Here are the highlights from last week’s action in the Senate –
Resistance to Obamacare – The Senate spent several hours debating H.3101 and voted late Wednesday to reject the House version of the bill. There were two significant votes. First, many people (including me) believed the House version of the bill was constitutionally suspect and, even if legal, ineffective in fighting Obamacare’s implementation. Therefore, Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) worked diligently last Fall and early this year to craft an amendment that would effectively push back against Obamacare in a constitutional way. I supported his attempt to prevent the federal government from “commandeering” state resources to implement federal law. However, when Sen. Davis offered his amendment, another senator raised a point of order that the amendment was not germane to the House version of the bill as required by Senate rules. The presiding officer, Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell, sustained the point of order and effectively rejected Sen. Davis’s amendment. Sen. Davis appealed that ruling, and I voted to sustain the Lt. Governor’s ruling. Again, I support the substance and intent of Sen. Davis’s amendment, but that wasn’t the vote. The vote was whether the Lt. Governor correctly interpreted the Senate rule on germaneness. I think he did interpret that rule correctly, so I voted to sustain that ruling.
Second, after working through the amendments, the Senate was faced with a vote on the House version of the bill. I voted “no” because I am convinced the House version was more rhetoric than substance and would do very little to combat Obamacare. At the same time, it would have required state taxpayers to foot the bill for individual penalties and would have been met with a certain lawsuit in federal court that we had little to no chance at winning.
I have said many times that I think the Affordable Care Act is the worst piece of federal legislation passed in my lifetime. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, I still believe the mandate that everyone have insurance far exceeds the scope of congressional authority. And I think the expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied adults is terrible policy that will have serious, negative cultural and economic effects on the country. So I absolutely want to push back as much as we can. But I want to push back in legitimate, meaningful ways. I think Sen. Davis’s amendment would be a step in that direction, but the House version of the bill is not.
John de la Howe School – The John de la Howe School in McCormick has educated and cared for SC’s troubled students for more than 200 years. It is now an independent state agency and receives funding through the state budget. Following a few years of difficult finances and poor leadership, the school received a scathing report from the Inspector General’s office earlier this year. Additionally, because of the school’s recent troubles, the House of Representatives’ version of the budget would place the school under the direction of the Department of Juvenile Justice. I think that’s a bad idea, and I think it sends a terrible message to the students. Having said that, we cannot allow the school to continue with business as usual. Therefore, I have been working with a few other senators to come up with some measures of accountability for the school to ensure it educates and protects the students adequately. We will continue working in the coming weeks to address the situation at de la Howe.
MOX program at SRS – On Tuesday I joined Governor Haley, Attorney General Alan Wilson, Congressman Joe Wilson, and other members of the Aiken legislative delegation at a press conference on the status of the MOX program at Savannah River Site. The Attorney General announced the filing of a lawsuit to stop President Obama’s move to place the program in “cold stand-by.” The federal government made a commitment to SC and the country when Congress passed legislation establishing the MOX program at SRS. Rather than pushing for a change in the law, President Obama simply decided he would not abide by the law. The MOX program has a significant economic impact on the Aiken area, and I believe the program should be funded and maintained unless Congress changes the law.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Tuesday morning, I visited the Lexington Technology Center. This career center, which plays host to all Lexington One high schools, is doing impressive work to prepare students for high-demand (and high-paying) careers. I really enjoyed the visit!
Wednesday was National Guard day at the statehouse, and I met with several SC National Guard leaders from our district. These men and women are terrific assets to South Carolina!
On Thursday morning, I visited Rocky Creek Elementary School. I had a great time talking with the 3rd grade students and touring the school.
On Friday morning, I joined other members of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation at USC-Aiken for the annual Government Partnership breakfast. These breakfasts always provide good opportunities to meet with student leaders at USCA and exchange ideas.
On Saturday, I was honored to throw out the first pitch in Edgefield for the start of the 2014 recreational league baseball season. I always look forward to opening day as the unofficial start of Spring.
Aiken and Edgefield recognized for industrial development – Southern Business and Development Magazine recently recognized Aiken and Edgefield counties in its “Ten Exceptional Southern Markets to Locate Your Reshored Industry.”
Aiken, Edgefield, Saluda eligible for federal emergency aid – President Obama has designated 21 SC Counties as National Disaster areas following the recent ice and snow storms. That designation makes those counties eligible for federal emergency assistance. Aiken, Edgefield, and Saluda counties are included in the list of eligible counties. You can learn more about the declaration here.
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.