Here are the highlights from the last week’s action in the Senate –
Domestic Violence – The Senate passed S. 3 a bill designed to strengthen our domestic violence laws. The bill would divide domestic violence into four separate degrees based on seriousness and increase penalties as follows:
- High and Aggravated: felony – up to 20 years in prison
- First Degree: felony – up to 10 years in prison
- Second Degree: misdemeanor – up to $5,000 and up to 3 years in prison
- Third Degree: misdemeanor – up to $2,500 and up to 90 days in jail
The bill would also restrict firearm possession by people who have been convicted of domestic violence as follows:
- High and Aggravated: 10 years from completion of sentence
- First Degree: 10 years from completion of sentence
- Second Degree: 10 years from completion of sentence
- Third Degree: 5 years from completion of sentence if ordered by court
Finally, the bill would restrict firearm possession by people who are subject to a court-imposed order of protection. Contrary to what some have said, orders of protection are not like typical restraining orders. The standard is higher, and the court (usually a Family Court judge) must make specific findings of abuse before issuing the order. An order of protection lasts for no more than one year. The firearm restriction would last for the life of the order if ordered by the court.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Turkey Hunting Season and Bag Limit – The Senate passed H. 3118 on Tuesday. The bill would set March 20 – May 5 as the hunting season for male wild turkeys. There would also be a bag limit of three turkeys per season plus the possibility of one additional turkey with bow and arrow. The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives.
South Carolina State University – The Senate Education Committee approved S. 475 , a resolution that would fire the entire Board of Trustees and create a new, five-member board to govern the institution through June 2018. I expect the full Senate will consider the resolution soon.
Tax on Cell Phone bills? – Last Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee debated and passed S. 277 , a bill that seeks to level the playing field on state-imposed fees on telephone service. Currently, landline customers pay fees for the Dual Party Relay Service (assistance for those with hearing and speech impairments to use telephone service) and the Universal Service Fund (fee to ensure everyone in the state has access to affordable telephone service regardless of where they live). Those fees are not imposed on cell phone customers, though. Since more and more people have been dropping landline service and moving to cell phones, the fees have become more burdensome on landline and business customers. S. 277 would apply the fee to cell phone customers, as well, and cap the total amount in each fund. Therefore, although cell phone customers would be paying fees for these services, the overall fee burden would be reduced because landline customers’ bills would be reduced and the total amount in the funds would be capped.
This is a complicated piece of legislation and will likely have a difficult time on the Senate floor. I will keep you updated.
State of the Judiciary –Chief Justice Jean Toal delivered her final State of the Judiciary Address to the General Assembly last Wednesday. You can see links to the transcript and video of the Chief Justice’s presentation here.
Gun Registration? – A “gun rights” group in Colorado made lots of calls into our district over the weekend, encouraging folks to call me in opposition to S.1’s requirement that people register their guns with the government. This is some really bad information. S.1 is the bill designed to update and strengthen South Carolina’s ethics laws. This group is opposed to a provision that would require independent groups to disclose certain donors if the group seeks to elect or defeat candidates via campaign advertisements. The provision does not limit the groups’ ability to participate in campaigns, and it has no impact at all on what they can say. The provision just makes them disclose who is funding the group so you will know who is trying to influence you with campaign mail or television commercials. The bill has absolutely nothing at all to do with gun registration. I do not and would not support a requirement that people register their guns with the government.
President Obama to visit SC – President Obama is scheduled to make his first presidential visit to South Carolina this Friday when he attends a rally at Benedict College in Columbia. You can read more about the visit here.
Last Week’s Meetings
On Tuesday, Leadership Aiken County visited the statehouse. This great group of leaders is evidence of a bright future for Aiken County!
On Tuesday night, I attended the annual Soil and Water Conservation dinner. I was able to visit with many of our local commissioners from Aiken, Edgefield, Lexington, and Saluda counties. These folks work hard to preserve our natural resources!
Wednesday was FFA day at the statehouse, and I was able to spend some time with the students from Strom Thurmond High School’s FFA program. FFA has become a strong leadership development program, and the students are extremely impressive.
On Thursday night, I attended Edgefield Republican Women’s meeting. These ladies do a terrific job and had a great turnout!
On Friday, I attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting for Recleim in Graniteville. Recleim recycles appliance parts and plans to employ more than 200 in Graniteville. You can learn more about Recleim’s innovative recycling process here.
Town Hall Meetings – I have held more than 100 town hall meetings across our district, and I have been working to schedule meetings for this Spring. These meetings are great opportunities for me to update you on what is happening in Columbia and, more importantly, for you to share your ideas and concerns with me. So far the following meetings have been confirmed:
Savannah Lakes Village
Recreation Center – McCormick Room
6:00 – 7:30
Lexington High School
6:00 – 7:30
I will update you as more meetings are scheduled.
Former Mayor Helen Summer of Trenton passes – I was sad to hear of the death of Ms. Helen Summer this past weekend. Ms. Summer was mayor of Trenton for many years and was a vital member of every community organization in Trenton. She was a great lady. You can read her obituary here.
High School Basketball State Championships – The boys’ basketball teams at Midland Valley High School and Fox Creek High School will play for state championships this Saturday. Fox Creek will play for the Class A championship at 12:30, and Midland Valley will play for the Class AAA championship at 7:00. Both games will be played at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Click here for ticket information. Good luck to the Predators and Mustangs!
Want to see the General Assembly in Action? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 12:00, Wednesdays at 2:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
Taxpayer Hero – The South Carolina Club for Growth named me one of its Taxpayer Heroes for 2014. You can read the press release here, see the scorecard here, and see the explanation of scored votes here.
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.