Here are the highlights from last week in the Senate –
Ethics – The Senate continued debate on reforming our states ethics laws last week. On Wednesday, the Senate passed H. 3186 , a bill that would require all candidates and elected officials to disclose the sources of their private income, i.e. who’s paying them. I expect the Senate to continue discussion of H. 3184, a bill that would require independent investigations of ethics complaints against legislators, this week.
A Shorter Legislative Session – The Senate passed S. 267, a bill that would effectively shorten the legislative session by one month and allow the General Assembly to complete its work by Memorial Day each year. South Carolina’s legislative session, which runs from the second Tuesday in January through, practically, the end of June, is one of the longest in the country. While several larger states have full-time legislatures that meet year-around, our General Assembly was designed to be a part-time, citizen legislature. However, a six-month session makes it almost impossible for working people to serve in the General Assembly. Additionally, the longer the General Assembly is in session, the greater the threat to your pocketbook! So I consider this a huge win! The House of Representatives will now consider the proposal.
Roads and Bridges – On Wednesday, the House of Representatives amended H. 3579, the bill to reform SCDOT and begin the process of fixing our decrepit infrastructure, and returned it to the Senate. I expect the Senate will vote this week to send the bill to a conference committee to work out the differences. I will keep you updated. In light of the House’s amendments to H. 3579, the Senate passed S. 315, a bill that would ensure the Governor has the authority to nominate the Secretary of the Department of Transportation.
Vulcan Quarry in Leesville – Lots of folks in the Leesville and Gilbert areas have talked with me about the possibility of Vulcan starting a quarry in that area. Rep. Ralph Kennedy, Sen. Katrina Shealy, and I filed bills to impose greater restrictions on mining operations. Rep. Kennedy’s bill, H. 4206, received a subcommittee hearing last Thursday. The bill I introduced with Sen. Shealy, S. 684, is scheduled for a subcommittee meeting this Thursday, 4/21/2016, at 9:00 in Room 209 of the Gressette Senate Office Building. The hearing will be open to the public.
SC State University Loan Relief – Through action by the General Assembly and the old Budget and Control Board, South Carolina State University received loans totaling over $18 million to cover its deficits. Last year, the General Assembly terminated the entire Board of Trustees and appointed a new board to right the ship. The new Board of Trustees has made significant improvement, balanced the budget, increased enrollment, and is on track to protect the university’s accreditation. Last week, the Senate passed S. 1166, a bill that would forgive about 85% of the loan if the university maintains a balanced budget. I voted “no.” The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
ABLE Savings Program – The Senate passed H. 3768, a bill that would create a program to allow individuals with disabilities and their families to save funds, tax free, and use those funds for expenses related to the disability. The program mirrors South Carolina’s Future Scholar program that allows families to save funds, tax free, for college expenses.
Last Week’s Meetings
In addition to my regular legislative duties at the Statehouse, I attended the following meetings:
On Monday night, I attended the Midland Valley Lions Club’s meeting.
On Tuesday morning, I attended Lexington Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast.
On Thursday afternoon, I joined Keven Cohen on his afternoon radio talk show to discuss legislation to fix our roads and bridges.
VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICERS – Each county has a Veterans Affairs Officer whose purpose is to assist veterans and their families with filing, presenting, and prosecuting all claims which they have for money compensation, hospitalization, training, and insurance benefits under federal law. If you have questions about veterans’ benefits or the services these officers provide, you can contact the officers at:
304 Gray Street
PO Box 236
Edgefield, SC 29824
Donald D. Moss
610 South Mine Street
P.O. Box 276
McCormick, SC 29835
108 South Rudolph Street
Saluda, SC 29138
Phone: (864) 445-4500 Ext. 2268
Fax: (864) 445-2808
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.
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.
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