Here are the highlights from the 5th week in the Senate:
PROTECTION FOR POLICE DOGS AND HORSES – The Senate passed S. 6, a bill that would strengthen penalties for those who injure animals specially trained for law enforcement purposes. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
ADDITIONAL HELP FOR CRIME VICTIMS – The Senate passed S. 18, a bill that would specify that crime victims and members of their immediate family could present written testimony and information to the parole board when prisoners are being considered for parole. The House will now consider the legislation.
NO DRONES OVER PRISONS – The Senate passed S. 176 , a bill that would prohibit the flying of drones over prisons. This practice has become a problem at some of our institutions. The House gets the bill now.
STATE PENSION SYSTEM – The South Carolina Retirement System, the pension program available to most state, school district, and local government employees has received a good bit of attention over the past few years. Like many pension programs across the country, South Carolina’s retirement program has encountered a host of problems that must be addressed to ensure the program’s future viability.
Following auditing by nationally recognized pension consultants and study from a bipartisan committee, legislation was introduced last week to get the system back on track. The bill would cap employee contributions, require larger contributions by taxpayers, set a more realistic assumed rate of return, and impose more relevant experience requirements more members of the governing commission. I expect a separate bill to institute more reforms and a good bit of debate in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
INCREASING MAGISTRATE JURISDICTION? – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 118, a bill that would increase civil jurisdiction in magistrate’s courts from $7,500 to $10,000. The full Senate should consider the bill this week.
GOVERNOR & LT. GOVERNOR AS A TICKET – In 2012 voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow the Governor to choose his running mate rather than having the Lt. Governor elected independently. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted S. 107, a bill that would make statutory changes necessary to fill in all the details for the joint election to happen with next year’s election. The full Senate should begin consideration of that bill this week.
Automatic stay of appeals from administrative decisions – The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed S. 105 , a bill that would limit automatic stays of state agency decisions. Under current law, when an agency issues a permit, interested persons have the opportunity to appeal the issuance of that permit to the Administrative Law Court. Once the appeal is filed, the agency’s decision to issue the permit is stayed until the Court makes a final decision on the permit, often 1-2 years later.
Many businesses and industries across the state have expressed frustration with that process, whereas environmental groups staunchly defend it. The bill is hotly contested, and the committee postponed a decision for additional work on the bill.
SCDOT PROJECTS – SCDOT Secretary, Christy Hall, recently appeared before the Senate Transportation Committee to present an annual State of the SCDOT. You can view Secretary Hall’s power point presentation here .
Last Week’s Meetings
On Monday afternoon, I spoke to Greenville’s First Monday Club. I enjoyed talking with one of the state’s largest Republican clubs.
On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a portrait unveiling ceremony for Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R- Florence), the Senate President Pro Tempore.
On Thursday afternoon, I joined Charles Bierbauer, Dean of the USC School of Information and Communications, and Sen. Nikki Setzler to film a new episode of ETV’s “This Week in South Carolina.” The show aired on Friday night, but you can watch the episode here.
On Thursday night, I attended a Lexington County Legislative Delegation meeting in Batesburg-Leesville.
On Friday morning, I spoke to the West Metro Rotary Club in West Columbia about this year’s legislative agenda.
JOB ANNOUNCEMENTS IN AIKEN COUNTY – The Department of Commerce announced last week that ASCO is expanding in Aiken County. Emerson, ASCO’s parent company, reports it will make a capital investment of more than $8 million in its facility just north of Aiken creating 86 new jobs. Meanwhile, The Carlstar Group announced it will make significant site improvements at its Aiken facility to accommodate continued growth. It will invest nearly $7 million to expand its process and production capacity in manufacturing specialty wheels and tires. The expansion will bring 43 new jobs. Both companies are looking for skilled workers. Go here for ASCO opening and here for Carlstar openings.
SCDOT PROJECTS – SCDOT has created an interactive map to let you see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can view those projects here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 2:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday mornings, 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.
VOTING RECORD – If you’d like to see how I’ve voted on issues, go here. You can always check to see how I vote by going to my website, www.senatormassey.com, and clicking on the “Voting Record” tab.
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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