There has been a flurry of activity at the SC State House as the end of session nears Thursday. Last week’s pace of voting will pale to this week when legislators make a last attempt to pass bills. This week will conclude the regular two-year session, so all bills not acted upon die and must be re-introduced next year.
I have two bills that have been sitting in the Senate and have holds put on them by Senators. Remember, one Senator can put his name on a bill and hold it up. Let me tell you what I will be fighting this week regarding the Moped DUI Bill that was introduced by me and Rep. Derham Cole and the Drug Testing Bill I introduced earlier this year.
The Moped DUI Bill had a hold put on it and we finally worked out an agreement with the Senator and he withdrew his name; as soon as he took his name off another Senator placed an objection. When I tried to talk to him, he said to me, “that’s the legislative process” and if I wanted him to pull his objection, I would have to get a bill of his out of committee. There was no way this could be accomplished due to the lack of time remaining. He refused to budge. I went back to the House and every bill he had coming up, I made a motion to adjourn debate until this Tuesday. THIS GOT HIS ATTENTION!!!! He called me and withdrew his name. I thought we had it made and another Senator is going to place his name on it Tuesday. If he does, I will pull the same procedure as I did earlier to see if we can get his attention. This Senator believes a person driving under the influence on a Moped can only cause harm to himself and will not harm anyone else. What could be further from the truth?????
<NOTE: The procedure I am using for leverage is not the same as a senator placing his name on the bill. My adjourn debate motion simply postpones debate until a later date and does not keep the bill from being considered as it does in the Senate.>
The Drug Testing Bill is going through the same senatorial process as the Moped Bill. One Senator wants to take no action or gut the bill so it will have no teeth to stop benefits for those failing a drug test, after being offered a job. We will work hard this week to try and get it passed before 5 PM Thursday.
<Note: Both of these bills are being held up by senators in the minority party>
Retirement Bill: Earlier this week, the House of Representatives responded to the Senate’s proposed changes to the SC Retirement Systems. Essentially, the House has reverted back to our original plan, but with a few exceptions. A few of those exceptions are:
- All employees hired before July 1, 2012 would be allowed to continue using their unused Annual Leave and Sick Leave in their AFC Calculation.
- The AFC Calculation would also continue to be based on the highest 3 years of salary instead of the highest 5 years for all employees hired before July 1, 2012.
- The implementation of a salary cap upon retiring and returning to work would begin for individuals who retire January 1, 2013 or after, instead of July 1, 2012.
- The changes in cost to purchase service time would take effect January 1, 2013, not July 1, 2012.
- A guaranteed 1% Cost of Living Adjustment (or Benefit Adjustment as it is now called) would be provided for two years. However, beginning in 2014, the guaranteed adjustment would end and Benefit Adjustments would be based on a 5 year average of actual investment returns.
The changes proposed by the House were sent back to the Senate on Thursday. The Senate did not concur with our amendments, which sent the bill to a Conference Committee. So, the bill now lies in the hands of three House of Representative members and three Senators. The General Assembly members on the Conference Committee are:
Senator Greg Ryberg
Senator Nikki Setzler
Senator Thomas Alexander
Representative Kenny Bingham
Representative Jim Merrill
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter
FOIA: FOIA Bill in Limbo: The enhancements to SC’s Freedom of Information Act which passed the House this session, took a giant leap forward last week winning a favorable vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the bill quickly hit a roadblock on the Senate floor. Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) is blocking debate of the FOIA bill in the final days of the session. The FOIA legislation will allow citizen’s greater access to government at all levels by eliminating the costly roadblocks used to thwart their search for information. It also removes the legislative exemption, which is overdue!
Government Restructuring: We continue work to eliminate the archaic SC Budget & Control Board and replace it with a Department of Administration, a cabinet agency reporting to the Governor. If we’re successful, this will be a historic accomplishment in modernizing state government. The House and Senate have different approaches (we think the House version is far superior, of course). A conference committee has been appointed to work out differences. Let’s hope they can find common ground and we can move forward.
There are a number of bills in conference committees and as I said at the beginning of this report, there will be a flurry of activity this week.
I was very fortunate and honored to end last week by participating in the dedication of a portion of I-20 in Lexington County to the memory of SC Highway Patrolman Ben Strickland, who was killed in the line of duty 38 years ago May 31st. His wife and son were present along with other elected officials and 125 friends and current and retired troopers. He was remembered as a gentile, kind man who was loved by many.