We have an extremely busy week ahead for the South Carolina House of Representatives. Three major items will be on the House calendar for debate and votes:
- Funding for Roads & Infrastructure: A bill raising SC’s gas tax and some other fees to eventually put an additional $600 million a year in the state’s roads is teed up for debate. The proposal (H.3516) would boost the state’s 16.75-cents-per-gallon gas tax 10-cents over five years, increase the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500, increase registration fees by $16 every other year and raise other fees. It also would create a $250 one-time fee registration fee for people moving into the state.
- Pension System Reform: A proposal to fix South Carolina’s financially-troubled state pension system will be the focus of both the House and Senate that are simultaneously working on separate bills based on recommendations made by the Pension Review Committee. The bills aim to shore up SC’s retirement fund, which faces a $24 billion gap between what it has promised future retirees vs. what it has on hand.
- Real ID: The House will vote on a bill to steer SC to be in line with a federal anti-terrorism
law passed in 2005 that created a more uniform driver’s license called REAL ID. Federal compliance will ensure South Carolinian’s will be able to use their driver’s licenses to board commercial airplanes and enter military bases and federal buildings. Twenty-two states are not yet in compliance with the federal law.
State Budget Proposed
Last week, a SC House committee produced the initial state budget. For months, the House Ways and Means Committee has been gathering operating budget requests from state agencies to produce a final budget for the fiscal year beginning This year’s budget specifically addresses the needs of poor rural school districts in 39 counties which have struggled in the past as a result of declining revenue streams, among many other challenges. It is incumbent upon our state to provide each child the same opportunities in education regardless of their geographic location; the SC Supreme Court said as much in their 2014 ruling which is the impetus for the actions we are taking today. In this initial funding proposal, $100 million has been dedicated toward repairing, maintaining, and in some cases upgrading the environments in which our students learn.
The House also gave key support to another important education-related matter – a bill removing the State Superintendent of Education from the list of partisan elected constitutional officers, instead making it a cabinet agency under direct supervision of the governor. The measure passed by more than 2/3 and upon third reading will be sent to the Senate for consideration. If approved by the Senate is will be placed on the next General Election ballot for the voters to approve or disapprove.
Finally, legislation was introduced this week by several House members aimed at addressing the prescription opioid epidemic in our state. You may have even seen national news reports dedicated to raising awareness of the growing problem. South Carolina is not immune. In 2013, the Inspector General released a report detailing problematic trends in our state related to drug overdoses. In 2014, a task force was assembled to develop a multi-pronged approach aimed at curbing the current crisis while also focusing on future preventative measures. Like many problems, this epidemic will not be fixed through legislation alone, but the task force did make several legislative recommendations. These steps are only the beginning and I will provide updates as progress is made.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. Your feedback and assistance is critical in ensuring your voice is heard in our state government. If you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, or if you need assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 864-529-2860 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you can go to www.schouse.gov, click on my name and see how I have voted on each and every issue before the house. You can also see any bills that I have sponsored or co-sponsored.