for joint returns) for credit monitoring services for 5 years (1 year has already been provided for free) and establish a statewide cyber security program.
Also, a report came out today that the Department of Revenue is implementing more security for this year’s tax filing season. You can read an article on the new security here.
EARLY VOTING – Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow citizens to vote up to 10 days before an election without an excuse. The bill would require voting centers to open two Saturdays prior to the election and the entire week preceding the election. For local races, the county registration and election office would determine whether to allow Saturday voting. The full Senate should take up the bill this week. You can read the billhere.
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT & WORKFORCE OFFICES – The Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced last week that it will reduce staff in 17 rural offices beginning February 19. The offices will not close, but there will be fewer staff members available to provide 1-on-1 assistance in submitting unemployment claims. SC’s unemployment rate has fallen, resulting in fewer claims; therefore, DEW needs less staff to handle the workload. Three counties in our district – Edgefield, McCormick, and Saluda – are affected by the decision.
As I told DEW representatives during a hearing last week, I support the general idea. However, they have to make it work while still providing the services people need. You can read an article on the change here. I expect we’ll review the situation in a few months.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday night, the Aiken County Legislative Delegation met. We heard from John Magill, director of the state Department of Mental Health, and discussed a review of the 2012 elections conducted by the Aiken County Registration and Elections Commission.
On Wednesday, the State House grounds were covered in garnet and black as hundreds of USC students and alumni visited legislators. I enjoyed meeting with USC students from our area.
On Wednesday night, I attended a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.
On Thursday night, I attended the Edgefield County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet.
On Friday morning, I participated in Edgefield County’s 8th grade career fair. Students from J.E.T. Middle School and Merriwether Middle School were able to hear about a large number of potential career choices. I was glad to see so many business professionals sharing time with our students.
LEXINGTON HIGH SCHOOL – It’s been a good couple of weeks for Lexington High School’s sports programs. Last week I mentioned that the school’s baseball team has been ranked #5 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s pre-season poll. This past weekend, Lexington’s wrestling team won the state 4A championship! You can see the baseball poll here, and you can read The State’s article on the wrestling state championship here. Nice job, Wildcats!
AIKEN RECOGNIZED IN NATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MAGAZINE– Business Facilities, a national economic development trade publication, selected South Carolina as a runner-up in its 2012 State of the Year category for economic development. Even more local, Aiken County received an Honorable Mention designation in the 2012 “Deal of the Year” category for the new Bridgestone Off Road Radial Facility being constructed in Sage Mill Industrial Park. Bridgestone is set to begin production in the 1 million square foot facility in early 2014. You can read the write-up here.
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.
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