Let me begin this week’s report with a light moment as Representative Derham Cole, Tom Lawson and I served salmon stew at the Glendale Baptist Church last Saturday night to raise funds for the Glendale Cemetery. Several hundred people attended making this annual event a great success.
In Columbia, the House of Representatives got back to work this week after last week’s winter storm. It was a busy week with many groups visiting the Statehouse and our House Ways and Means subcommittees playing catch-up on a week of lost work.
The biggest news of the week was the election for Supreme Court Chief Justice between current Chief Justice Jean Toal and Associate Justice Costa Pleicones. You may have seen stories or received emails about this race over the past few weeks as it became contentious on both sides. Toal won the election by 21 votes. Toal and Pleicones were extremely professional after the election, hugged in the House gallery after the vote, and pledged that this will not affect their relationship on the court. Toal will have to retire in 2015 and Pleicones announced in the press Wednesday afternoon that he will run again when Toal retires.
Here are a two of the stories that came out of the Statehouse this week:
- Governor Haley signed the Department of Administration bill into law this week to a packed crowd in the Statehouse lobby. This was a major success for the House Republicans a few weeks ago, and marks another major step in making our state government more efficient. This journey was started by the late Republican Governor Carroll Campbell, and his family was on hand for the bill signing.
- A House Judiciary subcommittee debated legislation that will ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Current law sets that limit at the 24th week. Debate was adjourned to correct some issues that were raised.
I am currently working on getting a Bond Bill passed that will require those out on bond and commit a serious offense to have to appear before a Circuit Court Judge for bond. It has passed the Senate and is in my subcommittee. We have taken testimony during two meetings and should be able to pass it out to the full committee at our next meeting. We have to do something to keep the repeat offenders off the streets and this is a good step.
I am also working on a Senate passed bill that will require Ignition Interlock Devices for those convicted of DUI and register a .12 or above. This device is installed in the vehicle of the person convicted and he has to blow into the device before the vehicle will start. If there is a certain level of alcohol present, the vehicle will not start. I am preparing amendments to offer an incentive to those that register less than the .12 to use the device. This will save lives………..
The House will be on our regularly scheduled furlough week next week, which will save the taxpayers $50,000. The House Republicans have passed bills shortening our calendar during every legislative session since you gave Republican control of the House in 1994. This will be our second furlough week this year (after last week’s weather closure), but we’re progressing quickly in crafting the state budget, finally got the Department of Administration restructuring bill signed into law, and passed the restaurant carry bill approved. That’s a strong record of achievement in only a few weeks.
One last item relating to last week’s storm (as we see the Northeast getting socked with snow and ice again). I wrote last week that criticizing local officials for shutting down offices during snow and ice events was a kind of sport here in the Palmetto State. This week, a number of disaster experts gave our state an “A+” for disaster response. As University of South Carolina professor Christopher Emrich told ABC Columbia: “An ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of response.”
While closures may be a major inconvenience – especially to working parents of children in school – the alternative could be the disasters we saw in Atlanta and Birmingham. Sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.