In recent months the General Assembly has been highly focused on legislative fixes resulting from the financial fallout from the failure to build the two nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer. Most focus has been on SCANA, the majority partner in the construction project. This week the House turned its attention on Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that was the minority partner in the costly debacle.
Santee Cooper Reform Bill
The House overwhelmingly passed a Santee Cooper reform bill (H.4376) in order to protect ratepayers and prevent another failure like V.C. Summer from happening again. It is a three-pronged approach:
- Provide a new governance structure to hold the Santee Cooper Board of Directors accountable.
- Increase ratepayer protections by creating the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund. The bill requires funds recovered from the Toshiba settlement and any gains made from the sale or salvage of V.C. Summer be explicitly used for rate relief.
- Create a Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee that will determine whether a sale of all or part of Santee Cooper is in the best interest of ratepayers and taxpayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet potential buyers.
The legislation also authorizes the governor to remove at-will all current Santee Cooper board members and shortens their terms from seven years to four years.
Reacting to passage of the bill Gov. Henry McMaster lauded the House of Representatives for its leadership in protecting ratepayers. Speaking of Santee-Cooper McMaster said, “The leadership of this rogue agency has demonstrated on numerous occasions that their interest lies in protecting their own jobs rather than protecting their own ratepayers. The only feasible solution to protect ratepayers from shouldering (billions of dollars in) debt is the sale of Santee Cooper.”
This legislation heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future since the Senate has not acted on the other five bills sent to them by the House that address various aspects of the nuclear meltdown.
SC Poll: Majority Want Drivers to Put the Phone Down!
A new poll released this week shows that two-thirds of SC voters favor ‘hands-free’ cell phone use to cut down on deadly distracted driving. The Trafalgar Group, a nationally recognized political polling firm based in Atlanta, conducted the poll of 826 SC voters earlier this week. The poll shows 85 percent believe that texting while driving is a major contributing factor to the escalating number of accidents. While 65 percent of those polled favor the ‘hands-free’ cell phone legislation, only 12 percent oppose it. The DUI-E (Electronics) bill (H.4480) is essentially dead this year due to the fact it cannot reach crossover date, which is Tuesday.
Increased Prison Sentencing For Terrorism
The full House passed a bill to increase penalties for acts of terrorism. The legislation (H.3208) was crafted after a failed attack on U.S. troops by a York County teenager three years ago. The teen had pledged himself to ISIS. Due to current law, the teen was sentenced to only three years in juvenile jail and then released on parole after serving just one year of that sentence. The newly-passed bill mandates prison sentences of 10 years or more for individuals who plan an act of terrorism and a minimum of five years in prison for anyone who supports an act of terrorism, including financial assistance. The bill passed by a resounding vote of 111-0 in the House and will now head to the Senate.
SC Secession over Guns
Legislation was filed this week as a result of the national debate over firearms and gun rights. H.5217 would allow SC lawmakers to debate seceding from the United States “if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this State. Chief sponsor Rep. Mike Pitts acknowledges the bill has no chance of passage this year but pledged to continue to raise the issue based on what he described as a defense of the Bill of Rights.
Creating Effective School Bullying Policies
Bullying is closely linked to school shootings. The House took steps to tighten policy on school bullying by approving H.4701. The legislation calls for the following: when bullying is reported to a school, the principal or superintendent designee must investigate the incident, maintain written documentation of the allegations and investigations, and report findings to the district superintendent; parents or guardians of both the bully and the student being bullied must be notified of the incident; the school must provide information regarding actions being taken to protect the aggrieved student, prevent future occurrences, and the findings of the investigation; and the school must develop procedures for remediation that identify the specific nature of the incident and outline a graduated series of consequences for the student who committed the bullying. Alternative discipline measures that may be used to address bullying behavior include parent/guardian meetings, reflective activities, mediation, counseling, anger management, skills building, community service, and in-school detention. The bill heads to the Senate.
Gov. Henry McMaster got some tutoring on EMS procedures this week at the SC Statehouse. The 16 technical colleges were on display on the Statehouse grounds. Student Richard Roe & Paramedics Program Director Jon Jones, of Aiken, explained to the Governor and me how they utilize their equipment in the training of EMT’s.
Legislative News in Brief
Fishing Alert: New Red Drum Fishing Standards
The House took steps to preserve the dwindling population of red drum fish. The legislature voted to change the current “bag” limit of three per day to two per day. Also, it makes it illegal to gig for red drum at any time of year. Experts believe these modest changes, among others, will lead to a stabilization of the species.
OK to Liquor Sales Bill
The House concurred in Senate amendments to Liquor Sales legislation (H.4729) which follows a SC Supreme Court ruling that found limitations placed on the issuance of retail liquor licenses to be unconstitutional. The legislation specifies that the state’s police power includes regulating the number and localities of retail dealer licenses that a person may be issued to prevent monopolies and avoid problems associated with indiscriminate price cutting, excessive advertising of alcoholic products and concentration of retail liquor stores in close proximity. The bill was sent to the governor.
New Trespassing Notice
If the Senate agrees with a bill passed by the House there will be a new alternative to the posting of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. H.4403 establishes a procedure that allows trespassing notice to be posted on tracts of land by marking immovable, permanent objects along the boundary lines with purple paint.
Cleaning Up Trash
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3896 that allows counties to create ordinances to crackdown property owners, whether residential or commercial, to keep their lot or property clean and free of rubbish, debris, and other unhealthy conditions that constitute a public nuisance.
First Steps Reauthorized
The House gave final approval to legislation (H.3591) reauthorizing SC’s First Steps to School Readiness program after the Senate amended it. It has been sent to the governor. This program is for providing enhanced early childhood development, education, and family support services to enable children to reach school ready to achieve academic success.
A Matter of Health for those Adopted
The House voted approval of a bill (H.3775) that calls for those who have been adopted to gain greater access to their original birth certificates that have been sealed so they can learn more about the health of their biological families.
Palliative Care Improvements
The House approved legislation (H.4935) to create a study committee to consult with and advise the Division on Aging in an assessment of this state’s palliative care initiatives. Palliative care aims at improving the quality of life of patients and their families facing the issues associated with chronic life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and assessment, reduced hospital readmissions and treatment of pain and other conditions associated with chronic illness, including physical, psychosocial, and spiritual.
Annualizing Boat Certificates
Legislation that calls for annual renewal of watercraft certificates and payment of property taxes on boats was approved by the House. H.4715 eliminates the current three-year renewal period and adjusts the fees accordingly from $30 for three years to $10 each year.
Regulating Tanning Salons
Legislation to provide DHEC authority to regulate tanning establishments was approved by the House. To protect the public’s health and safety, H.4412 calls for DHEC to inspect a source of nonionizing radiation which is used in a commercial establishment for the tanning of human skin.
It’s an Election Year – I Need Your Support
I am humbled to serve the citizens of House District 33 and ask that you allow me to continue my public service.
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