Here are the highlights from the fourth week of the 2014 session in the Senate –
ETHICS REFORM– The Senate continued debate on H. 3945. Among other things, the bill would create a new State Ethics Commission, made up of executive and legislative appointees, to investigate ethics complaints against legislators, executive branch members, and local government officials; provide for stronger criminal penalties for public corruption; and revise many outdated ethics provisions. I expect a few more days of debate before the Senate arrives at a final vote.
CHIEF JUSTICE JEAN TOAL RE-ELECTED – On Wednesday, the Senate and House of Representatives met in joint assembly to elect a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The current Chief Justice, Jean Toal, was seeking another term while Justice Costa Pleicones was also a candidate. After the vote, Chief Justice Toal was re-elected. To see how each Senator and Representative voted, go here.
SC STATE UNIVERSITY DEFICIT – On Thursday I spoke on the Senate floor to express concern about SC State University’s $4.4 million operating deficit for this year and call for Senate hearings on how the deficit occurred and to develop a plan to move forward. I think SCSU plays an important role in higher education in South Carolina, and I want to make sure it is a successful, vibrant institution that will provide high-quality education to its students. I am not confident that’s happening now, though. Predictably, my concern was not well-received by SCSU defenders. Here are good reports from WIS and WLTX about the discussion Thursday. And here’s an editorial from The State I think makes good sense. I’ll keep you updated.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING – On Thursday I chaired a subcommittee that is considering legislation to prohibit texting while driving. We are putting together an amendment that I hope the subcommittee will pass this week. I support the ban.
CARRYING WEAPONS WITHOUT A PERMIT? – Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee debated S. 115 , the “Constitutional Carry Act.” The bill would allow individuals to carry handguns – concealed or unconcealed – without first having to obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit. We had a good discussion about the bill last week, and I expect the committee will vote on it this Tuesday. I am a big supporter of the Concealed Weapons Permit program that allows responsible gun owners to carry concealed weapons after undergoing a criminal and mental health background check and training, but this bill would eliminate those requirements. Therefore, based on what I have heard so far, I will likely vote against the bill.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday morning, I (and about 300 others) attended the grand opening for Christ Central’s Hope Center in Graniteville. The Hope Center will offer free dental and vision care, job training, and after school mentoring programs. Christ Central does a tremendous amount of great work across the state, but the Graniteville Hope Center may be the most impressive!
On Monday night, I attended Lexington County GOP’s monthly meeting. Most of the meeting centered on Lexington’s “Penny for Progress,” a proposal to add a 1% local sales tax for specific projects. Lexington County voters will likely get a vote on this proposal in November.
On Tuesday morning, Rep. Todd Atwater and I spoke with River Bluff High School’s Teen Republicans. I was impressed with the large turn-out for a 7:30 a.m. meeting. The students are really sharp, and they asked some great questions.
On Wednesday morning, I attended Lexington County Farm Bureau’s annual legislative breakfast. I enjoyed meeting with Lexington County’s leading farmers and hearing their concerns.
On Wednesday morning, I participated in a panel discussion at the Municipal Association’s Legislative Day meeting. Most of the leaders from the state’s cities and towns were there, and we had a great discussion about challenging issues at the local level.
On Wednesday afternoon, I attended Governor Haley’s ceremonial signing of the S. 22, the South Carolina Restructuring Act. Governor Haley even presented me with one of the signing pens in recognition of my work on the bill!
On Thursday night, I attended Edgefield County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet.
On Friday morning, I participated in Edgefield County’s 8th grade career fair for students from J.E.T. Middle School and Merriwether Middle School. I’m always impressed with the insightful questions.
CREDIT MONITORING –The State has contracted with CSIdentify Corporation (CSID) for the purpose of continuing credit monitoring/ID protection services to South Carolinians and businesses affected by the October 2012 security breach at the Department of Revenue. CSID’s services provided under the contract are available to eligible individual taxpayers (including minors and adult dependents) and eligible business taxpayers through October 31, 2014 (although it will almost certainly be extended).
You can sign up with CSID for the offered service by doing one of the following:
1. Go to www.scidprotection.com and follow the steps to enroll
2. Call (855)-880-2743 to enroll.
The State will pay $8.5 Million for the first year of the CSID contract with the option to renew for four additional one year periods at the state’s sole discretion. You do not have to pay anything to sign up. The Experian contract for the past year was a $12 Million contract.
If you choose to purchase your own protection service, you can deduct a portion of that cost from your state income taxes. Talk with your accountant/tax preparer for more information.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS – I have held about 100 town hall meetings throughout our district over the past 6 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 like to do meetings in the Spring to discuss current happenings in the legislature and in the Fall to give a round-up of the session and look ahead to the next year.
In 2013, I held 10 meetings in the Spring and 5 meetings in the Fall. I’m already working on the next round of meetings, which I hope to schedule for February and 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.