Last week was “Crossover Week” in the House, and while I’ve written about that several times in the past few weeks, I realized many of you may not know exactly what that means. So before I get to what happened this week, a little explanation:
Crossover Deadline is established in each Legislative Body by their Rules. Both chambers set the Crossover Deadline as May 1st. Any legislation originating in one body must be received in the other body by the May 1st to receive normal consideration for that year’s Legislative session. You can get around the Crossover Deadline, but it requires a super-majority vote of the receiving body – essentially killing “normal” legislation, but keeping the window open for any extraordinary bills that may require immediate consideration.
So, all House legislation needed third reading by the end of the day Thursday. That meant we were in session for a long time on Tuesday and Wednesday. The goal was not to pass everything, but to give a chance to each piece of legislation on the calendar. Some things were passed, others were sent back to committee, and we adjourned debate on several – effectively killing them for this year.
Here are a few items that made the crossover deadline, and a few other notes from the week:
The House approved the Data Privacy Protection Act, a Caucus agenda item that restricts what law enforcement can do with your Smartphone and other electronic data without a warrant. With the revelations on NSA spying and other electronic tapping of information, protecting your data from the government is a very important issue. We support the right of law enforcement to get that data with a warrant or court order. This legislation will now go to the Senate for consideration.
The House also approved legislation that would expand the College of Charleston into a comprehensive research university. The original proposal by Republican Rep. Jim Merrill and Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis called for merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. However, the House, education leaders, and business leaders agreed to expand the College of Charleston’s graduate offerings to help train workers for business needs, as well as expand cooperation with MUSC.
In another item of note: Our state’s much-maligned unemployment agency is ahead of schedule in paying back loans needed to cover our unemployment obligations. With unemployment plummeting in the state – from 12 percent in 2010 to 5.5 percent in March – the state is on track to pay off the federal loan next year. This payment was six months ahead of schedule and saves the taxpayers $1.4 million in interest payments.
Finally, the House’s special subcommittee re-writing the Ethics Reform Act finalized its work on Thursday afternoon. This legislation was a House bill that has already been considered by the Senate, so Crossover did not apply. Again, we sent this back to a subcommittee for work because the Senate more than doubled the length of the bill and the House needed to write “our positions” on many of those provisions so they could be properly debated in a Conference Committee.
For the next two weeks, the House will consider the legislation that passed the Senate before the Crossover Deadline. The House will spend most of the next two weeks working on the legislation in committee as we try to clear the calendar again so we can finish the session on time (on June 5th).
I’ll write more next week about the lengthy list of House achievements for this session.
One final local note: Pacolet had their first “Paddle the Pacolet” last Saturday and needless to say it was a huge success. They were expecting around 25 kayakers and ended with more than 50. Fun was had by all and the music and food was outstanding. This will be an annual event and will grow into a wonderful outing. Thanks to Mayor Harris, Pacolet Milliken and all those that worked and participated to make this first become so successful.
On the right is a picture of me with my friend “Worry” Kirby at Paddle the Pacolet. “Worry” is famous, not only in Pacolet but all over Spartanburg. He spends many hours serving the seniors in Pacolet and visiting the sick in nursing homes and hospitals.