Things were pretty hectic in the Senate this past week. Here are the highlights from week 7 –
GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING – On Wednesday, the Senate took up S. 22, the bill that would abolish the Budget & Control Board; create a new, cabinet-level Department of Administration; prohibit agencies from running deficits without General Assembly approval; and, probably most importantly, require the legislature to conduct oversight of executive agencies.
During the floor debate, the Senate considered two significant amendments. The first amendment dealt with procurement, the process of awarding contracts to private companies to do business with the state. State government uses a lot of computers, light bulbs, cars, paper, etc. Those contracts can be extremely lucrative. The Senate debate focused on whether procurement services should be housed in the new Department of Administration, under the direction of the governor, or under the supervision of a 5-member board. I argued that procurement is an administrative function, more appropriately housed in the executive branch under the governor. I lost that vote, 18-27, as the Senate voted to maintain the status quo and leave procurement under the board’s supervision.
The second amendment dealt with agency deficits and whether an executive agency should be permitted to authorize deficit spending or if that decision should be made by the General Assembly. I argued that no tax dollars should be spent unless the General Assembly, in a recorded vote, approves that expenditure. The full Senate agreed.
Following the debate on those two amendments, the Senate passed the restructuring bill. The bill is not perfect, but I believe it is a significant improvement over where we are right now. If it becomes law, this bill will give us a much better, more accountable government. You can rad an article from The State here. I hope the House of Representatives will take it up soon.
RAFFLES – South Carolina has historically been pretty strict in prohibiting gambling. In fact, the state Constitution has a general prohibition on gambling except for the state lottery and bingo. Although most people don’t realize it, it’s actually illegal to participate in a raffle in South Carolina. That prohibition has caused some problems across the state because many non-profit, civic organizations use raffles to raise money for community projects.
Last week the Senate passed S. 213, a bill that would allow non-profits to use raffles under certain, specific guidelines. We also passed S. 239, the proposed constitutional amendment that would permit raffles. If approved by the House of Representatives, voters would decide the issue in 2014.
DUI IGNITION INTERLOCKS – Last week the Senate began debating S. 137, a bill that would require repeat DUI offenders and first-time DUI offenders with high alcohol concentrations to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles. The IID allows for a quick breath test to determine whether the driver has consumed alcohol. Once installed, the IID will prevent the vehicle from starting unless the driver passes the breath test. I expect the Senate will vote on the bill this Wednesday or Thursday.
CONCEALED WEAPONS PERMITS – In South Carolina a citizen can carry a concealed weapon if he has a concealed weapons permit (CWP). To get a permit, a person must undergo a SLED background check, be fingerprinted, successfully complete a firearm training class, and pay a fee. Even with a permit, though, CWP holders are prohibited from carrying their weapons in certain areas, including restaurants that sell alcohol.
Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 308, a bill that would allow CWP holders to carry their concealed weapons in restaurants that sell alcohol as long as (1) the restaurant does not prohibit the carrying of weapons and (2) the CWP holder does not consume alcohol while carrying the weapon. The bill has a good bit of opposition, so it may take a while for the full Senate to get to it.
SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION – ELECTED OR APPOINTED? – Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 53, a resolution that would allow for the Governor to appoint the state Superintendent of Education rather than having the Superintendent elected every 4 years. Since this proposal would require an amendment to the state Constitution, 2/3 of Senators and Representatives must support it. That will be a tough hurdle, and I expect it will be a close vote. Stay tuned.
STATE OF THE JUDICIARY – On Wednesday, Chief Justice Jean Toal delivered her annual State of the Judiciary address. You can read the Chief Justice’s remarks here.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday night, the McCormick County Legislative Delegation (all 3 of us) met with the McCormick County Council. We have these meetings about every quarter just to stay updated on local and statewide issues.
On Tuesday morning, I visited Midland Valley High School and spoke with 2 American Government classes. We talked about state government and the relationship between the state and national governments. I really enjoyed the visit!
On Tuesday night, I attended a reception for Lexington County Night. It was a great opportunity to meet a lot of Lexington County folks and catch up with old friends.
On Wednesday morning, I attended Governor Haley’s press conference to announce Recleim’s investment of $40 million into revitalizing the Hickman Mill in Graniteville. The investment is expected to create 200 jobs! Recleim is a new company devoted to recycling appliances and electronics. You can read about the project here and learn more about Recleim here.
Wednesday was FFA day at the statehouse. I met with FFA students from Saluda High School and Strom Thurmond High School.
On Wednesday night, I met with representatives from Aiken and McCormick Counties at the South Carolina Association of Counties reception in Columbia.
On Thursday morning, Strom Thurmond High School’s Rebel Regiment marching band visited the statehouse. I was proud to recognize the 2012 AA State Champions and introduce them to the Senate!
On Thursday night, I attended Lexington County Farm City’s FFA appreciation banquet. There was a nice turnout from schools in Lexington School District One and across Lexington County.
LADY CHEIFS TO PLAY FOR STATE CHAMPIONSHIP – McCormick High School’s Lady Chiefs basketball team defeated McBee High School to win the Upper State Championship. They will play Hemingway High School for the Class A State Championship at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Good luck Lady Chiefs!
HIGH SCHOOL MOCK TRIAL – The statewide regional high school mock trial competitions were held this past weekend. Several schools from our Senate district competed. Lexington High School and Strom Thurmond High School were among the top 12 teams advancing to the state competition to be held on March 8 and 9 in Lexington.
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.