I hope this finds you all doing well and that you enjoyed the weekend. It was another week at the state house of working in committees and not much done on the floor of the House.
We will return to our normal schedule next week. The House will go into session on Tuesday at noon and Wednesday and Thursday at 10:00. Remember, there is a lot that goes on before we go into session and after we adjourn. We meet with constituents, various government agencies and other legislators to learn about and take care of issues that could have a bearing on all of us.
Braille Competition: The South Carolina Braille Challenge, where braille readers and writers from all over the state compete in various braille competency challenges, was held in Columbia on Thursday. Fatima Taylor a 4th grader at Jesse Boyd Elementary School in Spartanburg, SC won in the Freshman division. She competed in the areas of spelling, reading comprehension, and proofreading. This was her first time participating in the competition.
I am especially proud of Fatima and her Braille teacher, Emily Tallon (my daughter) for their hard work.
DOT- One major piece of legislation that moved this week was a new DOT reform bill that was approved by a House Judiciary sub-committee. This legislation eliminates the Department of Transportation Commission, eliminates the Joint Transportation Review Committee and names the Secretary of Transportation as the governing authority for the DOT. The Secretary of Transportation would be appointed by the Governor and would become a member of the Governor’s cabinet. We began the process of reforming the DOT three years ago, and problems still persist at the agency. The DOT reform bill is also part of our ongoing effort to streamline and reform our sometimes disjointed state government.
PORTS – My House colleagues were pleased to hear this week that the Senate followed our lead and approved legislation that reverses the decision by the DHEC board to approve the dredging of the Savannah River to benefit the Port of Savannah. The bill will now come back to the House for a procedural vote before going to the Governor’s desk for her signature. The Governor’s spokesman said in a newspaper last week that she will veto the bill. Since the measure passed both chambers unanimously, the bill should be easily overridden. The legislation reaffirms an existing state law requiring the DHEC Board to gain the approval of the Savannah River Maritime Commission before taking action on any matter pertaining to the navigability, depth, dredging, sludge disposal and other collateral issues in regard to the Savannah River. One of every five jobs in our state is directly tied to our ports, and overwhelming evidence presented by DHEC scientists showed the dredging would cause irreversible environmental damage.
Inspector General – South Carolina now has a government watchdog agency; the Office of the State Inspector General. Gov. Haley signed the measure into law yesterday. The mission is to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and abuse in state government. Jim Martin was appointed to the position of Inspector General by executive order last spring. In eight months his office has successfully handled 101 cases with a staff of four. The law gives the office a couple of more investigators and more clout by granting the use of subpoena power. I had the privilege of working with Jim when he joined SLED in 1975. He proved to be an outstanding agent and he is very capable of doing an excellent job for the State in his new position.
MOPED and Drug Testing – Both of the bills I introduced are still in committees. The Drug Testing bill will be passed out of the Judiciary Committee this week. I have solicited Sen. Martin’s help in getting the MOPED bill moving in the Senate and hope that will take place soon.
Blue Alert – Passed the Senate on 2nd reading and will have the 3rd reading Tuesday. We do not anticipate any problems. We should be able to send the legislation to the Governor by the end of the week.