The General Assembly reconvened last week for the 1st week of the 2020 legislative session. Here are the highlights from the first week in the Senate:
SANTEE COOPER – You may recall that last year the General Assembly passed H. 4287, empowering the Department of Administration to hire experts to solicit bids from companies interested in buying Santee Cooper and from companies interested in managing Santee Cooper. The resolution also required Santee Cooper to submit a proposal as to how it would reform and reorganize if the General Assembly elects not to sell or hire a manager.
Central Electric Cooperative, the entity that contracts with Santee Cooper to sell power to all electric cooperatives across the state, was required to negotiate with all bidders to create a new service contract. Upon completion of that process, the experts would recommend one potential buyer and one potential manager to the General Assembly along with Santee Cooper’s reform proposal. The deadline for submitting that report was January 15, but the legislature allowed the Department of Administration to extend that deadline up to 60 days.
Last week, the Department of Administration asked to extend the deadline, saying that it needed more time to negotiate with potential buyers and Central Electric Cooperative. When the Department submits the report, there will be extensive conversation in House and Senate committees. I will keep you updated.
K-12 EDUCATION REFORM LEGISLATION – The Senate set S. 419 for priority debate status and began discussing the bill last Wednesday. The bill would:
- Require high schools to offer a computer science course.
- Eliminate state-mandated tests for social studies in 5th and 7th grades and science in 8th grade.
- Provide better ways of tracking student progress through the K-12 process.
- Offer high school students a personal finance elective as part of the requirement for economics coursework.
- Protect elementary school reading intervention specialists from having to perform administrative and other non-teaching duties.
- Mandate that districts offer summer reading camps for students after 1st and 2nd grade years.
- Remove requirements that all teachers be certified for Read to Succeed, the statewide effort to ensure students are reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
- Require college students who want to teach early childhood and special education to demonstrate mastery of literacy to ensure they are qualified to teach reading to those students.
- Adjust state scholarship criteria in response to the Department of Education changing the K-12 grading scale to a 10-point scale (e.g., A=90-100; B=80-90, etc.). This change would reinstate the academic eligibility standard that the state used up until a couple years ago when the grading scale changed. That means fewer high school graduates would be eligible for state scholarships than last year. I expect this to be a contentious part of the debate.
- Allow Palmetto Fellows and Life scholarship recipients to use those scholarships at technical colleges.
- Create a pilot program for subject-matter experts who are not certified teachers to lead classrooms if they meet prescribed standards.
- Put the minimum starting salary for teachers ($35,000/190-day contract) and a salary inflation factor into permanent statute.
- Guarantee a duty-free, 30-minute lunch period for elementary school teachers.
- Require more ethics training for school board members.
- Consolidate some of the state’s smallest school districts.
- Move the earliest school start date from the 3rd Monday in August to the 2nd Monday in August.
- Authorize the governor to fire school board members and take over underperforming school districts.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION – The Senate passed S. 996, a resolution the opens filing for additional candidates who are interested in serving on the Public Service Commission. For residents of Edgefield, Saluda, and McCormick counties, the 3rd Congressional District seat is one of the seats that will be open. Applications will be accepted February 3 – February 28.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME – The House of Representatives passed S. 11, a bill that would have South Carolina observe Daylight Savings time year-round if Congress allows states to do that. The Senate passed the bill last year. This change would occur only if Congress passes legislation allowing states to do this.
HEARTBEAT – There has been a good bit of conversation in recent weeks about H. 3020, a bill that would outlaw abortions once a heartbeat is detected. The House of Representatives passed the bill last year, and the Senate committee worked on the bill over the Fall. While I support and would vote for the bill, I do not believe the Senate has enough votes right now to pass it. We need 26 votes, and it appears to me that there are probably 24 votes for it. I know there will be a more conversation about the bill in coming weeks. I will keep you updated if something happens.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
EDUCATION REFORM – The Senate will spend most of this week debating S.419, discussed above.
NOMINEE SCREENINGS – A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hold its first hearing to screen Reginald Burgess, Gov. McMaster’s nominee to be Director of the Department of Public Safety. Mr. Burgess currently serves as the chief of police for the North Charleston Police Department.
STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS – On Wednesday night, Governor Henry McMaster will deliver his third State of the State address, beginning at 7:00. The speech will be broadcast live on SC ETV and streamed HERE.
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 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.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Cell Phone: (803) 480-0419