Headlining Statehouse news last week was the introduction of two plans to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Two Road Plans—Same Goal
Wednesday, the two highly-discussed road improvement funding proposals—one resembling Governor Nikki Haley’s plan (H.3580) and one from the House Transportation Infrastructure Ad-Hoc Committee (H.3579)—were placed into bill form and officially introduced. Both bills head to the House Ways and Means Committee where work will begin to find common ground.
With the filing of the two bills House Speaker Jay Lucas stated, “Today is a great day for South Carolina because we have two different roads plans that share the goal of repairing our infrastructure. The bottom line is that both the House and the Governor are focused on fixing our roads while simultaneously making our government more efficient. Moving forward, Governor Haley and I will continue to engage in open conversations. I am confident we will find common ground in the near future given the progress we have made thus far.”
I signed on to both bills since each contained matters that are good. My hopes are being able to marry the two and have an acceptable conclusion.
Regulatory Reform—A Plus for SC Businesses
Government red tape and over-regulation burden job creators and stifle small business start-ups. I hear this repeatedly from business owners in Aiken County. This week we passed a regulatory reform law in the House placing a sunset provision on all regulation laws. Many regulation laws are outdated, and this new measure would give an automatic expiration to those laws five years after implementation. This ensures we don’t have cumbersome and outdated regulations hampering business owners. The bill now heads to the Senate; I hope they will join us in lending a hand to the SC’s businesses and innovators that drive our economy.
Protecting the Unborn
The Pain-Capable Child Protection Act has again passed the House on a vote of 80-27. The House approved this same bill last year; it died in the Senate. The legislation bans abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy; the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of development. Abortion now is legal in SC through 24 weeks of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, the third trimester, abortions are banned in the state unless the mother’s life is in danger. I will continue to use every opportunity to protect the rights of the unborn.
Ethics: House Moves Forward, Senate Stumbles
The House took additional steps this week to pass the next set of ethics reform legislation – part of our larger ethics reform package. We passed the Whistleblower and Public Employee Protection Act providing public employees legal protections and substantially increased financial incentives for reporting unethical behavior when your tax dollars are on the line.
We approved a second bill that removes loopholes in our existing ethics statues. The act also gives clarity to the proper use of political campaign dollars. Meanwhile, the Senate’s comprehensive ethics bill was derailed after members voted against it 24-19. Let’s hope they have an easier time with the series of ethics bills being sent to them by the House.
SC State Shut Down Move
The financially beleaguered S.C. State University is under fire by House budget writers who approved a budget bill that would shut down the school for up to two years. Demonstrations were quickly held on the S.C. State campus protesting the potential shutdown. Additionally, the House Legislative Black Caucus say they have lost confidence in the man leading the state’s only public historically-black college, Thomas Elzey. Elzey fired back, “I will not resign” and S.C. State Trustees voted to back Elzey.
My observation: The financial situation at S.C. State is unacceptable. Taxpayers are repeatedly called on to bail out this mismanaged institution. The proviso calling for the school to suspend operations should serve as a wake-up call to those charged with stopping the mismanagement. Their responsibility is to put S.C. State back on a sound, self-sustaining position like every other institution of higher education in this state. We should accept nothing less.
Good $$$ News!
For the fifth consecutive year, SC has set a record for total export sales. The state’s 2014 exports totaled nearly $30 billion; a 13% increase over 2013. That’s more proof SC’s economy is on the move and a place where the world does business.
Emergency Management Act
I sponsored the Emergency Management Law Enforcement Act and it passed the House 111-0 and is headed to the Senate for approval. This bill simply allows out of state law enforcement that are deployed to SC in the event of a declared emergency to possess law enforcement authority during that declared emergency. The Chief of SLED will be the supervising authority.