Last week was the 8th week of the 2019 legislative session. There are 10 weeks remaining in the regular session. Here are the highlights from Senate floor action from last week.
NEW RULES FOR WATER AND SEWER COMMISSIONERS IN LANGLEY, BATH, AND CLEARWATER – Earlier this year the General Assembly passed R4, S335 legislation to update the election rules and terms for commissioners serving on the water and sewer commissions in Langley, Bath, and Clearwater in Aiken County. Governor McMaster vetoed that legislation, and the Senate overrode the veto last week. The House of Representatives will likely act on the veto this week.
NEW DIRECTOR OF DHEC – The Senate confirmed the nomination of Dr. Rick Toomey to be the new Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
PAY FOR SUCCESS ACCOUNTABILITY – The Senate passed S. 318, a bill that would give greater flexibility to state agencies contracting with private companies to provide specified services.
The state and the private entity could agree that the private company would be paid based on its success in delivering better outcomes and lower costs for governmental services rather than traditional methods of a flat fee or by the hour. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
EXTENSION OF TAX CREDITS FOR PURCHASE OF GEOTHERMAL EQUIPMENT – South Carolina allows income tax credits for the purchase of geothermal machinery and equipment. Those credits expired on January 1, 2019, so the Senate passed S. 329, a bill that would extend those credits to January 1, 2020. The House will now consider the legislation.
TAX CREDITS FOR SOLAR ENERGY PROPERTY – The Senate passed S. 362, a bill that would allow tax credits for the production of solar energy property across the state. The House of Representatives will now consider the bill.
REDUCED TUITION FOR DISABLED VETERANS – The Senate passed H. 3639, a bill that would allow veterans with service-connected disabilities to receive in-state tuition at South Carolina’s colleges and universities, regardless of how long they have lived in the state. The House has already passed the bill, so the bill will now go to Governor McMaster.
VETERAN DESIGNATION ON DRIVER’S LICENSES – South Carolina allows veterans to have a special designation on their driver’s licenses to identify their status as a veteran. The Senate passed S.199, a bill that would make it easier for veterans to get that designation. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
VIOLENT CRIME DESIGNATION ON DRIVER’S LICENSES – South Carolina requires individuals convicted of crimes of violence to have a special designation on their driver’s licenses that will inform law enforcement if the person has been convicted of those crimes. Last week the Senate passed S. 548, a bill that would expand the offenses that must be designated on licenses. The House will now consider the bill.
ENFORCEMENT OF ALCOHOL LAWS – The Senate passed S. 397, a bill that would allow sheriff’s departments to enforce state alcohol laws throughout the county if the county has more than 100,000 residents. Currently, only SLED has that authority. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
CONSERVATION BANK – I have received a number of emails regarding the Conservation Bank Board’s nomination of former Representative Mike Pitts to lead that agency. The Senate Agriculture Committee held two hearings on the nomination and forwarded the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation.
Reporting on a nominee without a recommendation is an unusual step, but that act shows that the committee was divided over whether the former lawmaker should get the job. I would not have voted to report Rep. Pitts favorably, but I did support forwarding his nomination to full Senate without a recommendation. This morning Mr. Pitts withdrew from being considered for the position.
SANTEE COOPER – Since SCE&G and Santee Cooper announced the abandonment of two new nuclear reactors at VC Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County in 2017, the legislature has focused on learning what happened and how best to protect customers.
Last year, I provided several updates on legislative actions directed at SCE&G and its new owner, Dominion. While I hope we will continue working on additional rate relief for SCE&G customers, this year’s efforts will deal mostly with Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that provides roughly 2/3 of the power to all cooperatives across the state in addition to thousands of South Carolinians along the coast who get their power directly from Santee Cooper.
Governor McMaster has been pushing to sell Santee Cooper to a private utility as a means of relieving customers of a significant amount of debt. While I am open to selling Santee Cooper, I know that will be a tough political lift in the Senate. In fact, I am convinced it will take a major education effort and thorough vetting of the problems and possible solutions to get the consensus necessary to take any action on Santee Cooper.
The Senate recently created a special committee to do just that, and Senate President Harvey Peeler has asked me to co-chair that committee. The future of Santee Cooper will affect all South Carolinians, so I will keep you updated.
LAST WEEK’S MEETINGS
Tuesday was Clemson Day at the State House. Coach Dabo Swinney and several members of the football team and university representatives were at the State House to celebrate Clemson University’s national championship and academic successes.
On Tuesday night, I joined Senior Adults at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Johnston for their monthly dinner to discuss issues before the General Assembly this year. I really appreciate the invitation, and I enjoyed the conversation.
On Wednesday, I met with about 20 young bankers from across the state, including several from our Senate District. I enjoyed talking with these young professionals about their industry and challenges facing South Carolina.
On Friday morning, I spent a few hours at River Bluff High School in Lexington to speak with government students and advise them on policy projects they’re working on. I had fun and left inspired with just how creative and informed these students are.
K-12 EDUCATION REFORM – There has been a good bit of conversation this year about reforming our K-12 education system to provide better working conditions for teachers and more and better opportunities for students. To that end, the House of Representatives and Senate have been working on comprehensive reform proposals.
The Senate subcommittee focused on this issue has scheduled at least 9 hearings to work on the legislation, including 4 night hearings across the state to allow teachers, parents, and students to provide input.
Here are the remaining subcommittee hearings that have been scheduled:
Monday, March 4
McCormick Middle School gymnasium
Wednesday, March 6
Gressette Senate Office Building, Room 308
Monday, March 11
Coker College, Black Box Theater
Monday, March 18
Gaffney High School Auditorium
Thursday, March 21
Georgetown High School Auditorium
SCDOT ROAD PROJECTS – SCDOT now has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here.
HOW IS THE GAS TAX BEING USED? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here.
DO YOU NEED A REAL ID? – SCDMV is now issuing Real ID licenses and identification cards. If you intend to get a Real ID, DMV encourages you to avoid long lines and get the new ID before the September 30, 2020 deadline. See below for frequent questions with answers:
WHY WOULD YOU NEED A REAL ID? – To board any commercial airline flight, enter a secure federal building, or visit a military installation on and after October 1, 2020, you must have a REAL ID or another federally approved identification such as a valid US Passport or military ID.
DO YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR CURRENT ID SOON? – There is no need to rush to DMV now. In fact, unless your driver’s license or ID card is expiring, there is really no reason to wait in line to change your card right now. If you do decide to get a Real ID, make sure you take the correct documentation to change your current license or ID card to a Real ID.
To see the documentation you will need for a Real ID or get more information, please see SCDMV’s Real ID page 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.
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 me to come and 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.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Cell Phone: (803) 480-0419