The General Assembly adjourned for the year on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Here are the highlights from the last week –
NEW LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CHOSEN – Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell resigned last week to take over as President of the College of Charleston. The constitution provides that the Senate President Pro Tempore is next in line. However, as I mentioned in my last update, the President Pro Tempore position was vacant because Sen. John Courson, the former President Pro Tempore, did not want to be Lt. Governor (the Lt. Governor’s term expires in January, and a Senator taking that position would have to give up his Senate seat). Since no Republican senators were interested in relinquishing their seat to serve as Lt. Governor, the Senate elected Yancey McGill (D – Williamsburg) to be Lt. Governor. Lt. Governor McGill will serve until the new Lt. Governor is inaugurated in January.
NEW SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE ELECTED – Upon Yancey McGill assuming the Lt. Governor’s position, the Senate then elected Sen. Hugh Leatherman (Florence) as President Pro Tempore. Sen. Leatherman is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (i.e., he controls the check book) and chairman of the Joint Bond Review Committee. He also sits on the Budget & Control Board (and its successor entity), the SC Research Authority commission, and the Agency Head Salary Commission.
I was one of 2 senators to vote against Sen. Leatherman as President Pro Tempore. As I said prior to the vote, although I have several concerns about Sen. Leatherman leading the Senate, my main objection is the consolidation of too much power in one legislator. You can watch my comments here.
STATE BUDGET – The main purpose of last week’s session was consideration of Governor Haley’s 76 vetoes on the budget. The House of Representatives sustained 15 of those vetoes, and the Senate sustained an additional 8 vetoes. You can see Governor Haley’s veto message here. You can see the Senate’s votes on the budget vetoes here; the veto votes are S-1289 through S-1358 and S-1362 to S-1366.
LEGISLATIVE PAY RAISE – One of the most talked-about budget vetoes was the provision to increase legislative pay by $1,000/month. Although the House of Representatives overrode the veto, the Senate sustained the veto and killed the pay raise. It is vote S-1358 in the link provided above.
ETHICS REFORM – The Senate did not get to a vote on H.3945 last week. Some senators claimed the bill went too far; others claimed it did not go far enough. The result was that nothing happened. Although the bill is dead for the year, I expect another attempt at updating our ethics laws next year.
A PENNY FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS IN AIKEN?-The bill that would offer Aiken County residents the option of a 1% sales tax to fund school capital projects and reduce property taxes passed last week. The school board will likely ask voters to support the plan in a referendum in November. The 1% sales tax cannot be imposed, though, unless a majority of voters approve it at the general election in November.
STATE BUDGET – The House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on the state budget last week. The final deal provides for a General Fund budget of approximately $7.1 billion (income taxes, sales taxes, and corporate taxes). The total state budget is just over $24 billion when the General Fund is combined with the federal tax dollars returned to the state and “other” funds. That is the largest budget in state history.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY WORK SCHEDULE – The General Assembly has adjourned for the year. Unless the legislature is called back into session for unforeseen circumstances, the General Assembly should convene for the start of the new session on January 13, 2015.
ADDITIONAL EMAIL UPDATES – Since the General Assembly will not be in session, I will not send many updates in the Fall. I plan to schedule town hall meetings in the Fall, though, and I will likely send an email to let everyone know about that schedule. If you ever have questions or comments, please know I welcome and appreciate your input.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Saturday, I attended the Ridge Peach Festival in Trenton and participated in the parade. It was a hot day, but we had a great turnout!
On Tuesday, I joined Sen. Tom Young in providing a legislative wrap-up to the Aiken Republican Club.
On Thursday night, I am scheduled to speak at the Aiken Antique Power Association meeting.
I am planning to attend the Lexington County Peach Festival in Gilbert on July 4. I hope to see you there!
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.