Here are the highlights from the last week’s action in the Senate–
COUNTY ELECTION OFFICES – The Senate and House of Representatives have passed different versions of H. 3198 , a bill that would require all county election commissions and voter registration boards to merge and operate under the control of a single board. A conference committee of 3 House members and 3 Senators will meet to work out the differences. I will keep you updated on the conference committee’s progress.
COMMON CORE – Last week the Senate agreed on an amendment to H. 3893 that would remove South Carolina from Common Core State Standards. The amendment would require the State Department of Education to develop new, state-based K-12 standards and have those standards implemented statewide for the 2015-2016 school year. The amendment would prevent the adoption of any educational standards created outside South Carolina unless the General Assembly signs off on those standards. Additionally, the amendment would require significant investments in technology in rural school districts across the state. The Senate should pass the amended bill this week.
FUNDING FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES – One of the most talked about issues over the past few years has been the condition of our state’s roads and bridges. Last year the General Assembly approved around $900 million in infrastructure spending from surplus revenue. That spending, although substantial, is a mere drop in the bucket toward our long-term needs.
Last week, the Senate agreed to give priority debate status to H. 3412 , a bill move additional money to road and bridge work. The bill (in its current form, at least) does not increase the gas tax or raise any fees; it simply takes existing revenue that is used for other purposes and dedicates that money to infrastructure. I expect there will be an attempt during the debate to increase the gas tax, although I think there’s very little chance the gas tax will be raised this year. Stay tuned.
STATE BUDGET – The Senate will begin debate on the 2014-2015 state budget on Tuesday. The discussion will last at least all this week and maybe longer. I will give you a more detailed report on the budget next week.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Tuesday morning, I joined other members of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation in meeting with Mr. Ken Rueter, President of Savannah River Remediation, to receive a briefing on the waste stored and treated at the Savannah River Site.
On Thursday, I attended the National Day of Prayer event at J.E.T. Middle School in Edgefield. There was a great turn-out for the uplifting ceremony.
On Saturday, I attended the Johnston Peach Blossom Festival and participated in the parade. We had great weather for the first festival of the year!
HARVETTA HAVIRD – AIKEN COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR – Last week Ms. Harvetta Havird, a kindergarten teacher at Ridge Spring Elementary School, was named Aiken County teacher of the year. You can read about Ms. Havird and the other nominees here .Congratulations, Ms. Havird!
REPAIRS TO I-20 IN AIKEN COUNTY – I have received several emails about the poor condition of the westbound section of I-20 in Aiken County. SCDOT has approved a contract to resurface the westbound lanes from mile maker 22.7 to mile marker 13. Satterfield Construction from Greenwood has begun work and expects to complete the project in late July.
AIKEN, EDGEFIELD, SALUDA ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL EMERGENCY AID – Last week President Obama 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.