Here are the highlights from the 5th week of the 2014 session in the Senate –
ETHICS REFORM – On Thursday, the Senate passed H. 3945, a bill that would require public officials to disclose the source of their incomes, force private campaign groups to be more transparent, and provide for stronger criminal penalties for public corruption.
The bill did not go nearly as far as I would have liked. I think ethics complaints against legislators should be investigated and prosecuted by an independent entity. Now, each house has an ethics committee that receives or initiates complaints against legislators. Those same committees act as investigators and judges. I do not believe the Senate has been covering up bad behavior, but I concede that the perception is bad. Unfortunately, we did not have the votes to change this process.
Although I think the bill could have been much stronger, I voted for it in the end because it gives us better ethics laws than we currently have. Nevertheless, we can and should do better. The bill now goes back to the House.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING – On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would prohibit drivers from texting while driving. The idea is not without opposition, though. Some think a ban would actually lead to more accidents, and some think we should go further by outlawing all use of cell phones while driving. I believe these arguments are obvious attempts to defeat the legislation, so we will have a tough time on the Senate floor. Stay tuned.
SCHOOLS TO MAKE UP SNOW DAYS? – Per state law, each school district is supposed to include 3 bad weather make-up days in its academic calendar. If those days are not used to make up missed school time, they become student holidays. On Thursday the Senate passed a resolution that would require school districts to use any remaining make-up days on the calendar. After those make-up days have passed, districts would be allowed to forgive up to 5 missed days. So if a district’s make-up days have already passed, the district can forgive up to 5 days. If 2 of the 3 designated make-up days have already passed, the district must make up 1 day and can forgive the rest. The resolution now goes back to the House of Representatives.
RESISTANCE TO OBAMACARE – Although South Carolina has put up a pretty significant fight to Obamacare so far (we were one of the primary plaintiffs in the suit challenging the Act’s constitutionality, we refused to implement the required health insurance exchanges, and we declined to expand the Medicaid program), many legislators are pushing for additional resistance to the plan. A special committee held several meetings last Fall on H.3101 in an effort to consider additional ways to push back against extensive federal overreach. I expect the Senate to begin debate on the bill this week.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday night, USC President Harris Pastides came to Edgefield for a meeting of USC alumni from Edgefield, McCormick, and Saluda counties. As a Clemson (and USC) grad, I was impressed to hear of the many great things going on at USC.
On Tuesday morning, I met with SC State University President Dr. Thomas Elzey and a few SCSU students. I enjoyed learning more about the university and talking with the impressive students.
On Tuesday morning, the 2014 class of Leadership Aiken visited the statehouse. I joined other members of Aiken’s legislative delegation in meeting and talking with the group.
On Tuesday night, I attended a reception hosted by the Electric Cooperatives and visited with co-op board members from Aiken, Edgefield, and Lexington.
On Tuesday night, I attended a reception hosted by the Soil & Water Conservation Districts. I talked with conservationists from Aiken, Edgefield, Lexington, and Saluda counties.
On Wednesday afternoon, I spoke to a group of high school students participating in South Carolina Youth Corps. These dedicated students debate issues facing South Carolina and suggest solutions. I had a great, educational meeting with this group of young men and women.
On Sunday night, I participated in a panel discussion on OnPoint with Cynthia Hardy (101.3 FM in Columbia) about whether SC should raise the minimum wage. I argued that we should focus more on helping people acquire the training and skills necessary to compete for higher paying jobs.
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.
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.