This week was not much different than the previous ones this session; we worked in committees and had very little floor debate. The Ways and Means Committee has finished the budget process and we will begin floor debate on March 9. I hope to have more details to report next week regarding their proposals.
I let you know in my last eblast that I had signed on to both the House Ad Hoc Committee’s and the Governor’s infrastructure bill. As I stated, I believe both have merit but we need to get the best out of each and have one bill that we can all get behind and that will be in the best interest of the citizens of South Carolina. The idea that you can’t want the best of the two and to do the right thing for those of you that sent me to Columbia is ludicrous.
House Passes Transparency Bill
In an overwhelming 90-16 vote, the House passed the first major update of S.C.’s Freedom of Information Act in nearly thirty years. It puts real enforcement teeth into the law to prevent governmental bodies from refusing to hand over public documents. The legislation establishes the “Office of Freedom of Information” within the Administrative Law Court. That court would allow citizens and public bodies to resolve FOIA disputes without having to file a lawsuit and go through the long and expensive process in Circuit Court.
Among other things, the legislation cuts the time for receiving a requested response for documents from 15 days to 10 and also set limits on costs to search for items and requires copies be provided at the prevailing local copy rates.
I believe every citizen should have access to materials from government. It’s the people’s government and they have a right to know. This legislation makes it much easier and less expensive for the public to access documents. The bill now heads to the Senate.
More Ethics Reform
One of the final bills in our ethics reform package, clarifying the law following a Supreme Court ruling, saw final passage this week. The bill makes clear that a public agenda is required before a government body meets—giving no less than 24 hours public notice. It also states only agenda items may be considered during the meeting, but does provide an exemption in cases of emergency. This gives greater public awareness and ensures government on all levels in South Carolina is not allowed to operate in secret.
CPR Training for HS Students
About 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital, but statistics prove that if more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved. Immediate CPR can double, or even triple, a victim’s chance of survival. The House passed a bill to provide all SC high school students CRP training as part of their health training curriculum. The legislation now moves to the Senate.
Busy Budget Writers
The House Ways and Means Full Committee met all week to finalize a proposed state budget for the next fiscal year starting July 1. The budget focuses on funding the core functions of government and eliminating waste and duplication. The House will begin debate and voting on the budget the week of March 9th.
One noteworthy item: the budget writers voted to approve only about a third of the new employees requested by the embattled state Department of Social Services. Instead of giving the agency the 338 new workers it requested, they approved 120 new workers, but doubled pay raises requested by the agency. Paying case workers more should help the agency’s efforts to retain workers; the turnover rate among DSS child welfare workers was nearly 40% in 2014.
The bill I have sponsored for the past four years, to give law enforcement the ability to charge someone driving under the influence, will be debated Tuesday or Wednesday. There is a group that is adamantly opposed to a moped driver being able to be charged with DUI. I will continue to push this until it gets passed and signed into law.